Saturday, May 2, 2015

Google Earth in a Geography Classroom: A Walden University Blog Entry

A Walden University  Blog Entry

Google Earth in a Geography Classroom

As many of you know, I teach online American History courses at my community college, but you may not know that the first ground courses I was hired to teach included World Regional Geography. With my current desire to flip my classes around I have focused mostly on American History to 1865, but I also want to flip the Geography course as well. I’ve been looking for means to do that and have already moved to adding a Civilization type game into the course, but I also want to add something that involves technology so we can use the iPads. I think that is going to be Google Earth. 

            I have never used this technology before so I am going to have to work on it. What I want to do is show students real time or close to it images of the places we talk about. What are they? Where are they? What are they in relation to? Plus in looking at this tech, it is desktop, web, and mobile capable which fits in with my goal of going mobile. I see that to use the web app I will have to put in a plugin. That means Hannibal’s IT staff is going to have to help me put that in the iPads and on my class computer. The mobile apps work on Android and iOS devices so that will be good. 

            We talk about places like the Russian steppe and taiga, the Sahara Desert, the Dead Sea, European cities, man made wonders like bridges across the Baltic Sea, and even the icecap in the Arctic Ocean. Geographic features that form barriers like mountain and deserts and discussed. Let’s go see them instead of talking about them abstractly. Right now all I have are pictures of biomes and climates. Let’s go to them with Google Earth!

            This will add to the lectures I do have to give, but it also allows me to make an exercise where students use GE to show others where places are on their iPads. So right there is a collaborative exercise (I need to write this stuff down!). I wonder if I could put this into a test as well. “Show me on your iPad an image of a coniferous forest.” If that is part of an interactive test I could be moving from student to student or I wonder if I can have them capture the image and upload it to the test? I need to look into that. I’m starting to get some ideas on how to use this so that students play with GE to find various things on the planet in the areas we are talking about. 

            I can see that I need to develop a how to use GE lesson as well. I may need to take a lesson myself which leads me to the good old YouTube. Why yes, there is a video on how to use Google Earth. Imagine my surprise! Maybe I can use that and skip making a lesson or use it in a lesson plan. I will have to set aside some play with it time for students to explore the world. Hmm, another group exercise. Let’s see what we find on ERIC shall we?

            Typing Google Earth in brings up 29 articles. That should take care of my lesson plans for this summer. Plate tectonics, deep time, problem solving lessons, portfolios, etc. Yes, I am good. I just need to sort through this and find something that is applicable to what I want to do that also meets the four regions we discuss. I am going to have to cut something out and I think Jared Diamond’s Collapse is unfortunately going to be the victim. I have given five days to each of the four regions and I think I’m going to cut that back. I have five module exams and I think they’re going to be replaced with short quizzes.

            This is a good way to move from instructivist pedagogy to constructivist and active learning pedagogical practices. There is an excellent article by Demirci, Karaburun, and Kilar from Fatih University in Turkey that covers a lot of ground in how to use GE. They say the technology needed is a projector, a computer, and Internet access. We have that in every classroom. Plus we can go mobile with iPads. The only thing I need to do is get this coordinated with a student in Mexico, Missouri as I’m teaching this course with ITV this summer. I really would love for that campus to have more than one student like last year so I can form a group there. 

            I think that for a strategy I need to do some reading and play with GE some to get familiar with it. These articles have some ideas for me, so I will be toying with them in my down time on my tablet. No more dead time for me! I am even listening to voice information on my drives to and from Hannibal trying to get more information in. Mobile technology is changing the way I learn too.


Demirci, A., Karaburun, A., & Kilar, H. (2013). Using Google Earth as an educational tool in         secondary school geography lessons. International Research in Geographical and             Environmental Education, 22(4), 277-290.


  1. Jimmy,

    I have never used Google Earth in my classes.

    I have used constructivist-teaching strategies with collaborative group work this past semester with my first-year students in the f2f class and it was very successful with the XWiki to support the learning groups. The coaching and supporting teaching strategies really got the students engaged through the entire completion of the project. I am still not sure I can take the credit because the students only need a little direction and they took ownership.

    Mark B

  2. Hi Jim,

    I have always wondered how Google Earth could be used in the classroom! Thanks for sharing with us a great way to use this app to not only help student to witness first hand real places, but to also have students construct knowledge by having them locate current geographical places on the Earth. This is a terrific way to bring real life experience into the classroom; plus, I am sure that it brings an element of fun into the classroom also!

    Here is a resource for you that talks about the benefits of using technology when teaching history. It also mentions Google Earth :) Enjoy! ~ Sharon

    Lambert, J., & Stewart, V. (2015). Engaging students in powerful social studies teaching and learning with multimedia. Oregon Journal of the Social Studies, 76.