Using Google Earth – An Exercise In Creativity


Overview of Google Earth Lessons in Moodle

Towards the end of 2013 our Head of Social Studies (Ms Kerry Larby) approached me to discuss an idea we had been chatting about for a while – using Google Earth in class for students to create and share their own tours. It was post-exams for the Yr9 students and there was a need for some engaging activities that still retained educational merit in the classes.

We sat down and thrashed around various ideas for what this mini-unit might look like and you can see the results of that here:

Google Earth Mini-Unit Planning Overview

Ms Larby converted this rough planning into an activity task sheet for the students, which was then uploaded to Moodle and the students introduced to this mini-unit during the ensuing lesson:

Google Earth Task Sheet For Students

Google Earth Marking Schedule Based on SOLO Rubric

What excited me about this activity was the tight integration into the key competencies in the NZ Curriculum, the elements of eLearning, along with the recognition we live in a global community that is getting smaller because of technology (for more of my thoughts on this, check this post from 2013).

In my view, technology should reinforce all the key ideas of literacy and numeracy, along with proofing your work, citing sources and producing “print quality” work. The fact that the medium being used might be electronic, still requires the teacher to be actively involved in helping students improve their work and deliver quality final copies.

Examples of Student Work:

These are a small sample of the work from the various Yr9 Social Studies classes.

Classic example of a student who can technically use the software quite well, but has overlooked key components of the task (in this case, inserting the notes/comments at each location as to why they chose that particular place in Google Earth as part of their tour).

A good tour, good comments at each location, but the need to go and proof read before publishing.

Another good tour, with a lot of detail at each location … possibly too good, with the suspicion the student has simply cut/paste the content from a website.

Sharing the Work:

When students had completed their work, they were required to share their tours with their classmates by uploading them into a forum on their class Moodle site. In true Participating & Contributing style, it was not enough for students to simply upload their work – they were also required to comment or ask questions about other student’s tours.

ImageThis allowed students to celebrate their work and enjoy the creativity of their peers. Some of the topics that students chose to create their tours about included:

  • Haunted Places
  • Top 10 Beaches In the World
  • Dream Holidays
  • Premiere League Football Stadiums
  • My 2019 OE Tour
  • Justin Bieber 2013 Tour Locations

Talking with Ms Larby, she described the students as

“fully engaged … they loved the activity and could see the relevance for other subjects as well”

As students start to bring laptops to class each lesson, the requirement to go to a computer lab to produce this type of work diminishes. Additionally, students’ fluency and competency in integrating technology such as Google Earth authentically into their learning increases. Whilst for some students the sheer novelty factor of an activity like this may have resulted in them focusing on the “how” rather than the “why”, the opportunity for the core learning skills, along with the key competencies, to be actively taught and practiced in activities such as these is very real.

Ultimately, this is what excites me about the possibilities inherent within eLearning – the ability to create engaging, ‘real-world’ activities, with the use of technology seamlessly integrated into the different components of the lesson. However, the core learning remains paramount and at the heart of the teacher’s planning and classroom activities.