Monday, May 4, 2009

Technology IEP

Google Earth rocks. It's just that simple. The free version (the only one with which I'm familiar) has so many features that it fairly boggles the mind. Since my first time using the program to locate my house I've been hugely impressed and have wanted to explore how to use this incredible tool in an educational setting. So when my tech professor gave us the task of creating an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to develop our understanding of a technology of our choice I knew exactly what I was going to explore.

To start off with, my major educational goals for myself were fairly simple:
  • Become more proficient in the navigation and use of Google Earth.
  • Learn how to create relevant, engaging lessons using Google Earth.
My baseline experience with Google Earth consisted of dragging the globe around looking for my house, university, favorite mountain biking trails, etc. After completing my IEP project, I had learned how to make a tour, use the ruler and path tools and manipulate layers. I'd also created six reasonably well polished and engaging lessons and had ideas for many more. The lessons I created are hyperlinked below along with a brief description. For more information, follow the associated hyperlink.
  1. Introduction to Google Earth: Students become familiar with Google Earth and learn how to manipulate layers. Students also learn to use the path, ruler, and other basic tools.
  2. Travel Brochures: Students use Google Earth to explore and research locations around the world before creating their own travel brochure on the area. (Google Earth is great for anticipatory sets and getting kids interested in exploring other areas of the world).
  3. Historic Site Tour: Students use Google Earth to create a tour of a historic site or location of their choice. They then research their topic and narrate the tour for their classmates, acting as tour guides. This lesson can be used either on it's own or as an extended learning version of the Travel Brochure lesson plan above.
  4. Exploring Ancient Rome: Students use Google Earth's Ancient Rome 3D feature to explore the city and locate and research major landmarks and important buildings.
  5. A Tour of Ancient Rome: Students use Google Earth and the Ancient Rome 3D feature to create a tour of the city, stopping at major landmarks to explain their significance. Students will then present the completed tour to the class, acting as tour guides and fielding questions. As with the other tour lesson, this lesson could be taught either on it's own or as an extended learning option for advanced students.
  6. The Northwest Passage: Students explore the significance of the Northwest Passage (and the ramifications of its opening due to climate change) by plotting imaginary shipping lanes and using the ruler tool to compare distances and travel times between Europe and the West Coast of America via the Northwest Passage, the Panama Canal, and the Straits of Magellan.
From an educator's point of view, Google Earth offers endless possibilities. The sheer number of educational layers is incredible and the program is remarkably easy to use. In a relatively short amount of time I was able to figure out the basic tools, explore a few layers, and even create my own tour. To me, this last feature is the most exciting. It gives students a chance to interact with a presentation by acting as a tour guide while the class takes a virtual tour of their topic. It's even relatively easy to do, as you can see by clicking the image below and watching the brief tutorial I created using a free screen capture program called Jing.

I really enjoyed this project. It forced me to develop my technology skills and to explore a piece of software that has fascinated me since I first saw it. I'm still simply blown away by the sheer amount of information available on Google Earth, its processing capabilities, and the astounding potential it holds as a classroom tool. Even after improving my knowledge of Google Earth, it was abundantly clear that I had barely scratched the surface of what this program is capable of doing and of how it can be used to enrich the classroom experience.


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