Google Earth Integration

Google Earth is a fantastic application, which can be used to enhance the learning environment in any school.  I am sure many of you have heard of Google Earth and have probably used it yourself, to do some exploring.  In this post, I will go over a few of the tools in Google Earth that I have found useful in my own school.


3D Buildings

This is a layer that can be turned on so that some buildings in certain areas are displayed in 3D.  This feature is fantastic

3D Building Layer

when you want to visit a place you have never been to and want to get a better idea about the man-made landmarks of the area.  I have included a picture of Waikiki Beach area to show just how good the 3D effect can be.  Not all areas have this amount of detail but as time passes more and more places will get greater 3D capabilities. To turn on 3D buildings, go to Layers and check the box next to 3D Layers.  If you are interested in learning about how to help create the 3D buildings for your area you can go to the following website.    To learn more about 3D Buildings go to this site


The Weather Layer allows you to see the forecast for any area of the Earth your are visiting.  This is very useful as it allows the students a chance to use Google Earth to visit a place to see what the

Weather Layer

weather is like rather than just read about it on other websites.  The use of the digital globe is a more real to life experience.  Use it in tandem with 3D buildings and street view and you can actually visit the place and look around.  This could be used as an authentic activity for students studying a foreign language.

My wife used this tool in her classroom, (she teaches Chinese),  to have the students compare the weather in our city to other places and then talk about it using the new words and sentence structures they have been learning about. It could also be used in a Math class where the students are collecting data about weather for graphing purposes.  What is really interesting about this tool is that your students can see an overview of the weather quickly or they can click on the overview to get a more complete forecast.  I have included some screenshots for your reference.


Other great layers that can be used to help students learn can be found in the Gallery section.  Inside the Gallery section you

Gallery Layers

will find many useful layers to add.  The ones I used in my classes were the Earthquakes and Volcanoes layers. When these layers are turned on they mark the earthquakes and volcanoes on the earth.  I used this with some 3rd Grade students.  What it allowed the students to do, was follow these markers around the Pacific Plate.  This path of volcanoes took us from Japan, all

the way around the Pacific Plate and back to Japan.  Doing this in a 3D type of map environment, allowed the student to discover the “Ring of Fire” without the teacher directly teaching it.

The students then used their mapping tools (discussed below)  to mark the “Ring of Fire”.   They then recorded a video tour following the line and discussing what the “Ring of Fire” is, why it occurs in this area and any other interesting or important information they wanted to include.

Remember that these are just a few of the layers that I have found useful.  Explore a little and you might find even more.  If you do, let me know I am always looking for ways to improve.

Mapping Tools (annotate an interactive 3D globe)

There are many tools available in Google Earth, which help to make it a learning application where explorations as well as creation are possible.  Using these creation tools began for me when the Grade 4 teachers at my current school, wanted a tool that would make annotating a map showing personal migrations possible.  In the past we had used another application, which allowed the students to annotate a map but the end product was hard to share and didn’t fit all of the requirements set by the teachers.  After some research into using Google Maps for creating annotated maps I discovered that Google Earth also allowed this.    I also discovered that Google Earth had other tools that made it better than Google Maps because a video tour could also be recorded and shared with others.  Below I will outline these tools and what they can do.


So where are these fantastic tools?  They can be found at the top of your Google Earth window.

These tools include,  a marker tool that allows you to place a marker on your map, a polygon tool which allows you to draw a shape on your map, a path tool for connecting points or drawing lines on your map, an image overlay tools that allow you to overlay an image on top of your map and finally the video tour recording tool that allows you to record a tour that can be shared with others who have Google Earth.   For the project mentioned above we only used the marker, path and video recording tools.  If you are interested in learning more about how to use these fantastic tools,  Google Earth Outreach has a fantastic tutorial, which can be found at the following URL.

Here is a quick video from Google Outreach to show just how simple it can be done.

I hope this is useful to you.

As always,  thanks for reading.

Shannon Doak


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