By now, most of you should know that I’m a huge fan of Google Maps and Google Earth and I’ve had some fun using them over the last few weeks in a number of different ways. Most of my activities have been focussing on the use of Google Earth as a research tool and I’m finding that it doesn’t matter how old you pupils are – there is something for everyone.
What I particularly like about Google Earth is the way you can use the different layers within it to find information. There are lots of really interesting ideas that develop just from choosing the correct layers. For an animal topic linked to endangered species the Arkive layer is a fantastic way to find information and discover an animal’s natural habitat. There are lots of videos and pictures available for pupils to watch while still accessing Google Earth. Yes – they could just go directly to the Arkive website; but using it via Google Earth often seems to give it more of a wow factor, especially among younger pupils. You could also ask some pupils to use some of the other layers linked to animal welfare (like WWF) to then compare the information within your plenary.
Some of the layers just do one simple thing that leaves and instant impression. Try using the 3D Buildings layer when finding out about famous landmarks – it really does have an impact and pupils are quite often astonished by how tall some things are! The ocean layer not only has a wealth of great pictures and information - it can help you track down shipwrecks: perfect for inspiring a bit of creative writing. There’s also the weather, historical imagery , space exploration (especially fun for the boys) - the list goes on!
My favourite layer to use with pupils (if there is such a thing ) is the 360 cities layer. These allow you to ‘enter’ an image and have a look around. This might sound a bit simple but it’s amazing the reaction you can get from pupils when they realise they can ‘look around’ somewhere they have never been rather than watch a video or look at still photographic images. These ‘virtual tours’ can also give them a sense of scale. When looking at the Pyramids of Giza in 3d view you can appreciate how huge they are and how much smaller the Sphinx is by comparison. But when you can see ,via a 360 image, how small a person appears standing next to the Sphinx it hits you on a whole new level.
Of course, you need to make sure you don’t have the children using too many layers at a time: pick and choose the ones you need. It’s far better to be selective and have the ability to add more if necessary than be faced with a plethora of icons that have nothing to do with whatever it is you’re trying to achieve. See what’s available, decide how you might best use it and then let the children loose – ou might be surprised how much they find out!