Week 6 – Google Earth!

Google Earth is a modern browser developed by (surprise!) Google. In fact, we could call Google Earth a “geobrowser” that accesses aerial imagery, ocean bathymetry, and other geographic data recorded by a number of satellites orbiting our planet. I am not a Sales Representative from Google, but the reason I really enjoy using these tools is because images are not only displayed on birds-eye view mode, but also as a three-dimensional globe.

Geobrowsers have been around for some time (see NASA’s World Wind, ESRI’s ArcGIS Explorer, GeoFusions’s GeoPlayer, and EarthBrowser by Lunar Software), but their data and images have remained restricted to military and intelligence use, meaning that the average citizen would have to either pay or have access granted after a security clearance process. On the other hand, Google Earth is free, which explains why Google Earth became so popular over the past 10 years. Like most tools discussed during our blogging endeavour, Google Earth also has a number of advantages and disadvantages.

Table. 1. Advantages and disadvantages of Google Earth.


Ok, I believe that the benefits were clearly explained here, so now here is the question, how can we use Google Earth inside the classroom?. It is time for yet another case study.

Case study        

We all know that field trips can be memorable experiences to students and teachers, but they can also be very expensive. I see Google Earth as a very useful tool to take students to places most people realistically will never have the chance to visit, such as the Ouarkziz Impact Crater in Algeria (Fig. 2).

Lets use a Science class for example, where Google Earth could be used to teach students a number of important concept such as location using a compass, local landforms (i.e. dunes), and, most importantly, a cross section of the crater itself displaying the relief created by the meteorite impact (Fig. 3). Students can zoom in and out, take snapshots and try to make sense of different landforms in that area, which makes Google Earth an exceptional tool to create a new kind of experience that was once reserved to a hand full of people; students are now explorers! In this way, the task is redefined as per the SAMR model – it simply wasn’t possible to do this before.

Impact crater
Fig. 2. The Ouarkziz Impact Crater in Algeria. Source: Google Earth.

Impact crater2
Fig. 3. Cross section of Ouarkziz Impact Crater in Algeria. Source: Google Earth.

Final considerations

Google Earth is a great tool to teach students how complex and dynamic our planet is. It can be used in an unimaginable number of ways to enhance student’s learning experience inside and outside the classroom. For teachers, great number of resources and websites have become available over the past decade, making the introduction to Google Earth much easier since Google even releases some lesson plans on their website! (Fig. 4).

Lesson plansFig. 4. Lesson plans at Google Earth’s website. Source: Google Earth.

Sites such as Google Earth for Science Education are also useful to assist the teacher in creating the right ICT lesson not only for science classes, but maths, physics, chemistry and, most recently, history studies.


Summerhayes, Catherine,. 2015. Google earth, outreach and activism.

Stocker, Laura ; Burke, Gary ; Kennedy, Deborah ; Wood, David, (2012). Sustainability and climate adaptation: Using Google Earth to engage stakeholders Ecological Economics, 2012, Vol.80, pp.15-24 [Peer Reviewed Journal]

Scheffers, A. (2012). The Coastlines of the World with Google Earth Understanding our Environment. Springer Netherlands 2012.


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