Week 6

Week 6 – Googlle Earth reflection and Synopsis


Nowadays, teachers are expected to teach students who are ‘digital natives’. The conversation has shifted from ‘should we use ICT in schools?’ to ‘how might ICT be used most effectively?’. This mind shift has caused education departments across the globe to consider the implications for teaching practice. Some of these implications include understanding how students learn in the digital era and how these skills relate to constructivism and connectivism. It is also about understanding how teachers can use models such as Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (“TPACK”) and Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (“SAMR”) to reflect upon their teaching practice when they embed ICT, and whether or not they are designing learning programs that engage critical thinking and activate students’ zones of proximal development. These are sizeable implications that require teachers to not only embed ICT into their programs, but to also assist students in understanding the opportunities and threats that the Internet, or ICT tools, present to them. In this way, a teacher’s role is to help students navigate, to some extent, this digital world and to be reflective and critical of what it has to offer.

It is important to embed ICT into the curriculum because technological skills are required for the advancement in education, work and for the overall participation in today’s interconnected world. In the western world, most students have continuous access to the Internet and the digital world; therefore it has contributed significantly to the rewiring of brains and affects how students learn. Nowadays, students regularly read, view, create and publish online multimodal texts and these can and should be used as tools to engage students in knowledge and understanding of different curriculum areas in schools. However, ‘traditional’ learning theories should not be forgotten in this context, and it is important to remember that part of the constructivist theory calls for learning to be scaffolded by ‘more knowledgeable others’. Indeed, this role would normally belong to the teacher and parents; however the more modern learning theory of ‘connectivism’ purports that students reinforce topics and concepts presented in class by accessing online material that contextualises information in a way the student can understand. Therefore, it would seem that the ‘more knowledgeable others’ has expanded to include not only a student’s teacher and parents, but also any online publisher. This indicates that schools and teachers need to find ways to teach students explicitly about how to evaluate online sources. This will guide how they participate as a citizen – as they will learn how to consume reliable texts and critique or discard dubious ones.

ICT can be used to connect students and to expose them to ‘more knowledgeable others’, which are aspects of the connectivist and constructivist theories respectively. Teachers can achieve this by using learning strategies such as collaborative learning when they embed ICT into their programs. For example, a blog or Facebook page where students can comment and contribute ideas in a ‘public’ space (that, is with their fellow classmates, or a wider audience if appropriate) would allow other students to consider the views of their peers. Students could practice critiquing each other in a respectful way in this public space, which might lead some students to see ideas from different perspectives and to potentially change their stance. In this scenario, the teacher would be the chief editor of the page and could police comments, pose questions and provide regular feedback to individuals and to the group, thus acting as ‘the more knowledgeable other’. This approach would also allow the teacher to construct a safe learning environment and mitigate any personal risk to everybody involved by ensuring that inappropriate content isn’t published or any personal details made public. It would also act as an opportunity to model safe and ethical online conduct, by respecting others in the online space. Such a blog or Facebook page used for collaboration is an example of using an ICT tool for a proper purpose: to enhance the learning experience.

Teachers must always seek to use ICT in their learning programs for a proper purpose. Teachers can reflect upon and critique their digital pedagogies by using the TPACK tool and the SAMR model. These tools and models will demonstrate whether ICT is being used to support and enhance learning, or whether it is being used ‘for the sake of it’. For example, the SAMR model assists teachers to reflect upon whether an ICT tool is truly transformative in nature by redefining a particular task or project. For instance, Google Earth can redefine activities in a Geography class, as students would be able to take snapshots and zoom in and out of different landforms to analyse their features, which could potentially increase a student’s understanding of the concept through advanced imaging technology, allowing the student to visit and analyse places they cannot go. This was simply not possible prior to the introduction of Google Earth. On the other hand, a teacher may create a task such as a webquest; however the same information could just as easily be accessed through visiting the library and reading books. In this instance, the webquest would be a simple substitution for a library ‘book quest’, thus adding no value to student learning. TPACK and the SAMR model interconnect in this way, as both require a teacher to reflect upon the true purpose of using an ICT tool and whether or not ICT is being used to access and process subject matter in a way that will enhance a student’s understanding.


Atherton, J, S,. (2011) Learning and Teaching; Constructivism in learning [On-line: UK] retrieved 23 April 2015 from http://www.learningandteaching.info/learning/constructivism.htm

Beetham, H. & Sharpe, R. (2007) Rethinking pedagogy for a digital age. Routledge, NY.

Brenda Mergel’s article “Instructional Design & Learning Theory”(optional reading).

Re-conceptualizing “Scaffolding” and the Zone of Proximal Development in the Context of Symmetrical Collaborative Learning.

The Age: How digital culture is rewiring ou brains. http://www.theage.com.au/it-pro/how-digital-culture-is-rewiring-our-brains-20120806-23q5p.html (newspaper article)

Final post – 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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