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The Google Earth project

Today Jamie taught us how to use Google Earth. Our project was to go out and search for recycling bins and pin them on the map. It was so fun! We learned a lot of new things about Google maps, and also about recycling. For example, in the UK every home in the UK has this green box where they put their recyclable rubbish and a lorry comes to pick them up everyday. It’s pretty cool!
So while doing this project I figured out that mapping can make communities stronger. Mapping makes going to places easier, and connecting with the society much easier.

Maps help us know dangerous places. And maps SAVE TIME! Can anyone imagine life without maps? It would be so hard! Maps give you a picture of what the place looks like, and most importantly, maps help you when you’re lost.

Rahaf

School Grounds Projects using Google tools

If you want to do this for your own school all the resources are below:

Download manual (pdf, 2.6MB)
Download practice kmz file (kmz, 0.6MB)
Download lesson plans, slideshows, etc (zip, 21.4MB)

Sea level rise and Google Earth / Maps

A great day with Priory School yesterday, examining the issue of sea level rise  in the Portsmouth area. We trialled a number of hands-on sessions, which were great fun and will write about these when we have media releases completed to use the photos of students working on the beach.

For now, here are some ideas that were jogged by looking at how ipads might be used to inform a walking tour of a coastal area.

The image below is of a map overlay created in Google Earth, showing the flood cells and sub-cells delineated by the council. Image overlays are fairly easy to create.

The Google Earth file was then saved and uploaded online. Pasting the url of the online file into the search box of Google Maps, allows you to see it as above. Note that you can use Google Maps in Earth mode so that 3D buildings show up and you can tilt the map.

We also created some polygons in Google Earth, again an easy thing to do. The different polygons were given colours and made opaque so that you could see the layers and the underlying imagery. You can see the key to the left below as well.

The ordnance datum in Google Earth and the altitude of the different layers is not quite nuanced enough to show localised flooding predictions on a 25, 50, 100 year timeline and looking to finesse these techniques before sharing more fully, but hope you get the idea.

40+ ideas on using Google Earth and Maps in the classroom

These are some teaching ideas to accompany the Digital Explorer presentations at the Playful Learning Zone at BETT this year. Come and see us to find out more.

First things first, if you don’t have Google Earth, download it for your own computer and then be sure to pester the IT office to download it for your school. See the Digital Explorer research if you need to make a case to senior management. To use Google Maps fully you will need to have a Google account, sign up if you haven’t already.

Virtual Atlas
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Street View comes to Google Maps


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Street View – a series of street level images stitched together – is now available in Google Maps as well as Google Earth. Have a play around in New York using the example above.

As a couple of people have commented, Street View has been in Google Maps for some time. The only new thing is the interface. Oops! What it does highlight is that it’s easy to miss something like this if the interface isn’t obvious.

Thank you to those who have commented.

If you go to Google Maps, you can activate Street View by dragging the little orange man onto American cities where Street View images have been taken.

The geo-web: next steps

It has been a few years now since Google Earth first appeared on the scene. According to figures released by Google, over 350 million people have used the software. But how many of these users have moved beyond looking at their own house or perhaps researching a holiday destination? And how does the arrival of earth browsers (the generic name for software that displays virtual globes) change the way geographical information is represented?

One of the barriers to the full-scale use of Google Earth has been the need to download the software separately from your internet or web browser (software such as Internet Explorer or Firefox). This means that users will go to a website to view information, and then be redirected to download data in a separate application, with the associated 15-30 second wait for Google Earth to load.

Some of this has changed through the use of Google Maps and the ability to create bespoke maps and embed them in a web page using the ‘My Maps’ service. However, this takes away from the awesome 3D experience of Google Earth.

The most recent innovation has been the Google Earth browser plug-in, allowing for the full 3D world to be displayed within a web page. There is as yet no data as to how many downloads of the plug-in there have been. Educators and expeditions, as well as international NGOs must be hoping that the plug-in download may become as ubiquitous as browser plug-ins such as Flash and Java.

I am in two minds as to whether I think that the Google Earth plug-in should be an included download with other Google products. It is a really powerful tool, and yet I am reticent about software providers bundling products together. The other problem at the moment is that the plug-in is only available on PC. Mac users will have to wait, alongside anyone using Google’s new Chrome internet browser (oops!).

Let’s say by some time in 2009, the Google Earth plug-in will be installed on enough computers globally that we can start to make it a primary, rather than secondary mode of online communication. Where does that take us?

First, have a quick think about how much of the web content that you consume or produce is geographically located. Then, ponder how much better we can communicate what is happening in the world if instead of using the blank slate of a web page, we can start to use an interactive 3D globe as a starting point.

By using a 3D environment, web designers are not limited to placing the media we are all used to (video, photographs, text and graphics) but 3D models (using SketchUp) and 3D graphs come into play.

This development marks a exciting departure for expeditions (really take the online audience with you), education (the ability to use this new 3D world for anything from a decision-making and scenario-planning environment to locating news stories and lessons about our world), news (watch and read where it happened) and NGOs and development organisations (real-time media and statistics to encourage public involvement in development and disaster relief).

So what does geo-web 2.0 look like? We are already there in some ways. Google ‘My Maps’ allows users to create and share maps in the same way that Flickr allows users to share photos or YouTube enables video sharing. Maps have entered the media sharing/hosting aspect of web 2.0. Some blogs use geo-blogging plug-ins to show the location of a particular post on a 2D map.

The social networking side is lacking and it is in the sphere of MySpace, Facebook and friends that the real innovation and societal worth could be realised. It is accepted that we must act locally and yet think globally. The geo-web can become a tool that allows us to understand the world better and provide a platform for informed debate and action.

We can start to tell stories geographically, place media that ehance our understanding of the world and now place all these in a 3D global environment, and maybe in the not too distant future we will be able to add comments and interact more fully.

Take for instance the decision by Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, to plant 10,000 new trees in London. Wouldn’t it be great if Londoners had some say in the matter. Here’s my image of a beech tree planted on Columbia Road. Should other people have the same ability to choose the type of tree they would like and where it should go. Maybe my neighbours think it will block too much light and would prefer a shorter tree such as a rowan or willow. Can their voice be heard too? Or could I get a community group together and buy a tree online which the council would then plant?

The geo-web fully realised means a citizenship-based world, with communities making decisions about their lives and their environments using participatory technology. These stories can then be shared globally to create a web of information and positive action.

We have the technology, do we have the will?

New School Environment Project video




It was very exciting to run a pilot School Grounds Project at Eastbury Comprehensive School. We used many of the same techniques that we have employed on overseas expeditions – digital media, blogging, geo-tools (Google Earth and Google Maps) – to investigate the School Grounds and then take action to make a difference to the school environment.

This pilot wouldn’t have been possible without the support of Google UK and especially Kate Hammond and Liz Ericson. Also many thanks go to the pupils and staff at Eastbury Comprehensive School, who were amazing, enthusiastic and talented. Special thanks to Tracy Knight and Ruth Owen for their help and support.

This amazing film was made by the wonderful Jonny Madderson of Just So Films. Thank you for all your hard work.

Continuing thanks to Mark Thackara at Olympus for the great pupil-proof TOUGH digital cameras, that we used for photography and video during the pilot.

As always thank you to Marjan who makes sure that everything just happens, somehow, though still not quite sure how.

Google Maps – blogger vs. wordpress.com

It should have been a great day for educators and expeditions. Google Maps announces that a new function, meaning you can embed a Google Map in your very own website and add points, including video and images.

Digital Explorer Blogger test site

Above is an example from Digital Explorer’s test blogger site, showing a map of the Atlas Mountains with placemarks added, highlighting Jbel Toubkal and other places.

Sadly, neither of the two free blog services have the perfect solution. If you try to use wordpress.com, WordPress cleans the javascript, meaning you can’t see the map. If you use blogger, you lose all the flexibility of pages vs posts. A wordpress blog could have it’s homepage set simply to a map page.

It would radically simplify web communications for expeditions and fieldwork.

When a decent solution does appear, I will let you all know.

For now:

  1. if you use blogger – you’re fine, but bug the blogger support people to have posts and pages like wordpress.com
  2. if you use wordpress.com – you’re up the creek until the powers that be make changes – lobby them!!
  3. if you host your wordpress blog yourself, there are some plug-ins that will help out – the best one is at the Remote Sensing Tools blog and does not require any messing around with APIs and the like

Good luck, and let me know if there are any neater solutions out there.

Google launches ‘My Maps’

Google Maps is now much more than a search tool, or a great application for developers to create mash-ups. Digital Explorer created a map of the Middle East with geo-located video for the recent Offscreen Student Expedition.

It is now possible for anyone to create their own Google Map, using ‘My Maps’ and link to this from their own website. Have a play around and see what you come up with. There is an amazing amount of content which you can add to your own map. When you have clicked on the ‘My Maps’ tab, just click ‘Add content’.

The other exciting feature of Google Maps versus Google Earth, is that Maps now supports a html editor, meaning that you can embed video, extremely easily.

Example Google Maps blog post


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