7 Tips for Google Earth in the Classroom

Remember when Google Earth was a slow desktop program? Thank goodness it is now has a sleeker web version (earth.google.com/web) that is perfect for teaching geography. This is especially true for students using touchscreen Chromebooks. Additionally, the iTunes Store Google Earth app is great on iPads. Here are 7 tips for getting the most out of Google Earth in the classroom.

Tip # 1: Use Google Earth for Geology Concepts

Do you teach about volcanoes, plate tectonics, seafloor spreading, or other geology concepts? If so, click the ship steering wheel in Google Earth to access Voyager.

The steering wheel in the Google Earth toolbar opens Voyager: Interactive stories and maps.
Look for the steering wheel.

Then click “LAYERS” and enjoy some very useful content. Watch as I demonstrate:

Tip # 2: Use Google Earth for History

Google Earth Voyager has plenty of great content besides Geography. Click the steering wheel and click “HISTORY.” Each unit of content, called “stories,” leads students through an interactive map. PBS Learning Media authored five of the History stories. Watch as I demonstrate how to access Voyager History stories and the first two scenes of the Underground Railroad story:

Tip # 3: Find Voyager Stories

There are stories in each tab in Voyager. The tabs other than Layers and History are Editor’s Picks, Travel, Nature, Culture, Sports, and Education.

The tabs other than Layers and History are Editor's Picks, Travel, Nature, Culture, Sports, and Education. 

This content is very useful but challenging to find because there is no search function inside Voyager. Scrolling is the only option for finding stories in Voyager. The good news is the search in the Google Earth toolbar searches Voyager stories. At present, a search term has to match a term in the story title. Watch as I demonstrate:

Tip # 4: Learn More About Countries and Cities with Points of Interest

Search Google Earth for a country or city. The search will take you there on the map and add points of interest in the right part of the screen.

Points of interest in Google Earth.

Each point of interest comes with content. What a great way to introduce foreign places. Watch as I preview Tanzania’s points of interest:

Tip # 5: Use Google Earth to Measure, Distance, Area, and Perimeter

The ruler in the Google Earth toolbar is useful for showing students real-life applications for the geometry concepts they learn in math class.

The ruler tool in the Google Earth toolbar measures distance and area.

The ruler measures the distance between points on a line. It also creates shapes and displays their perimeter and area measurements.  On the iPad, there are buttons for copying that data:

Screen capture of a shape in Google Earth. There are buttons for copying the area and perimeter measurements.
Notice the “copy” icon to the right of the area and perimeter measurements.

One drawback of shapes in Google Earth is they cannot be saved. To level up using Google Geo Tools to teach geometry, have students create shapes in Google My Maps. This is a great way to teach scale and how maps can be distorted. For example, maps show Greenland to be about the size of Africa. Is that true? Make a copy of this Google My Map and have your students move the shape to find out.

  • Click the [    ] in the upper right corner to view this map fullscreen.
  • Click the three dots. Then click “Copy Map.”


Watch as I demonstrate using shapes in Google Earth and Google My Maps:

For more information on Google My Maps, please read my blog post, Google My Maps Tips and Tricks.

Tip # 6: Perfect Image Captures on the iPad

The camera icon in the Google Earth iPad app.
Notice the camera icon in the Google Earth iPad app.

Pressing the camera icon results in a screen capture of the Google Earth screen without toolbars:

A picture produced by the Google Earth iPad app.

This also works in the Google Earth Android app. Watch as I demonstrate the Android app.

Tip # 7, Your Anchor Activity: Use I’m Feeling Lucky for Anchor Activities

All done reading the first 6 tips? Great! The Google Earth toolbar has a dice icon. When clicked, it functions as “I’m Feeling Lucky” and takes students to a random location. What a great anchor activity!

The dice in the Google Earth toolbar Is
Roll the dice. Or to be more precise, click the dice.

When students say, “I’m done,” reply with “Great! Click I’m Feeling Lucky and share three things you learned about your random location with the class during the last five minutes.” Watch as I demonstrate using the “I’m Feeling Lucky” dice:

Thank you for reading this post! What Google Earth questions do you have? Please comment below or tweet me @TomEMullaney.

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The Getting Started Guide for Touchscreen Chromebooks in the Classroom

“The new Chromebooks are here!”

Many teachers will be saying that as their school transitions to Chromebooks for students or refreshes old Chromebooks. The new education model Chromebooks have touchscreens and convert to tablet mode. The combination of touch and Chrome OS is probably here to stay awhile. Lenovo has released a Chromebook with a screen students can literally draw on with a pencil.  There is even a just-released Chromebook tablet. David Andrade breaks down the reasons why schools may switch from iPads to Chromebook tablets for elementary students in his blog post, New tablets for Education – comparing the new Acer Chromebook Tab 10 and the new Apple iPad.

This guide is meant to help educators get started using these new Chromebooks that have both touchscreens and keyboards. Everything referenced in this post until the very end is web-based and immediately accessible upon signing in to a Chromebook. The very end of this guide suggests some tools that are great but will require district Google administrators to enable the Google Play Store.

Before you do anything, even before reading this – beg, borrow, steal, cheat, lie, simply ask, or do whatever is necessary to get your hands on a new Chromebook the second it arrives in a district warehouse.  Reading about apps and educational uses is great but nothing matches the experience of actually using the device.

On to the guide. Let’s start with sketching, jotting, and drawing on touchscreen Chromebooks.

Isn’t that straight up substitution?

Of course it is! “Substitution” has become a loaded dirty word in education. Even the most innovative teacher uses substitution in every lesson. Effective technology integration incorporates constant motion through different levels of SAMR. Jaclyn B. Stevens‘s SAMR swimming pool clearly illustrates this:

The SAMR Swimming Pool Info-graphic by Jaclyn B. Stevens
The SAMR Swimming Pool by Jaclyn B. Stevens of the Friday Institute. Source

As Stevens says in this video, “Just as educators work across the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, the levels of the SAMR model must also be flexible and align to what students are doing in a classroom.”

Classrooms should be places where students always feel free to quickly jot or draw something to help them process and make connections. Research suggests drawing is the most effective way to learn! Or just doodle for brain breaks. For more on the benefits of drawing for learning, please read A Simple Way to Better Remember Things: Draw a Picture from The New York Times (1/6/19).

Annotating a website or PDF for a grade is rotten. However, getting messy annotating a website or adding content to a Google Jamboard Jam to process information, give feedback, or create a digital gallery walk is different. Use these tools to help kids get messy. Encourage it.

An example of this is sketchnoting. Sketchnoting is so beneficial for kids and adults.  Sketchnotes are often created on iPads that are more expensive than Chromebooks with a paid app (Procreate). Why shouldn’t kids sketchnote on Chromebooks for free?

Sketching/Drawing/Jotting/Tool #1: Google Keep

Google Keep is a great tool for drawing on images or creating sketches. This works in the Google Keep web app:

Google Keep is great for this purpose though it is not the most robust drawing tool. I lamented there was not another Google tool for drawing (don’t get me started about the misnamed Google Drawings) until I saw this tweet from Jessica Garrigan:

Sketching/Drawing/Jotting/Tool #2: Google AutoDraw

Google AutoDraw is much more than an auto draw tool. I created the image for this blog post in AutoDraw using a touchscreen Chromebook. Watch as I demo:

AutoDraw lacks the ability to save files. Create, download, and start with a blank slate next time. Let’s hope that changes soon. It also does not have an erase tool though it has an undo button and the ability to delete elements of a sketch by selecting and deleting. For more information about AutoDraw, read these two blog posts:

Google Keep and AutoDraw do not let students sketch or annotate on top of websites. Enter the Web Paint Google Chrome extension.

Sketching/Drawing/Jotting Tool #3: Chrome Canvas

Discovered by Chrome Unboxed in December 2018, Chrome Canvas is a great Google tool for drawing. It saves images and lets students download as PNG files. I like it better than Google Keep for jotting on top of images. Additionally, each drawing tool has size and opacity sliders which are absent in Keep and AutoDraw. Users of Adobe suite mobile apps are familiar with these sliders. Check out this sketch of Gritty created by The Verge:

I’m obsessed with Gritty.

Watch as I demonstrate this great tool:

Sketching/Drawing/Jotting/Tool #4: (Annotating Websites Edition): The Web Paint Google Chrome Extension

The Web Paint Google Chrome extension is great for marking up websites.

Take advantage of this by using Web Paint with Google Keep to search the text on saved clippings from the web:

One drawback of Web Paint is it only works with what is on screen. There is no ability to scroll down the page. Robby Payne at Chrome Unboxed figured out that using Web Paint in conjunction with the FireShot extension allows for marking up an entire page and then saving it as a PDF.

Freeform Collaboration Tool: Google Jamboard

Google Jamboard is a drawing tool but its usefulness is elevated through collaboration. It is the perfect platform for student brainstorming. Google recently announced a streamlined web version of the great mobile Jamboard app. Watch as I demonstrate.

 

Does your district need some help determining the right Chromebook for students? I can help! E-mail mistermullaney@gmail.com to inquire about my consulting services!

A Drawing for Assessment Tool: Formative

Formative, found at goformative.com, allows students to draw in an assignment. The applications for this, especially in Math, are innumerable. In this simple example, I draw in a formative (Formative’s name for assignments) I created asking students to explain the Schlieffen Plan.

Schlieffen Plan Drawing in Formative

In this example, I provided students with a map to draw on. Better yet, don’t provide the map! Students can insert images themselves. Or not. Let students determine how best they can depict a concept. I made a formative with two Schlieffen Plan questions – one with a map and one without. Feel free to make a copy for yourself.

Drag-and-Drop with Instant Feedback Tool – Quizlet

Dragging-and-dropping isn’t the highest level learning activity but at least Quizlet matching gives students instant feedback. Notice what happens when I choose the wrong answer and then the correct answer:

Animated GIF of correct and incorrect answers in Quizlet matching
Incorrect, then correct. Help yourself to this French Revolution vocabulary Quizlet deck.

Writing by Hand on Touchscreen Convertible Chromebooks

This applies only to touchscreen Chromebooks that are convertible – meaning that can be used in stand, tent, and tablet form factors. Students can hand write in Google Docs, Slides, to enter a website URL, or basically anywhere they can input text. Please note this does not work if a mouse is connected to the device. Watch as I demonstrate.

Google Earth

The web version of Google Earth is perfect for touchscreen Chromebooks. It’s not just for exploring and storytelling – Google has added a lot of educational content to Google Earth Voyager. Watch as I demonstrate in this YouTube playlist of 7 short videos:

Bring Touchscreen Chromebooks to the Next Level – Android Apps!

Web apps are great but the magic of touchscreen Chromebooks is found in the Google Play Store. Great apps for education productivity, creativity, and collaboration live there including my beloved free Google Jamboard app! Here are two blog posts where I review great Android apps for education on Chromebooks:

Email your district’s Google administrator to request enabling the Google Play Store in your district’s domain. Share with them this video by Allison Mollica which explains how admins enable Play Store access and this video by Thomas Rup and Eric Lawson which explains pushing Android apps to Chromebooks.

Keep Yourself in the Chromebook Loop

More important than any tool is staying up-to-date on what’s happening with Chrome OS and education. To do this:

  • Follow the linked Twitter handles in this post. These educators share great resources for integrating technology in the classroom. Some of them are not Chromebook superfans like me. Great! Better to have a broader perspective.
  • Stay up-to-date about Chrome OS updates with the aforementioned Chrome Unboxed website.  The site is constantly publishing valuable updates and tips-and-tricks.
  • My Education Chromebook Reviews YouTube playlist includes videos that demonstrate the pluses and minuses of each model and show them in action. I will add to the playlist as reviews for new devices are published.

I hope this guide is useful. To those of you already using touchscreen Chromebooks in the classroom, what did I miss? Please comment below or tweet me, @TomEMullaney. Thanks for reading.

Google My Maps Tips and Tricks

Google My Maps is a great tool for teachers and learners. Teachers can use it as an interactive platform to present lesson materials. Learners can use Google My Maps to document what they have learned.

For example, here is a Google My Map I created of Civil War battles in North Carolina for a Civil War digital breakout:

One of my favorite Google My Maps is this ingenious map someone made documenting every location in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia:

To access Google My Maps, type mymaps.google.com into the browser. Unfortunately, My Maps does not appear in the apps launcher (AKA the waffle in the upper right of the screen in Gmail, Drive, and Classroom) so it makes sense to bookmark it or pin it to a Chromebook shelf.

Here is a brief overview video of using My Maps in which I make a map of Amsterdam and reference The Fault in Our Stars:

Use these tips and tricks to get even more out of Google My Maps.

Create in Google Drive

As I did in the video, create My Maps in Google Drive folders so they stay organized with other content for a given instructional unit.

Creating a My Map in a Google Drive folder.
Creating a My Map in a Google Drive folder

Change the base map

Scroll to the bottom of the legend to change the base map to one of nine different options. The default is “Map.” I am partial to “Simple Atlas” for historic maps.

Animated GIF demonstrating how to change the base map
Changing the Base map

Like a map? Copy it for yourself!

Click on the “NOT OWNED” tab in the My Maps home screen. You should see thumbnails of every Google My Map you have viewed and you don’t own, including the North Carolina battles and Always Sunny maps higher up in this post! Click on the three dots in the upper-right corner of the thumbnail to make a copy for yourself.

Animated GIF showing how to make a copy of a map
Make a copy of a map you like.

Explore the EXPLORE tab

Click on the EXPLORE tab to see Google My Maps other users have created. At the top is the top picks. I can’t lie – you will see a lot of Pokémon GO maps there.

Animated GIF of toggling between top maps in the Explore tab.
Click the arrows to toggle between Pokémon GO maps and more!

Scroll down to see staff picks to find some very interesting maps. This can inspire creative use of My Maps.

Animated GIF of scrolling to see more staff picks in the explore tab.
Scroll down to see more staff picks.

Open a My Map in Google Earth

Export the data from a My Map as a KMZ file. Leave all boxes unchecked to download:

Animated GIF depicting exporting a My Map as a KMZ file.
Export a My Map as a KMZ file. Leave all boxes unchecked.

Then go to Google Earth and enable adding KML/KMZ files in settings:

Enabling KML and KMZ files in Google Earth.
Click “My Places.” Then enable KML and KMZ files.

Then import the KMZ file:

Animated GIF depicting importing a KMZ file into Google Earth.
Click on “My Places” to import the KMZ from a hard drive or Google Drive.

Most data from the My Map will successfully convert to Google Earth, including pictures and text descriptions.

An image an description from Google My Maps in Google Earth.
An image an description from Google My Maps in Google Earth.

One caveat: According to Google, “Some custom icons and overlay images hosted on other websites won’t work.” The two maps in this post do not have custom icons, so their KMZ files import into Google Earth nicely. If the custom icon does not work in Google Earth, it will render like a red “X” similar to the one that appears for a wrong answer on Family Feud. Some custom icons do work though. The custom icons on this My Map of some San Francisco New Deal sites render correctly. That may be because the custom icons were created using image URLs.

Animated GIF of Google My Map data in Google Earth.
The custom icons render correctly. Notice the images and text from the My Map made it to Google Earth as well.

For more information on Google Earth, please read my blog post, 7 Tips for Google Earth in the Classroom.

Google Classroom integration…almost but not quite

The good news is that teachers can share maps so that students can view them and they can share a map so that all students can edit it. This is similar to settings for other Google Drive files in Google Classroom. The bad news is this is what happens when teachers try to make a copy of a My Map for each student in Google Classroom:

Animated GIF demonstrating that "Make a copy for each student" with My Maps does not work in Google Classroom.
Make a copy for each student does not yet work in Google Classroom.

I hope Google addresses this issue in the near future. In the meantime, My Maps is still a great tool for teachers and learners alike. If you would like to share your ideas about the Google My Maps, please comment below or tweet me at @TomEMullaney. Thank you for reading.

This is the Google My Maps icon image I used in the image for this post.