Wednesday, November 12, 2014

My Takeaways from the Hawaii Google Geo Teacher Institute

Google brings its Geo Tools to teachers in Hawaii!
On October 25 & 26, approximately 50 teachers gathered in Hawaii to learn about a slew of Google Geo Tools that teachers and students can use in the classroom. Here are my takeaways from the event!

+John Bailey, the Program Manager for Google Geo Education, along with +Jim Sill+Brendan Brennan, and +Marybeth Baldwin, led some amazing and inspiring sessions. The focus of the event was on Google's Geo Tools, which includes Google Earth, Google Maps, Google Tour Builder, My Maps, and the new Views. I thought I knew how to use most of these tools, but I had no idea what more they could do! Here are my biggest takeaways from the event:

Google Acquires Skybox Imaging
This was excited to hear! Back in August, it was announced that Skybox Imaging would be acquired by Google. What this does for Google is it provides the company with its very own satellites that can capture images and even video of the Earth's surface in real time. One really cool example is of an airport in Beijing. One idea that was mentioned was the ability to track endangered elephants, not just with satellite images, but HD quality video as well!

Some Little Known Features in Google Maps
I've used Google Maps before to get directions or to locate a street or a business, but +Jim Sill revealed some features that I had no idea about!

Did you know that the Diamond Head Crater's
perimeter is approximately 2.25 miles?
First is the ability to measure distances! If you right click on the map, you'll see the option "Measure Distance", then click to create dots and have their distances measured. This option isn't saved however, it's only temporary. But I could instantly imagine how students might use this! Comparing measurements between two locations, determining area, finding perimeter; there are many possibilities!

If you zoom out far enough in Google Maps, you'll see cloud cover. Did you know that the clouds in Google Map are actually in real time? I thought that was pretty cool!

Another great feature that could create some interesting conversations with students is the ability to see population clusters through light pollution. If you zoom all the way out in Google Maps, you'll see night and day as well as light pollution on the side that is currently covered by the night sky.

Cloud cover in real time!
Determine population clusters with light pollution!
Also, zooming all the way out in Google Maps reveals the option to see the Moon and Mars. Open the Explore tab at the bottom to reveal these options.

Check out the Moon and Mars in Google Maps!

Extend the Learning Even Further with My Maps
What used to be Maps Engine Lite is now the new My Maps. My Maps allows you to create your own maps with place markers, data, and information. You can share and even collaborate on maps with other people (similar to how you would share a Google Doc). The ability to collaborate on a Map alone is reason enough to try it with students.

I've traced the island of Oahu and compared it to the size
of the Big Island in Hawaii!
One of my most favorite features of My Maps is the option to draw and create polygons! You can draw lines on your map with the Line Tool. Then those lines can be connected to form a polygon. The polygon can then be moved freely around the map! Want students to compare the size of the neighborhood to that of their city or state? Go right head!

Another useful feature of My Maps is the ability to import data from a spreadsheet or create one right inside the map. With the ability to collaborate, multiple students could be working on one map to gather information and data for locations all over the world!

Create a table inside of My Maps and add information and data to your placemarkers!

Access Historical Imagery in Google Earth
Another amazing feature that Google offers to its users of Google Earth (and Google Tour Builder) is the ability to view historical imagery as far back as the 1930s & 1940s (in some parts of the world). This can be a powerful tool for demonstrating change over time and to help students learn how natural disasters and population growth affect the world.

There are so many great Geo Tools that Google offers, and most of them are easy enough for teachers and students to use in class. One of the most important things I learned at the Geo Teacher Institute was that these Geo Tools don't just have to be used to teach geography and history. They can also be used to teach mathematics and even enhance reading and writing.

Check them out for yourself! Visit the Google Maps Education website and see if there's an institute coming to your area.