Thursday, December 13, 2012

Rainy day Google Earth

What do you do when it's yet another rainy day recess? 

If you are lucky enough to have a relatively new class set of iPads, you pass out the iPads, ask the students to investigate the Google Earth app and see what happens.

Last week, during a rainy day recess, I decided to give the students 20 minutes to use the Google Earth app any way they wanted to.  I didn't have any plan in mind.  I hadn't even used Google Earth myself.  It was just one of those moments that happens sometimes in a classroom that turned into a great lesson with everyone working together to find out where we live on this planet, and then finding other places of interest - historical sites in our country, the White House and Wrigley Field - and in other countries.  There were discussions about Salinas, Prunedale, Hawaii, Colorado, Japan and Ireland.  Some students spent time looking at Germany, Sweden and Denmark since we are currently reading the novel Number the Stars.  There was a student who figured out how to look at the topography of the oceans.

I had read that there is no need to spend class time teaching (somewhat pre-vetted apps) to students because they will quickly learn what they need to know and then teach each other; that was definitely the case with Google Earth.  The class quickly figured out who the experts were (there were many) and students went to the student experts for help.  I was not the teacher, but more of an educational consultant.  I got to spend my time answering questions about how a student could calculate the distance between Germany and Denmark, how to find the spelling of a city in Ireland, or how to learn more about deep ocean trenches.  It was clear after 20 minutes that there was much, much more that we could do with Google Earth, we had only started to touch the possibilities.  Students were finding topics that interested them and things that they wanted to find out more about out. Maybe we can do more of this at school, and maybe they can do more of it at home.  We shall see!

The students received no instruction from me. In fact, I had only downloaded Google Earth using Apple Configurator the night before, so didn't know any more than they did about it.

The students quickly helped each other to find the app and learn how to use it.

The first thing most of them did was find their current home, then former homes.  For some this was easy, for some it was more difficult.  Some had to find landmarks, such as the school, and then find the way they would walk or drive from there.

Here is a picture of the states map on the blacktop at the back of our school.

Then students started to look for places of historical importance, like the White House.

This student found places in Ireland where he had been on vacation.

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