Posts Tagged ‘Math’

Google Earth

Posted: October 23, 2010 in Hardware, Websites
Tags: , , ,

When I first became interested in using technology in my classroom, I turned to Google. Anyone who uses the internet at all is familiar with Google and how they have revolutionized the way we use the internet. Any search engine whose name has become a verb certainly has my attention! I started off using Google street maps and Google maps, but when I started to crave something more exciting I followed the advice of a colleague and turned to Google Earth. The program seems to be getting quite a bit of attention in the news lately, mostly concerning issues surrounding privacy.

The technology: Google Earth

My impression:

Google Earth is a very rich program which my students have loudly proclaimed as “wicked awesome”. It is essentially a virtual map that uses images from satellites and aerial photography. There are many features including:

  • A flight simulator: Allows you to fly around and explore. A favorite of my students (especially when they discovered they could fly underwater).
  • Sky mode: Allows you to view the stars and other celestial bodies with remarkable images.
  • Historical images of select cities (a very cool feature for history classes)
  • The ability to view Mars, the Moon, and under the Ocean.
  • Street view: a popular feature on Google’s website that allows you to see panoramic ground-level images.
  • The ability to create tours of different locations around the globe (fantastic for all kinds of subject areas).

The main hurdle that I have encountered with Google Earth is teaching students how to use it. It is relatively intuitive, but there are so many aspects to it that it does take some time to learn. As a teacher I don’t want to use too much of my time teaching students how to use a computer program (I have enough to cover in the curriculum as it is). This program is worth taking a little bit of time out of your day to show your students though, since once it’s been taught there are so many different ways you can apply it to lessons across the curriculum.

Possible uses in the classroom/ Lesson ideas: There are so many possibilities for Google Earth it’s impossible to name them all. Personally I have had history students create tours of important places in specific events in history, gone on scavenger hunts to find specific places of significance to world religions, and had math students calculate distances from one place in the world to another. There are also obvious uses in geography. Richard Byrne has developed a great resource for Google Earth across the curriculum which can be downloaded here (his blog, also has a whole bunch of information on Google Earth and a range of other resources, definitely worth a look).


Where can I learn more?

Google Earth Download

A series of tutorials by Google

The Google Earth Blog

Google Earth for Educators

And of course, there are a variety of other resources for Google Earth on the web. Google it and see what appeals to you (see, I used google as a verb!)

Rating: 5 stars


As I mentioned earlier, in January my resolution is to use one new form of technology in my classroom a week. Until then I will be reviewing programs and websites that I already use. My scope of technology is currently quite limited, but I’ve got a couple of websites up my sleeve.

Today’s website is one that I’ve used quite a bit for my math lessons over the years. Innovations in math teaching have lead most math teachers to use manipulatives to demonstrate why a particular math concept works, or to help students find solutions to problems. The National Library of Virtual manipulates offers many of these manipulatives online.

The technology: The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives

My impression:

When you enter the website you’ll find a grid where you can select which grades/ areas of mathematics you’re looking for. I haven’t used the Pre-K-2, or 3-5 levels much… but I did take a look at them. I have, however, used the 6-8 and 9-12 areas extensively. My students always enjoy lessons using this website. Even if it was a manipulative that they had used physically before, somehow having an electronic version made it so much more exciting. As an adult I don’t fully understand the logic behind that- but I’ll be honest… and I don’t often understand the logic of what my students are doing. If they’re happy doing math, I’m happy.

This website is pretty user friendly and my students are usually able to figure out how to use it on their own. It offers a variety of manipulatives that would be impossible to create outside a virtual environment, and I find that using these tools really help student understanding. In addition to the virtual manipulatives there are a lot of neat logic puzzles from the various disciplines in math that students can use to help further their understanding.

I have had problems with the Java on this site over the years, so make sure that it works on your school’s computers before you use it with your students. I have yet to use it and have every student in my class have it work, which usually leads to running around trying to find a computer that will run the website properly.

Possible uses in the classroom/ Lesson ideas:

This website is great for all parts of a math lesson, but I wouldn’t rely too heavily on it. I’ve successfully used it to introduce concepts, for inquiry based learning (on the Algebra Balance Scales: “What happens if you put the -1 here?”), and for practice of concepts we’ve already learned. With the classes I’ve taught I’ve had the most success using it to re-enforce concepts, but I’ll let you be the judge. What have you used this website for?


There’s way too many different manipulatives for me to show you here, but here’s some pictures of some of your different options. Check it out and see for yourself!

Where can I learn more?

Rating: 3 stars