In 2005, Google officially launched Google Earth, and our entire attitude about maps and their role in our lives changed forever. Today, GPS on our phones has pretty much eliminated the need for anyone to stop and ask for directions.
In the classroom, Google Earth was a great tool from a teacher’s perspective, but installing it on student computers was a hassle and slow computers had trouble running it. Google Maps was an awesome improvement and almost brought Google Earth to web-only devices, but it was lacking some of the educational features that the software provided.
FINALLY, Google has released a web-based version of Google Earth, and after playing for about 10 minutes, I was hooked! Here’s a quick overview of how the New GE works.
At First Glance…
The first thing you will notice is that the new GE has a simplified toolbar on the left side of the screen. The tools include Search, Voyager, I’m Feeling Lucky, My Places, and Share. Click on the three bars in the top left corner of the interface and a more complete menu will appear.
In the bottom right corner, you will see tools similar to what are present in Google Maps. They allow you to fly to your location, toggle between 3D and 2D viewing, re-center the compass, and (my personal favorite) enable Street View. The Street View is amazing in the new GE as it includes pictures submitted by people with 360 cameras, and it provides an awesome up close look at these locations.
The simplicity of the interface and the overall beauty of the images is the first major part of GE that impressed me. A simple search for Mount Rushmore will bring the viewer to a 3D view of the area, complete with a nice little tilt and a revolving view. It really looks amazing. Once you search for a place and Earth takes you there, you will also see a new GE feature called Knowledge Cards. These cards pop up on the right side of the screen with a little summary, a button to add the location to “My Places” and information on other nearby places. If you click on the card, it will open a full-page with more information, a slideshow of pictures and more.
The most ground-breaking addition to the New Google Earth is the Voyager lessons. These are guided tours of certain parts of the world written by Google partners, and they take the reader through a tour of locations with images, information, links, videos and much more. There are a number of Voyager tours to take, and the number is growing.
To start a Voyager tour, click on the steering wheel on toolbar on the left of the screen and you will be taken to a slider of three editors’ picks. If you scroll down, you can choose from other categories and select from a number of tours. Some are more complicated than others, but they are all pretty amazing. Take a few minutes and explore the Voyager journeys on your own.
As of the publishing of this blog, we cannot create our own Voyager journey. However, GE does allow you to upload preexisting KML files which are collections of locations and images that can be exported from the software version of GE. But, if you’re interested in creating your own pseudo Voyager tours, check out THIS BLOG POST about an online tour creator written by a teacher named Josh Williams.
There is so much that the New Google Earth has to offer, and like other new Google products, it is continually being improved. Don’t forget to make sure it is opened in your domain. For more information on using the new web-based Google Earth, click here.