More Geo Tools

I love hearing how teachers are using Geo Tools with their students to make learning real and authentic. Seventh Grade Social Studies Teacher Micah Shippee worked with over 100 students at Liverpool Middle School on the Liverpool Cemetery Mapping project.  Students researched, photographed, and digitally-labeled gravestones in the Liverpool Cemetery and then completed a custom Google Map complete with historical profiles for over 30 gravesites.

The project was then converted with the Wikitude app (, an augmented reality (AR) program, that used the student-created Google Map content. Through the use of the free Wikitude App installed on a device, visitors to the cemetery can determine the location of each gravesite, how far they have to walk to see them, and the historical profiles for each site. You can be assured those middle school students took their families to see their virtual walking tour.

I am thinking of combining 360 PhotoSphere images with Google Maps & Wikitude to make a virtual tour of our school campus — or perhaps a scavenger hunt and have users fill out a Google form with their answers.

GE Teach ( was developed by high school Geography teacher Josh Williams. This tool allows students to compare two maps side-by-side as a way compare data sets from physical geography (physical features, land temperature, precipitable water, carbon dioxide, etc.) and human geography (population density, economy, human development, etc.). This would be a fabulous tool for social studies students and have them compare maps and use critical thinking skills to explain how or why physical geography impacts human geography conditions.

I was thankful to have met both Micah Shippee and Josh Williams at the 2017 California Geo Institute  and am completely inspired by their work.

Ricoh Theta 360 camera

When I attended the 2017 CA Google Geo Institute last July, I was introduced to the idea of using embedded 360 photos to engage students in the real world.  I had already played around with PhotoSpheres before and created this 360 photo of my school library using the Google Street View app on my iPhone.

With the Street View App, you stand in the middle of the room and slowly spin around while the app takes multiple images of the space then stitches them together to make this 360 image.  It works fine if there are no moving people in the room (look closely at the circulation desk!). Use Google Street View with your students to immerse themselves in places they have never been.

The Google Street View Gallery showcases some of the most interesting places in the world.

When you visit Google Maps or Google Earth, click on the yellow Pegman in the corner to show the blue lines for Street View images, blue dots for uploaded PhotoSpheres, and yellow dots for the ability to see inside select buildings and museums. Students will enjoy discovering PhotoSpheres from all over.

What really blew me away at the CA Google Geo Institute was learning how to use the  Ricoh Theta 360 camera to take an instantaneous 360 photo or video. We created walking tours around the Google campus and embedded our photos into Google maps. I purchased a camera with plans to help my students make a 360 walking tour of our school campus — but I needed to learn how to use it first.

Here are a few of my favorite 360 photos I have taken so far with the Theta.  You can also view the Wallowa Lake image directly in Google Maps.

Wallowa Lake #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Happy Thanksgiving from the Cassinelli, Hauge, and LeChevallier families #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA


EdTech Team Google Summit #theta360 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Here are the directions on how to set up the Theta app on your phone so you can take remote photos and have them transferred to your device. I’ve learned you need to be careful with exposure and you definitely need a tripod for shooting the photos.

Some 360 resources from #CAGTI17

Can’t wait to try the Ricoh Theta with my students. Stay tuned!

Google’s Geo Tools for Learning

This past July, I had the privilege to attend the Google Geo Institute at the Mountain View headquarters. 75 educators from all over the US spent three days learning about Google’s Geo Tools and how to implement them in the classroom.  I had attended the Geo Institute back in 2013 but the tools have changed so much that I wanted an update.

It was great to really dive into the newly updated  Google Earth ( Students can travel the world and explore new places using a web browser – no download required! They can see places like exotic cities, landmarks in 3D and buildings from close up using Street View. Photospheres are 360-degree photos that provide real views of our world – even the International Space Station!

A great way to pique student’s interest in exotic places is using a feature called Voyager. Voyager is a collection of map-based tours written by Google Earth partners that provide guided stories on topics like travel, culture, nature, and history.

There is power in students creating their own maps to help them visualize information or tell a story.  Students can use Google Tour Builder ( to write place-based stories that follow a journey on a map.  The addition of multiple images and videos can make the journey come to life.

I have used Google My Maps ( because it allows multiple students to collaborate on an interactive map together. Here is a simple example showing famous landmarks in Oregon.

 How about taking students on virtual field trips to engage their curiosity? Google Expeditions allows students to swim with the sharks, visit outer space, or walk through a museum without leaving the classroom. Each participant will need a mobile device that fits into a virtual-reality (VR) viewer. Teachers then can choose from over 500 Google Expeditions ( to share with their students. Get some lesson ideas on using Expeditions (and others) at

Here are some additional geography resources that I learned about at the 2017 CA Geo Institute or were shared by attendees:

Augmented Reality Apps (shows a view of the real world in front of you, then put a layer of information, including text and/or images, on top of that view)

Virtual Reality Apps (viewing a completely different reality than the one in front of you; may be artificial, such as an animated scene or an actual place that has been photographed)

Here are some additional 2017 CA Geo Institute resources to explore or our shared notes! If you ever have the chance to attend — I highly recommend it!

Look for my next post where I discuss my biggest takeaway from the Geo Institute:

  1. Learning about the Theta 360 camera
  2. Embedding Photospheres into Google Maps
  3. A Pokemon style game you can create with Wikitude

Introduction to Google Earth

What is Google Earth?

Google Earth is a free, downloadable program that combines satellite images, maps, and terrain to create a 3D virtual model of the world.

You can search for specific locations in Google Earth and create your own virtual tours.  Other options to explore are content developed by NASA, Discovery Education, National Geographic Magazine and more!To get started you need to download and install the latest version of Google Earth from  Google Earth is available for PC, Mac or Linux computers.

Navigating Around Google Earth

When you first open Google Earth you will see a large globe of the world. You can “fly to” any place by typing the name of the location into the search bar and then press enter.  Google Earth will rotate the globe to the location and zoom in.

Move your cursor over right corner of your screen to use the navigation controls.  Here you can tilt the view, move around, or zoom closer to view your location or better view the geography. There are also many keyboard controls for navigating Google Earth (for example Ctrl+Up=tilt up or try holding down Shift and use scroll wheel on mouse).  Another option to better see variations in geography is to go to Tools > Options and the 3D View Tab – change the “Elevation Exaggeration” to 2.

Saving Locations

Use the Places panel to save and organize places that you visit, addresses, or natural features by zooming in on your location and clicking the Placemark icon on the toolbar menu.  You can then name the placemark, write a description and choose a position and altitude for the placemarker icon.  To permanently save this point of interest to the My Places folder, right-click on the placemark in the viewer and select Save to My Places. You can also share placemarkers with others on the Google Earth Community BBS website at

You can tour items in your Places listing by selecting the check box next to items you want to tour and clicking on the Play Tour button at the bottom of the Places panel. The tour begins playing in the 3D viewer, which flies to each location and stops for a period of time before flying to the next place in the list.

Exploring Content

The Layers feature in Google Earth provides a variety of points of interest that you can select to display over the map.  Layers content is created by Google (or its partners) and can be turned on or off by checking or unchecking various layers in the Layers Panel.  You can spend hours learning about the world by exploring this information.

  • Turn on the Borders and Labels layer to see outlines of countries and names of locations.
  • Turn on the Terrain layer to show 3D elevation of your current view. Elevation is limited to natural geographic features, like mountains and canyons, and does not apply to buildings.
  • In the Ancient Rome 3D layer, you can fly into Rome as it looked in 320 A.D. and tour famous buildings. You can visit sites such as the Roman Forum, Colosseum and the Forum of Julius Caesar.
  • In the Rumsey Historical Maps layer, you can view overlays of maps from historic period that represent the cartographic art of that time period.  Some of the maps fit perfectly in Google earth while others reveal interesting geographical misconceptions of their time period.
  • Turn on Panoramio images in the Geographic Web layer to see photos from all around the world.  Panoramio community members share their photos of travel locations and Google Earth selects images to embed in this layer.
  • Interacting with the various layers in Google Earth is fun and educational.  Check out 360 Cities, 3D Buildings, and National Geographic Magazine.  Remember to zoom in on a region to see if an icon appears.

KML and KMZ files

KML (Keyhole Markup Language) and KMZ (Keyhole Markup Zipped) is a file format used for modeling and storing geographic features in Google Earth.  You can use these files to share places and information with other users.  You can find interesting features and places on the Google Earth Community website or search for KML/KMZ files by “file type” in Google’s Advanced Search.

*Google Earth 5.0 required to view KML and KMZ files

Google Earth Resources

Google Earth User Guide
: A listing of
topics to learn Google Earth basics – navigating the globe, searching, printing, and more.  (

Google Earth Community BBS website is a forum to find KML & KMZ files, ask questions, read about Google Earth features and more.  –

The Google 3D Warehouse –  A free, online repository where you can find, and share 3D models that can be viewed in Google Earth.

  • Saint Peter’s Basilica and Square in Vatican City
  • Herold’s Temple
  • Egypt’s Wonders and Monuments

Google Lat Long Blog – Official Google blog with news and notes about Google Earth and Maps team

The Google Earth Blog
– Stay up to date on new features of Google Earth –

Google Earth curriculum ideas

Even More

There is so much to Google Earth that can’t fit into one blog post.  Check out Google Sky, Moon and Mars.  Take a ride on the flight simulator.  Play the fabulous tours and travel the globe.  Open your custom Google Maps in Google Earth … and so much more.

Tech Tip Tuesday: Google Earth curriculum ideas

by MaryFran Lynch

Google Earth can be wonderful to use to introduce your students to the places in their text books. You may want to create your own lessons or use some that have been made available to compliment your lessons. Here are a few you may be interested in:

Language Arts

Whether your class is reading,  Possum Magic by Mem Fox, By the Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleishman, or The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Google Lit Trips can take your students to the setting of the book and make the story come more alive with the pictures and resources available in the placemarkers.

Older students will enjoy seeing the places in Shakespeare’s Plays,   Jane Austen’s Life and Work, or John’s Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley. These sites are found in the Google Earth Community along with numerous other resources.

Social Studies

Also found in the Google Earth Community is a map showing the westward explorations of Lewis and Clark.  The placemarkers take you to the website for more information.

See the California Missions Alta California and in  Baja California by exploring these sites.

Find out about the Crisis in Darfur or track the US Unemployment Rates at the Google Earth Outreach website. Look here for other Google Earth files from community and environmental action groups.

See what Ancient Rome looked like in 3-D. Walk down the streets of Rome in 320 AD and explore the insides of ancient buildings, all recreated in Google SketchUp.


Here are some places to check out for using Google Earth in math


Can you think of a better tool to teach geological map interpretation? Here is great lesson from On the Cutting Edge to help you get started.

Study the effect of Global Warming with this lesson from David R. Wetzel.

Just for Fun

  • Send a GeoGreeting . Have your message spelled out with buildings found in GoogleEarth.

There is so much available for Google Earth, and more resources being posted all the time. All it takes to implement these ideas is a free downloaded version of Google Earth 5.0 , and your lessons can take you (and your students) places.

Tech Tip Tuesday: Even more … Google Earth

Guest post by MaryFran Lynch—even-more

Once you’ve downloaded Google Earth, you’ll be able to take advantage of some of Google Earth’s features you won’t find in Google Maps. Here are three features worth exploring.

As we all know, more than 70% of the Earth is covered by water. Google recently unveiled Google Ocean.

With Google Ocean, you can explore the deepest part of the ocean with marine experts, or learn about climate change and how it is affecting the ecology of the ocean and its inhabitants. To access this feature, click on Ocean in Layers in the left sidebar, and begin to explore the ocean depths by choosing the different features. Travel beneath the surface with Jacques Cousteau, watch BBC videos on the ocean, or search for shipwrecks. In the State of the Ocean layer, you can find out about the work the Monterey Bay Aquarium has been doing in their Seafood Watch program.

Prefer to explore the skies? Google Earth has a feature to help you explore stars, planets, and constellations.

Switch to Google Sky in the tool bar along the top of the screen. You navigate around the Sky, much as you do in Earth. Mouse over the upper right-hand part of the screen and your navigation controls will appear. Here you can zoom in or out. Chose a specific location to explore by using the search box as you would in Google Maps or Earth.

You’ll find lots of information in the Layers, once again found in the left-hand sidebar. You’ll find lots of great information by exploring the layers. Learn which constellations you can expect to see tonight from your backyard, and how to identify them by clicking on the Backyard Astronomy drop down features. The date and time slider in the upper left-hand corner lets you see how your view will change through a specific time frame, or you can watch the orbit of planets.

The Mars option features awesome images of our closest neighbor planet taken by NASA, along with detailed information we’ve learned from the Mars Rover.

Another recently added feature is Historical Imagery. Find this feature under the clock in the tool bar.

Use the slider to see how a location has changed over time.

Google Earth has so many educational applications! Google has teamed with Discovery Education to help teachers integrate Earth, Sky, Oceans, and Historical Imagery into your lessons. Here is a list of websites to help you get started:

Take a tour and discover what Google Earth has to offer. Now you can truly have the world at your fingertips.

Tech Tip Tuesday – Google Earth

by MaryFran Lynch

The nice thing about Google Earth is that if you have played with Google Maps at all, Google Earth is kinda like the next step. One of the big differences, however, is that you will have to download Google Earth to take advantage of its many features. As with many Google tools, you can download a version of Google Earth for free.

When you first open Google Earth, you’ll see a globe. You can “Fly to” anywhere by typing the location into the search bar. Once at that location, you’ll be able to move around much like you did in Google Maps. By mousing over the top right hand side of the image, you’ll activate the controls. With the zoom slider, you can zoom in or out. As you do, “Eye alt” in the lower right hand corner will tell you the elevation of your vantage point. As you get closer to the ground, the earth tilts to give you a different perspective.

There are two joystick controls, the look joystick, with the eye in the middle, use this to look in any direction and the move joystick, to navigate around.

Once you’ve had a chance to play with the controls, it’s time to explore the many features of Google Earth that make it different from Google Maps. Many of these are found in the “Layers” at the bottom of the left-hand column. Layers displays different information on top of the globe and can be turned on or off. My favorite layers are the “Terrain” and “3-D Building” layers. These layers make the world pop out. It is especially fun to explore volcanoes or canyons. Try looking at Mt. St. Helens with your students and ask them to tell you the direction of the lava flow. You can spend hours learning about the world by exploring the layers.

I’ve used Google Earth in my classroom to make the places we are reading about come to life. At the beginning of the year, we read The Talking Cloth by Rhonda Mitchell, and learned about the tradition of the adinkra cloth made in Ghana. At the same time, we were learning about the Ohlone Indians who were the original inhabitants of our area. Students were amazed at the similarities of their villages, and how different our neighborhood looked to the one in Ghana on Google Earth. In contrast, we recently read Night of the Pufflings, set in Iceland, by Bruce McMillian. When I asked students how they thought their lives differed from those of Icelandic children, one student offered that they played video games, while the students of Iceland probably didn’t know about video games. A quick “flight” to Reykjavik convinced them otherwise.

Next week we’ll look at some of the newer features of Google Earth. In the meantime, you might like to check out the Google Earth User’s Guide, or if you are a bit more adventurous, try taking a virtual flight to your next vacation destination and don’t forget to turn on the Panoramio layer.

Google Earth 5.0

 Google announced the newest version of Google Earth 5.0 today.  Google Earth now has an ocean.  You can view “much more detailed bathymetric map (the ocean floor), so you can actually drop below the surface and explore the nooks and crannies of the seafloor in 3D. While you’re there you can explore thousands of data points including videos and images of ocean life, details on the best surf spots, logs of real ocean expeditions, and much more.”

Other new features:

  • Historical Imagery: Until today, Google Earth displayed only one image of a given place at a given time. With this new feature, you can now move back and forth in time to reveal imagery from years and even decades past, revealing changes over time. Try flying south of San Francisco in Google Earth and turning on the new time slider (click the “clock” icon in the toolbar) to witness the transformation of Silicon Valley from a farming community to the tech capital of the world over the past 50 years or so.
  • Touring: One of the key challenges we have faced in developing Google Earth has been making it easier for people to tell stories. People have created wonderful layers to share with the world, but they have often asked for a way to guide others through them. The Touring feature makes it simple to create an easily sharable, narrated, fly-through tour just by clicking the record button and navigating through your tour destinations.
  • 3D Mars: This is the latest stop in our virtual tour of the galaxies, made possible by a collaboration with NASA. By selecting “Mars” from the toolbar in Google Earth, you can access a 3D map of the Red Planet featuring the latest high-resolution imagery, 3D terrain, and annotations showing landing sites and lots of other interesting features.

Google Earth 5.0

Guess I know what I will be doing with my free time the next few days!!!

Reflections from Google Teacher Academy

I’ve been so busy hosting family this past weekend that I haven’t had a chance to finish my blog post about Google Teacher Academy.

First of all, I must thank Cristin Frodella from Google and the folks from Cue (Mark Wagner and Mike Lawrence), WestEd and all the returning GCTs for hosting this year’s Google Teacher Academy. It was truly a honor to be selected to represent Oregon and private school teachers everywhere at the academy.

I will blog about the new features of the Google tools that were shared …but for now I am just processing the experience.

Another huge thank you goes out to Sallie Hill and Brian Mull for starting the wikis that allowed us “out-of-towners” to virtually meet and make plans to get together. Meeting these fabulous teachers face-to-face made all the difference in my Google Teacher Academy experience. Our local tour guide, the PodPirate himself, organized get togethers the night before the academy (see photo above), that evening and a tour to Monterey Bay Aquarium the next day for those still in town (photos). Having the social time to meet and share ideas with the other GCTs was SO valuable that I recommended that next year’s Academy should encourage it!!!

I was already pretty familiar with many of the Google tools but the critical piece that I was missing was how easy it was to SHARE with others what you make with the tools. Cheryl Davis and Kathleen Ferenz are working on a cool project for the upcoming elections. Did you know that you can take an ENTIRE TAB from you iGoogle home page that you designed with widgets and RSS feeds and SHARE IT with your friends and colleagues???

I had seen Jerome Burg’s Google Lit Trips before and wanted to dive deeper into how he organizes these projects in the classroom but there was just too much to learn so I will explore more on my own.

Try Google 411 by calling 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411). Its’ Google new service that allows you to call from your cell phone and ask questions and look for businesses based on zipcode and if your cell phone has Internet, it will also provide maps.

Oh, there is so much more … EVEN MORE!

So, for now I am energize to plan how I will use all these great tools of Google in my classroom and begin working on some professional development for teachers at our school and in my area.

Meanwhile, check out the Google Almanac – created by Google Certified Teachers.

Google Earth & Postcard Geography

Years ago when I taught 4th grade I participated in a classroom exchange called “Postcard Geography”.  My students eagerly awaited postcards that we exchanged with schools all across the US.  We created a large bulletin board with a map of the US and  pinned the postcards next to the city is came from.  It was fun to read about the area around the school and we often referred to our postcards as we studied the regions of the US.

flag41.gifThis summer I was searching the Internet for collaborative projects and I came across the Postcard Geography project again.  I considered doing the project with my 7th & 8th grade computer classes.  I figured with all the online resources at our fingertips, the project would be a lot different than the past.  Little did I know ….

Welcome to the 21st Century!  We received our first postcard last week and the students immediately went to the  Internet and Google Maps to located the town.  As they were zooming in on the small town in Texas, it dawned on me that we could “pin” the location on the maps in Google Earth.  So we switched to Google Earth and found the exact location of the school.  As I read the postcard aloud to the class they zoomed out to locate neighboring cities that were mentioned, commented on the amount of trees by the school and the layout of the town.  We calculated distance to the Gulf of Mexico and followed a river near the city that emptied into the Gulf.

One student suggested that we write the exact longitude and latitude coordinates of our school on our postcards so other schools can find out exactly where we are located.  I opened up the discussion to the students of how they wanted to participate in the project.  Everyone agreed that they still wanted to send the postcards the old fashioned way but also create a digital postcard that could be emailed.  There were lots of ideas of making a movie, taking photos around town and embedding them onto a map, designing original postcards, and making a narrative slide show.

The enthusiasm was endless.  I felt like I just presented an idea to the class and they took hold and went with it.  None of the students realized how many geography skills they reviewed during the Google Earth activity (and in computer class – gasp!) or how many computer skills they suggested for upcoming projects.  I will allow the students to choose how the class will send “digital postcards” to the other school but I also have plans for using Google Earth to create a virtual field trip to “visit” some of the school and teach them how to read a GPS device.

I really enjoyed participating in the Postcard project the first time around but this time around the technology makes this project more authentic and real.

I overheard two students discussing the Texas school while they were viewing the map on Google Earth …

Student 1:  Look how many tennis courts they have at their school.

Student 2:  Well, the weather is nice in Texas (compared to the rain in Oregon) so they probably go outside more.

Student 1:  Yeah, but it gets real hot there.  Good thing they aren’t too far away from the Gulf.

You would swear they were talking about a place they had visited before.  They gathered all this information from looking at a satellite map.  I can’t wait until we receive news from some schools in Australia, Taiwan and Spain.