Monday, March 10, 2008

New Video Tutorials

Aug 2010: Now Updated

Screen shot (partly doctored) of part of the tutorial

Summary: Want to learn the basics of Google Earth? I've created a two part set of video tutorials, part 1 teaches you how to navigate in Google Earth and part 2 teaches you the basic tools for creating and saving an interactive map.


Rational: The videos are embedded within Google Earth itself, there is an overlay image with instructions and videos are within placemarks on top. I hope this set up encourages users to practise creating content in GE. This hasn't been done before with videos (to my knowledge) but is similar to how the basic tutorials in sketchup work. There are multiple sources of teaching material about Google Earth; Google's own text and video tutorials, my own v3 video tutorials out there and even a manual for how to use Google Earth. Given I am always pointing out 'just because you can does not mean you should', why am I publishing yet another set of tutorial materials?
  1. By putting tutorials within GE itself I think there is more chance that users will practise using the tools rather than just reading/watching and to learn, 'doing' is much more effective than 'reading'.
  2. The Google documentation is thorough but for a beginner I think it goes into too much detail, there is value in a newbie completing a well bounded task. In the tutorials users use the basic tools to create and save a map for new students coming to Southampton University - a complete task. The 'more' placemarks link to other web resources if they want to research beyond the core materials of the tutorials.
  3. I am always on about good design and I mix some basic design good practicises into the tutorials - not just HowTos but also BestTos. My experience of teaching is that it's better to mix design skills in with technical skills rather than approach them separately.
However, the result is not perfect. GE wasn't designed with this use in mind so it took a lot of fiddling to get it to work properly. There are still some rough edges left; not being able to control exactly how much of the screen the main overlay takes up (so I have to instruct users to move the screen around) is an example problem. And it won't work in mac GE because the movies are flash based.

Having said that, I think it was still worth doing because of reason (1) above. I'll be interested to see just how sucessful it is at leading people to practise creating Google Earth maps.

If you wish to re-use it for training users/students yourself, it's published under a creative commons license;
Creative Commons License
part of the justification for doing this was the outreach potential for the school of Geography so attribution is important.


Frank Taylor said...

Hey Richard...brilliant idea! I like the idea of tutorials inside the applicaiton.

With regards to controlling the location of the overlay - why not use a screen overlay? You could even control the percentage of the screen it takes up, although you would have to deal with scaling artifacts. Or, you can just fix it to the upper left like you want.

Rich Treves said...

Thanks Frank, glad you like it.

Re the overlay issue, I've been tinkering with this so long I forgot to detail that in the post. I did start out trying to use a screen overlay but the problem is I wanted to use placemarks as buttons. They get rendered underneath a screen overlay. I did fiddle about with .gifs with holes in through which you could see the video placemarks but a slight shift in position (very easy to do with the mouse in GE if you're not thinking about it) and the holes don't line up with the placemarks anymore so I abandoned that approach.

As I said, v fiddly!