Thursday, September 18, 2008

Google Geo Education Summit

On Friday I was invited to this event at the Google offices in London. Ollie has blogged the event in detail amongst others.

It was a very useful event, it was great to finally meet Tina Ordruff of Google and Noel Jenkins of Juicy Geography fame both of whom I've had phone conversations with before about Education matters. Jamie Buchanan-Dunlop of digital explorer presented along with Tina, Noel and myself, pleased to hear he's finally got enough project work in Google related education to drop teaching and concentrate on it full time. Ollie was there amongst others who it was good to meet.

I won't blog things in detail as time is tight for me at the moment however some notes that struck home for me:

Students better than Teachers: I think Ollie suggested this one, we should be encouraging school students to use Google Earth in their work even if it the teacher isn't using Google Earth much themselves.

Google Earth as gaming environment: Jamie outlined this in his presentation. The new Google Earth plugin allows web programmers to build tools involving the 3D engine of Google Earth easily and things involving games are attractive to students. This idea has pros and cons: concepts such as scoring, lives, competition, ramping up difficulty so that no instructions need to be read can be great motivators for students. The plugin allows techies to build these edu-games with little development time. However, I've read a paper where use was made of edu-games and testing showed that although the students enjoyed playing the games and thought they'd learnt things in fact they only developed superficial knowledge. As with many things in elearning, there are lots of ways edu-games could fail but tremendous potential in the concept.

Local vs Global: In my lesson plan I thought the fact that the content was about India would be exotic and interesting to teachers and students. In contrast consensus amongst the teachers at the meeting was that local mapping was a powerful teaching aid as students got to grasp the relationship between map and reality. Jamie has developed a fascinating school grounds project along these lines that I might adapt for University use.

Virtual Scout: Noel talked about how he gets students to scout around Svalbard via Google Earth in one of his lesson plans, this is a concept I've come across myself in developing materials - there is evidence of giant lakes (much bigger than the great lakes) in the USA in glacial times that can be found by using the terrain and imagery data within Google Earth. Students can be taught how to identify something and then virtually 'sent' to find other examples in a given area. Really good teaching practice.

GIS in Schools: Although there are a number of free GIS products around for schools none of them really hit the mark according to the teachers present. I also learnt that A and GCSE curricula both have GIS explicitly mentioned. Google Earth could be easily adapted for this use.

Tina came to visit us in Southampton on Tuesday and we discussed even more educational topics. Hopefully more of that later.


mr_brady said...

I am trying desperately to set up my own blog for my 6th grade students to download Google Earth activities that we use in class. But each time I type the html code (href . . .) I get the page does not exist message. I know I have the correct url because I download other htm files from my own website. How did you put those .kmz files into your blog so that people can download them? Please visit my website
Thanks for your help
Mike Brady

Rich Treves said...


Contact the techie who looks after your website and ask them to set up a MIME type to handle .KML and .KMZ. That's probably the problem.

BTW its Rich - 'Treves' reminds me of my school years in a UK grammar school :)