If you're wondering where the posts are this week, I've been busy at the AGU conference in San Francisco. Some brief notes on things I saw there:
Volcano Lesson Plan: Declan De Paor showed me a neat trick for use in a lesson plan teaching volcano hazards. Similar to my own lesson plan on volcanoes he uses Google Earth to explain volcano hazards in the vicinity of Mt Rainer. However, he gets students to work out a plan for evacuating the area and then challenges them with an eruption and gives them a limited time to work out what to do. To simulate the real situation he has students open a KML file which has a network link. At a given moment he changes a single file on a server (very simple text change), which triggers a 3D model of an ash plume to appear on Mt Rainer on each of the students' screens. A lovely way to make a simulation more effective.
User Testing: I'm planning some work to look at how effective Google Earth visualizations actually are in helping students with spatial learning. I was pleased to hear that I'm not the only one interested in this, Declan is using a program know as Sliverlight on the Mac to record how students use his materials in an effort to assess the effectiveness of Google Earth based educational materials. As I've been telling anyone who will listen here this week, user testing is the acid test of whether materials based in Google Earth work so great to hear Declan and his team are doing this too.