Friday, September 9, 2011

Google Earth vs Web Maps for Education

As I said over at my new blog, I still think GEarth more useful for education than other web maps systems. Frank Taylor commented that I should note that here, I think he makes a good point and that it deserves a post.

Creating maps via the web is now wonderfully simple either by web maps or virtual globes (Google Earth, OSM, Google Maps, GeoCommons) when compared with traditional GIS.  This opens all sorts of opportunities for educational development that haven't previously existed.  However, I think GEarth is still the best tool for education because it has features that web maps lack:
  • Tours:  Google Earth Tours allow educators to pre record flights around the globe either to be used as a replacement for powerpoint or for use in a class activity where students see a tour then practise a skill.  Tours functionality is only available in ESRI's virtual globe apart from Google Earth.
  • Offline:  You can cache imagery, load maps and create maps all offline with Google Earth.  That has considerable advantages for many uses in education.
  • 3D:  When looking at cities (3D buildings) and landscapes where terrain is important the 3D aspect of Google Earth becomes important.
  • Others:  Other advantages include the transect tool, great usability, a wealth of KML files on the web that can be customized for educational use and the fact that many students are used to the basic GEarth controls.
GIS for Schools:  I've always said that in schools visualization is the important feature of a computer mapping system, the analysis that comes with GIS is just too complex to teach at school level, its more than enough to get students used to concepts such as symbolisation, choropleths, layers, rasters, vectors, zooming and panning.  So the fact that GEarth can be used to teach all these concepts is more than enough, spending money buying anything extra is not worth it IMHO.

I'll be continuing to discuss GEarth in education here.


Frank Taylor said...

Thanks for posting this Richard. I'm glad you made it clear that Google Earth is still an ideal platform for education. In fact, I think there are so many little-known features in Google Earth - it would truly captivate some students if they knew more about them (things like 3D buildings, the flight simulator, layers for weather, the sky, moon, and mars modes, and the many layers of useful info).

Rich Treves said...

Yes, the list I came up with is for features that I think are the 'kiiler apps' for Geography teaching. Other educators may have different ideas especially if they are teaching other subjects like astronomy, meteorology etc.

Jerome Bertrand said...

GEarth, perhaps the best Geography and History class serious gaming application/ engine?