Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Google Earth Tours Research Update

Along Muki Haklay and Paolo Battino of UCL I’ve been researching how we can integrate Google Earth tours and activities (Funded by Google Research).  We recently agreed that we would post about our progress as a group on this blog so here is an update about our first steps in developing the project (more detail of the project).

The basic idea is that a Google Earth tour (GET) has lots of uses in geography/earth science education but, as with TV and Youtube, it tends to be a passive 'sit back' medium.  In education, getting students to 'do' stuff is where most of the learning takes place so we've set out to investigate how best to introduce activities into GETs.

We've decided on a simple structure to test:

  • Students watch an educational GET  (for example, we show them what a 'U' shaped glacial valley looks like)
  • The GET is paused and they then practice what they have just learnt by then completing a task in Google Earth (for example, we get them to find an example in a certain area)

Having completed one GET and related activity they move onto the next GET in the sequence.  If you are interested, there is a deeper discussion of why we think this is a good structure.

Progress so Far:  We've made progress on a number of fronts since the start of the project:

  • Tracking Users:  Paolo is in post at UCL and is busy working with the Google Earth API to get an interface where we can play GETs and then track users as they complete tasks.
  • Literature Review:  Paolo is also getting together a literature review of virtual globes in teaching geographical concepts.
  • Teaching Topic:  We agreed (in a group discussion involving other UCL staff) that an interesting  topic to look at is paleo lake landscape analysis (one I've previously used) because it involves the integration of landscape evidence across large and small scales and we felt that GETs are a good medium to teach across multiple scales (see best practice #1 here).

Problems:  There is currently a problem with Google Earth 6.2 when recording audio GETs using polygons and lines (bug report) which has been an issue but we've found the bug isn’t in Google Earth v5.1 so we're using that until it gets fixed.

Next Steps:  After producing draft GETs for the project and integrating them into Paolo’s GE API interface we will be running preliminary testing before starting testing proper on undergraduate students.

I'll post more about the project when we have some materials worth showing.

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