Monday, September 24, 2012

The Power of Street View in Teaching

Streetview is one of the Jewels in the Crown of Google Geo and its a fantastic resource for teaching.  I've just delivered a 'Google Earth as GIS in teaching' session to PGCE students at Southampton University and took the opportunity to polish up my teaching materials, including having another look at what Streetview can do.  I thought I'd share some thoughts on it with you.

Views Beyond the Street: Firstly, it used to just be roads, now they've gone off piste with the streetview trike

and backpack

producing a range of resources including panoramas from the South pole, inside museums and on footpaths.  See the full Gallery.

HowTo:  But before I get carried away with the fun stuff, here's some basic instructions on how to use it in Google Earth looking at a classic Physical Geography field site:  Lulworth Cove.

1] Using the search panel, find Lulworth Cove, UK.

2] Zoom out so you can see the town immediately to the West and the cove in the same view. 

Rollover the controls in the top right of the screen > Click and drag the orange man > Drop him close to the cliff on the blue path between town and cove.   You will be transported into ‘streetview mode’.

3] Look all the way around you and vertically down at the ground by click and dragging the screen

Now ‘walk’ along the road/path by rolling the mouse wheel up and down.  Note that your view stays in one direction

4]  Select a good view, Create a placemark and call it ‘Street View’, click OK.

5]  Now exit streetview by clicking ‘exit streetview’ button, top right.

6]  Double click your new streetview placemark in the places column to fly back into streetview.  

This is handy as you don't have to do all the dragging and dropping of the orange man. 

Teaching Tips - the Cove:  If you're due to go to Lulworth cove, using streetview has obvious uses - you can introduce the site to students and explain where they'll go on the day.  After the trip you can use it to revise what they did and saw, helping them to link the parts of the day to the geography of the site.

The 'constant view' direction that you get with rolling the mouse wheel is particularly useful as you can show them what they will see on the walk out to the edge of the cove.  The direction should be set towards the cove - they shouldn't really be looking elsewhere!

Other Teaching Tips:  I think streetview is very useful not only for physical geography but also for human geography.  I've used it for schools outreach when looking at different neighborhoods, judging income levels depending on how smart the cars and the front doors look.  

You can use it in Google Maps without bothering to use it in Google Earth but I think the advantage of being able to 'tag' locations in streetview with a placemark and return to them at the double click of a mouse is highly useful.

Monday, September 10, 2012

San Francisco Earthquake Teaching Exercise

I've just come across an excellent teaching activity by Noel Jenkins of Juicy Geography about earthquakes in San Francisco using Google Earth.  It uses ground overlays to illustrate areas of liquification danger and earthquake amplification danger. Noel says he's tested the activity in class and that it could be used to cover GIS teaching too.

Opacity Slider:  One of the functions that is used in the activity is the 'opacity slider', this changes the transparancy of a ground overlay.  I thought it worth exactly how to use the opacity slider as its useful in lots of teaching situations:

1] Open the file that goes with the lesson plan

2] Expand the folders in the Places column until you have the data overlays folder open (click the plus buttons on the left of the folders to do this)

3] The elements showing in this folder are all ground overlays, basically images that lie over the Google Earth topography like a table cloth.  You can tell this by looking at their icons in the places column - a sheet overlying another sheet.

4] Tick one so it shows on screen.  Notice that it also goes blue, this means it's selected.

5] Click the square icon at the bottom of the Places column to the right of the magnifying glass.  A slider appears, moving the circle changes the transparency (or opacity) of the overlay.

Adjusting the opacity allows you to see the true image of the ground below and or see another ground overlay more clearly.

Useful Supporting Videos:

the above clip shows someone lecturing at the time of an earthquake (I think in California).  If you replay it and watch carefully you can see that most of the students run for the door and only one student does what they've been taught and dives under the desk.

The clip below shows an illustration of liquefaction, when shaken, the sand behaves like a liquid and more dense items (the building model) will sink into it.  You can easily do something similar with a box of rice which you shake by hand, you don't need the motor shaker.  

and this is what it looks like in real life.  The water coming out is a more complicated effect to explain but is related to liquefaction occurring.