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Using GoogleEarth to teach and practice 21st Century Skills

Page history last edited by Kimberly Young 14 years, 2 months ago
Unit Objectives: 
During this unit, you will: 
  • navigate GoogleEarth comfortably
  • identify ways Google Earth can be used to teach/practice 21st century skills  
  •  design a lesson that uses GoogleEarth to teach 21st century skills

Image retrieved from: http://rst.gsfc.nasa.gov/Sect16/full-20earth2.jpg 

Activity 1: introduction to Google Earth
Focus Question: How are Social Studies and Google Earth linked?
According to its designers "Google Earth lets you fly anywhere on Earth to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings, from galaxies in outer space to the canyons of the ocean. You can explore rich geographical content, save your toured places, and share with others." (Google).  In an more advanced use of Google Earth, teachers and students can create overlays to show historical geographical change. 
Geography is an essential aspect of the Social Studies Curriculum. The third strand in the Curriculum Standards for Social Studies is "People, Places, & Environments."  Below is a table showing the expectations of what a learners should be able to do and how they are relevant to GoogleEarth.

High School performance expectations: 

Learners can... *

Relevance to Google Earth 

(b) create, interpret, use, and synthesize

 information from various representations

of the earth, such as globes, and photographs

GoogleEarth is a 21st century technology-based

 representation of the Earth 

(c) use appropriate resources, data sources, and geographic tools such as

 aerial photographs, satellite images, geographic information systems (GSI), map

projections, and cartography to generate, manipulate, and interpret information such as

atlases, data bases, grid systems, charts, graphs, and maps.

GoogleEarth includes the tools listed in the

strand and includes various layering options

 that allow students to manipulate the

students' view in an effort to gather and analyze

geographic information. 

(d) calculate distance, scale, area, and density and distinguish spatial distribution patterns 

With GoogleEarth, students can travel any

place in the world and examine and compare

population and other distribution patterns 

(for example, it becomes easy to see the

differences in population in rural vs.

urban areas)

(e) describe, differentiate, and explain the relationships

 among various regional and global

 patterns of geographic phenomena such as

 landforms, soils, climate, vegetation, natural resources, and populations

See (d)'s explanation.

(h) examine, interpret, and analyze physical and

 cultural patterns and their interactions, such as land use,

 settlement patterns, cultural transmission of customs,

and ideas and ecosystem changes 

By connecting visual information acquired

through the use of GoogleEarth to

historical information acquired

through other sources, students can see and make inferences about changes in geography.




*high school performance expectations quoted directly from:

National Council for the Social Studies (2006). Curriculum Standards for Social Studies. Alexandria, VA: National Council for the Social Studies. 

Taking the above into account, it is only logical that GoogleEarth would fit into a 21st Century Social Studies Classroom.
Before continuing, please download the GoogleEarth application from: http://earth.google.com/download-earth.html (Before downloading on a public computer, check with your computer/network administrator).
Activity 2: Practice Using GoogleEarth
Focus Question: How does GoogleEarth work?
1. Review the following User's Guide for Google Earth (you may wish to print for easy access while you are using the application):  http://static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/earth.google.com/en/us/userguide/v5/google_earth_user_guide.pdf
Also helpful are the tutorial videos provided by Google, located at: http://earth.google.com/tour.html . These videos cover the many uses of GoogleEarth.
2. Sometimes the easiest way to learn is to simply do.  Use your newly downloaded GoogleEarth and User's Guide to find the following places:
  • your home/local community
  • Washington D.C. (Locate the Capitol Building, White House (1600 Pennsylvania Avenue), Washington Monument, etc.)
  • Grand Canyon
  • Golden Gate Bridge


Continue to explore GoogleEarth at your own pace until you feel comfortable with its features.  Being familiar with the application, will make activity 3 more accessible to you.




Activity 3: Reviewing GoogleEarth Lesson Plans 

Focus Question: How can GoogleEarth used effectively to teach 21st Century skills in the Social Studies Classroom?


Review each of the following lesson ideas and use the Identifying 21st Century Skills in the Context of Social Studies Lesson Plans.pdf worksheet.  When you are finished, compare your answers to the answer keys.


(These lesson plans were acquired through a simple Google Search; use a search engine to find more lessons related to your curriclum).


Lesson Plan 1:  Great Monuments of the World



Lesson Plan 1 Answer Key: Great Monuments of the World.pdf


Lesson Plan 2:

Visit the following link http://www.activehistory.co.uk/Miscellaneous/free_stuff/google_earth/drake/index.htm.

 Although there are many lesson ideas on this page, scroll down to "Making a GoogleEarth Tour of Drake's Circumnavigation.". I have chosen this lesson because it has a higher level of student interaction with the GoogleEarth application. 


Lesson Plan 2 Answer Key: Drake's Circumnavigation.pdf


*Note: All answer keys are possible responses.  Depending on how you interpret the lesson plan and any modifications you make, the skills addressed may vary.  



Activity 4: Designing Your Own Lesson Plan

Focus Question: How can GoogleEarth be used in your classroom?


Take a moment to reflect on what you have learned thus far in this course. By now, you should know what 21st century skills are, what role technology plays in teaching them, and how to operate GoogleEarth; you have also explored multiple lesson ideas that have a 21st century skill component and/or use technology.  Think about a specific 21st Century Skill (or multiple skills, but simplicity is helpful when first starting) and aspect of US or World geography that is relevant to your curriculum and brainstorm a lesson plan.  Focus on the following questions:

  • What skill are you teaching, practicing, or applying?
  • What geography concept are you teaching, practicing, or applying?
  • How will GoogleEarth be used to teach the above?


If you'd like to share your GoogleEarth lesson plan, please post it in the comment section below.



GoogleEarth is only one of several technologies than can be used in a 21st century skills classroom.  The next unit will introduce you to another technology that's not new but has some important implications in education in the 21st century. Unit 4 is constructed very similar to this unit.  When you are ready to move on, click on the link to continue:



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