Zoom in on it

Last year we looked at TeacherTube and some other teacher tools available on the web. Before we leave this topic, however, I want to introduce you to my favourite “waste of time” … Google Earth.

Google Earth (http://earth.google.com) is a virtual globe program that maps the earth by superimposing satellite imagery and aerial photographs on a 3D globe via the internet. You can visit anywhere on the planet and zoom right down to the level of individual houses.

Suddenly those futuristic scenes in movies where CIA authorities in Washington can track action on the ground in Syria are not so difficult to believe. Google Earth delivers a “non-live” version of this to your personal computer.

I’m a geography and history teacher and I fell in love with this programme as soon as it was released in 2006. I have spent hours revisiting every place I have trod on the planet.

You think you know your school well, every nook and cranny? Well, you will be surprised at what you school looks like from the air. You will discover a whole new perspective.

After wasting hours poring over aerial photos, it dawned on me that this might be a great tool for teaching.

It’s an obvious blessing for geography teachers. If you are teaching scale, land-use zones, area and so on, this is an ideal way to ensure your class is actively engaged in the process. Google Earth can provide a view of the actual community rather than a topographical map of some place the learners have never heard of. There are tools built into the program to map coordinates and direction.

History teachers can incorporate Google Earth into lessons to show where events in the past happened. Take a tour of Cape Town’s Castle or visit Red Square in Moscow.

Versailles near Paris in France is spectacular and looks great from above. Sadly, the Great Zimbabwe ruins are available only as a low resolution photograph.

Do you teach maths literacy and want the learners to work out distance and area? Use the measuring tool in the programme. For example, ask learners to plot a new cross-country course around the school that has to be at least 2km long.

Visual arts? What is interesting is that the Google Earth community has been encouraged to illustrate the aerial images with “ground” photographs.

Start a photographic competition that accurately documents the lives of those living in the community. Learners can use their cellphone cameras and upload the best pictures.

There is a toggle switch that provides Google Earth users access to these ground perspective pictures. If your class is advanced, get them to create 3D models that can be superimposed over the aerial pictures to illustrate distinctive buildings or landmarks.

Andrew Moore is a former teacher. He has an MEd degree in computer-assisted education. He works for Neil Butcher and Associates, an ­education technology consulting company.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Laptop initiative presses the right buttons

The details of the teacher laptop initiative are out. The initiative, which was devised by the department of education's innovation in teaching directorate, was published on May 8 in the Government Gazette.

Social networking teens

Recently I got a peek into the world of teenage communication via social networking services and sites. Because of the hard economic times, I thought I should start using the MXit service (www.MXit.com) to check out the super-low costs of text messaging.

Teachers going digital

Does your school's IT policy state that the institution is committed to creating learners who are proficient and comfortable users of information?

Copyright in the digital age

As a young history teacher I was guilty of hoarding my stuff. Now that I'm older I consider it a terrible waste. I remember being particularly proud of a "Middle East Conflict" worksheet that contained numerous pieces of historical evidence: political cartoons, quotes from politicians of the time, diary entries, lyrics from a Palestinian song and some photos from a feature film.

Teachers and games

I recently became an addict. Not to alcohol or smoking but to a particular console game, Bioshock. I have looked at computer games on several occasions in the past - and even bought a few for my PC - but they always failed to engage me.

Learning from the web

This month I review a number of web tools for teachers, websites made for teachers and often by teachers to help other teachers. Some offer resources, others templates to help you create lesson plans. Some allow teachers to upload materials and share them more widely.

Subscribers only

Q&A Sessions: Frank Chikane on the rainbow where colours never...

Reverend Frank Chikane has just completed six years as the chairperson of the Kagiso Trust. He speaks about corruption, his children’s views and how churches can be mobilised

ANC: ‘We’re operating under conditions of anarchy’

In its latest policy documents, the ANC is self-critical and wants ‘consequence management’, yet it’s letting its members off the hook again

More top stories

Hope grows on Durban beachfront

Ten homeless men who turned a vacant lot into an organic vegetable garden are now reaping the rewards of their toil

Shabnim Ismail bowls her way into the record books Down...

The night before Australia’s Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) final, fiery South African fast bowler Shabnim Ismail lay awake pondering how...

Hawks make arrest in matric maths paper leak

Themba Daniel Shikwambana, who works at a printing company, was granted bail and is due to return to court in January

Andile Lungisa: Early parole for the house of truth

Disgraced Nelson Mandela Bay councillor Andile Lungisa calls for a change of leadership in the ANC immediately after being released on parole

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…