Today (Friday) was invited to
spend a day at the Google Head office in London.
The main purpose of the day was to discuss how Google Earth, Google Sky,
Google Maps and Google Sketch Up could be better used in the classroom. Our
fascinating conversation also expanded to include other Google Apps such as
Blogger, Google Docs, Google Video/You Tube and Google Search.
There were a number of familiar
faces in the room including Martin
Brown (from LTS), Noel Jenkins
(possibly the most enthusiastic man on the planet and of Juicy Geography fame) and Jamie Buchanan-Dunlop (from
Explorer). There was also an opportunity
to meet a few new people including Richard Treves from the University of Southampton,
who runs the Google Earth Design Blog, Steve Brace who is
Head of Education and Outdoor Learning at the Royal
Geographical Society and Tina Ornduff from the Google Geo Education
I was really interested in some of the ideas that Richard was putting forward to do with Google Earth / Maps Design and about the need to try and keep the basics right when teaching people to use Google Earth / Maps. This is something that I have talked about before (see my post on: Ten Ideas for using Google Earth and Google Maps in the Classroom). I will also be coming back to this theme later in the month when I present on Breaking Down Walls with Google Earth at the Scottish Learning Festival.
We talked about a number of things and discussed different ways that we could try and get more teachers using these types of resources in the classroom. I was keen to try and promote the idea of trying to create ways of attracting more children to use Google Earth for themselves. At the moment most of my / our efforts have been to get children to engage through teachers. Perhaps it’s time we thought about bypassing some teachers and directly marketing this type of product to the children? This would be particularly powerful if we could get children to help design such publicity material. The model that CEOP use for the Youth Advisory Council who help them shape their web resources could be a good one to copy here? It also might be quite nice to create a 5-7 year old resource, a 8–10 year old resource and a 11–16 year old resource.
I was also very keen to work on / produce some sort of collective resource to show children who produce coursework (GCSA, A-Level and Advanced Higher) how they could better use Google Earth to improve their projects. I was impressed when Noel first showed me this (see picture below) a few years ago – and now producing such graphics has become really easy to do.
I’m also keen to encourage more teachers to set Google Earth, Google Maps and Sketch Up tasks for homework. I have met a number of teachers that complain that the reason they don’t use these resources more is because they have not got access to a computer lab. For me this needs a bit more creative thought. Why don’t you just leave some of the more boring written tasks for the classroom (where children often need a bit more encouragement, coaching and motivation – from you the teacher) and save your computer lab work for them to complete at home. Think about it – most children do have a computer at home. They find working on the computer engaging, which in my experience means they are more likely to complete their homework.
Jamie presented some interesting ideas on the next evolution of Google Earth. Could Google Earth be used as a rich gaming environment? I think so. The Google Earth flight simulator has been around for a while and more and more games / challenges are starting to be developed in Google Earth. One of the things that Tina showed us today was the Monster Milk Float Game. This is where you drive a virtual milk cart around the globe to explore things. To get the 3D maps to work in your browser you need to download a plug in for FireFox.
Here’s a screen shot of me exploring Edinburgh when I got home tonight in my Milk Float – do you recognise Arthurs Seat?
Google Street View is soon coming to the UK. Noel
suggested an expansion of street view to not just include streets. For example,
a tour through Cheddar Gorge or along Striding Edge in the Lake District.
A great idea that I’m sure will eventually come to reality.
Google Teacher Academy
The Google Teacher Academy could
be on the way to the UK.
I’ve asked about it before and I’ve even
offered to provide 50 East Lothian Teachers.
Google Geo Apps and A Curriculum for Excellence
One of the other ideas that I was thinking about is would it be worth trying to map how some free web 2.0 tools could be used to support the experiences and outcomes of A Curriculum for Excellence? The Google Apps suite would be a good place to start here. For example the Experience and Outcomes of A Curriculum for Excellence explicitly mention the sky and astronomy. But how many Scottish Teachers have heard of Google Sky? And how many have used it in their classrooms yet? What a great resource (You Tube Video embedded below).
Google Earth and GLOW
Martin and I talked at length about how GLOW could be used to develop the use of Google Earth in Scottish classrooms. Martin has already set up a Google Earth Group in GLOW, which is a sub-section of the social subjects group. We probably need to set up other groups as well, as Google Earth is cross curricular and not just limited to social subjects. There is space within this GLOW group for Scottish teachers to up-load their Google Earth files. One of the things that we talked about was approaching some of these teachers and asking them to share their Google Earth files with the wider community perhaps via Google Geo-Education Pages?
Oh yes – an excellent lunch, a free t-shirt and I met John Connell on the plane on the way home!