Too often we make the assumption when we transition from talking – for example – about the Sierra Nevada in Spain to talking about the Sierra Nevada in Colombia, that our students can make that spatial transition and travel mentally over the Atlantic Ocean from Spain to the equatorial region of South America. Of course, there are old school maps for that – flat, one-dimensional representations of a world that exists in multiple dimensions.
Far more engaging to today’s digital natives and far more effective in helping them visualize that journey – to orient themselves in time and space – is a cyber, three-dimensional journey on Google Earth from point to point. Here are a few tips on that journey.
First, if you’re equipped with a tablet, purchase the Splashtop app, which will allow you to control your desktop or laptop computer while you roam around the classroom and invite students to click on various points of interest on Google Earth’s “Global Awareness” tab. Looking at Spain, for example, with this tab selected yields a wealth of information, including where the endangered Iberian Lynx makes its home, and how you can help protect it from extinction. You will also found by mousing over these “Global Awareness” icons that the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, lies not far from an unfinished nuclear power plant. Where that observation might organically lead your students/your class is always fascinating to see. And then there are the little visual gold nuggets that pop up, such as the amazing spider sculpture found just outside of the Guggenheim.
Second, one word of caution: if you discover Google Earth’s Flight Simulator app and subsequently find yourself spending inordinate amounts of time zipping in F16 through Yosemite Valley, don’t say I didn’t tell you so!
Enjoy, and please feel free to contact me for elaboration on this overview. This is a approach that has yielded high degrees of student engagement and improved learning outcomes in my instructional practice. Combining the teacher mobility and engagement factor of the Splashtop app with the proven “Wow!” factor of Google Earth can truly transform your teaching and learning environment from the stale and static to the stimulating, student-driven, and dynamic.
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