Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Mastering The Googleverse, part 3:
Searching From The Sky

Part 3 in an ongoing series of tips and tricks to help you and your students improve your search techniques. (Previously: Part 1: Searching by Key Phrase, Part 2: Searching for Images)

Most folks think of Google as a tool for exploration of the virtual world of the web. But the recent addition of Google Local to Google's bag of searchtricks adds the real to the virtual, combining high-resolution satellite images, maps, and the Google knowledge-base to bring you a view of the real world enriched by detailed information.

Combining these previously separate parts of the real and virtual worlds can lead to surprising possibilities. Want to find every museum within driving distance? Interested in helping students see just how much of the area around their home is woodland? And just what color is the WMS roof? Creative use of Google Local allows you to combine previously disparate information, and create -- with a simple keyword -- a map or image of the world populated with information tailored to your specifications.

What's more, though you can certainly use Google Local to simply access and display maps and satellite images, the world Google Local presents is much more fluid and reactive to student and teacher needs. Maps and satellite images in your search results can be viewed separately, or superimposed to show realworld images with roads highlighted. These maps or satellite images can also be centered on (and flagged with) specific addresses, or show all results from a specific Yellow Pages category. And, once you get your results, an easy interface in the upper left corner of every screen allows you to zoom in, and scroll around, with surprising detail and accuracy.

I've heard Google Local described as "a huge world to scroll around in." I've also heard it described as an interactive map that can instantly create its own virtual pushpins to mark objects by type. Both are true, but neither description really makes clear the joy of being able to instantly locate, see, and get directions to the 92 nearest coffee houses. Why not try it for yourself?

To learn more about Google Local, take the Google Local tour.

What does all this mean for us as teachers?

Although Google Local's use of maps and birds-eye view images certainly lends itself powerfully to Social Studies class use, it can also can be a powerful tool across the curriculum. Some possible uses, roughly organized by curriculum area:

  • In Math, map layouts are a great tool for real-world exploration of area and distance measurement (how much square footage does our school cover? How many miles). And "zoom" functions on maps and satellite pictures can be used as a part of discussions of scale.

  • In addition to the obvious benefit a global mapping technology brings to the study of geography, satellite images allow a real-world "eye in the sky" exploration of real places worldwide to compliment exploration of any culture or community, in our outside of the Social Studies classroom.

  • Similarly, crisp and colorful satellite images show geological phenomena and even ecosystem flora clearly, encouraging exploration of environment and ecology in Science class.

  • In Language Arts, why not use google maps to provide a real world picture of places where readings take place? Novels set in real places may even show actual buildings and streets for help visualizing character journeys and environments!

  • In language classes, use Google in other languages (For example, Google in spanish) to learn place and street name conventions for that language. Or use satellite images of real places to compliment country and culture study, as above.

Interested in in-class support as you use Google with your students? Want an individual training session on integrating Google into your class research? Want to bring your students to the lab for an activity? Email or just stop by the computer lab to set up an appointment!


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