Monday, March 21, 2011

Touring the campus with Google Earth

For my studio project, I have continued playing with Google Earth, and created a virtual tour of the Indiana University Campus. Google Earth really is a pretty amazing tool and the more I got into it, the more you realize how much it could do. The first thing that I did to learn about Google Earth is to go to the website and watched the tutorial videos. Some of the information I already knew, but I learned a lot of good stuff from them too.

The first thing that I did was to learn how to create and save 'markers' to your places. This is a pretty neat feature because it allows you to enter text, hyperlinks, and even save the precise view of the place you see in Google Earth. In order to not have the tour become too long for this, I chose about 6 places on the IU campus that I thought were interesting to show. From a benefit point of view, I think there could be huge benefits from the university to embrace and use this (and it looks like they have based on the number of 3-D buildings that have been created). A virtual tour could be used in recruiting prospective students, highlighting a particular part of campus, or just being used by anyone who is curious to find out more about the campus.

Once you have all of the 'markers' in your places, then I started to actually create a 'tour'. This worked ok, and I did have some setbacks. The first limitation is that while Google Earth does give some control over how the movement occurs between markers, it can be difficult to get the settings correct and sometimes it would zoom way out, before zooming back in to the next marker. One other major problem that I encountered is that you can narrate your tour using a microphone, but it seemed to cut out after about a minute and a half. I don't know why it cut our, but I had to use QuickTime to get a good screen recording for the tour, but my actual Google Earth tour file, only has audio for the first part of the tour. The third major problem that I found is that in trying to set up and join the Google Earth community so that I could post my tour and share it with others, I was never able to sign up for a new account. I tried on several occasions using all kinds of combination, but it always gave me an error message that the user name was already taken. I was never able to set up an account to join the community. To work around this, I had to same my screencast as a movie and upload it to YouTube. The video is embedded below and in some ways this would be more beneficial as more people could view it, but having the tour inside of Google Earth allows for much greater interactivity and exploration which is important for the learning process. I could share the .kmz file (Google Earth Tour file type) directly with others and they would be able to open up the tour on their own machine, but it still has the problem of no audio.

I had to redo the video, hopefully this link and the above video will be working shortly:

Overall I think that Google Earth is pretty fascinating. Allowing users to upload video, pictures, tours, 3-D models and other artifacts to the platform make it very interesting. Hopefully it will continue to be around for a long time and it will get the support that it needs from both Google and the users.


  1. Wow, Google earth is becoming so powerful! I bet soon we will have the globe and then access to anything we need, just by zooming in! :) I have used Google earth many times in the past, but not in such elaborated ways.

  2. My video is finally working after several attempts. Yeah!

  3. Wow, I haven't seen Google Earth in a long time -- so many of these features are new to me. I remember when this program was basically satellite images and then the new streetviews were awesome -- it's moved way beyond that now! The YouTube video was great to see some of it in action. I've heard from so many schools and teachers that they're using this in the classroom -- I wonder if they're using it for social studies or other lessons? Thanks for bringing us up to speed! What age ranges do you imagine using it most?

  4. I think that really Google Earth can be used with any age. Elementary can use just the search function and the street view to see cities and landmarks of other places. There is even a 'trees' feature where you could see 3-D models of trees in the amazon rain forest. And older learners can do much more complicated stuff like making tours, make and embed 3-D models using SketchUp, and even exploring space. Dr. Bonk has a really great story in his 'World is Open' book about an archeologist that discovered some dig sites that were previously undiscovered by using Google Earth because he was not able to go in person. It does have some great features and I hope it continues to be developed by Google and the Google Earth community.

  5. Woo the audio is there now! Awesome!

    Great job, Justin. This is really cool. I think the last time I looked at Google Earth it was just satellite images and stuff. I'm really impressed with all the different things you can do with it.

    I tried using Sketch-Up once and it was cool, but my brain just doesn't work well in 3-D! ;)

  6. Justin,
    This is such a powerful tool - I love how you took a tour of the campus with it - I am interested in what your answers will be to Kylie's questions about age range and educational connections - do you think this will be something that elementary age children could use 'easily' or something more for upper elementary/middle schoolers? Just intersted in it from the standpoint of edcuation!? Thanks! Have a great weekend :) k