Health IS Technology Blog

Google Earth: Education, Empathy, and Virtual Explorations

Google Earth screenshot of USF

(to take a closer look at any photo in this article, click on it and it will enlarge in a separate tab.)

In April of 2017 Google announced their revamped Google Earth application. According to their official announcement in early April, the new software took two years to develop. With software chock-full of new and exciting features, two years seems fast. But check out the Bulls by the Marshall Student Center in the photo above. The attention to detail is astounding!

What’s New in Google Earth?

The new Google Earth is available on Google Chrome anywhere, as well as on Android for mobile users. The software is still available to download for desktop, but this is no longer the only way you can access the addicting features of Google Earth.

This new and improved version of Google Earth features an advantage called “Voyager”. With Voyager, notable locations are highlighted in a series of different themes. My favorite is “The World’s Most Dramatic Mountains”. Explore the Voyager story here (make sure you’re using your Chrome browser). The goal of Voyager is to immerse users in an interactive, educational, and fascinating look at parts of the world that they might not otherwise be able to experience.

Google Earth also includes new 3D viewing capabilities. If the realistic, yet still computer generated view isn’t for you, note that street view is better than ever. Google users from across the globe can submit their own panoramic photos of locations. In street view, these are highlighted in blue. Sp, when you’re exploring the magnificent mountains in the Voyager story linked above, make sure you click on some of the street views. If you hate hiking like me, it’s unlikely that you’ll ever get a chance to see the view from the top of Mt. Everest. Google Earth gives you the chance.

Google Earth screenshot of Mount Everest

Google Earth Classroom

In the recent past, Google launched “Google Expeditions”. Expeditions are what Google refers to as virtual field trips. Using virtual reality students are able to “visit” notable places throughout the world. The main goal of these trips is education and empathy. Now, Google Earth Classroom follows along the same lines, just without the headsets.

Students are enabled to explore different regions of the world from their desktop or mobile devices. There’s even an “I’m Feeling Lucky” feature that generates a random location, and some classes use this to inspire writing assignments.

Through the “Education” category in Voyager, users can find educational stories as well as activities specifically designed for the classroom.  My favorite educational voyage is the “Exploring the Last Pristine Seas” one. I learned a lot about the efforts of researchers all over the world who are working to preserve as much of the deep blue sea as they can. Check out the Galápagos section. Here’s a screenshot, but know that it doesn’t do the full 3D photo justice, and that you have to take a look for yourself!

Google Earth screenshot of a Galapagos Island School of Fish

The Benefits of the New Google Earth

Seeing 3D and 360-degree imagery of some of the most beautiful wonders of our world can’t be beat. But those aren’t the aspects of Google Earth that are the most beneficial to students. That award honor goes to the addition of “Culture” stories in Voyager, which is truly the most important part of the new and improved Google Earth. These facets of Voyager tell the stories of the world’s many cultures. All of the stories educate users about life in other parts of the world, but some also try and spread awareness about things like rain forest conservation and endangered species protection.

In the Culture story “I am Roots” I learned about the Yawanawá people of the Amazon, how they enable female empowerment, and I listened to their music in a 360-degree video. But past the features designed to educate, Google Earth is a powerful tool for greater cultural understanding. One of the first things I did when I logged into the new software was find Afghanistan and Iraq on the globe. I explored the street views provided by users. I studied the red clay mountains and compared them to similar scenery found in the American Midwest.

Being able to see places that might only be heard about helps breed new understanding of those places. As one of the incredible women featured in the “I am Roots” story said, “The world evolves, we have to evolve together”. Being able to generate empathy for other cultures is the first step in the togetherness she means. Google Earth and Google Earth Classroom, help us find connections with other places and people around the globe.


What’s your favorite feature on the new Google Earth? Let us know on our Facebook page.