Online Google Earth Tours

It seems like the widget that allowed you to embed Google Earth tours (with audio and motion) online isn’t working. We had at least one person in the county who wanted to be able to do this because they’d seen this Jimmy Buffet tour. Compared to teacher assessment and other bottomless problems this seemed pretty attractive, especially using the Buffet page as an example. I hacked off most of the extraneous parts and this seems to serve the purpose although there are a few more pits that ought to be carved off.

You should be able to download the source HTML at this page. Once you do that it’s just changing two URL strings from what they are now ( to the URL for wherever your KMZ source file lives. The example is below in an iFrame and it will likely play automatically. My apologies for that.

Bending Google Earth To My Will

This post is going to be a somewhat functional (how to get this to work) but will also attempt to sketch out some of the ways I problem solve as roadblocks occur. I don’t know that sketching out problem solving in this way will help anyone but I hope that it might.

It’s been a while since I’ve done any serious work in Google Earth. I’m reorienting myself and learning a few things in the process. My initial goal was to get some easy content from Google Earth Layers (and now the integrated “Earth Gallery”) into folders and associated with some of our history standards- essentially easy interactive content for teachers who don’t want to search for it. Google Earth has never caught on like I believed it would/should and I’d like to jumpstart use of the program and provide more digital content for social studies in general.


I found the addition of the “Earth Gallery” to be a mixed blessing, with the mix leaning heavily towards unfortunate. There is lots of good content there but it seems to be meant to stay there. I can’t find any way to copy that content to “My Places”- dragging it didn’t work, nor did control-clicking (right click equivalent) give me any options that would help at the folder or individual item level. That’s a problem.

I don’t want to be stuck giving people search strings to use to get this content and then have to have them duplicate those searches with their students en masse. Once “Earth Gallery” item is added it does remain at the bottom of your “Layers” list until you delete it but I couldn’t figure out a way to add folders or organize information in that section. Nor could I distribute this information to teachers or students in any way that made sense to me.

So, on to attempt 2. I recalled how in iTunes you can at least generate a web accessible link from inside iTunes and I thought this might be the case with the “Earth Gallery.” No dice. You can right click on the preview image generated in “Earth Gallery” and get a URL but it doesn’t work in your browser.1 Another dead end.

Attempt 3 involved looking online for an online version of the “Earth Gallery.” It exists. I can get to a Lewis and Clark map just like the one I access in Google Earth. But I’m just as stuck. I can’t download this file in order to put it in context. I’m also prevented from altering the information provided. Both of these are things I want to do.

Attempt 4 ended up being successful. It started with a fairly simple Google search filtype:kmz "Lewis and Clark"which restricts our search to actual KMZ files (Google Earth files) and gives these results.2 About 6 links down is what I was searching for. It’s a link to Rumsey Historical Maps and you can view it in Google Maps.3 Now we are in business. All of these files can be downloaded as individual KMZ files and then added to “My Places” in Google Earth where you can organize and alter them (at least portions).

Next up will be what I wanted to change and why I felt it was worth all that hassle.

1 404 result unfortunately

2 While Google Advanced Search is harder to find, it remains key to how I search for things. If you do it enough you don’t need the WYSIWG portion and can just type in what you need.

3 It is worth keeping in mind the Google Earth can publish to Google Maps and vice versa.

Pretty Formatting in Google Maps w/o ANY HTML Knowledge

I don’t like what plain Google Map or Google Earth windows look like when you enter text. They always end up too wide for me and I just want a little bit more style and formatting. It just looks better and that is part of why we use computers- to produce a professional looking product.

So the question is how do you get students/profs/teachers creating better looking information w/o having a bunch of time sucked away by teaching them HTML? (Yes, I realize Google does a form of this here but it’s not set up for Google Maps and involves more hassle for many by introducing the idea of networked kmz links etc.)

My solution is Excel. Excel can do all sorts of neat tricks with text. So I just built what is essentially a form with a few inputs (the ones selected for this project) and then used a bunch of formulas to wrap the HTML around the information that’s entered. This is a fairly simple example but it’s smart enough to cite the picture source and know if certain information has been entered so it doesn’t botch the html if the field is left blank. You can see what it does if you unhide the columns and view the formulas then tweak it to your heart’s content.

Before – ugly

Gmaps Before

After – much prettier

Gmaps After


Gmaps Excel

The user enters their info on the left and cuts and pastes the cell outlined in green into the HTML view on Google Maps and presto instant html.

I realize I’m enabling students/professors/teachers by helping them avoid having to learn html.

It’s not an issue with me. I can’t write php (which I’m proving over and over again lately) but I can and do use WordPress. I see this as an extension of that concept. Get to the point (in this case learning geography and adding content) forget the technology you don’t need.

Good technology is invisible anyway. Right?

Get the Excel File

Google Earth – The Next Level


I found this KMZ file the other night. It’s really the greatest Google Earth file I’ve ever seen.

It’s tracking bird flu but it’s doing it through, time, space and evolution. It creates a three dimensional representation of the changing aspects of the virus as it moves from carrier to carrier and place to place.

There’s a video showing what it can do and explaining things here.

The source file is over here.

Why am I so impressed? Mainly because it’s a perfect representation of data visualization. It shows a completely different way to use Google Earth. Who would have thought to use a geography program to track the evolution of a virus?

This kind of convergence is amazing and examples like this can lead to some amazing connections. It can also lead the way for other creators to start using this application in different ways.

ITRT Summer Camp – VSTE

Hey there VSTE ITRTs!

Here are links to the resources used in today’s Google Earth/Maps, GPS session. I tried to cull things down a little bit to keep it from being overwhelming. If you want to check out all the links for Google Earth feel free to browse my account. There’s lot more stuff there.

Google Earth

First, you can get Google Earth for free here so go get it if you haven’t yet.

Basic Google Earth Tutorials

KML Files

Lesson Plans/Example Files (stuff I showed you)

The Next Level

Google Maps

A lot of features similar to Google Earth. It will allow you to embed video in the information bubbles which is nice and I like the ability to put the maps in different web pages (like Quia).

Google Earth – Proof of Concept Stuff

Google Earth

A while back I posted about using GoogleLookup to get data quickly and easily to make and put into Google Earth via Google Spreadsheets.

The example file is at It’s a network link. In Google Earth- click Add- Network Link and paste the URL into the Link box.

Here’s some information on how to do this if you’re interested.

Put Info into Google Earth from a Google Spreadsheet

Things ended up being far easier than I anticipated. The last time I did a networked KML link from a spreadsheet (sounds way fancier than it is) I had to make it myself and go through a different service. Now Google has a nice template all set up to make things work well and it makes things pretty as well.

Adding GoogleLookup to the Template

So the next thing I did was play around a little with the lookup function. I didn’t do too much. I was just playing around to make sure it would work. This wouldn’t save you much time as it’s only five cities but it you wanted to plot all this information for 50 cities things would start to get a lot more interesting.

I just added a few columns at the end of the spreadsheet and then set up the following formulas.
I put the lookup for population in cell L6
Lookup for population
and the lookup for elevation in cell M6
Lookup for elevation

Ok now how do I get that information to merge into the paragraphs in a coherent way? It’s not hard, but it looks fairly ugly.
Paragraph One
This formula says take the text “The population of “ (notice the space there) then add the contents of cell B6, then add the word ” is” (space again) and the contents of L6 (population). That gives us The population of Denver, Colorado is ######.. That’s the basic idea. You just add chunks of data- be they text (in quotes) or cell references- using the & sign.

Hopefully that makes some sort of sense. If not let me know and I’ll clarify.

I also played around a little and put a Swivel graph in one of the windows. I want to take that a little farther before I waste anyone’s time here with it but there’s some real potential there- especially with the ability to combine Google Lookup and exporting to Swivel.

Edubloggercon 2007 Google Earth Session

This branched out into Google Maps, Sketchup and even Swivel. I heard about some great projects being done by 4th and 5th graders using sketchup to create Incan (or Mayan?) ruins and then putting them in Google Earth. I’m really interested in seeing the examples but don’t have a link yet.

The most interesting part of the discussion to me was a reminder of the googlelookup function in Google spreadsheets. You can use it to look up latitude/longitude coordinates for cities it appears and the use it to create an xml file. The cool thing to do would be to generate that data, the city’s population, avg. temp etc. (whatever interesting data you can pull through lookup or manually) and then push it to Swivel. And then, and then, and then you embed the Swivel data in the info window for each city. It’s sad how exciting that seems to me.

Besides that I got some good links to look at later which are posted in if you’re interested.

Whirligig MyMap Evolution Continues

So I’ve added a lot more to the Whirligig map since last time. It turned out to be an awesome choice for this project. Talk about a project that requires a close reading! I spent more time with this short book than I care to admit to.

Almost everything in the Whirligig was accurate. It’s worth checking out the San Diego area for pure insanely psychotic detail and there’s some fun links scattered throughout as well as some great CC photos from Flickr. I crammed the map in below using MyMapsPlus which allows you to put the maps you create on other sites. It’s better in the larger view here.

The interesting thing I mentioned to kids was that all the photos were from the actual places. I briefly presented the file to students in three classes and tried to stress that this was all real and it seemed to add an some additional dimension to the novel (I’m hoping next year they make their own files). The students seemed to like what this added to the book and it led to some good questions and some wasted time. Some of the kids couldn’t handle the blood alcohol calculator I linked to. There was also a decent amount of students looking up their houses. I don’t have a problem with that but it’s worth keeping in mind that the kids are going to want to play some. I’d suggest letting them play with it before any project and get that stuff out of their system.

I did it all in the My Maps online feature which was interesting. I like the interface better than Google Earth in some ways. It’s easier to edit the lines in my opinion.

What I’d like added to My Maps is the ability to join lines together. I didn’t realize initially that I could continue lines after stopping the editing so I made a bunch of lines. It’s no real disaster but if you have too many items on one page in My Maps it’ll require two pages and the items on the second page don’t show up until you go to that page (and then you loose the items on page one). It’d be nice if I could have corrected my mistakes by shift clicking two lines and selecting merge or something like that. (Did that make any sense?)

I’d also like to be able to upload additional pushpin icons rather than having to just use those provided by Google.

So I’m going to take what I’ve done here and start polishing it in Google Earth. I’ll change the pushpins to some things that are more interesting, add a few pictures and continue my fruitless search for Beale Beach, Florida.

If you’ve got any advice, spot typos or anything else, I’d appreciate a heads up.

Whirligig on MyMaps

I’m working on do something similar to the awesome work over at Google Lit Trips using Google’s myMaps. The novel is Whirligig by Paul Fleischman- very powerful book that’s a quick read. It’s a great novel for this type of project (fiction but almost all real locations). The main character travels to the four corners of the U.S. (on a Greyhound Bus) as an act of atonement for killing a young girl in a DUI accident.

I’ve got the main locations mapped (some real specific information in Chicago) as well as most of the route. It will continue to expand as the students progress through the novel. Check it out if you’re interested. I’ll take requests as well, so let me know if you feel something is missing.

Now, what makes this useful? I figure you’ve got two options.

  1. You use it as a ancillary material to help get the students more involved in the novel. Let them explore the map and get them involved in explaining things and interacting with the information- otherwise it’s just a fancy map.
  2. You have the students add the information for the placemarks in Google Earth. Let them decide what is important at each location and

“My Maps” from Google (an actual example)

My Google Maps Example

I figured after being so gushy about the My Maps option from Google I ought to make a good example.

So here is a good start on a territorial acquisition map of the United States of America. I did it free hand based on a number of different maps I found on wikipedia and a few other places- so it’s not perfect and it still needs some work but I think it shows what you can do with little effort. Yes, I promise the writing will improve :).

The map took about 45 minutes or so to make. Most of that time was spent looking at various maps. I also increased my speed after I figured out I could move points in polygons after I finished rather than having to start all over.

I also made a quick screencast covering the basics of the My Maps tools.