Dec 082012

Last month I wrote about a procedure for combining models from the 3D Warehouse with Google Earth in order to augment virtual landscapes. I’ve refined the method in order to avoid students or teachers having to grapple with SketchUp itself. The latest version has proved difficult to run on our school network, creating delays that tend to infuriate the impatient. The refinement is simply that the teacher downloads models from the 3d Warehouse as Collada files before the lesson and students add them into Google Earth directly. Both tasks are extremely quick and easy, letting the students focus harder on the learning, and the teacher on being outstanding in front of inspectors! The method has been tried and tested with Year 7 and Year 10 groups.

We’ll take the issue of wind energy as an exemplar topic. Here are the three steps required by the teacher…

  1. Go to the Trimble 3d Warehouse and find a suitable model wind turbine. I like this one. (Note that not all models will have a download link)
  2. Download the chosen model to your computer as a Collada zip file. One of the extracted items will be a folder called ‘models.’ Inside this folder will be a file ending in .dae
  3. This file can be saved somewhere that’s easily accessible for the class. Give it a suitable name.

Instructions for the students are short and fail-safe…

  1. Open Google Earth and navigate to a suitable spot.
  2. Tilt the view so the camera is looking down at the intended site. From the menu bar in Google Earth, choose Add / Model and then browse for the relevant .dae file.
  3. The model will appear in Google Earth surrounded by a yellow box. This means that it is editable.
  4. The position of the model can be changed by clicking the middle green cross marker (handle) and dragging. Rotate it using the handle with a little diamond on the end.
    Avoid moving any of the other green handles or the scale of the model will be changed.
  5. With the dialogue box still open, a title and an explanation of why the site was chosen can be added. Click OK to exit the dialogue box and fix the model in place.
  6. If you need to edit the model again, right click it from places panel on the left hand side and choose Properties (Windows) or Get Info (Mac) Some models may float in mid air. Fix this by adjusting the altitude using the tool provided.
Extending the activity
Compare the impact of wind turbines with a conventional power station like Rugley B, Staffordshire. A tip when locating models with a photographic base layer is to place them a few metres below the ground surface so that the photo disappears.
In some cases a model may be downloadable from the 3D Warehouse, but there is no option to save as a Collada file. Open it in SketchUp and immediately export as a 3D file. The .dae file can then be extracted.
I get students to save a screenshot of their proposed wind farm and upload it to the Magazine Cover tool from Big Huge Labs. I then challenge them to produce the cover of a magazine that is either for, or against wind turbines.
Here’s an example…


Creating Virtual landscapes in Google Earth and SketchUp

 3D visualization, Google Earth, Google Earth lessons, INSET, Teaching resources  Comments Off on Creating Virtual landscapes in Google Earth and SketchUp
Nov 012012

A demonstration of how easy it is to use pre-made SketchUp models from the 3D warehouse to augment Google Earth. I’ve mentioned this idea before. The rationale is to get students thinking more creatively in decision making exercises, environmental impact assessments etc. by incorporating Google Earth imagery and other data into the learning.

An imaginary quarry redevelopment on the Isle of Portland

The activity allows some interesting “what if”? hypothesising. The Burj Dubai in Wellington, Somerset for example…

The point to be made is that it’s not necessary to have much more than a basic grasp of SketchUp, though I’ve found that some students will not be able to resist improving their skills in 3D design once they have been introduced to the software.

Scribd has done it’s usual hatchet job on the notes, but they also be downloaded here.

Creating Virtual landscapes in Google Earth and SketchUp.doc

Oct 272011

I can’t remember the original source of the Earth Art idea, and I suspect several people would claim the honour (though NASA is in pole position) but Searthing offers some pretty spectacular examples and the chance to contribute to the site.

A few years ago I was enthusiastic about getting learners to find interesting angles in Google Earth, adding a suitable caption using Big Huge Labs’ Motivator tool. Who can forget the classic “Cabbage of Jub”?

Sep 302010

Around this time of year I like to teach the essentials of weather forecasting to Year 8. I always cover the basics of the relationship between air pressure and weather; the objective being to arrive at a point where students can create their own forecasts using the BBC synoptic chart as their sole source of information. The pressure chart is available from the tab above the map, and the isobars can be animated through a four day prediction, allowing the students to make multiple forecasts.

Originally I used a web page from Juicy Geography as a weather studio background, but happily there are now better alternatives. The most recent one I’ve come across, via GMM, is a Google Earth based  interactive weather map background.

I’ve tried to work out who the developer is, so I can thank them, but I haven’t had any success yet. It appears to be a work in progress, and I can’t figure out how the option to add your own logo works.  Undoubtedly it’s a very useful classroom tool, especially in conjunction with a pocket video camera. Once the symbols have been added to the map, it will play through an animated tour of the UK, forcing students to make very concise reports in a limited amount of time.

The live weather layer in Google Earth, with the real time cloud and rainfall display, provides an additional source of data for making close-range forecasts of the next few hours. Here’s how to find it:

This year I’ll get students to complete two forecasts, both short and long range, and as usual, I’ll film them, ready to play back the recording on the day of their predictions. Students do find this an interesting and rewarding experience.

Apr 112009

My Year 8 class have been working on the Google Earth hazard planning activity: San Francisco: visualizing a safer city. I’ve added some of my own feedback to their placemarks, as the activity isn’t quite finished yet.

Basically, the idea of the activity is to locate a safe site for a new hospital, leveraging the full potential of Google Earth Layers, Street View and some custom overlays of various types of data.

Download the student’s work as a Google Earth file here. Then add the necessary Google Earth overlays to check the validity of their claims!

There’s a poll to choose the best piece of work. Feel free to vote or leave a comment.

Note to class – the comments are moderated, and one of you isn’t allowed to win anyway 😉

Which is the best site for a new hospital for San Francisco?

View Results

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Jan 182009

Here’s a sampler of some new ideas I’ve been developing as part of an online resource to support the new GCSE AQA syllabus A.

Students are presented with an actual brownfield site in Google Earth, together with an imaginary development plan, represented as extruded polygons. They can demolish the buildings and create their own versions, or just edit the exemplar files.

Brownfield redevelopment - what would you do?

Brownfield redevelopment - what would you do?

To demonstrate their understanding of the principles of sustainable urban redevelopment, students edit the KML with ideas on how the buildings can be used. More able students will refer specifically to the socio-economic geography and environment of Shoreditch to justify their ideas.

The actual resource contains a detailed KML file and lots of supporting files including images, panoramas and video, as well as an extended webquest style teaching activity. I hope to be able to publish a couple of exemplars here in due course.

The aim is to create an alternative to standard textbook-type questions, while promoting independent enquiry, creativity and spatial thinking.

In the meantime, Digital Geography is in a minor hiatus while I endeavour to meet the deadlines!