Yesterday, Google announced the launch of Google Earth version 5, the brand new version of the already excellent Earth viewing tool. For those of you that have never played with it, I can highly recommend it. It’s free, and you can download it here.

As an application to use on your interactive whiteboard, this really is an essential piece of software to have. Combine it with your desktop capture/camera tool and you can grab images from anywhere in the world and annotate over the top.

The obvious use would be for Geography lessons – it gives you an amazing globe at your fingertips which you can spin, zoom and see pretty much everything on Earth. The search facility lets you find a place almost instantly. You can also add weather information, radar images and recent cloud cover information. One of the new features is an ocean view where you can explore the sea floor and obtain information files about ocean life.

History teachers might want to take tours of Rome, or Athens and see where the monuments are. Many famous buildings are rendered as 3d structures. Street level view even lets you take tours of some of these areas from a visitors eye view – visit the Colosseum from the comfort your classroom!

For Science teachers I love the Sunlight feature, where you can view light/dark areas over time. Drag the slide to change the time and see how the area of light and dark moves. This is really nice for showing how we get night and day (use alongside a demo with a torch and a football/globe)

For some inspiration on how to use this feature here’s an excellent idea from Tom Barretts blog. He used his Twitter network to tell his class where they were in the world. The students then had to find where they were using Google Earth and to then use the shadowed layer to find the length of the day at that point. This was a great way of making the search relevant since they were looking for places that real people had suggested.

Google Earth

As well as views of Earth, Google Earth also has a detailed map of Mars which can be explored, as well as a fully featured Sky mode which lets you explore the universe. Again it’s fully searchable and perfect for Earth and Space or Our Place in the Universe areas of the curriculum.

Google Earth

Another new feature is Historical View which lets you view past images of an area, if they exist, to see what it would have looked like in the past. This works better in some areas than others and does depend on how many times that area has been photographed. For example the area where I live has been surveyed last year, and in 2005 so I can toggle between seeing how my house looked before and after I moved in 😉

You can find out more about Google Earth from the Google Earth blog. And also from Tom Barrett, here’s 22 interesting ways to use Google Earth.

Here’s a neat video that explains some of the new features;

Again Google Earth, like all my favourite pieces of software, is free and I strongly suggest you download it now!