Google have released version 6 of their amazing Google Earth software. 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.

New features include  Street View that will be familiar to users of Google Maps, which lets you see what these places look like from a visitors eye view. The History view is less obvious, so you can look back over past images for an area, and you can also see trees at street level which is less useful, but quite impressive.

So using street level view, here’s my hometown of Southend. Standing on the seafront at the top of Pier Hill looking at the longest pleasure pier in the world 😉

To see the  History Tool in action, heres the Anglia Ruskin University campus in Chelmsford where I occasionally work. This is how it looks today.

And here is how it looked in 2000, before they built the new wing, using the History slider.

This is a great way of looking at different areas and seeing how they changed. You can go back quite a way, depending on the images available. If there are local developments near your school you might be able to see what the area looked like before they were built.

The obvious use of Google Earth 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. There 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! It doesn’t beat visiting places for real, but it’s the next best thing.

Modern Language teachers could use the Street Level view to take tours of foreign towns and cities and look at street signs, shop signs etc. Try using it as a way of giving directions in a different language

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).

Google Earth is free to download, and it adds a whole new level to the regular Google Maps website. It’s definitely well worth getting hold of a copy.