Teaching American History with Google Earth

Google Earth is a sophisticated imaging tool that can be used quite powerfully when teaching American history. The visual perspective can illuminate a viewpoint not easy to convey through words. Please use this space to share your ideas and techniques.

Pam's Tips:
  • The information that is provided is phenomenal through Google Earth. In fact, it is rather intimidating because the sheer amount of information shared visually so you may want to uncheck most of the layers when you start.
  • I usually leave on Borders and Labels under the Primary Database and Terrain (at bottom). I prefer to keep the Gallery unchecked and then click on the specific layers I wish to view. Some layers are like a wiki in that you can add your own photos (Panoramio) so they maybe unreliable. Museums and businesses add theirs to Places of Interests.
  • You can always turn different Layers on or off as you work.
  • The Layers are accessing online databases and this process takes time to download. You'll probably think nothing is working (as I often do) until the information from the Layer starts popping up somewhat magically.
  • Save any interesting places as you work so you can look at them later. Again, you can have so many place open (checked) that you become overwhelmed by the information. You can turn them on or off as needed. You'll get the information immediately in Places, unlike in Layers.
  • Give yourself a little time and have fun! Your enthusiasm will engage your students in learning.

  • The easiest, yet still powerful use of Google Earth is adding Placemarks.
  • Search for your location at the top by entering the address or place.
  • Click on the icon that looks like a yellow pushpin on the toolbar at the top.
  • Move the pushpin/Placemark to your exact location if needed.
  • Name your Placemark at the top of the window and add a description or other information if you wish.
  • Click the OK button to save your Placemark.
  • Always check to save or delete the Placemarks you collect so you don't get overwhelmed in clutter. You can create folders to sort your Placemarks into relevant categories.

Rumsey Historical Maps
Maureen Festi shared how to use the Rumsey Historical Maps in Google Earth. David Rumsey has made his maps available as a layer for Google Earth.
  • Under the Gallery settings, check the box for Rumsey Historical Maps.
  • Give Google Earth a few minutes to gather the information.
  • Click on the triangle/arrow to list the two subtopics and double-click on the Map Finder.
  • You'll see different "compass rose" icons listing the specific maps.
  • Click on the icon to open it.
  • Click on the thumbnail to place the map as new layer atop Google Earth's layer.
  • Remember you can save the maps you like best for quicker access in a lesson. (Above Temporary Places on Windows and under Temporary Places on the Mac.)
And it just doesn't get any better than the North_America/United_States_1833 map that has an eagle superimposed on the map -- it's a must see!