Thursday, December 20, 2012

Showing Change in a Place(mark): Easily Updatable, Embeddable Slideshows in Google Earth

Updated April 11, 2013: See note about forwarding to Google Plus below the video. 

You can not only easily embed a slideshow into a Google Earth placemark to show how a location has changed or is changing, you can very easily and quickly update the contents of the slideshow. And, if there is cell phone coverage at your field site, you can update your slideshow instantly from the field!

If you already are familiar with Picasa Web Albums, you can set up a slideshow and embed it in a Google Earth placemark in about three minutes. Here's a video on how to do that.

Picasa Web Albums are very similar to albums on other photo-sharing sites, and the same process should work for those albums as well.

In 2013, Picasa Web Albums began to automatically forward to Google Plus, where the embed codes (at this writing in April of 2013) are not easy to find. However, if you go to, you should be able to work with your Picasa Albums. You may need to select that option from a pop-up at the top of the screen if you are forwarded to Google Plus.

Note that you can decide whether or not you would like captions to show within the slideshow. In many cases, showing captions of the time and date of the image is a good idea. 

The placemark created in the video is available here in a Google Earth file that includes a few other examples.

Remember too, that anything with an embed code can be embedded into a Google Earth placemark. There's more about that idea in an earlier blog post: Google Earth Embeddables. That not only shows how to do it, but gives some other examples. Of course, if you figured out how to do it for a slideshow from watching the video above, you already know what to do!

Why would I want to embed slideshows?

There are a range of interesting possibilities for using embedding slideshows in a virtual fieldwork experience (VFE) or other Google Earth file. You can show, as the example in the video highlights, an ecosystem's response to fire or another kind of disturbance. You can show seasonal changes, or construction or restoration. We expect to use this to monitor changes in the deer exclosure at Cayuga Nature Center, and using our carcass cam (a trail camera currently focused on a deer carcass) to see what critters are dining on the carcass, and to see that carcass change over time. 

There's a long history of using repeat photography for environmental monitoring, and you can easily plug historic imagery into Picasa Web Albums.

How do I update from the field?

The Web Albums App allows you to upload pictures taken on your smartphone or tablet to Picasa Web Albums. There are other apps available as well. 

In the Web Albums App, you can create a new album, by clicking the + button and simply typing in a name and clicking "done." You can also add to existing albums, by clicking on the album name, and then the upward pointing arrow (the upload button) to upload. Once you click the upload button, you are given the choice of selecting from the photo library on your device, or using the camera. 

If you're adding to an existing album, you can use the images already there to help you frame your new picture. Ideally, pictures in the slideshow will be taken from the exact same vantage point and the exact same zoom level. Being able to view the existing pictures in the album on the device that you'll be taking the next picture on makes this relatively simple. Simply view a picture in the album that you wish to repeat and flip back and forth to the camera until you've aligned the camera. Then, take your picture and upload it. 

As soon as you've added that new picture to the album, someone viewing the placemark will see it instantly appear in the slideshow!

If something is out of order or missing...

If the slideshow plays pictures in the wrong sequence, then go to the album view in Picasa, click "Organize" just above the top of the album, and you will be able to click and drag them into the correct order. See the picture below. If the picture set has a stretch of missing images, you can either duplicate images, or insert slides that note what's missing. A simple way to make those slides is to use PowerPoint and export the slides as images. Then, add them into the Picasa Web Album in the appropriate place. You might do this with a photo from the album as background on the slide. 

Please share your examples!

Use the comments to share with others any example you've created. You'll need to post your file to the web in order to share. You can upload Google Earth files to Google Drive (formerly Google Docs). If you choose to share with Google Drive, be sure to share the file so that it's either public or that anyone with the link can access it. 

Don Duggan-Haas

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Skyping from Niagara in the News!

Our second pilot test of Skyping from Niagara Falls was recently written up by the Buffalo News's nature and science columnist, Gerry Rising. Here's the start of Gerry's story...

Nature Watch: High-tech teaching promotes study of geology

Two weeks ago, I went back to school. I spent an entire day attending Don Duggan-Haas’ nine classes. In a very small way, I even participated in the instruction. This was not, however, a usual classroom adventure. One of those eight classes was in Michigan, one in California, one in Washington state and five were in New Mexico.

Read the rest of the story here

Monday, November 12, 2012

Geotagging Photos in Picasa Web Albums

The short video below shows how to geotag photos within Picasa Web Albums. To see how to geotag within the Picasa Desktop Application, see what's on Google's Support Pages here or here.

The video below starts on the picture's page. In order for you to be able to see the "Add location" option, you need to be logged into your Google account, and the photo either needs to be in your own Web Album or it needs to be a photo that you've uploaded to someone else's Web Album after receiving an invitation from the album owner.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Skyping from Niagara -- planning for pilot #2

In Spring 2012, I Skyped into a few classrooms from the brink of Niagara Falls. It worked fairly well, and I'd like to do it again, slightly refined based on what we learned in the spring.

View the above Gigapan in full screen mode here.

Why are we doing this?

One intention of this pilot is to figure out ways to not only connect you and your classes to interesting field sites that you would not be able to actually visit, but also to develop more and better ways to connect you to one another. Think about how classrooms might pair up to teach each other about one another's local environments. We are also always thinking about services PRI can provide to educators to enrich their work. And we think it's just plain cool.

Participation is limited

The number of classes that can participate will be limited, and this year's cohorts of ReaL Educators (those who participated in our workshops in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and at Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho) and our pilot testing teachers from last year will have first dibs. If spaces don't fill from those groups, then last year's cohorts (from workshops at San Diego's Mission Trails Park; Devil's Lake, Wisconsin; or Arizona's Superstition Mountains) will be able to sign up. 

When is it?

Tuesday October 16, with a weather date of Friday October 19. Time slots are 15 minutes each and run from 9:45 a.m. until 3:20 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. If you do not live in the Eastern Time Zone, please adjust accordingly. 

There will also be a test run on Friday, October 5. The test should be done during your planning period, lunch or before school, and you don't need to participate in the test from Niagara Falls to participate in the live lesson. However, you must test either Skype or Facetime from your classroom with Don prior to the live lesson to verify that your configuration works in the setting you will be using it.

How do I sign up?

Embedded below is a spreadsheet showing who has signed up so far, and their chosen time slot. The spreadsheet is automatically updated when people fill in the form immediately below it. The spreadsheet can be sorted by times and the time slot options are listed below the spreadsheet. Look to see what is available, refresh this page, and then complete the form.

Time slots likely will have the potential to be shifted by a few minutes after registration is complete, if time slots fall on breaks between classes. Use the comment section to note if you would like it shifted by a few minutes.

Before the virtual visit:

In the days before the visit, some time should be spent in preparing your class for the visit. That can be as short as 20 minutes or much longer. By the end of the school day prior to the visit, please submit questions from your class for me to address using the form at the bottom of the page. Each class should submit at least four questions. 

You may also wish explore the Niagara Falls VFE in Google Earth. I expect to edit it after I visit the Falls to test the technology on October 5 and before the day of the visit.

Registrants' Spreadsheet:

This is provided to show available time slots. Review the spreadsheet and compare the information within it to the list of possible time slots below it before registering. Please do not select time slots that are already spoken for.

List of time slots:

Time is in 15 minute slots, with 5 minutes between and a couple of breaks for me to keep organized and breathe. While I list 14 time slots, I will close the registration at 10, as it will become too much to manage with more than that.

Note that listed times are Eastern Daylight Savings Time

October 16 (October 19 weather date)

9:45 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. EDT
10:05 a.m. - 10:20 a.m. EDT
10:25 a.m. - 10:40 a.m. EDT
10:45 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. EDT
11:25 a.m. - 11:40 a.m. EDT
11: 45 a.m. - noon EDT
12: 05 p.m. - 12:20 p.m. EDT
12:25 p.m. - 12:40 p.m. EDT
1:10 p.m. - 1:20 p.m. EDT
1:25 p.m. - 1:40 p.m. EDT
1:45 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. EDT
2:30 p.m. - 2:45 p.m. EDT
2:50 p.m. - 3:05 p.m. EDT
3:05 p.m. - 3:20 p.m. EDT

Application Form:

Niagara Falls VFE Class Questions Submissions Form

Use the form below to submit at least four questions from your class. You may wish to identify the question authors, but it is not required. I may edit the form slightly in the coming weeks, so check back before working with your class. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Google Earth Embeddables

Virtual Field Experiences (VFEs) in the Regional and Local (ReaL) Earth Inquiry Project are frequently media mash-ups involving at least two different kinds of software. That seems like it could be confusing -- teachers typically don't have time to either learn or teach lots of different software packages, but it's easier than it sounds.

Fortunately, many kinds of media can easily be embedded within Google Earth, making it so the user of a VFE really only has to interact with one piece of software. 

This short post shows a basic approach that allows authors of VFEs to include many different kinds of media and sources of information within a Google Earth file. Many websites allow sharing of content with embed codes, and they are really simple to use. 

Google Earth itself has a great deal of both power and flexibility, and to learn some basics, see Google's own Google Earth Tutorials. What follows in this post is also easy to do and mirrors the approach shown in Google's tutorial on embedding youtube videos, but it's for media other than youtube videos.

What does it look like to embed something in a Google Earth placemark? 
What follows are two examples with a bit of explanation. The first is as an image (showing weather information), and the other is in video form (showing an embedded Prezi). Both placemarks are included in the Google Earth file that can be downloaded here

Embedding Weather

There is also the Weather Layer in Google Earth that provides similar information across the map. 
The information for the Weather Layer is provided by

If you want to see weather across a wide area, simply turn on Google Earth's Weather Layer, or whichever piece of it (Clouds, Radar, Conditions and Forecasts, or Ocean Observations) you're most interested in. That's a lot of information, and may clutter your view, so you may wish to simply add a placemark with the weather information, or you may want just a subset of what shows up by default. Both The Weather Underground ( and The Weather Channel ( offer embed codes for presenting weather information. The image above shows a "Weather Sticker" from and similar information is available in the form of "Weather Widgets" from Both sites allow you to choose different templates. 

Embedding Prezi -- Zooming Presentations

What it looks like:

Prezi (see is a web-based presentation software (though Prezis can also be viewed offline) that allows the presenter or other user to zoom around on a large canvas. (If you're an educator, note that you can access more resources free than normal humans).

Google Earth can host Prezis, which means you can make seamless presentations that begin with a map view and transition to a Prezi. That's not quite what we do in the ReaL Earth Inquiry Project. Instead, we're using Prezi for building Virtual Fieldwork Experiences. Here's an earlier post with several videos to show you how we're doing that.

Prezi has added a number of new features since that earlier post was written, allowing some things to be done more simply and/or with more spiffiness. Check out Prezi's new features here. They also have nice introductory material here.

How it's done:

A few sources for things to embed
Here are a few sites the include embed code and that I've successfully embedded within Google Earth Placemarks:
  • -- Allows embedding of videos, including ones you create. Click on the "share" button, then the "embed" button and copy the embed code. 
  • -- Allows embedding of on the homepage for a Prezi, click the "share" button, then, "</> Embed." then copy the code. 
  • Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) -- Allows embedding of documents, forms, spreadsheets, and more. A later post (or posts) on this blog will provide instruction on how to use this feature. 
Wherever I've found embed code, it's worked within Google Earth, although some things have had formatting issues.

Have you find useful media to embed in Google Earth beyond what's listed here? If so, please bring it to our attention in the comments!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Influence the Direction of Science Education: How to read and comment upon the Next Generation Science Standards

In 1996, The National Science Education Standards (NSES) were published and in the intervening 16 years, they have provided guidance for K-12 science education. While NSES is far from the only document to shape science standards at the state level and science teaching across the country, it is almost certainly the most influential.

Sixteen years is a long time and NSES is showing its age. A new set of standards are now under development. The Next Generation Science Standards have a targeted release date of 2013.

A public draft is available for comment and this blog post is intended to give some guidance on how to provide that input. It's a complex document with complex implications about changes not only in K-12 science education, but also in the K-12 education system beyond the sciences. The time for feedback is short -- the close of comments is June 1, but you can target your comments on specific components of the draft -- so the task can be managed in this short amount of time.

I've played a minor role amongst a cast of at least hundreds (and probably over a thousand) in the development of NGSS, first as a member of the Earth &amp; Space Science Design Team for A Framework for K-12 Science Education and now as a member of the New York's Statewide Leadership Team. As someone who has been involved in the development of NGSS, I find navigating the NGSS Draft confusing. I know from talking to others that I'm not alone in that feeling, and that's why I've put this post together.

The complexity is to be expected -- reformatting American K-12 science is no simple task, and the complexities of science literacy aren't something that can be understood in a glance, but we can help make those complexities accessible.

We'll look at a video on why new standards are needed, and then two on how to read the standards. The first two of these are from Achieve Inc., the organization that is coordinating the writing of the standards. The third is a short one from me, showing some more of the technological tools built into the NGSS to help further with your reading, and simply pointing you to pages that I found helpful as I was working on providing my own feedback.

In addition to the videos below, and the information at, the National Science Teachers' Association has put together some resources to help you make sense of the NGSS Public Draft.

Before the videos, I'll highlight what I think are some (there are many) important changes that NGSS includes in its vision for K-12 science education:

  • Performance Expectations define what understanding looks like for each standard in NGSS, in ways far richer than what can be captured on today's standardized tests and this may be a catalyst for the development and use of more authentic assessments of understanding.
  • NGSS is structured with three dimensions, each of roughly equal importance: 
    • Science and Engineering Practices
    • Disciplinary Core Ideas
    • Crosscutting Concepts
  • NGSS addresses four disciplines:
    • Life Science
    • Physical Science (including both physics and chemistry)
    • Earth and Space Science
    • Engineering and Technology
  • NGSS is designed with an understanding that it takes years of coordinated instruction to build deep understandings of the central big ideas of science, and weaves this understanding into the fabric of the standards.
  • While not always explicit throughout the document, a systems perspective is embedded in NGSS's design.
  • Considerable attention to both evolution and climate change is included within NGSS; much more than in NSES. 

These changes define a new vision for science education. The three dimensions address not only the content of scientific disciplines, but also describe how scientific knowledge. The inclusion of Engineering and Technology as Core Discipline is also a marked shift from current practice, and an appropriate shift. Attention to building understandings of a few keys ideas over many years is not typically done in schools today, nor is significant understandings of a systems perspective. And, attention to serious omissions of fundamental science that shapes our world is long overdue. 

In short, these are important changes in positive directions and they are of substantial size.

On the NGSS website, you'll find a five page pdf with a delineation of what the authors regard as the important Conceptual Shifts in the NGSS.

Now, let's go to the videos.

Why Are New Science Standards Needed?

How to Read the Next Generation Science Standards

I found the above two videos helpful, but they didn't give me quite enough information to find all the pieces I was looking for. I learned more through webinars I've attended over the last couple of weeks and I wanted to share this with others who didn't have the benefit of those webinars. So, I put together a short video to tour Before you begin watching the video, you might open that link in another window, and pause the video as you explore the website.

More About How to Read the NGSS Draft

The final video closes with a few comments about targeting your feedback where it will likely have the most effect. The text in the colored boxes is from A Framework for K-12 Science Education which was published last year, and that text is unlikely to change. So, target your efforts elsewhere. Provide specific feedback on how to improve wording of Performance Expectations (those multi-colored sentences near the top of the box) or on the connections at the bottom of the box.

Direct your energies in providing feedback to the areas of the standards most relevant to your work and your experience. That both narrows your focus so that you can complete your task before the June 1 close of comments, and increases the likelihood that your comments are on target.

Also, if you think this document represents a vision you share for science education, include that in your comments. Be sure to say what you like about NGSS! Consider that individuals and groups of all sorts will be providing feedback on this work, and that your comments matter.

If there are strategies that you find helpful for navigating NGSS or for providing feedback, please share them in the comments below.

Don Duggan-Haas

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Make a Virtual Fieldwork Experience Using a Simple Template

UPDATE: Since this tutorial was created in March of 2012, Prezi has substantially revised their interface. The Graphic Organizer within the Prezi has also been updated so that the text within it may be edited, and arrows and boxes containing the questions can be deleted or added. A new set of tutorials will be created to reflect these changes, but the basic procedures are largely unchanged, and the tutorials below are still useful.

There is a new version of the Template, now linked below and here. This link was added February, 2013.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Federal Geographic Data Committee Launches Geospatial Platform Website -- A rich map resource

This short post is to highlight a cool resource that just came to my attention.

From the EPA Climate Change and Water E-Newsletter:
Federal agencies and their partners collect and manage large amounts of geospatial data - but this data is often not easily found when needed or accessible in useful forms. The Geospatial Platform provides ready access to federally maintained geospatial data, services and applications, as well as access to data from our partners across state, tribal, regional and local governments as well as non-governmental organizations. The website makes it possible for users to create customized maps, or to integrate their own data into the maps, and share the maps through web browsers and mobile applications. The Geospatial Platform was developed by an interagency committee composed of representatives from the Executive Office of the President, the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). For more information on the Geospatial Platform website, please visit:

The site has tools for creating maps as well as a gallery of maps created by others. Maps in the map gallery vary in what they cover and how to explore them. United States Omernik Ecoregions map is very slick and easy to use. Enter an address or zoom to the region you want to explore and click on the map to see a detailed description of the ecoregion. This is an easier to use source for identifying ecoregions than the one I've been using for gathering this information for the VFE Database Entry Form, so I'm updating that link to this one.

NOAA Weather Radar and Weather Warnings shows the areas under a watch, and a key that doesn't seem to quite cover all the possible warning types, so in the two times that I've looked, there are areas under warnings that don't seem to quite map the key. It's a cool map, but not as technologically slick or user-friendly as the Ecoregions map.

There are more maps to explore here, as well as tools for making your own. Explore the site and note things of interest and then share them in the comments below.