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 http://weather.com/.

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 (http://www.wunderground.com/) and The Weather Channel (http://www.weather.com/) offer embed codes for presenting weather information. The image above shows a "Weather Sticker" from wunderground.com and similar information is available in the form of "Weather Widgets" from weather.com. Both sites allow you to choose different templates. 

Embedding Prezi -- Zooming Presentations

What it looks like:

Prezi (see prezi.com) 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:
  • youtube.com -- Allows embedding of videos, including ones you create. Click on the "share" button, then the "embed" button and copy the embed code. 
  • prezi.com -- 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!