Ten Things I Learned at AGU’s Virtual Globes Sessions

There’s nothing like obsessively posting to Facebook to get a guy into blogging. My friends on the Big Blue Time Sink know that I post links more or less daily, mostly out of pure nerdy silliness. Once in a while there’s something substantial that merits further commentary, though. I kept wishing I had a slightly more serious way to comment: so began this blog. As it turns out, this is probably just the medium I needed for a few other nerdy – but less silly – pursuits.

First off, I’m trying to drum up support for Glen Richard’s wonderful new Teaching with Google Earth library at Carleton College’s Science Education Resource Center. I’m also looking for presenters for a session on Google Earth and geoscience education at the 2009 GSA conference. I anticipate that a big part of my writing here will cover the intersection of virtual globe use and science pedagogy. Probably the last thing the Internet needs is yet another blog about Google Earth – there are other blogs more current, more insightful, and better looking than mine – but here I am. Like a lot of other scientific users of virtual globes, I’m interested in using them to visualize and distribute geospatial data. However, I’m also interested in the ways in which virtual globes can get students to connect with the real world around them. I’m hoping to get a little more into this idea in later posts.

Second, I’m trying to make my research a little more accessible to the public. Not too many students come to college thinking that they want to study paleomagnetism and rock magnetics. Probably none do. Probably nobody but a shadowy cabal of underground mole-men know what the f*** those things are. Probably when people hear me say “crystal structure” and “magnetometer” they think I’m some kind of new-age hippie. A blog might be a good way to get the word out that we’re actually doing some relevant, worthwhile stuff (some might say awesome), and to fool some unsuspecting students into working with me. So I’ll be devoting one day a week – make it Wednesday – to writing about my research.

So, to inspire you to start looking into using virtual globes in your classroom, here’s a “top ten” list of virtual globe tricks/tools from this year’s AGU. I posted this on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, and Kurt picked it up on his blog. The list is definitely from my personal point of view, and omits a lot (for example, I missed Michael Jones’ Frontiers of Geoscience lecture). What’s on your personal AGU highlights list?

Ten Things I Learned at AGU’s Virtual Globes Sessions:

  1. Search for environmental data with SciScope – very limited now, but a great concept: http://www.sciscope.org/
  2. Help students write KML for Google Earth with the KML Interactive Sampler: http://kml-samples.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/interactive/index.html
  3. Capture and modify Google Earth topography in SketchUp (as long as your viewpoint is close to the ground in GE…). Does this mean I might be able to import some topography (e.g. from lidar data) and make a Collada file out of it, then view it in GE? I still haven’t got a straight answer.
  4. Explore the oceans, draw profiles, examine oceanographic data with GeoMapApp: http://www.geomapapp.org/
  5. Identify solar and wind energy potential with 3Tier’s FirstLook: http://firstlook.3tier.com/
  6. Find coastal landmarks with Kurt’s GeoCoastPilot (even though it wasn’t what he was presenting!): http://ccom.unh.edu/vislab/projects/GeoCoastPilot.html
  7. Make thematic maps in KML from public data, or use the Thematic Mapping Engine to make your own: http://www.thematicmapping.org/
  8. Put Google Charts in Google Earth balloons or use them as placemark icons: http://earth.google.com/outreach/kml_entry.html#tA%20Googol%20of%20Heat%20Beneath%20Our%20Feet
  9. Beware of design flaws in your KML that might make people laugh at your lack of forethought: http://googleearthdesign.blogspot.com/ (Rich Treves’ example of the UK government’s “Do Drugs” pencil was hilarious)
  10. Use NASA WorldWind, formerly PC-only, on any platform (just a preview so far) and make extensions for it because it’s open source: http://worldwind.arc.nasa.gov/

One Comment

  1. WindySue says:

    FirstLook is a nice tool, but no way to make money on it. Use it while you can – 3TIER laid off 19 people today, 1/3 of the workforce.