What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that although it doesn't offer the same level of functionality or search power as the PC version, the Google Earth app is still a must-see for any citizen of the modern age. You can still zoom around the earth, select layers, and submit eye-level photos served up courtesy Panoramio. However, you cannot access the full search or other databases or make use of the fantastic PC-version tools and special views. One item unique to the app is a menu of nearby iconic images that you can tap for quick access. Parents should be aware that city entries include access to YouTube videos, which can include iffy content. With enough tapping kids can get to the desktop version of YouTube within the Google Earth app, where they can search for anything they want.
What kids can learn
- cultural understanding
- global awareness
Thinking & Reasoning
- applying information
- asking questions
- collecting data
Engagement, Approach, Support
Visuals are stunning, and the easy access to raw data is unprecedented.
Google Earth doesn't provide teaching tools, only raw data and some interpretation through the Wikipedia layer. The Earth Gallery feature is still buggy for Android. Despite this, it has very good learning potential.
Help and the tutorial only cover controls. Navigation can be tricky with lots of layers. Only one default database comes with the Android app, and the Earth Gallery feature is still buggy. The Google Earth Community is not linked.
What's it about?
Google Earth flies you across the globe using time-delayed satellite images of the Earth including overlaid icons providing facts and services. Look Around button anchors you — limiting viewing to tilt up and down and 360 degrees. When Look Around is off, Pan mode (both ironically named) allows user to explore freely across terrain by swiping. Zoom in with a double click and zoom out by placing and spreading two fingers.
Is it any good?
Google Earth is an outstanding and unprecedented resource for curious explorers. You can see a satellite view of your own home, famous landmarks, contours of the ocean floor, and open terrain -- all with astonishing detail. You can also share screen shots or submit your own ground-level photos for display on Google Earth. Layers function allows you to display information about notable places, businesses, and relevant outside websites including Wikipedia entries. It's a little creepy to consider that privacy has been altered so dramatically, but at the same time, how cool to be able to zero in on the home of your third cousin on the other side of the country to see where your great-grandfather was born.
The app search function is not nearly as powerful as the PC version, and controls are not entirely intuitive (but help and tutorial provide relatively clear explanations) and screen navigation can lead to selecting informational icons by accident. Loading time can be slow depending on virtual altitude and connection speed, and image quality is occasionally poor. Icons can litter the display when all layers are selected. Most importantly, because the app allows access to YouTube, kids can easily stumble onto (or search for) very iffy content. A setting to block this functionality would be a major improvement.
Families can talk about...
Plan a virtual trip to India to see Gandhi's birthplace.
Create a special family tour by stringing together searches of residences or travels -- trips you've taken or plan to take someday.
Play "Where are we?" 20 questions.