Random Thoughts

Google Earth and Audio Books

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Two recent lessons I have been involved in are using Google Earth with 2nd Graders and having 5th graders create audio books for Pre-K students.

Google Earth Lesson (2nd Grade):

Have students pair up. (I always have kids number 1 and 2, it makes it easy to say “OK, #1 your turn to ……)

Students start Google Earth and each person is allowed 5 minutes to explore the program. Click here, click there, spin the Earth this way and that. I find I have way less interruptions if you just give kids time to explore the program “their way”. Giving just 5 minutes gets all those “what’s this do?” out of the way.

After both kids have had a turn at exploring the program, they come up to the front of the room and we talk about what they learned or found cool.

Here was the report:

  • “If you click on the 3D button down there, you can then go to New York and see the building in 3D.”
  • “If you search for “Queensland’ you get taken to New York. If you search for “Queens Land” you get taken to Australia.
  • “I like to make the world go fast” (Funny side note, one girl in class watched the world spin to fast and had to go lay down 🙂 )
  • “I like how it flies you places”

Next up Questions:

  • “Why are the pictures not clear on my computer but they are on yours?”
  • “How do I find my house?”
  • “Are these pictures like right now?”

So we took some time to answer the questions. We talked about the pictures having to download from the Internet so if you are busy spinning the world or moving to quickly the pictures don’t have time to download. We also talked about why images in the states might be clearer then say those in rural Thailand.

We talked about how you might find your house? What information would you need to know? Where could you find that information? Is just knowing Thailand enough? Or do you need to know where in Thailand. Oh, Bangkok! Great (we fly to Bangkok) Now what? Well we know we live by the old airport. What might an airport look like from space? What could we find that would tell us it’s an airport? A runway! Great! Let’s fly around slowly to see if we can find a runway.


The conversation was a good one and we talked about directions and ways to look at the earth, different views, and we even played with layers. The weather layer was cool as it showed us that it was snowing in Zurich (where I’m headed for Winter holiday 😉 ).

I then showed the students how to go to View-Grid to turn on Longitude and Latitude. I think it’s the first time in my life I’ve heard kids go “WOW….COOL!” over Longitude and Latitude.

Over all it was a great introductory lesson to Google Earth. After spending about 10 minutes on the floor, I sent the students back to their desks where they each got another 5 minutes to play with Google Earth.

A quick and fun 30 minute lesson on Google Earth. Now that we have the basics down we can do some real exploration of our planet!

Audio Books (5th grade records, Pre-K Listens):

First of all when you have a teacher like Chrissy you have a real advantage to try something new or do quick little projects. The Pre-K teacher approached me a week ago and asked if there was a way to record some books for the kids to listen to and follow along. So I sent out an e-mail to the 5th grade team explaining what we needed and of course Chrissy responds in about 30 seconds!

“We’ll do it!”

  • I dropped off the books on Wednesday so the 5th graders could have some time to read and practice their stories.
  • On Friday I took a good USB mic and pulled kids one at a time during their reading time and recorded their voices in GarageBand.
  • On Wednesday this week Chrissy gave me an hour of her class time to allow the students to edit their recordings.

When I went into the class here’s the outline of what we did.

  • Listened to some audio books and podcasts and talked about what we heard? What made it ‘catchy’?
  • We then discussed what a Pre-K student might need and decided that we need a ‘ding’ to tell them when to turn the page.
  • We decided that we would use one of the built in malet sounds in GarageBand
  • I then showed them how to split and delete a part of a track. I grabbed a piece of tape and had a student come up and cut it in half, then had another student come up and cut it again. We threw the middle piece away and taped the two ends back together. The idea: you have to split a clip twice to edit.
  • After that the kids went to work. We got half of them done and Chrissy finshed the other half later that day. Once the students started to get a hang of GarageBand that was it, they started helping each other and off they went. I showed the first person done how to export as an mp3 and then she showed the rest.

I took the mp3 files down to Pre-K and the kids loved them!

Chrissy will now also use the files in her class to talk about expression, voice, fluency, etc.

Two for the price of one!

Two fun lessons this week that reminded me why I love this stuff so much!

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. I loved the audiobook idea so much that I’ve already contacted the Reading Coach at the primary school next to us and I’m going to try to do this with some of our high school students. We have many low level readers at our school and I think this would be a great way for them to practice. So not only do our students get the extra work needed to improve their reading, but the young kids get great new audiobooks! Thanks for the great idea Jeff…

  2. Have you been stealing my lesson plans???

    I always give the kids 10 minutes of play first and generally when they share something they have found out in playtime with the whole class I find out new stuff as well.

    So you are going to keep Chrissy on then. Cos we’ll have her back any time!

  3. This posting was really a pleasure to read, Jeff. I enjoyed hearing about the lessons you did, but also how you and your students were processing the learning. I found so many points of value in it.

    Thanks very much for sharing.

    It’s amazing with audio, as students hear their own voices and repeat the recording process, how adept they become at editing. Perhaps its from years of listening, but it’s fascinating how many have an easily trained ear.

    Thanks again.

  4. Those both sound like rewarding and enjoyable lessons, both for the students and the teachers! I think what I like most is the idea of community that is fostered when the older students provide a service for the younger students. In so many international schools, where elementary, middle and high school students share the same space, it is a wonder that this doesn’t happen more often!

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