Using Google Earth to empathize with the news and gain global context

Below, I have embedded the third take of a video I’m trying to make that shows, as the title explains, how to use Google Earth to help students empathize with the news.  If you use Google Earth a lot, the way I have done for the past four years, you start to see connections, and you find that you gain global context.

In this case, I read an article about a dam on a sacred river in Myanmar and how people are protesting the dam’s construction.  I found that this article connects with an earlier article I read (and recorded on my Google Earth account) about farmers protesting the opening of a nuclear power plant in India (from March 2010).  It also connects with the Three Gorges Dam in China, which was quite a controversial project.

At the middle school I’m opening in August 2013, students will read global news articles on a daily basis and will create Google Earth place marks each time they read an article.  After three years, students will have close to a thousand place marks and will, as a result, have a much broader world view.

As for the video, it’s a little too long, and it ends abruptly because I somehow lost the last 30 seconds (yay for technological glitches!)

But I am posting it, warts and all, for a few reasons:

First, it’s a cool way to look at the inter-disciplinary problem of how Asia (especially India and China) is going to get energy as it develops in the next 20+ years.

Second, it’s important, I think, to show students that we need multiple takes to get something right.

I love this page from William Zinsser’s classic book On Writing Well, where he shows a fifth or sixth draft of the book, and explains that it’s typical for his writing to go through four, five or six drafts:

Third, I want to make sure the article I’m bringing to life is still reasonably current.  So without further ado, here’s a link to the article from the New York Times that I read a few days ago.

The video shows how I bring that article to life. I hope you will go back and read the article if you get interested in the issue.

And the fourth reason I’m posting this video now, it its imperfect state, is that it’s good enough to make the point I want to make 🙂

Below the video, I’ve included a powerful poem from the NYT article that I’d intended to include in the screen cast, but as I mentioned, I had a technical glitch…

Enjoy the show:

Here’s the poem from the article:

Whole forests are cleared and

mountains laid bare

Sand bars emerge at the narrows

Not so far in the future, Myanmar’s people may disappear

Did we drink our own blood?

This is the frightening thought

That one day the river might be dead.


About Steve Goldberg

I teach students at Research Triangle High School (RTHS) about US History. RTHS is a public charter school in Durham, NC, whose mission is to incubate, prove and scale innovative models of teaching and learning. The blog posts here reflect my own personal views and not those of my employer.
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One Response to Using Google Earth to empathize with the news and gain global context

  1. Becky Bair says:

    Great post, Steve. Google Earth is one of those Web 2.0 tools that I have on my “to learn” list but never seem to get to. Do you have one or two top tips for me as I just get started using it?

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