A Google Earth Grand Tour of the Terrestrial Planets
Google Earth is a powerful instructional resource for geoscience education. We have extended the virtual globe to include all terrestrial planets. Downloadable Keyhole Markup Language (KML) files (Google Earth's scripting language) associated with this paper include lessons about Mercury, Venus, the Moon, and Mars. We created “grand tours” of these bodies, guiding students to explore atmospheres, magnetospheres, landscapes, and interiors. The tours benefited from a study of 364 students in an introductory astronomy class. We compared learning outcomes for students using Google Earth versus static portable document format (PDF) files. In pre- and immediate posttests, there were small but statistically significant (p-value < 0.05) learning gains from the use of Google Earth; however, these did not persist in a long-term follow-up. There may have been insufficient differences between viewing text and images in Google Earth placemark balloons versus identical text and images in a PDF document. Consequently, we revised our tours, adding many more three-dimensional models, draped maps, and movies. We also assembled a table of links to virtual globes for other planets and moons, and a virtual solar system model, thus building a comprehensive teaching resource for introductory lunar and planetary science courses.
Paor, D. D., Coba, F., & Burgin, S. (2016). A Google Earth Grand Tour of the Terrestrial Planets. Journal of Geoscience Education, 64(4), 292–302. https://doi.org/10.5408/15-116.1
Old Dominion University, Department of Physics and Department of Ocean, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences | Old Dominion University, Department of Physics | University of Arkansas, Department of Curriculum and Instruction