Teaching Geography With Google Maps

Google Maps
Travelers aren’t born, they’re raised.

Last week we talked about how to connect with your kids while you’re away traveling. There are plenty of ways to get them interested in this great big world of ours while you’re both at home too. One of the best and easiest ways to fire their imagination is with Google Maps.

Like many good ideas in our family, my seven-year-old son thought of it first. He’s recently gotten into Internet Radio, especially Tonik Radio out of Dublin. Tonik and most other stations show a Google map with pointers to where their listeners are. I find it kind of freaky that our house is clearly indicated on a map for all the other listeners to see. The kid just thinks it’s cool. He’s of a generation that has always known the Information Age and thus has a whole different attitude towards privacy.

So as he listens to House and Trance he surfs the globe, looking up where the other Tonik Radio listeners are–the cluster of fans in Dublin, the farmer in Israel, and the guy in the apartment block in Sterlitimak, Russia. Zooming in with the power of satellite photography, he can see what far-off countries look like from above. In some places he can even use Google Street View.

Once he gets bored hunting down his fellow radio fans, he starts exploring the Terra Incognita of the spaces between the points. This week he conducted a close-up survey across the Pacific and happened upon the Johnston Atoll, a lonely little former U.S. military base that I had never heard of.

I also show him places where I’ve been. He got an aerial view of the amusement park in Baghdad where I ate mazgouf. When the satellite took its photo, a small plane was flying over the riverside park and left its shadow on the water of the Tigris. A week later I came into my office and he’d found it again. He’s learning to navigate.

I can even show him my past, hovering with him above the Danish farm where I was an exchange student back in my teens. I brought him up the country lane to the nearest highway and its bus stop, the same route I rode with my bike when I wanted to go to Slagelse, the nearest town. The hedge and ditch where I hid my bike before I caught the bus are still there.

Strangely, this obsession with the computer hasn’t killed his interest in regular maps or his light-up globe. So if you have a young kid who’s curious about the world, try surfing Google Maps. It’s more than a bit Orwellian, but it’s a lot of fun.

Image courtesy Google Maps, copyright 2011.

The Grand Canyon Is Coming To Google Street View

Google Street View will soon add the Grand CanyonBy now we’ve all marveled at how Google Maps and its Street View option, allow us to easily explore the world around us. Not only is it possible to use the system to find a new restaurant down the street, but it also gives us the ability to visit places like the Amazon, Pompeii and the Great Barrier Reef without ever leaving home. Soon you’ll be able to add yet another natural wonder to that list, as the Internet search giant has announced that it will next turn its attention on the Grand Canyon.

Yesterday, Google announced that it was sending members of its mapping team, armed with its new Trekker camera system, into the canyon for the first time. They’ll explore the iconic and breathtaking landscape on foot, while the camera automatically captures high quality photos in 360-degree panoramas while they hike. Once the expedition is complete, the team will return home and upload their images, which will eventually be stitched together and displayed in Street View form online.

This week the maps team is concentrating on the stunning vistas of the South Rim as well as the popular Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail. If you happen to be in Grand Canyon National Park over the next few days and come across a group of hikers with oddly shaped backpacks, it’s probably just the Google gang going about their business. The rest of us will have to wait patiently for their photos to be added to the ever-growing Street View library.

On a side note, how cool would it be to get payed by Google to go backpacking for a few weeks? I’m sure this team is well outfitted for this adventure and it certainly beats spending long days in the office.

[Photo credit: Google]

Explore The Great Barrier Reef From Your Desk With Google Street View

great barrier reef While Google Street View usually sticks to helping you explore land, users can now navigate Australia‘s Great Barrier Reef, right from their desks. Just launched, Google makes use of an innovative underwater camera that can record 360-degree images of the marine park.

The project is part of the Catlin Seaview Survey, which was launched today at Monterey, California. For the next three years, scientists will collect visual information on the world’s reefs to be shared on Google Maps, allowing people all over the world to dive without leaving home.

In a story at news.com.au, project founder and director Richard Vevers explains, “99.95 per cent of people can’t scuba dive, it allows so many people to access the oceans for the very first time.”

While at the moment only three sections have been mapped, by December it is expected there will be 20. Additionally, diving robots will be used to examine never before seen areas 328 feet below the surface. Along with broadening scopes of the world, scientists hope to discover new species and track changes in the reef related to climate change.

Next year, the project will expand to map reefs in Hawaii and the Philippines.

Google Maps Heads To The Arctic

Google Maps Trike in the ArcticGoogle’s never ending quest to map the Earth has taken them to numerous remote locations and their Street View technology has made it possible for us to explore much of the planet without ever leaving home. Not only have they shown us the wonders of Ancient Mexico, but they’ve also taken us inside national parks, up the Amazon River and to a number of other iconic locations around the globe. But their next project may be the most unique yet as the Google Maps team goes above the Arctic Circle to visit the tiny Canadian town of Cambridge Bay.

Located in Canada’s Nunavut Territory, Cambridge Bay is home to just 1500 people. The town sits on the southeast coast of Victoria Island, along the Queen Maud Gulf, and is an important port for ships traveling through the legendary Northwest Passage. Although this is a remote and lightly populated corner of planet, the region has been inhabited for more than 4000 years. The population still mainly consists of Inuit people and their culture remains evident throughout the area today. Most of the street names in Cambridge Bay, for example, are in the Inuit tongue.

In order to capture the town in all of its virtual glory, Google has sent one of their Street View trikes to map its streets. This high-tech, three-wheeled bike is equipped with cameras that take photos in all directions while rolling down the road. That data is then taken back to Google Maps HQ where it is stitched together to create a 360° panoramic view of whatever destination is being captured. That means in a short time we’ll all be able to take a stroll around Cambridge Bay within the confines of our favorite web browsers.

As travelers, how do you feel about Google Maps capturing these places and putting them in digital form online? Is it a helpful resource for you? Do you find it is intrusive or somehow detracts from a destination by taking some of the mystery out of it? Personally, I think it is kind of fun to see other parts of the world in this manner. It may even inspire someone to visit a place they hadn’t considered before.

Google Street View Offers Virtual Trips Around Mexico’s Ancient Monuments

Google Street View, Palenque
We’ve talked a lot about Google Street View here on Gadling. It seems that every month a new attraction is added to this amazing and somewhat sinister application.

The latest is a series of views of the great monuments of Mexico. Google has been cooperating with the National Institute of Anthropology and History to take images of important sites such as Teotihuacan, Palenque and Chichen Itza. They hope to have 80 sites online by the end of the year.

The uber-cool archaeology news website Past Horizons reports that instead of the usual Google Street View van, a tricycle took the 360-degree panoramas. This method has been used at other sensitive sites like Stonehenge. I’ve taken a look at some of them and they’re as crisp and clear as the photos Google took of your house.

The Mexican sites are only some of hundreds of important spots around the world taken as part of the Google World Wonders Project. Hit the link to see more.

[Photo of Templo de la Calavera at Palenque courtesy Tato Grasso]