I have been trying to find the time to learn how to use Google Sky for astronomy outreach for the last year. My time is limited, and I have to admit that my early attempts were met with very ugly implementations, and I’ve been dieing to see what others are doing and (more importantly) to learn how they are doing it. Today, Google is sponsoring workshop in the IYA meeting-within-a-meeting at the AAS meeting.
The first thing I learned is Google actually has folks assigned to nurture non-profits to help them plug in. http://www.google.com/educators/geo . They have help, tutorials, ideas and more pre-prepared to help us build our content into virtual worlds. Their latest and greatet includes: weather, sunlight skins, 3D Buildinsg/SketchUp, a Swoop feature that lets you fly and zoom, and a “My Maps” feature to share content among friends.
Part of what this makes powerful is it allows people to explore independently and it has almost limitless applications and places to explore. Educational research (out of my head not out of the talk) shows that if you sit with a kid and work through every possible way of triggering a jack-in-the-box, the child when handed the toy will pretty much set it down and wander off. Show them only a couple of many ways, and they will sit down and try all the unseen permutations they can figure out. This means that you can hand a person the tools to access the “oh wow” factors of Google Earth and Google Sky, and students will continue to play and explore and learn to find all the ways the “oh wow” Jack jumps out of the Google box.
Google wants to be a part of IYA. (And I’ll be hunting them down later.) They encourage all of us to go to the Geo Education online community and participate. I’m ready, I’m primed, and I want to learn.
After a brief talk, our presenter showed a series of examples (.kml files), including animations, content from missions, and other “Google Skins” created in the kml markup language for people to explore. These can be found in the Google Earth “Gallery” window.
I have come to realize that I desperately need to find a Google Sky and Google Earth expert for the IYA New Media Task Group.
(Side note: There is a Johannes Kepler actor here who has a southern bit of twang! I find this very amusing.)