Review by Leslie Crenna, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2013
Get it now

Google Earth

Get it now

Cool geographical exploration tool has endless classroom applications

Subjects & skills
  • Science
  • Social Studies

  • Creativity
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (57 Reviews)

Take a look inside

1 video | 5 images

Pros: You get amazing detail and eight layers, and you can upload photos and take screenshots.

Cons: Limited technical functionality and a small search database may disappoint.

Bottom Line: Google Earth offers less functionality than the PC version but still thrills.

Teachers can use Google Earth as a supplement to all kinds of lessons, bringing the geography and topography of different locations to life. Students can perform searches, zoom around the Earth, select layers, and submit eye-level photos served up courtesy of Panoramio. It's a highly engaging and interactive way to juice up lessons (when it works), and the Google Earth Community online has a plethora of user groups, teaching ideas, and classroom learning resources.

Continue reading Show less

Although it doesn't offer the same level of functionality or search power as the PC version, the Google Earth app is a must-see for any citizen of the modern age. Students can enter locations and quickly maneuver across the globe, zooming in to show detail to the level of parked cars. The Lookaround option anchors you, limiting your view to tilting up, down, and 360 degrees. When Lookaround is off, the Pan mode (ironically named) allows users to explore freely across terrain by swiping. Zoom in by placing two fingers on the screen and moving them apart or by double-tapping with a single finger. Zoom out by placing two fingers on the screen and moving them together, or by double-tapping the screen with two fingers.

Students can examine the continental shelf or research landmarks via a quick-access menu with nearby iconic images. Searches fly them across the globe using time-delayed satellite images of Earth and overlaid icons that provide facts and services. Students also can take screenshots of Google Earth views that show data sources at the bottom. So, it's cool. But help and a tutorial, although they provide relatively clear explanations of the controls, don't cover much else. Regular users of the Google Earth PC version might be disappointed, as the app version has none of the same tools, views, or special databases, and only eight layers. Its default search database doesn't sport nearly the same depth. A new Earth Gallery feature, with special maps in seven categories, is buggy and doesn't display well on Android devices. Also, controls are not entirely intuitive and screen navigation can lead to selecting informational icons by accident. Load time can be slow depending on virtual altitude and connection speed, and image quality is occasionally poor. Icons can litter the display when all layers are selected.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Visuals are stunning, and the easy access to raw data is unprecedented.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Google Earth doesn't provide teaching tools, only raw data and some interpretation through the Wikipedia layer. The Earth Gallery feature is still buggy for Android. Despite this, it has very good learning potential.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Help and the tutorial only cover controls. Navigation can be tricky with lots of layers. Only one default database comes with the Android app, and the Earth Gallery feature is still buggy. The Google Earth Community is not linked.

Teacher Reviews

(See all 57 reviews) (57 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Elma S. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Two-pronged use: location and research
As a teaching tool, it allows the student to visualize locations, gather data, and see possible correlations among the data gathered. Hence, it caters to students with various learning styles and is useful for student-centered research projects. There is plenty of help that can be accessed through the Net (there is an official Maps Help center), and what one needs to do is go to the link:
Read full review