GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 67-17
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM


COBA, Filis1, BURGIN, Stephen2 and DE PAOR, Declan G.1, (1)Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA 23529, (2)University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701,

Google Earth recently celebrated its 10th birthday and has been downloaded over 2 billion times. Yet its potential in Earth and Planetary Science education at all levels remains under-appreciated. The majority of users probably never explore Google Moon, Google Mars, or Google Sky, all of which are built into the Google Earth desktop app. Even fewer users will be aware of the existence of custom globes for Mercury, Venus, and all the other planets and moons, including the Google Mercury, Google Venus, Google Titan, and Google Pluto globes created by our project. 

In order to send our students on a “Grand Tour” of the terrestrial planets, we created KML/KMZ files and for comparison we made PDFs with identical content in a static, textbook-like format. We tested the relative efficacy of the treatment (KML) and comparison (PDF) versions on over 360 general education students. Our KML tours lead to small but statistically significant learning gains in the short term when compared to still PDF documents, but these gains faded in long-term follow-up. As discipline-based education researchers, we offer the pre-test, the treatment and the post-test. We do not have daily access to students to reinforce learning gains. Teachers with such daily access could anticipate better longterm gains. 

We also used Google Earth in a mini (27 student) study to address misconceptions about reasons for the seasons. Again, learning gains were small but statistically significant. Nevertheless, in a domain where misconceptions have proven extremely difficult to dislodge, any learning gains are a success. 

We have developed lesson plans and rubrics to give school teachers a turn-key resource for using Google Earth in lunar and planetary education. Our products align with the connectivist theory of learning in the digital age. All resources are freely available for download from