Technical Information and Tips

Return to the TeachersFirst home page from anywhere within Globetracker's Mission by clicking on the puzzle pieces in the top left corner of the screen.

Computer configuration Three tips for using links
Using the Google Earth Files New to Google Earth?
Google Earth Skills You Need to Know
Google Earth Additional things to try
Following Geo and Meri on Twitter

Computer Configuration:

You need the following on your computer to use Globetracker's Mission:

  • Internet Explorer 6+, Firefox 1.5+, or Safari
  • Some links require Flash (see TF Toolbox)
  • Best on a broadband (high speed) connection: DSL, cable modem, or school network
  • Google Earth (optional) has additional system requirements and must be installed on your computer. These directions were written for Google Earth versions 5 and higher, but the files will work in earlier versions.

Three tips for using links from the Globetracker’s Mission episodes

1. Links within episodes and "Links to Learn More" at the end of episodes open in a new window so you can continue reading the mission and look at the links at the same time. If Geo and Meri have asked questions about what students see in the map, it is best to resize and position the new window so you can see the questions, as well:resize the window to see questions

2. Some of the links bring up customized Google Maps. These maps include captions and think-aloud questions within the map window. Use the tools within Google Maps to move around (clockise from top left): Plus and minus to zoom, Map or Satellite buttons to change the view from Hybrid (a combination of both), and a dynamic scale (lower left). A sample Google Map

3. The best thing about the Google Maps is being able to "drag" using the little grab toolhand to see what is above, below, left, and right, just as if you were sliding the paper around behind a window opening. This tool is great fun on an interactive whiteboard. Hold your finger on the map and drag...its magic! Have students drag to show you what is north, south, east, and west. They will learn the cardinal directions much faster.

Using the Google Earth Files to Follow the Mission

Google Earth Files are linked at the top of each episode page and will launch in Google Earth software. This software is available for free download and installation. The free version of the software works just fine. You can find the detailed system requirements for the software in the Google Earth User Guide.

If you do not have access or expertise to install software on school computers (most teachers do not), be sure to request to have Google Earth installed on at least the computer you use on your projector or interactive whiteboard. Since Google Earth will not run on older or slow machines, you may have to teach the Google Earth portions as a teacher-centered lesson on your one "good" machine. It is worth asking for ---repeatedly! Many schools ask that only one computer per class connect to Google Earth because it draws heavily on the school Internet connection.

New to Google Earth?

You do not need to be an expert to use Google Earth to follow Geo and Meri’s mission.

Google Earth Skills You Need to Know:

  1. Where to find Navigation controls, Layers, and Places in Google Earth (see numbers 4, 5, and 6 on this diagram)
  2. How to Move Around the Earth (Navigation controls). Watch the video or read about the navigation controls. Then practice moving between places on the Earth and zooming in using the navigation controls. Hint: Watch the video together and have a student demonstrate on your projector or whiteboard!
  3. How to set the layers to show - and which ones to choose
  4. How to play a tour and adjust tour settings
  5. How to work with Globetracker’s Mission placemarkers

Additional things to try:

The ideal layers to show for Globetracker's Mission

How to set the layers for the best use of Globetracker's Mission:

Stretch the Layers area by dragging on the gray border at the top.

Use the small plus signs (+) or little right-facing triangles on a Mac (mac arrow ) to open the layers where you want to select only certain features. The plus sign will change to a minus sign (-). On a Mac the triangle goes from right-facing to pointing down ( macarrowdn). Check the boxes so you can see

Geographic Web
> Panoramio

Borders and Labels
> International Borders
> Country Names
> 1st Level Admin Borders
> 1st Level Admin Names
> Populated Places
> Labels


This computer will "remember" these layer choices each time you open Google Earth unless you change them.

These are local settings on each machine. Configure the layer settings on the machine you will use for class!

As you become more adept with Google Earth (or as your students teach you), you may want to turn on and off other layers as part of class discussions.

back to Google Earth Need to Know


How to play a tour and adjust tour settings:

GE places

Once you have opened the Google Earth file for an episode, the folder for that episode and its "placemarkers" will show in the Places area, under "Temporary Places."

You can stretch the Places area by dragging on the gray bar at the top or bottom.

You can expand the view of all the "places" using the plus sign(+) next to the name of the episode.

"Go" to any location simply by double-clicking on it in the list of Places.

To play a tour of the places included in the episode, simply click once on the episode file name (in this case Globetracker 1-1.kmz) to select it. If you wish to start with a certain location mid-tour, click once on your starting location in the list and click the play button.

Then use the controls at the bottom of the places area to play or stop the tour.


tour controls


tools menu

The first time you play a tour, you will need to slow down the tour speed from the default settings (or you will get seasick flying so quickly from place to place!). Under the Tools menu, click on Options.

On a MAC, the tour options are found under Google Earth >> Preferences in the Touring Tab.




In the Options area, click on the Touring tab at the top and adjust the Fly-To/Tour settings so it goes slowly enough for your students to follow without losing track of where they are going. Ideally, you want them to be able to see the state, continent, and directions. You may need to adjust it a few times until you get it the way you want it. A SMALL change in the slider makes a big change in the speed! Don't forget to click OK. Here is a Windows view:GE tour setting

On a Mac the options are spelled out in seconds for Time between features and Wait at Features under the Touring tab with a speeds on the Navigation tab.

When you close Google Earth, it will ask you if you want to save your "temporary places." Say NO, so you can load a new tour next week and not have duplication.

back to Google Earth Need to Know



How to work with Globetracker's Mission placemarkers:sample placemarker

The placemarkers for Globetracker's Mission all have a small, red TeachersFirst puzzle piece on the purple pushpin.

Click on a placemarker to read more about the location:

placemarker bubble

back to Google Earth Need to Know



How to view photographs of locations using the Panoramio layer:

If you turned on the Panoramio layer under Geographic Web (it is turned on by default when you download Google Earth), you can view pictures shared by people around the globe. The photos are visible as small blue dots/squares as you zoom in. Click on the blue dot/square to see the picture taken at that location: Panoramio dot

panroamio up close

Help your students see more of every place Geo and Meri go by checking out the Panoramio pictures you find near Globetracker's Mission placemarkers.



back to Additional things to try



Measuring Distances in Google Earth:

You can have Google Earth measure distances between points "as the crow flies" using the Ruler tool available at the top of the Google Earth main screen. measure in GEClick the ruler to turn it on. Your cursor will change to a crosshair. Click one location then another to measure the distance between them. The Ruler window that pops in front can be changed from miles to other units of measurement, as well. Click the CLEAR button in the Ruler window to remove the line and measure something else.

back to Additional things to try



View the scale legend:sample scale legend

You can turn on a dynamic scale legend to show in the bottom right of the main Google Earth window. Simply go to the View menu and click Scale Legend> The scale will change constantly as you zoom in and out.

Note: For younger students who have not grasped the concept of proportion, this changing scale may be very confusing. TeachersFirst recommends turning it on AFTER you finish zooming in or out.

The Scale Legend is a very simple one with few intermediate markings. If you use it on an interactive whiteboard, you can estimate using the scale, then check your estimate using the Ruler tool to measure distances.


back to Additional things to try



Viewing lines of longitude and latitude:

Google Earth is a wonderful way to reinforce Geo and Meri's explanations of longitude and latitude. To turn on the lines, simply go to the View menu and click Grid. The lines will appear on the main map and stay in place no matter how you zoom or navigate the globe:

. NA w grid

Use this view on an interactive whiteboard and have students use the pens to mark locations by longitude and latitude using the lines. If you click a location, Google Earth will tell you its coordinates. Click a location, then RIGHT click and go to Properties. The full coordinates of longitude and latitude (down to the seconds) will be shown. TeachersFirst's main offices are in a town at Latitude 38°57'8.37"N and Longitude 77°21'22.78"W. Can you find it?

back to Additional things to try

Following Geo and Meri on Twitter

Twitter is a mciroblogging tool for people to send quick messages ("tweets") about what they are doing. Tweets are limited to 140 characters, including spaces! You can learn more about Twitter in this TeachersFirst review and this video. If you decide to follow Geo and Meri's tweets in addition to their regular weekly posts, you will need a Twitter account (free). Once you make an account, follow @geoandmeri (their Twitter name). For extra fun, why not log into Twitter and send them a message by specifically MENTIONING them in your tweet (update). To do this, you write a tweet of your own and include @geoandmeri. Some examples:

Did @geoandmeri find any clues in the museum?

Is it cold where u are @geoandmeri?

@geoandmeri Did u go to top of the Empire State bldg?

@geoandmeri What do homes look like in Peru?

Then watch your Twitter account or Geo and Meri's blog posts for responses!

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