Google Earth is a great learning tool, and fun
A few months ago I did a column on some of cool tools that Google provides and mentioned that my favorite was Google Earth. That still stands, but now there are even more reasons to like it.
This free download literally puts the planet at your fingertips. Want to take a trip to Rome, Berlin or Suva? No problem. For example, to visit Honolulu simply type in "Honolulu" and the program magically moves the globe from a space ship perspective of North America, in a westerly direction, directly over the Hawaiian Islands.
From there you plummet and mysteriously stop, so that you feel as if you're hovering over East Honolulu. Place the cursor over your target, click, and you move practically to street level.
Not sure what streets you're looking at? Click on the "layer" button with the interstate road sign icon and instantly the streets are outlined and named. It provides numerous other options such as photos of landmarks or even 3-D renderings of buildings along major streets.
All this cutting technology is neat enough, but it becomes topical when you can link it to current events. For example, last April, in an arrangement with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Google Earth started providing satellite images of Darfur, the war-torn province in Sudan. When users scan over Darfur, they can see flame icons that represent destroyed villages, and tents that illustrate refugee camps. Clicking on the flame icons opens windows that show the names of the villages and offers data on the extent of destruction.
This is a terrific research tool for students.
Naturally, you can also have a lot of fun with this by checking out your home from the air. However, don't always expect a real-time view of the world. I looked at my home and could see a nearby lot that was still undeveloped in the photo but which has had a home on it for more than a year.
Still, this is incredibly useful. Let's say you're planning to move to Kaimuki and want to research the neighborhood. With a few clicks, you can produce a map that shows the bus stops, parks, restaurants and useful amenities.
I noticed they left out more than a few vendors. Nevertheless, this is one great program that will keep you and your children entertained and educated.