Virtual Geological Field Trip to Jhalawar
Google Earth is a web-based interactive mapping application that allows users to view every part of the earth’s surface, through satellite imageries, with overlays of roads, buildings, geographic features, and numerous other location-specific data points. Users can add their own points of interest and share them with others, chart routes, plot areas, calculate distances, and overlay their own images onto the application. Google Earth can also connect to the Internet, making available online resources relevant to a location. For example, flying to Jhalawar in south Rajasthan shows that location and also links to online maps of the area. For some locations, the application creates 3D representations, both of topography, such as the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve high up in the Himalaya, and for buildings in some metropolitan areas. Users can show or hide available layers in any combination. Someone working out a road trip, for instance, might want to see roads, lodging, and restaurants but not shopping places or airports. Using the scale and the measurement tools, the user could estimate mileages, find places to eat and stay overnight along the way, and also link to Web sites to contact those establishments.
Who’s doing it?
Google Earth has become indispensable for people needing to show locations, such as a mining company giving a presentation about their current or potential mining sites. Many educators use Google Earth to help students understand subjects ranging from sciences to liberal arts. Geologists can take students—virtually—to an area being studied and show them the topography and surrounding areas, quickly zooming out and flying to other locations. Other scientists overlay images of subject material, such as layers of rock, relating the material to images of the real world. Liberal arts faculty show locations of current events and link to resources about those events, or give tours of historical locations. Some administrators have also found the application valuable for developing student recruitment materials, such as interactive maps and demonstrations of campus.
How does it work?
Google Earth can be downloaded and installed for free. Users can fly to locations around the world by entering addresses, names of landmarks or features, or latitude and longitude coordinates. Alternatively, users can search within a specified region for keywords. Zooming in and out determines the number and kind of features or locations displayed as the resolution changes. As you zoom closer to a residential area, for instance, smaller streets and their names begin to appear. Locations marked on the map are clickable, opening a pop-up window with information about that place, links to related resources, photos, or other information. Users can change the orientation of the compass points of the map and adjust the aspect such that the map is shown at any angle—from directly above to horizontal. For areas rendered in 3D, adjusting the aspect gives the impression of moving through a real space. Users can add placemarks, which are clickable indicators of particular locations.
Why is it significant?
With Google Earth, colleges and universities can – without additional resources – leverage Google’s integration of vast amounts of data in an easy-to-use interface. Being able to fly students from Aligarh to Jhalawar can bring a wide range of subject matter alive. The tool’s visual immediacy could prove enormously beneficial, for example, for a betailed understanding of all aspects of a geological field programme. Individually, students can use Google Earth to investigate the geography of places they will be visiting. Because it is interactive, the application encourages users to keep using it—to fly to nearby places, places they used to live or hope to live one day, scenes of events in the news, or parts of the world they may never visit in person. More than just a map, however, Google Earth lets users create and share personal resources. Browsing and exploring distant locales augmented with contributions from other users presents a compelling opportunity for discovery and learning. Contributing anecdotes, stories, and histories will allow users to communicate in a context of geography.
What are the downsides?
Because Google Earth displays images based on satellite data, users see a snapshot in time. If a building is added to the landscape – or torn down – those changes won’t immediately be reflected in the application. Moreover, satellite imagery is not available at the same resolution for all locations. For some cities, you can zoom in close enough to see people walking on sidewalks; for other places, the resolution might only show buildings or blurry cars. Higher-resolution imagery is often available in many parts of the United States, resulting in a perception among some that Google Earth exhibits a U.S. bias, an impression exacerbated by the fact that currently most of the 3D buildings are in U.S. cities. Other concerns stem from its being an application owned by a commercial enterprise, which makes some academics uneasy about relying on it. Google Earth also uses a considerable amount of memory and bandwidth and requires substantial graphics capabilities. On older computers or those with slow connections, the experience of using the application can be frustrating and may cause slowdowns for other applications. In addition, some have expressed concern that Google Earth creates risks to personal safety, given that it offers anyone access to images – sometimes at a very high resolution - of their residences or offices and surrounding areas.
Where is it going?
Google Earth will become more sophisticated, with additional tools and increasing coverage of high-resolution imagery. The number of places that offer 3D imagery is also likely to expand. The dramatic views and capabilities of the program have spawned communities of users who develop content - placemark collections on particular topics, 3D structures - that is available to others. Acting as the technical infrastructure, Google Earth allows users to share personal histories. Geographic notations can be found on many topics for many different places, and by integrating with other existing applications, Google Earth is positioned to become a spatially based collection of facts and knowledge. Educators have started a number of blogs, user groups, and forums where they share ideas and experiences using Google Earth in the classroom, as well as post exercises they have created that use the application. As tools emerge to export content from Google Earth to other applications, such as video files, instructors will be able to give students assignments to create projects using the application and share those projects with others.
What are the implications for teaching and learning?
Google Earth is another in a growing list of applications that can move ideas from the pages of a book into the imaginations of students. The experience of flying over New Delhi and then Mumbai and comparing how the two cities are designed is immediate and compelling. Students today expect technology to be part of education, and Google Earth is a way for institutions to provide that component in a tool that students find familiar and comfortable. It provides educators a means to assess and bolster students’ visual literacy skills, and, to the extent that it gives students a peek into virtually any corner of the world, Google Earth can help them develop a context for spatial and cultural differences around the world.
In the area around Jhalawar, note the relationship of geology with:
Try and decipher geological, structural and lithological details on the basis of these.
This website is hosted by
Department of Geology
Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh - 202 002 (India)