Friday, July 30, 2010

Alex Trebek, teachers and Googlers unite at the Google Geo Teachers Institute

What do the Alex Trebek, teachers and the Googlers have in common? Last week, these individuals and groups all came together at the Googleplex in the Mountain View, CA to celebrate exploration and learning.

Google hosted its first Geo Teachers Institute, an intensive two-day workshop in which 150 educators received hands-on training and experience with Google Maps, Google SketchUp and Google Earth, including features like Mars, Moon and SkyMaps. Attendees from around the globe not only learned how these products work, but also discovered tips and the resources for introducing these tools to students and using them to conceptualize, visualize, share and communicate about the world around them. Through this event, teachers were hopefully inspired to bring the world's geographic information to students in compelling, fresh and fun ways.
As part of our continued effort to collaborate with the teachers and help students get a better sense of places across the globe, we also announced that Google Earth Pro is now available to educators for free through the Google Earth for Educators site. Educators from higher educational and academic institutions who demonstrate a need for the Pro features in their classrooms can now apply for single licenses for themselves or site licenses for their computer labs. A similar program exists for SketchUp Pro through the Google SketchUp Pro Statewide License Grant, which is currently being provided via grants to 11 states, and available to all others at the K-12 level at no cost.

In conjunction with these exciting Geo-related events and announcements, the Geo Education team also thought it’d be timely and fun to test Googlers’ geographic knowledge by hosting the company’s first ever Google Geo Bee. With help from National Geographic, 68 teams have relived their school years and took a written geography exam, competing for a spot on the stage with Alex Trebek, who hosted the main event. The competition was based on the group version of the National Geographic Bee for students, which Google has sponsored for the past two years. Questions included those like “Which country contains most of the Balkan Mountains, which mark the boundary between the historical regions of the Thrace and Moesia?” and “Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the United Kingdom, is located in which mountain chain?”
The final three Google teams (the Tea-Drinking Imperialists, the Geoids and the Titans) all showed off their geographic literacy and answered a plethora of the diverse and complex questions. In the end, it was the Tea-Drinkers who emerged the winners when they figured out that Mecca was the answer to the clue, “Due to this city’s location on a desert trading the route, many residents were merchants, the most famous of whom was born around A.D. 570.” And they didn’t just walk away with bragging rights; thanks to Sven Linblad from the Linblad Expeditions, they also won an amazing adventure trip to either the Arctic, the Galapagos or Antarctica.

Through all of these education efforts — for the teachers, students and grown-up Googlers alike — we hope people of all ages never stop exploring.

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