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Avatars and multi-student interactions in Google Earth–based virtual field experiences

By
Mladen M. Dordevic
Mladen M. Dordevic
Department of Physics, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia 23529, USA
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Steven C. Wild
Steven C. Wild
Department of Physics, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia 23529, USA
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Published:
October 01, 2012

We have developed object-oriented programming methods to enable avatar movement across the Google Earth surface in response to student actions. Students travel on their own, or in groups attached to a field vehicle avatar (a Jeep). Students communicate using text messages sent from their web pages to balloons that pop up from the avatars in Google Earth. Students can be located locally in a lab class or at great distances from one another, as in a distance education course.

Our programming methods help to create a more engaging virtual field trip in which the students take the lead and decide where to go rather than simply reading text and viewing graphics in a tour designed by their instructor. The user interactivity via avatars is controlled by JavaScript and PHP. Since the position of each avatar is known, it is possible to track their movements and offer text-message advice when students stray off-task or wander about aimlessly. Our methods will be included in new virtual field trips being developed for Iceland, Hawaii, and other locations.

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Contents

GSA Special Papers

Google Earth and Virtual Visualizations in Geoscience Education and Research

Steven J. Whitmeyer
Steven J. Whitmeyer
Department of Geology & Environmental Science, James Madison University, Memorial Hall, MSC 6903, Harrisonburg, Virginia 22807, USA
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John E. Bailey
John E. Bailey
Scenarios Network for Alaska & Arctic Planning, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska 99709, USA
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Declan G. De Paor
Declan G. De Paor
Department of Physics, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia 23529, USA
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Tina Ornduff
Tina Ornduff
Google Inc., 1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy, Mountain View, California 94043, USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
492
ISBN print:
9780813724928
Publication date:
October 01, 2012

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