Creating Interactive Lessons with Google Earth

Key Concept - COPY AND PASTE!

Strategy One – Use data from the layers already in Google Earth.

Google Earth contains a wealth of information.  There are photos from Panoramio, entries from Wikipedia, and YouTube videos.  There are also specialized layers, including information from National Geographic, The Cousteau Society, and user-contributed data.  All of this information can be collected into a folder.

You can also load files created by other users.  Clicking the “Add Content” button will open the Google Earth Gallery in an external browser.  More content can be found at the Google Earth Community website at .

These files will be added to your “Temporary Places” folder.  You can drag and drop content from there into folders that you have created.

HINT:  To find Google Earth files quickly online, go to Google Search ( and click on the Advanced Search link.  In the File Type field select either KMZ or KML.  You can fill in other search terms as desired.

Strategy Two – Use embeddables.

Some websites, such as YouTube and VoiceThread, allow users to embed their content into websites and blogs.  Since a placemark is a miniature web page, and can interpret limited HTML, you can also embed much of this content into placemarks, too.

Look for words such as “embed” or “share.”

Websites with embeddable content – sample list:

These websites offer free membership and the ability to upload content.  Some of the sites are blocked by districts because of objectionable content or bandwidth usage.  Some of the sites are supported by advertising content.  Embedding the content into other contexts such as Google Earth may eliminate advertising.  All of these have been tested and are known to work with Google Earth placemarks.




Video Content


Video content of all types, often blocked by districts.  YouTube has its own layer in Google Earth.


Very much like like YouTube, except moderated for educational settings.


Video sharing site that features HD video content.

News Websites 

Most news organizations now feature embeddable content such as video.  This includes national news organizations as well as local news affiliates.  Check with individual sites for specifics.

Audio Content


Audio clip hosting service.  Users can record clips and embed in web pages, etc.


Audio hosting service similar to SoundCloud


Very simple audio recording and sharing site.  Users can record their messages online, then embed those messages into other contexts.


Audio hosting service similar to SoundCloud and AudioBoo.



While individual images from Flickr can be put in placemarks, slideshows can be created based on tags and searches, then embedded into placemarks.

Flickr Slideshow 

Another method for embedding Flickr slide shows into other contexts.  There are also several other sites that may do this if one does a search.

Picasa Web

Image hosting service from Google.


HTML code for embedding individual photos can be found on the photo pages.


HTML code is provided for embedding both individual images and slideshows.


Google Docs

Presentations and documents published in Google Docs are provided embed codes.


Allows users to upload PowerPoint presentations and embed and share them online.


Allows users to upload a variety of documents, including MS-Office files and PDF files.  All of these types can be embedded into Google Earth.



Allows users to create multimedia stories incorporating video, audio, images, and documents.  Creations can be embedded into placemarks.

Wayback Machine

More commonly known as the Internet Archive, this site is also a vast repository of searchable multimedia content.  Users can also upload their own content to the site.  HTML embed codes are provided for all of this content.

Discovery MediaShare

Discovery Education now makes it possible to upload audio, video, and other resources.  Many of these have embed codes available.


Allows users to create “posters” with images, text, audio, and video.

Note about StreamlineSC, Discovery Education, and downloaded content…

Videos from Discovery Education are provided as part of a subscription service.  The ability to embed this content would violate licensing agreements, so those HTML codes are not available.  You can, however, link to StreamlineSC videos so that they play in an external browser or application such as Media Player.  You just can’t embed them so that they play in the placemark itself.  Discovery’s MediaShare does have some embed capabilities.

In the latest versions of Google Earth, embed codes for downloaded files won’t work.  This includes local video and audio files, including those that are downloaded from Discovery Education and YouTube.

Strategy Three - Use Google Docs

Google Docs is already listed above in the table of embeddable services.  However, this suite of applications deserves its own section.  Google Documents, Google Presentations, and Google Forms can all be embedded into placemarks in such a way that they can be edited, resulting in an incredible collaboration platform.

To make this strategy even more powerful, projects can be started using other office products, such as Word, Powerpoint, or Excel, then uploaded to Google Docs for inclusion in the Google Earth project.

Here are three detailed tutorials for each application with step-by-step instructions for embedding these into Google Earth.


  1. Google Docs
  2. Google Presentations
  3. Google Forms and Spreadsheets

Strategy Four - Use <iframe>

Using the <iframe> tag, most websites can be embedded directly into Google Earth placemarks.  The syntax is as follows:

<iframe src=””>

That’s really all there is to it, in its simplest form.  However, it’s best to change the size parameter to make the placemark manageable.  For example:

<iframe src=”” height=”500” width=”500”>

The addition of the height and width parameters will create a placemark 500X500 pixels in size.   Be aware that embedding a full-screen website into a smaller placemark such as this may result in excessive scrolling.  

Embedding <iframe> works best with sites with simple formatting, such as mobile sites.  For example, instead of, the mobile version would be  

Strategy Five – Create your own content.

Since the placemark is basically a mini-web page, HTML can be used to include formatted text, images, and links to external websites.  Users can create any content they wish.  Unfortunately, Google Earth does not include a WYSIWYG editor, so users must either be able to write HTML code, or use a workaround.

The latest version of Google Earth does include buttons to insert links and online images.  However, these still only insert HTML code, and cannot be previewed until the placemark is saved.

First Method - HTML Codes


Online - <img src=“”>

Local -  <img src=“c:\some folder\image.jpg”>

You can share local images only if you save your file as a KMZ file.


If you put the entire link in the placemark, it will work, but won’t look as clean.  For example, you could copy the following URL in your placemark to link to an article about Shoeless Joe Jackson…

However, it would be much cleaner to do the following:

<a href=””>Shoeless Joe Jackson</a>

What appears in the placemark is Shoeless Joe Jackson.  Users can click on the underlined word and be taken to the article.

Text Formatting:

Paragraphs  - <p> and </p> as follows:

<p>Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Sed lacinia. Etiam pretium viverra urna. Nam vulputate tellus in lorem. Aenean a ligula. Nunc arcu. Quisque fermentum est ut felis. </p>

Bold - <b> and </b> - example: <b>Bold Text</b>

Italics - <i> and </i> - example:  <i>Italics Text</i>

Underline - <u> and </u> - example:  <u>Underlined Text</u>

You can combine HTML tags, but be careful with placement.  For example the following would be acceptable:

<b><i>Bold Italics</i></b>


<i><b>Bold Italics</b></i>

However, this is NOT acceptable - <b><i>Bold Italics</b></i>

Second Method – Use Google Maps

Google Maps DOES have some HTML editing power.  You will need a Google account, then select “Create a new map.”  You can create placemarks using “Rich Text”, which lets you add links, images, and formatting.  Once you’re done, select “View in Google Earth.”

Third Method – Use an External Web Editor

External web editors such as Dreamweaver and FrontPage can be use to create web pages.  Copy the HTML code from the page and paste into your placemark.

Placemark Details

In addition to content in the placemark, the current view and altitude of the placemark can also be recorded…

Other Placemark Data:



 Image Overlays

Image overlays function just like placemarks, except that an image appears on the terrain rather than an icon.

Contact Information

Tom Taylor

E-mail – 

Google Earth website – 

Personal Blog –

Workshops -

Flickr Photographs – 

Twitter –