Using Google Earth to Teach Students with Low Vision About Magnification and Zoom

For students with progressive loss who are buying into the concept of using low vision devices and crafting their skill of learning to Zoom or Magnify. I have found recently that teaching these skills using Google Earth has been a highly effective tool for teaching these skills for students are reluctant to buy into the idea of low vision tools.


The bonus of this is that it also encourages our students who visual impairments to learn about other parts of the world and also see their world from a different angle.


The most recent features of Google Earth offers the following features:

  • Learning basic facts about the places you search with knowledge cards
  • Orbit the world in 3-D
  • Take the helm with voyager and go on adventures around the world (example: viritual safari)
  • See where the world takes you by letting Google Earth find a destination for you to explore 





VoiceOver can read the navigation buttons on the left side of the Google Earth tool bar. However it’s not terribly consistent and doesn’t read the name of that destinations on the map. I would not recommend this app who rely on VoiceOver to access the iPad.




The Zoom feature on the iPad works the best with Google Earth. However images becomes pixelated beyond 5x magnification.




Magnifier seems to a useless feature functionally to use with Google Earth since the app already has a built magnifier. However, using this feature within the app or with the IOS feature gives students opportunities to learn the difference between Zoom and magnification. 


My two cents


This is definitely a great way for students who still have a quite a bit of functional vision to learn the importance of low vision tools. It is not advised for students who rely on tactile and auditory learning. It is best used for students with an acuity of 20/80-20/120 with the Zoom feature.