I’ve always been a fan of Google Earth. Who isn’t? And even before Google Earth (heck, before Google) there was the CIA World Factbook, one of the first truly useful sites in the history of the web. The Factbook first came online in 1994 and it was truly a forward-looking project in terms of its scope, its reliance on database technology (remember that back then, most web content was static HTML), and its organization. I’ve been recommending it to colleagues for almost 15 years now!
So I was overjoyed to discover a few days ago that someone had created kmlfactbook.org, a site that allows you to overlay data from the factbook onto 2D maps or the 3D Google Earth globe (you must have the Google Earth browser plug-in installed to see the 3D renderings). You load the site, select a data set (population, GDP, infant mortality…), set details on how the data should be rendered and click “Preview.” You can even download the data as a KML file for Google Earth. And though I haven’t tried it yet, the site says that you can upload your own country data to create custom maps and graphs.
What a great way for kids (and adults) to understand the ideas behind the statistics. This is an indispensible tool that belongs in any teacher’s technology toolbox.