Marble -An Open Source Globe for Your Device

marble logo,energize educationMarble is an open source virtual globe for your desktop or device.  Unlike a popular proprietary application, Marble works without an Internet connection.  That’s right.  You don’t need an Internet connection to use Marble.  It is part of the KDE Education Project and this article will seek to provide a better look at Marble and why it can be so useful in the classroom.

Clean Interface

Marble uses an interface that is approachable.  A menu is offered at the top of the screen with a simple toolbar below that.  The rest of the window is divided into panes.  A small pane on the left allows users to toggle such things as type of map viewed, current location and map legend colors.  The right pane occupies the majority of the screen and displays a map of the world  There is a minimized world map in the upper left corner that shows users where in the world they are.  In the opposite corner is a compass providing orientation.

Easy Navigation

marble,energize education

Marble displaying information on Casablanca.

Using the mouse, users can be explore Marble , but keyboard shortcuts are available.  Users can navigate the maps by clicking-and-dragging to find their desired location.  With the mouse wheel, users can zoom in for a closer look.  Clicking on a specific location opens a window which provides information about that area such as location (elevation, longitude , latitude), a short description of the locale and, in the case of specific geographic areas, such as cities, provides such data as population, nation and time zone.  Additionally, users can navigate using the compass/scroll tool on the right-hand side of the screen.  Orientation items, such as the world map in the upper left corner, the scale bar near the bottom or the compass, can be relocated simply by clicking-and-dragging them to desired locations.

Many Maps to View

marble virtual globe,energize education

Marble presnets a close-up of a rather busy area of the moon.

Users can toggle between various views of the current map, using the Map View tool in the  lower left-hand pane.  Available views include flat view, stereographic view,  Mercator view and Gnomonic view.  Here you can even toggle whether you’re viewing a map of Earth or of the Moon.  As much fun as exploring the Moon may sound, while looking at Earth, more options are provided as to the type of map/data displayed.  There are too many to list them all here, but here are a few available options: atlas, street map (via OpenStreetMap), satellite view, Earth at night and Historical 1689.  These are available in tje default installation, but plugins can be installed to enhance the types of maps available.

Curriculum Integration

marble virtual globe

North America in 1689. Hmm. Something”s missing…

So, how could Marble be utilized in a twenty-first century classroom?  The most obvious way would be as a tool to teach map reading skills to young geographers.  However, there a several historical maps that could be employed to enhance learning experiences.  Students could even study the history of United States moon landings using the Moon map.  Such maps as temperature and precipitation would be valuable tools in both the biology and ecology classrooms.  While on the topic of science, your class could explore the Moon or, by zooming out, get a look at some of the constellations that surround us.  In regards to mathematics, data could be collected on average rainfalls from locations around the world.  Rainfalls for extreme climates like rain forests or deserts would be interesting to compare.  Then there’s computer programming.  For computer programmers, Marble is written in the C++ programming language and can easily be integrated into C++ programs with the stipulation that said programs are released under the GPL 2.1 (GNU General Public License (i.e. open source)).

From Here….

I’ve informed you about Marble, given several strong arguments for its utilization in the classroom and provided some ideas for curriculum integration.  The next step should be for you to experience Marble first-hand and discover what an engaging application it is.


Marble Web Site

Marble Documentation


Rahn, T.  (2015).  Marble virtual globe [computer software].  GNU General Public License.