Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Google Search Playlist Launched

Search. Research. Verify. Did you know that Americans consume 34 Gigabytes of data EVERYDAY? As more and more of the world becomes digitized, the ability to sort through information becomes increasingly important. Too many of us (me, included) use the Google start page for searches and then only use 1-2 pages of results. This is not acceptable for teachers and students. To help promote the use of advanced Google search techniques, I am launching a YouTube playlist of Google Search videos. Inspired by this cute Parisian Love video, I asked our staff to give me real topics they asked students to research. I then gave these topics a try using some advanced Google search techniques. I just want to note that I am not an expert on search by any means and suggestions on searching these topics are welcome!

I will be adding videos to this playlist over time. A direct link to this playlist can be found here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

My GTA Experience--Part 1

The following is an account of my recent trip to Washington, DC. for the Google Teacher Academy and interactions with technology along the way:

Dec 8, 2009--Air tran flight to Baltimore

In-flight wi-fi was $7.95 so I listened to Mike and Mike (ESPN Radio) on AirTran's XM Radio. Found out that they took an unidentified woman from Tiger Woods' house to the hospital. Guess I will find out who that was later today. Played Traffic Rush and Flight Control on iTouch. Not sure it was a good idea to play Flight Control while in a plane but we landed safely. Finished the flight reading Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas Friedman using Kindle iTouch app.

Shuttle Bus B30 to Greenbelt
Taking $3 very warm shuttle to Green Metro Line to get into DC. Need to take note of commute time for return trip. Using iTouch notes to record trip. Typing is getting faster. Listening to Spoon while writing notes. Used Twitter with Cell phone to update #gtadc followers. Asked for suggestions on how to spend DC time prior to the start of the Academy. Thinking about visiting the Newseum. Traffic is slow... don't miss big city commutes. At least I can write while in traffic. Google announced new apps yesterday including real-time search and translation tools. Wondering if we will get a demo at Google Inc tomorrow. Now listening to U2's Passengers playlist. Nice to have lyrics with all my songs. Why isn't there a bus lane...car accident...teenagers who tailgate. If I had to drive every day I would move closer to public transportation. Stack of cookie cakes in SUV next to us...it's always somebody's birthday. Commute on shuttle bus from BWI to DC is longer than flight from Rochester. The Dairy Research Facility we just passed has a lot of security fencing...to keep cows in or humans out?

Metro to Fort Totten transfer to Red Line to DuPont Circle
I always liked DC's Metro System. Easy, cheap, clean, and fast. Leaving station at 9:32am. Transfering to Red Line listening to my alternative rock iTouch playlist...Modest Mouse, Snow Patrol, Beck, Neko Case, etc. Businessmen on Blackberries, blue-collar hardhats, Oriole cap on dredlocks and earbuds fill the train. People reading "A Complete Guide To Special Teams," free newspapers, and text messages. Next stop ... Doubletree Hotel, Rhode Island Avenue.

Doubletree Hotel
Nice hotel between Dupont Circle and Capitol Hill. Great deal on Priceline.com. Used a new app called Search It and found Ben's Chili Bowl, a DC landmark. It was a great place for lunch with lots of energy, great chili, and milkshakes with R&B playing on the jukebox. Crowded but got a stool at the counter in this old silent movie theater. Spent the afternoon at the Newseum. Toured the Stephanopolous studio and 9/11 exhibit was moving. Fun and interesting museum. Used Google Maps on iTouch to map walk to both locations. An evening spent with Capitol City Brewery with about 30 other Google Teacher Academy teachers awaits.

Day 1 - #GTADC
Google Teacher Academy is a whirlwind event. Day 1 include sessions on the following Google applications: Apps for Education, Maps, Earth, Search, Spreadsheets, Wave, Voice, Apps for Administrators, Sites among other titles on our agenda. So the first decision to be made was for all the teachers to use Twitter for discussion. For those unfamiliar with Twitter, we used what is called a hashtag (#gtadc) in all tweets from teachers commenting on the GTA in Twitter. Twitter and several other tools can be used to search all tweets that include #gtadc. This allowed for a massive list of comments that continues to generated.

The first new tool I saw in use was Google Moderator. Google Moderator allows audiences to participate in polls, voting on decisions, and posting comments. Moderator was used infrequently but it was useful given the right situation. I've tried to set up Moderator for an upcoming meeting but need more practice with set up.

The welcoming address reminded us of the Google Mission: "Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." After sharing GTA goals, we were told this was the 8th GTA since 2006 and after GTADC there will be 417 GCT's worldwide. Finally, at the end of the GTA, our evaluation will include answering this question: If money, time, and resources were not an issue, tell us your biggest, hairiest, most audacious idea. It was clear that we were being encouraged to think beyond any self-imposed limitations.

Coming Soon: Part 2-Google Search

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The 10 Coolest Things from NYSCATE

Without a doubt, the biggest buzz around a new technology at NYSCATE was when David Jakes demonstrated GE's augmented reality. Watch the YouTube Demo or why not print your own marker and see for yourself.

Google just keeps adding things like Image Swirl, which is like Wonder Wheel, but for images. Fast Flip is pretty cool too. If you need a quote then navigate to In Quotes. And if you need to make comparisons, try Google Squared.

Creating animations becomes easier with Animationish, a product that attempts to maintain simplicity and includes 3 levels to progress through. Here is my first attempt:

I could export the animation into iMovie or Movie Maker and add a sound track or narration as well.

Stupeflix.com provides another tool to take images, video, text, and audio and package them into a video. More customizable than Animoto, this video took me about 5 minutes to create from start to finish (pics were already on Flickr).

If you are looking to write your own iPhone or iTouch app, you might want to check out Swebapps or Appincubator. Swebapps allows you to build your app using their template and Appincubator asks for app ideas and then they will write the app and take a cut if it sells on iTunes.

And finally, this student Balloon Project is very cool.

Honorable Mention: Kiss YouTube, Today's Front Pages, BeFunky (create then import into Animationish), and Quiet Tube (strips all those nasty comments from youtube).

Monday, November 23, 2009

NYSCATE Keynotes-Sir Ken Robinson & David Jakes

Today's NYSCATE keynote addresses were troublesome. I walked out of these keynotes wanting to take my kids out of school. I walked out wanting to encourage policy makers and administrators to blow up the current educational system and start from scratch. I walked out engaged in discussions about new education models. It's difficult having these thoughts and emotions knowing that I work in this system and my kids go to school (with success but not much love) in a broken system. So what was said today to inspire these emotions?

An interesting spectrum of ideas were presented today by Sir Ken Robinson and David Jakes. Robinson's view was systemic and global. In many ways, Jakes was saying the same things but came at us in a much more pragmatic approach that reflected his current work.

Sir Ken Robinson:
You can't let Robinson's humor take away from the seriousness of his message. This is sometimes a difficult task. The best thing to come out of Liverpool since The Beatles, Robinson knows just when to digress into native bashing. Clearly ticked off that we are still celebrating the British going home every July 4th, he still found reason to move his family to California nearly a decade ago.

Robinson makes bold statements. We are in a revolution. A revolution in infancy. Robinson explains that currently the world's fastest computer has the processing power of a cricket brain (at least that's what someone at Apple said). Computers will soon match the power of a 6-month old and exponential increases in power will match the global population in my lifetime. Imagine where this will take us. Actually, that is almost impossible.

Robinson concludes that the current system is broken. The evidence? An average national dropout rate of over 30%, 50-60% in Detroit and other urban areas . In America. Is that all the evidence we need? Robinson added the heavy use of drugs & alcohol and the ADHD epidemic. He referred to ADHD as this generation's tonsillitis. If kids aren't taking drugs themselves, the parents are drugging them anyway. So what is the answer?

Sir Ken Robinson believes that since parents, teachers, administrators, and politicians all want the same thing for our kids and it's not happening then the problem is systemic. What do you do with a broken system? There are so many obstacles and push-backs. You change one thing and it effects 2o other things and the most passionate, energized movement stalls. Some believe the change will come from the students, they will demand it. Others think change will happen one school at a time, one teacher at a time. Whatever the model, Robinson believes it takes on 3 characteristics: learning is organic, personal, and customizable. Education 1.0 was philosophical, religious, survival of the fittest. Education 2.0 was and still is an industrial model. Education 3.0 is on the verge of reaching those characteristics of being organic, personal, and customizable. I agree learning is best when these qualities are captured. I get excited from learning that grows out of my own motivations and interests and is met by custom instruction that answers my specific inquiries. This type of learning inevitably leads to more questions and more learning. Technology can make this type of learning happen, in ways it couldn't before. Getting there will not be easy.

David Jakes:
It was refreshing to see Jakes put some big ideas into some reasonable context. A context that didn't seem as overwhelming. Change that was clearly difficult and hard but not impossible.

Jakes shared some of the newest ideas like augmented realities, which in the future would be created by users, not programmers (just like web page design used to be only available to programmers). I think the point Jakes was trying to make here is that technology is a moving target. It's not about adopting the newest cool gadget (although that can be fun). It's more about blending the physical space with the digital space.

What does it mean that our elementary students are already social networking in digital spaces like Webkinz and Hot Wheels? It means businesses already understand how the physical can be enhanced by the digital experience. How does this apply to the classroom? The physical space of the classroom (and the school) is very important. Jakes showed us simple ideas like tables on wheels, common areas that students had impromptu coffeehouse jams, and whiteboard walls where students worked out physics problems together. However, a digital world surrounds this physical space. A digital space. A digital learning space. The question is how do we fill this space so that it blends with the physical space into what is perceived by the student as just a learning space. To me, this context seemed more manageable, more possible. A teacher asks themselves how can I blend my physical space with digital space. The answer is deliberately & purposefully, and we need to start tomorrow.

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