Category Archives: Google

Google+ gets better – Real-time Search and Hashtag support

It’s interesting to watch and experience the development of Google+ as it continues to add and improve features. It’s all about the experience really. Google+ is now rolling out real-time search results and improved hashtag support. Sounds great – nothing like real-time, and using hashtags is a powerful way to collate conversations and share them effectively.

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I go away for 3 weeks and what happens… Still, I’m nonplussed ;)

A little over a week ago, my family and I (husband and two sons) travelled overseas for a very full 3 weeks. My husband and I haven’t been overseas since the early 1980s and neither of my sons have been out of Australia at all. We were probably a little too ambitious to cover so much ground in such a short time, but it’s difficult to decide between staying longer in places and getting to see more. The itinerary included Berlin, Prague, Padova, Verona, Milan, Moscow and Singapore, and when you consider how much of the 3 weeks is taken up travelling, it’s really only a couple of days in each city. If I did it again, I’d definitely go in milder weather – the heat and humidity was taxing – but with a son in Year 11, we didn’t really have any choice. And at the end of the day, we were very lucky that everything went smoothly, and now we have the memories and photos to savour.

So, I go away for 3 weeks and suddenly everyone has jumped onto a new social networking planet – Google+. Once I’m back, I have every intention of catching up but the effects of jetlag prevent me from comprehending anything. So, after a week of mental obscurity, I finally accept an invitation and go in to have a look around.

Did I expect to forgo the linguistic oddities in this new social network? No. So I come in, and people are huddling, creating circles, doing ‘hangouts’, sparking conversations. It all sounds very social and I’m interested in having a play so I can compare it to what happens on Twitter and Facebook. I’m not sure that Google+ works as a name, what with the ‘+’ symbol at the end which renders any punctuation after that ridiculous. Of course, I’m aware that Google+ is not a new, isolated product, but an extension of Google itself, a social extension so the name does make sense from that perspective.

I like the idea that Google is trying to create a one-stop shop for people already using Google, and the extensions make sense for people like me who already use gmail, Google docs, Google presentations, Google calendar, etc. And I’ve read that Google is trying to make our online connections more like real life.

Creating Circles of people in your life is the first step. I agree with Google that having different circles for friends and colleagues is a plus. Currently on Facebook I’m cutting back on the professional sharing because I’m aware that my non-teaching friends will find my posts annoying if they’re on Facebook to share photos and everyday things. So Circles makes a lot of sense. Also the idea of selective sharing sounds good; I’m not sure how to do that on Facebook except through messages and that doesn’t include the sharing of photos, does it?

 Circles makes it easy to put your friends from Saturday night in one circle, your parents in another, and your boss in a circle by himself, just like real life.

I like the fact you can drag and drop people into circles but I’m already suspecting that I may have created too many categories and will confuse myself. In terms of how many people you have in your circles, the recommendation is to have heaps for breadth, and I do that already with Twitter, so I’m okay with doing the same here. Although I’m not sure whether I’ll end up keeping up Google+ and Twitter AND Facebook – too many networks. I think many people feel the same, and I’ll be giving Google+ a longer trial period before I decide to delete any previous networks.

Sparks is also an interesting concept.

Remember when your Grandpa used to cut articles out of the paper and send them to you? That was nice. That’s kind of what Sparks does: looks for videos and articles it thinks you’ll like, so when you’re free, there’s always something to watch, read, and share. Grandpa would approve.

In fact, my mother still cuts things out of the newspaper for me and my sons, and I don’t have the heart to tell her we can read everything online. Still, the idea of sharing interesting information is a good one. I’ve organised my Facebook groups in a similar way so that organisations I’m interested in send me updates of interest, saving me the trouble of going out and looking for them.

I’ve yet to be involved in a hangout but I imagine if I enjoy webinars I might enjoy the opportunity to come together for an informal chat with friends. Let me know if you’re organising one of those.

Bumping into friends while you’re out and about is one of the best parts of going out and about. With Hangouts, the unplanned meet-up comes to the web for the first time. Let buddies know you’re hanging out and see who drops by for a face-to-face-to-face chat. Until we perfect teleportation, it’s the next best thing.

And the group chat sounds like a fantastic idea so I can’t wait to try out huddle.

Texting is great, but not when you’re trying to get six different people to decide on a movie. Huddle takes care of it by turning all those different conversations into one simple group chat, so everyone gets on the same page long before thumbs get sore.

Instant photo upload I don’t get at all yet. Photos uploading themselves makes me nervous – what does that exactly mean? And the video doesn’t make it any clearer so I’ll have to do a bit of research there.

This post is already too long so I won’t elaborate any longer. If Google+ is a way to manage online your real life and real life friends, then I’d better go back to real life. Bye.

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Face2Face GTA meetup with friends

I like Judith Way’s style; she makes things happen. Soon after a few of us returned from Sydney as newly certified Google Teachers, Judith set up a time and place for a face-to-face meeting and debrief. The time – this Saturday 14th May 2-4.30pm, the place – Mill Park Library, 394 Plenty Road, Mill Park. Should be good. I’m looking forward to sharing GTASYD experiences together with Jess McCulloch, Tony Richards and Glenda Morris. The session can fit 30 people and there is still room for more, so if you’re interested you can add your name and details to this google doc. Pity the rest of our Victorian cohort is unable to make it – Corrie Barclay will be playing football and I’m not sure what is preventing the rest from attending. Still, it will be good to see everyone who’s coming; some are even coming down from the mountain! Others live just around the corner from me but I haven’t seen for a long time.

Hope to see you there!

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How do you find 50 people you don’t know from all over the world?

As you already know from a recent post, I’m lucky to be attending the Sydney Google Teacher Academy in April. I have to say, I’ve been curious to find out who is going and where they’re from. Someone started a Twitter #gtasyd hashtag which got the ball rolling, and soon I was adding people to my Twitter network and to a #gtasyd Twitter list. At one point, somebody asked for those attending the Sydney academy to share their 60 second video. I was thinking the same thing, although I’d tried searching YouTube but the results returned a mixture of people’s videos from different years.

Even though it seemed a little too obvious, I decided to create a Google Doc. This worked very well – after I realised that I’d made it public but hadn’t allowed anyone to edit. Soon #gtasyd people were coming in and introducing themselves, providing photos, a little background to place them geographically and add a personal touch, adding blog urls, Twitter usernames, and a link to their 60 second video.

You can have a look here if you’re interested. At first I thought we were either from Australia, New Zealand or USA but then Boris from Nizhny Novgorod, Russia added his details, followed by a ‘lucky Frenchman’.

Suddenly I’d gone from having very little information about the people I’d be meeting in Sydney – only those who were already in my PLN – to knowing quite a bit about them: where they lived, their identities on Twitter, Skype, Facebook, Diigo, etc., what they looked like, a little family background, not to mention the fact that I could browse their blogs for interests, focus, mindset and more. The fact that these people had a rich web presence made it easy to find the information I needed.

How important is a web presence? How important is it for us to help our students begin to create a digital footprint, a positive and authentic identity online?  These are obviously rhetorical questions. We need to stop focusing on the dangers of our students’ online activity and focus on teaching them to create strong, positive digital footprints.

At one point, as I was watching Boris (from Russia) enter his details on the Google doc (I love the way you can see it take shape right before your eyes), he noticed I was viewing and we had a short chat. That was cool – I was at school in Melbourne, Australia, and he was in Russia in a different timezone.

I’m glad that Australia finally got a go with Google Teacher Academy, and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone in April. I wonder what kind of projects and connections will come from this experience?

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Sound cities: explore the world through sound

Some of the most interesting finds on the Web are found and shared by @brainpicker on Twitter.  Soundcities is one of them.

Soundcities allows you to visit cities around the world and browse sound files. It’s open so anyone can upload sounds which is what makes it so interesting. I love the idea of something created and growing thanks to individuals on the ground sharing what they’re doing or seeing or, in this case, hearing. It’s a wonderful, collaborative and authentic result.

It’s possible to remix these sounds so creative possibilities abound, both for music students in composition or in any projects integrating sound.

Integrated with Google Maps and Google Earth with geo information, the sounds are tagged and allow you to open up the sound file, there is such a variety of  common and uncommon (depending on where you come from) sounds, such as flags flapping in Beijing, traffic and trains, Christmas choir practice in Prague, applause at a concert and laughter in the street.

A few words from the creator of Soundcities:

The sounds of cities evoke memories. As globalization fractures the identity of the city experience we start to find things that appear the same the world over. A growing labyrinth, a community of aural cityscapes and collages is now evolving online. (more here) It was the first online open source database of found city sounds.

Amazing.

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New: Google Art Project

Google has developed a new project – The Google Art Project.

Explore museums from around the world, discover and view hundreds of artworks at incredible zoom levels, and even create and share your own collection of masterpieces.

Here’s a video showing you how to use the site:

You can create your own art collection, add notes to  join a discussion about art, save closeups, share collections with people across networks, take a trip to different museums, and more.

Take a look at some of the art museums involved in this project

Google approached the museum partners without any curatorial direction, and each museum was able to chose the number of galleries, artwork and information they wanted to include, based on reasons specific to them. All content in the information panel pertaining to individual artworks was also provided by the museums.

At this stage, these are the museums involved:

  • Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin – Germany
  • Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian, Washington DC – USA
  • The Frick Collection, NYC – USA
  • Gemäldegalerie, Berlin – Germany
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC – USA
  • MoMA, The Museum of Modern Art, NYC – USA
  • Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid – Spain
  • Museo Thyssen – Bornemisza, Madrid – Spain
  • Museum Kampa, Prague – Czech Republic
  • National Gallery, London – UK
  • Palace of Versailles – France
  • Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam – The Netherlands
  • The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg – Russia
  • State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow – Russia
  • Tate Britain, London – UK
  • Uffizi Gallery, Florence – Italy
  • Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam – The Netherlands

I’m sure this list will grow. What an exciting project. I’m looking forward to browsing the art and also to what will develop here in the future.

 

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Going for Google Academy

I thought I was dreaming when I read a tweet about Google Teacher Academy running in Sydney, Australia this year.

The Google Teacher Academy is a FREE professional development experience designed to help primary and secondary educators from around the globe get the most from innovative technologies. Each Academy is an intensive, one-day event where participants get hands-on experience with Google’s free products and other technologies, learn about innovative instructional strategies, receive resources to share with colleagues, and immerse themselves in an innovative corporate environment

Only 50 educators Australia wide will be selected. Although my chances are small, thanks to Anne Mirtschin, I decided to have a go. Why not? The application process itself is valuable in its evaluative and reflective focus. An important part of the application is the creation of an original 60 second video on either  of the following topics: “Motivation and Learning” OR “Classroom Innovation.”  To me, they’re pretty much one and the same. I chose “Classroom Innovation” and included evidence of some of the learning which used new technologies to take learning out of the textbook and the classroom by creating interactive, collaborative and often global learning opportunities.

What do you think? Not easy to cram a message into 60 seconds. The music is from Public Opinion Afro Orchestra, and I’m grateful that the manager of the band, Tristan Ludowyk, responded so quickly to my email request and gave me permission to use the band’s music.

If you’d like to apply, you’d better hurry up because applications close 27 January 2011. Click here for information.

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