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Posts Tagged ‘google

As entertaining as the video below might be about browser cookies, it is not quite accurate or informative.


Video source

The journalist made a point about how cookies track who we are, what we do, and when we do it; this helps marketers. This is true.

It is also true that Google Chrome is the most popular browser and that it is not immune to tracking cookies. But it is not true that it is difficult to switch this off. One needs only go to: Settings -> Advanced -> Site Settings -> Cookies -> Block third-party cookies.

I take that back. Not many will bother to change that setting if they do not know where or how to look for it.

People with business acumen might watch the video below and focus on the numbers, i.e., how much the companies stand to make by capturing the education market. They might also view this as a competition, but they are only partly right.


Video source

Prudent schools and educational institutions have learnt to be brand agnostic. Players like Google and Apple seem to recognise this. For example, you might have iPads deployed in classrooms, but users might prefer Google Drive to iCloud, so the two giants co-exist like parents.

I have worked with both in the past and realise that their representatives put their money where their mouths are. I recall Google Education folks toting Macs and Apple representatives not minding my approach to using the Google Edu Suite during a workshop proposal.

All this was a few years ago and the goal posts might have shifted. But I doubt they have moved so far that they try to blow the competition out of the water and risk destroying opportunities.

I like using Google Sites. They are open almost by default and I can embed just about any tool for teaching and learning. This is true for the classic and current versions of Google Sites.

The ability to embed, say, a Padlet was not a given when the new version rolled out. Content and tools were restricted to the Google Classroom or Drive suites. Thankfully that has changed given how educators who wish to incorporate technology are brand agnostic*.

*I type this on a Mac for a reflection posted on WordPress about a tool Google bought and redeveloped.

However, there is still one change that the classic version of Google Sites had that the new version does not — page level permissions.

Google Sites access permission.

I can selectively share an entire site with a group or users or open it to all. This is a site-level permission setting. I still cannot specific page level permissions.

One enterprising user suggested a workaround — embedding user-specific Google Docs in a page, but this is not as good as providing fully fledged editing rights.

It has often been said that technology is just a tool. It is not.

We shape our tools and then our tools shape us. -- Marshall McLuhan

I do not have argument with “tool”; I take issue with “just”. Tools are not always neutral because they are designed with intent and function. These are part of the affordances of any technology.

What the layperson might not understand is that while some affordances are designed for and expected, others are negotiated or emergent.


Video source

So when Google released its video on Searches in 2018, it chose to focus on the good and not the bad. This does not mean that it and its users did not do any evil.

We live in an era when we seem to have the unprecedented ability to generate and spread both misinformation and disinformation. Our technologies may have enhanced and enabled these, but we are responsible.

A gun may be designed to fire a projectile, but it is a person who choses a target, takes aim, and fires. Or not.

Likewise, Google Search extends our reach for information far beyond our fingertips and borders. But we can choose to reinforce our walls or burst our bubbles. Which we choose to do also depends on Google’s algorithms.

Google Search is a tool, but not just. The demean the description with “just” is to assumes that our searches are pure queries. They are not. We should not ignore that searches can be biased by algorithms and our mindsets.

This is not going to be a lesson on how to create a Google Form. It is about how to design and use a Google form.

For the impatient, here is the lesson upfront: Design not from a provider’s point of view, but from a seeker’s perspective. The extension to teaching is this: Teach not just to deliver without learner concerns; seek to educate by empathising with the learner.

How did this lesson emerge?

An ex-colleague tweeted an open invitation to attend two talks at my former workplace, NIE. I was excited to attend because:

  • The first talk was by another ex-colleague who had also left NIE for greener pastures overseas. We graduated from the same Ph.D. programme and have not seen each other in years!
  • The second talk is relevant to a group of teachers I am guiding in the area of crafting narrative-driven research reports. Serendipity!

Naturally, I wanted to sign up for both since they were relevant and generously open. However, I stopped — or rather, the Google Form stopped me — when I hit this barrier:

A compulsory option in the Google Form that I did not agree to.

I could not submit the form unless I allowed my personal information to be used beyond contact for the talks.

Now one might argue that organisers are entitled to do this. They might be, even under the current PDPA law, but the consent should be an option instead of a must-have.

The move might be an oversight. But it could also be symptomatic of an authoritative, provider-driven approach, i.e., we provide a service so we tell you what to do or make demands of you.

The alternative approach is also a progressive one. It focuses on the seeker, participant, or learner. I am grateful for the opportunity and am willing to share information logically, but not at the expense of being marketed to. Being empathy-driven takes user privacy, space, and effort into consideration.

The difference in drive and design lies in mindset. In the age of social media, you can still operate in transmission mode, e.g., talking, telling, ordering others, etc. But you will not be as effective as if you are interactive and learn to negotiate.

The same could be said with old-school teaching that is dictated only by blind standards and context-free curriculum. The world is embracing educational experiences that rely on social constructivism, constructionism, and connectivism.

Those might be unexpected lessons from a simple Google Form. I offer my services on educating with learner empathy and perspective. I will not require your email address indefinitely to do so.

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I was glad to note that the conversion of old to new Google Sites is now automated.

I have been waiting a long time for this. It has been almost a year since I started using the new version after years of using the original Google Sites for courses, workshops, events, etc.

Last year, I had to manually create new versions of old Sites. Now I can automate the process.

New look
Converted (new) site

Old look
Old Google Site.

I have tried the conversion process in four old Sites and here are some observations:

  1. I had the option of retaining the original URL. This is useful for users who have bookmarked the URL and wish to return to the old site with the new look.
  2. Only a few old Sites were available for conversion. I have a very long list of Google Sites and only those going back to 2014 could be converted.
  3. The conversion was not seamless. One obvious wrinkle was how pages were rearranged in alphabetical order in the navigation bar. I had to manually rearrange them.

I hope that more of my old Sites become available for conversion before Google sunsets the old versions. It would also be helpful if the conversion tool is more intelligent in that it learns to retain the page order and navigation.

While editing a Google Site last week, I was pleasantly surprised with this on-screen notification.

Add scripted embeds in Google Sites.

I had not been paying attention to when the new Google Sites was going to bring non-Google domain embeds back, so I was keen to try it out.

So I tried the embed tool with a Padlet and it works like it used to in the old version of Google Sites.

Example of embedded content in new Google Site.

I do not know yet what limitations Google Site has on non-Google domain or owned resources. There will probably be some embed codes and scripts that will not work.

But for now, I am happy that this critical function that made the older version of Google Sites so good is now available in the new Google Sites!

 


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