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Posts Tagged ‘google

Yesterday I outlined one way I end a series of modules in a course. I take group photos not just as a souvenir of our time together, but also as a symbol of the design and pedagogy of the experience.

Today I describe one way I start the ball rolling. Instead of introducing myself conventionally, I ask my learners to Google me [example].

I provide a shared online space, e.g., Padlet, where they state what they find out about me. As the task and tool are simple, the activity typically takes less than five minutes from the time I provide instructions to the time my learners complete the task.

Then I ask them why we do this. Here are a few typical responses and my rationales for this icebreaker.

A few will invariably suggest that I am providing practice for a tool that we will use later for learning tasks. They are correct.

It is a tinkering exercise to start learning a skill. The task is non-threatening because there is no course content and it is driven by curiosity or novelty. Once mastered, that skill and the technology become transparent and my learners can focus on what they need to share or learn.

But this technical practice is furthest from my mind.

My learners invariably find out quite a lot about me online. Almost all of it is relevant and correct, and occasionally some of it is not.

I use this experience to point out that:

  • there is power in learner-centred discovery about something new
  • their search behaviours are often superficial, e.g., they find this blog and copy information from it
  • not everything they find online about me is right
  • Padlet is one way to collect their findings

I use this shared experience to set expectations that:

  • they are responsible for problem-seeking and problem-solving
  • some search strategies are better than others
  • my role as facilitator is to guide their learning by offering wisdoms on their strategies and choices
  • it is important to externalise or visualise their thinking

I actually look forward to my learners finding wrong information about me. In one module, a participant found a female Ashley, and despite the clear gender difference, copied and pasted information about that Ashley into Padlet.

An authentic mistake like this is an opportunity for me to remind my learners to be more critical of what they find online and how they think. It is easy to search superficially, but it is harder and more important to think deeply.

As fun and as interesting as this activity might be, old habits die hard. Since most learners do not seem to be taught critical thinking skills with search tools, they rarely use other tools or strategies, or go beyond the first page of results. This is why the introductory Googling activity is not standalone. It is the start of my battle to change and win mindsets. It is my attempt to create more independent and critical learners.

I messed about with the recently announced Google Space tool last night.

The tool was intuitive because I use Google’s suite of tools on both desktop and mobile platforms. If you need a primer, this video by @rmbyrne should help.

Video source

I decided to recreate a simpler version of a Google Docs-based notes page that I made for a conference and a remote mentoring session. This is my Google Space for some notes on flipped learning.

My Google Space for flipped learning.

The items appear in reverse chronological order (most recent item at the top). This could be useful for communicating and collaborating while planning remotely or asynchronously. However, at the moment Google Spaces does not offer any text formatting and items for discussion cannot be moved to customised positions.

I created the Google Space with the desktop tool. As of last night, the iOS version was not yet available in the Singapore App Store. (3pm update: The app is available now.) However, the Android version was ready for download.

I did not test the Chrome extension that allows you to add web resources to your Google Spaces at the click on a button. This is similar to adding items to Diigo or from a browser-based extension or bookmarklet.

I am certain that some educators have already thought of ways to use Google Spaces in class. I wonder how they might take advantage of this simple tool in their personal learning networks.

At the moment, Google Spaces is a bit of an odd duck. It is simple to use and seems to overlap with a few platforms in the Google ecosystem (apps suite, Photos, YouTube). But it seems to be a solution seeking a problem.

I am not sure what that problem might be. Perhaps it is an early response to Facebook’s Messenger and WhatsApp. More user tinkering will clarify its role in the ecosystem.

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I could go on about why this quote might almost singularly represent pedagogical change, but I could also challenge you to Google for answers.

I could also explain how I created the image quote, but you can easily use Google to find out how. But I will share the original CC-licensed image below.

The droids we’re googling for by Stéfan, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  Stéfan 

One of the best things about Google Photos is how I can upload a photo to the cloud on one device and see it on another device that is connected to my Google account.

I have been using Google Photos since its launch and this was my previous reflection on it.

The editing tools are quite good. The auto-categorization by time and the image search tools are convenient. But try to manually arrange the sequence of photos so that you can tell your own story and you are stuck.

This is where the web version of Google’s Picasa shines. On a desktop or laptop computer, I can drag and drop single or multiple photos around in organize mode.

But the manually rearranged photos only works for me. When I sequence photos to tell a story, I get something like this:

But when I share the photo album with someone else, they see this:

They are the same photos, but in the wrong order. Google Photos favours chronological order. However, that is not the only way to tell a story. That is not the only way that makes sense.

I hope that Google Photos provides this granularity of control to users like me. We are not lazy or stupid. We want technology to help us create. We also want it to not get in the way.

Are you crazy?

That would have been my reaction if someone told me several years ago that my iPhone photos could be put online automatically, be organized, be searchable by theme, and I could have this all for free.

Video source

But today we have Google Photos. Anything a smartphone can capture, photos up to 16 megapixels and videos of up to 1080p resolution, can be sent to Google’s cloud storage without using up your storage quota.

One reason why Google Photos has appeal is that it meets human needs by doing the mundane and heavy lifting. Any photos you take can be uploaded, categorized, and archived automatically.

Once there you can edit, share, and manage them across different devices. You can share them with other people too.

Google Photos may not create new needs, but it addresses existing ones extremely well.

I decided to try the Search tool as I had read that it was good in some ways and not in others. I tried the suggested tag “Cars” because the thumbnail featured my MacBook Air instead of a vehicle.

This is a partial view of the “Cars” search.

The top two photos were spot on. The fact that the first was a thumbnail from a time-lapse video I took in London that featured just the roof of a cab was impressive.

The bottom left shot was of a drawing that my son did in 2008. Google’s algorithms could figure out a child’s drawing of a car.

The algorithms also identified Dr Who‘s Tardis (a screen capture of one of my presentations) and my laptop as cars. The fictional time-travelling device and my computer certainly take us to wonderful places, but calling them “Cars” is a bit of a stretch.

But the algorithms and machine learning can only get better and that is how Google stands to gain by making this platform open and free.

For people to participate in such a global experiment takes trust. Trust that Google will not misuse our photos. Others might point out that we are trading some privacy for convenience. All this means is there is change.

For change to happen, there must be awareness, buy in, and commitment (ABCs of change).

  • Awareness: We know of Google Photos and what it might do
  • Buy in: We believe Google’s privacy policies or are willing to trade some privacy for convenience
  • Commitment: We use the platform and in the process help both Google and ourselves
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Today I present at the SST Tech Summit. It might seem like a technical session, but it is actually about creating readiness, retentiveness, and reflectiveness.

My Google Slides are at

I described my 45-minute session as a pedagogical-technical one even as the summit focuses on Google Apps. My research and experience remind me that the pedagogy must lead and guide the technology.

It is easy to know HOW create a Google Form and even know WHAT questions to ask but not know WHY. It is just as easy to keep using forms for exactly the same thing, i.e., collecting information.

Google Forms are also good for priming both the teacher and the learner. The teacher can gain insights into the learners and find out their readiness or prior knowledge. If a teacher prepares a media-and-URL-rich form, the form serves to activate schema and can be an advance organizer for learning.

When used for quizzes BEFORE content delivery, teachers can create environments for emphasizing the WHY of learning and just-in-time instruction. This is a variant of assessment AS learning.

Google Forms do not offer these functions out of the box. It is up to an educator to shape these opportunities based on his or her pedagogical prowess.

This part of my reflection on my visit to London for Bett focuses on travel tips.

Mobile power
As with any trip, I brought a power pack for my iPhone. The iPhone was a thirsty beast when I was getting directions, taking photos, and surfing for information, so it helped to have a portable oasis.

Local prepaid SIM
Before leaving for London, I asked around and did my research online for a suitable prepaid SIM. This wiki was a good start, but its information might not be current.

I settled on Three’s PAYG All In One 15. It might cost GBP15 if you live in the UK and can get a free SIM, but it will cost you GBP20 if you buy it over the counter or from a vending machine like the one below.

The SIMs from the vending machine come in a three-in-one pack (normal, mini, nano sizes). The SIM is set to go; there is no need to activate them by calling a number, scratching top up cards, or typing in codes. Take out your old SIM, put the new one in, restart your phone, and start surfing/using your new number.

This prepaid plan gave me 3000 SMS, 300 minutes of calls, and unlimited data over a month. You cannot tether the phone and thus share your Internet connection. However, you can if you have a jailbroken phone like mine.

The 3G and 4G signal was relatively poor in East London where I stayed and also where the ExCeL Centre was located. I would often get only a 3G, one dot/bar signal. This was often not enough bandwidth to tether. Fortunately, there were lots of free wifi spots at the Centre, museums, libraries, etc.

Finding your way around
Google Maps might be your best friend. It was mine.

The Travel for London (TfL) site’s journey planner is mobile-friendly and fast, but I got more mileage out of Google Maps. It not only provided different options, travel times, and congestion warnings, it also provided greater details like walking directions and which exits to head for.

There is no 3G/4G service underground, so it is important to cache information beforehand. The eastern train lines are over ground so that might buy you some surfing time.

The Tube map and signs underground might look confusing. But they are clear when you realize that you must have TWO pieces of information: Your destination and the terminating point of your train (this also applies to the bus services).

If you are taking a more than 30-minute train journey, it is rare that you stay on one train. You train hop to get from one point to another. When underground, you might lose your sense of direction especially when moving from one platform to another. Often one platform might serve trains going to two or three end points. Make sure you get on a train whose terminating point allows you to travel to your destination.

I opted to go for an Airbnb place because hotels around the conference centre were expensive and filled up quickly.

I stayed in someone’s home for a week and used that as my base of operations and travel. Not only was the deal cheaper, I was able to live like a local and get tips from the couple that hosted the stay.

The following were added after publishing due to a revisioning problem.

London is the land of Tesco. There are thankfully more of these grocery stores than there are McDonald’s joints. But I found that some items were cheaper at Sainsbury’s Local.

These grocery stores are great for buying bottled water, snacks, and cheap meals. If you really have to eat on the cheap, Pret A Manger is a chain that seems to be everywhere.

Cash or card
While it is useful to have cash on hand, a credit card that supports wireless payment is fast and convenient. I used my MasterCard’s PayPass at the prepaid SIM vending machine, Oyster PAYG travel card kiosks, and grocery self-checkouts.

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