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Tag Archives: Google

ISTE Ed-Tech Conference Wrap-up: Part 1

Just got back from the ISTE 2016 conference in Denver, and it’s hard to decide what stood out more: The technology, or the practices.

HARDWARE: Being a tech teacher, indeed the tools were mind-blowing. From the simple Digital Storytelling hacks, and wide range ofgaming technologies, to Makerspace ideas such as conductive material, to Virtual Reality, and Robotics. (More on robotics in a later post.) VR seems to have matured since 2014, and mini robots –like the Sphero, here — were practically running over our feet. OK, I actually took the challenge and drove one of these across the floor. They’re practically unbreakable, too!

SOFTWAREThe software definitely made me do a double take, when it came to programming languages, and ‘kits’ to simplify the learning curve. It’s finally come to this: software doesn’t exist in some abstract dimension, but comes coupled with devices that a student could learn to program – and see the effects in real-time. Google and Microsoft appeared to be fighting for attention. If you had the stamina and enough coffee, you could go through an entire day toggling between a Google classroom and that of Microsoft’s. Both have well defined Education divisions. (The former made 5 education product announcements at the conference.)

The sessions I liked most, were the Education Playgrounds. These were informal on-on-one or group sessions. I picked several that combined hardware and software. I met with a few Raspberry pi experts, basically teachers who worked with kits that were built around this mini computer.

I was fascinated by the no-frills entry-level kits (starting at the princely sum of $35 an unit!). Why?

RaspberryPi-tn

First because this hardware was not housed in some beautiful laminated case but was transparent enough or a 3rd grader to understand what a computer was all about. I often need to remind students that ‘computing’ is not some mysterious art form.

Second, computer literacy and digital literacy are joined at the hip today, in the same way that Robotics and the Maker movement can be two sides of the same coin. We need to merge our lesson plans, and get our young Digital Citizens to be Makers, engineers, designers, tinkerers, problem solvers and storytellers to recognize they can each take a piece of this action, and run with it.

FINALLY: I attended a few mind-expanding poster sessions, where the presenters were students. I’ve said it before that no teacher conference would be complete until you have met with students who are after all the reason our schools go to great lengths to send us out to these professional development events. It’s inspiring to see the end product of great teaching, and how underpaid teachers in bootstrapped school districts get students to soar. Many takeaways from these sessions.

 
 

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Drones meet Parachutes in Google’s new ‘Delivery’

Amazon must have quaked at this news today. Google, the folks who have given us Project Loon which will seen create a local Wi-Fi service in countries such as Sri Lanka, is now launching Parachute.

And yes the parachute can deliver anything to you.

Yes, it’s April 1st, folks.

There’s a line in the video that goes “Parachutes are like minds. They work best if they’re open.” Hey, minds are like parachutes – they easily catch a passing drift…!

While you’re enjoying it, check out the Google self-driving…. bicycle. (25 years ago a self-driving car would have seemed like an April Fool’s joke.)

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2016 in Media, Technology

 

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Sri Lankan Workshop YouTube Channel

To support the recent science and tech workshop, our YouTube channel is up and running.

  • This is one of them, on Augmented Reality – featuring Google Cardboard

 

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Why does Google hide ‘Advanced Search’?

Google does the weirdest things. It’s my favorite Search Engine, but (and perhaps because) it always messes with its algorithm, there are subtle shifts in how we could search.

The only reason I notice this is because I teach a class on Search Engines and Browsers to 4th and 5th grades. And though they use them the time, many are find it hard to tell the difference between a search engine and a browser –as many adults do.

There used to be a feature known as ‘Advanced Search’ – a dashboard on Google’s landing page, and also Yahoo. Now Google has buried it at the bottom of the site, next to ‘Privacy’ and ‘Terms’ – almost a guaranteed spot to be ignored! It is in a menu under Settings.

This dashboard is a very robust tool, letting you filter results by language, and file type etc. I try to break the habit of students type in any phrase or keyword into the search box, and get them to thing through what exactly they are looking for.

  • Is it a set of “Instructions”? O is it a “User Guide”? (For building, say a Solar Oven)
  • Is it the “How tall is the World Trade Center?” Or is it the “Storeys of WTC?”

There are more. The tech terms for these are called Search Operators. But a Dashboard for Advanced Search would simplify things. Over to you, Google!

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2015 in Education

 

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Hi-tech Augmented Reality goes low-tech with ‘Cardboard’

In May this year I previewed Augmented Reality glasses – the Google ‘Cardboard’ variety. So it was a pleasant surprise to see that Palmer Luckey, who came up with the clunky but amazing viewfinder called Oculus, is featured on the cover of the upcoming issue of TIME.

The plan this year is to feature Google Cardboard in a ‘STEM Talk’ in my class. As the TIME feature puts it content will be coming up soon that will enable us to learn in immersive environments. Using special or tricked out cameras that could record in panoramic view, students may soon be able to experience life on the Space Station, or that of otherwise inaccessible nomadic tribes.

Partnerships and competitors will soon bring this AR world into the mainstream. As would some GoPro hacks. I’m betting on Google cardboard, though it’s not as good as Oculus, (I could see schools more amenable to partnering with the Google folk, rather than Facebook, which now owns Oculus Rift).

It goes from this

to this

 

 

 

 

 

 

And it’s coming your way! Perhaps soon in my class!

 

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Balloons could add new flavors to the ‘Cloud’ and Digital Democracy

Most of you know how I dislike the word ‘cloud’ as a catchall for anything accessed online. So how about getting used to balloons? As in Google’sProject Loon that has been in the works for some two years, and now is supposed to be set to launch in Sri Lanka.

It’s a crazy, heady idea. Sri Lanka will be the first country to get ‘universal Internet access’ as TechCrunch put it.

I just got back from Sri Lanka, and did an extensive train and road trip with the family. I experienced first hand what connectivity is –and is not. The new, fast highways are obviously connecting more people to more opportunities. The Telcos are providing easy-to-get (via a scratch card) low-cost bandwidth for smart devices. There is growing free Wi-Fi presence in towns as diverse as Galle, Anuradhapura, Kandy and some places in Jaffna; even on a train we took to the hill country! Access does get spotty and sluggish at times, but the appetite for connectivity is growing in leaps and bounds.

And now balloons!

Here’s why I welcome this. Not for the obvious reasons, such as giving everyone including tuk-tuk drivers or election monitors the ability to tweet or upload pictures – which could be useful in and of itself.

Education: First sorely needed bandwidth to homes, schools and offices will change the game. I was at one outstation school, and the science teachers had to use a dongle to get online. ‘Universal access’ for schools would change the dimension of how learning takes place beyond the Google search. Young people could be empowered to create content and not just consume it. It’s about time schools got a better deal when it comes to connectivity. Why haven’t the telcos given schools a better deal? What will they do now?

Political participation. Sri Lanka has demonstrated that despite the dismal examples of governance, that democracy and citizen participation works. ICTA reported recently that “Sri Lanka has shot up to 74th position in the United Nations E-Government Survey of 2014, after climbing 41 places since 2012.” Nalaka Gunewardene goes into rich detail about how Digital Democracy is at work. Beyond elections, this will affect transparency and accountability, when everyone has an uplink, a camera and a voice.

There are obviously several more examples, which some of you might like to add. Please do!

 

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Searching for context, more than keyword dumpster diving

It’s frustrating to hear people say “I researched that” when they simply mean “I looked it up on Google.”

I believe we have diluted the word ‘research’ by equating it to a one-click action. I’m not trying to say that every topic under the sun needs a deep dive. I’m not suggesting that we turn fact-finding into some geeky task. I’m suggesting that we ought to train our brains to think that knowing something is contextual. There is no pat answer.

Google must know this. It stepped up to the late with the release of what it calls the ‘knowledge graph.’ (I am not a big fan of the term. It has a hint of Zuckerberg;s ‘social graph,’ doesn’t it?) Nevertheless, if you haven’t noticed the contextual info showing up on Google, take a look.

If you’re into the deep dive thing, Google does have a few tricks it tends to hide from the general public.  But there are more. Try these:

Google Scholar – http://scholar.google.com
It provides pages from books, PDFs, scholarly literature, peer-reviewed journals, material found via Google books, and even court opinions. Duke University encourages students to use it!

Patent Search – http://www.google.com/patents?hl=en

Lexis Nexis – http://www.lexisnexis.com
This is not a free service, but it combines information from legal, academic, and corporate knowledge databases.

 
 

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