Sunday, June 29, 2008

Flip video and the All-Alaskan Racing Pigs

A quick trip to Walmart and we became the happy owners of a Flip video camera.
They have so many positive features, perhaps the best is the Flip out USB connector on the side so it doesn't need cables to download. It has a great built in microphone and records well in low light. It will not replace my Sony for television quality video though.
The first outing we took the Flip on was to the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton. We had another first time experience while we were there and now you can enjoy it too...

And I have just been told about another tiny camera that folk at NECC08 are using. The AIPTEK. It is slightly more expensive, but it films in HD. Worth looking out for.

Even More

Even More Google Certified Teachers!
June 25 2008 was a big day in every way. We set out from my nephew's place in Pleasanton, CA with all the early morning commuters. A train ride and 2 shuttle buses later we were at the Google campus where the Google Teacher Academy was being held.
I pretty much went around all day with my mouth open. The phrase that summed it all up for me was repeated over and over by Chris Walsh during his workshop as he showed us how to get
"Even More" out of Google.From a visitor perspective it appeared that where ever you looked there was even more. I have to start with the food because it was on everyone's lips ;) Meals available at all times of the day in the kitchens (imagine huge food courts with proper chefs where the food is free!) and micro kitchens scattered around for breaks in between. Transport appeared to be on demand from buses to bikes. For those who don't get enough exercise walking around the campus we saw employees playing volleyball and using the gyms. Attention to detail in the architecture, the furnishing - even the dinosaur skeleton out in the grounds - all seemed to be designed to contribute to the feeling of creativity and energy in the place. And the high tech toilets(sorry, bathrooms in American) deserve a paragraph of their own. Oh to be 23 again and get a job there!
In the reception areas of the buildings we went into Google searches were screened live on the walls as they were occuring around the world - filtered we were told! It was fascinating seeing the things people search AND seeing what a way we have to go in teaching people how to refine a search. One that caught my eye was a search for world cup. I tried it out myself while typing this and got 59,900,000 results. Someone might want to try that search again!
For the 50 teachers attending the GTA the rich programme of professional development was incredible. A combination of keynote speakers and quickfire workshops was interspersed with opportunities to pick each other's brains. When it was time to leave a number of people were muttering about how their brains hurt! I guess we all feel like we 'know' Google because we use it every day and it has become a verb in our everyday vocabs, but this even more experience showed how most of us are only scratching the surface.
So what? For me.... for my workplace....
Feel free to ask specific questions through the comments, but one of the big ideas I will be exploring is the use of Google tools for student ePortfolios. We have been asking a lot of questions about using solutions that are either platform specific or limited to the student's life at a particular school. Now we are able to create a lifetime ePortfolio that can belong to an individual.
On a smaller scale it will be interesting to look at using Gmaps Pedometer to map calories burned and distance covered in the course of the school day with our students. Before we start responding to government demands to add more Phys Ed to our students' day, they could work out how much exercise they are actually getting in the course of their normal day.
The day ended with us creating our own personal action plans to go back and work on. And more food.
BubbleShare: Share photos - Find great Clip Art Images.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Google Teacher Academy

This event was held on June 25 at the Googleplex in Mountain View, California- and I was fortunate enough to attend! So before I post about what we did there and the things I saw and learned, a little background...
I first saw the event mentioned on Twitter and thought little more about it until I realised that on that date I would already be in San Francisco on my way to NECC08 and started looking into whether it was
possible to apply. The online details looked like it was worth having a go, so I spent an afternoon putting together my 60 second application and posted it to YouTube along with all the others.
This is what I made (with quite a bit of help from my friends as you can see) and I have also uploaded it to Flickr so that I can share a higher quality version here than we get from YouTube.
The theme was "Motivation and Learning"
It was an exciting moment to get the email back from the Google team to say that the application was successful and I would be able to join the group of Google Certified Teachers. Even better was an email from Jan in New Zealand with a reward for the 3 students who helped me out with it. You can see them in the photo holding their bears in Google T-Shirts.
I have linked to Flickr and podcast posts these guys have made. Jordan, Jama'l from Room 17 and Leoden from Room 15 at Pt England School.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Feedjit Developments

Thanks to those guys at Feedjit who have released a Watch in Real Time link on their popular Feedjit Live Traffic Widgit. It not only tells us where the traffic to our site is coming from but gives us information about the referring site and the browser being used. And for those who regret only having the 10 most recent traffic displayed in the list, there appears to now be a more extensive list archived.
To me the best part about this release was the small print inviting us to email them with our feedback. I don't need to be asked twice so fired off an email asking for two things; the date and time to be added and for New Zealand visitors to have their city/town displayed as happens with other countries.

Within an hour a reply had come from Mark that others have been asking for date/time and it could be
happening in the next few days. And they were unaware that New Zealand didn't get information broken down into city/town so they were happy to look into that too. It appeared they were also unaware how much pleasure our students get from the Feedjit widget on their blogs and webpages. The kids who have cottoned on look first thing in the morning to see who from the Northern Hemisphere has been looking at their work while we have all been sleeping and get a real buzz from seeing international visitors. So well done Feedjit team and lesson reinforced- in this Web 2 age people are usually really friendly and willing to share their knowledge and adapt their products to suit consumers needs. It's always worth asking!
Half a day later I returned to complete this post and noticed that the Feedjit team have already actioned the Date and Time feature . How is that for customer service!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

It's a 21st Century Dog's Life

My learning is coming from everywhere on this trip. Before I started writing this post I had to stop and think about privacy issues relating to animals. What is the netiquette regarding information given you about a beloved dog? Not sure yet, so for now I will not be linking you to this dog's webpage.
Had a fun evening catching up with friends and meeting new people. Then the conversation turned to the Big Day tomorrow. One of the group's dog is going for DNA testing tomorrow. Koncerned Kiwis made sympathetic murmers thinking something dreadful is going on, but misread the situation. It's a Happy Day - they are going to find out the ancestry of their bitser dog
for a mere $175. We asked a few questions and discovered that it is hard to fill out your dog's profile on if you have to make it up. At this point I was not sure if they were having fun pulling the kiwis' legs or what, but when they got out a laptop and we went online to look at the dog's webpage I realise that I have a long way to go before I am up with the play on social networking. This dog has an extensive online profile; photos, friends, star sign, hobbies - it's all there really. You can click on the gift icon and ship it a real present or you can send it virtual bones each day.
I am beginning to feel a twinge of guilt over the online anonymity our blue heeler, Scrappy, endures - especially the lack of virtual friends and a PLN. So I've decided to post his picture in the hopes that if he googles his name at least one item will register. It will require a bit more discussion with the family before he gets his own page on dogster though. Imagine the conversations to come; 'Who's fed the dog? Who's taken the dog for a walk? Who's updated his page?...." Hmmm, not sure we are ready for this yet.

iPod Vending Machine

I had intended my very first post on this blog to be a report on some important learning from this visit to the USA. Like any self-respecting kid in a mall I have been distracted by a vending machine. Our first visit to shops since landing 24 hours ago was to a mall in Pleasanton, California and outside Macy's we ran into this. It completely captured us and a few photos later you are looking at it on blogger. Barbs1 has already asked on twitter if I bought something! Well the temptation was huge I will admit - to put some money in the slot and see an iPod drop out the bottom. But we resisted, pacing ourselves for the iPhone release on July 11th.
We are wondering if this is a new approach to healthy eating though. Is this the answer to the healthy tuckshop debate going on in NZ schools at the moment? Replace Coke machines and pies with iPod vending machines. Now that would raise a bit of pocket money for the PTA!