Have You Played Packman in Your Neighborhood?

No, seriously – you gotta play Packman on your local streets.

I stumbled onto this while looking for a store to sell my friend’s CDs. You can actually turn streets on Google Maps into the iconic arcade game. Just click the icon on your google map and it will highlight the area for your game. Big cities make for some of the most entertaining games but even small towns can be fun. I chased ghosts around the Eiffel Tower in Paris.PacMan Google If I get a chance I plan to see how mad Times Square can get and experience the Autobahn as a yellow mouth. There are also some famous traffic circles I plan to pilot. Some, like the Super Round-About, should be extremely interesting.

super_roundabout

I tried to play where I grew up but there weren’t enough streets in the extreme rural landscape. In trying to play there I was surprised at the amount of development in the region. Still, the road situation made for an unplayable Packman game according to Google Maps.

PacMan in Time Square

If I were teaching in a computer lab I might take the last fifteen minutes to have students explore far off places. Talk about a fun geography day. Someone out there is probably planning to sabotage this natural and exciting learning environment by requiring students to play and report their findings or fill in a worksheet. Please do not. Let them take what they can and simply enjoy the ways everyday technologies can be made joyful. If they happen to have excellent skills in navigating traffic in Rome as a result – well – tap them as your navigator next time you end up chaperoning on an international band trip.

 

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Science Idea: Using Forms!

What drives some students to study science and some not?

Science Idea: Google Forms as a Pre-Course Survey

For the last several months I have been playing with Google Forms as a way to get quick assessment data, engage participants in a little teambuilding, and a student creation tool for data gathering. These have worked out extremely well in each case. During a presentation I did on Google Apps for Education I shared a Google Form that took a choice-based approach on which questions the participants asked. If they chose social studies as their area of teaching they came to a screen asking which three areas they found most interesting. Clicking an answer there further refined their choices. Same for science, computers, math, and the arts.

Today I realized that also gave me a perfect tool for starting out the school year. To that end I am going to create a “choice-based” or “choose-your-own-adventure” form for my science students. Based on previous responses they will have the opportunity to answer very different questions and help me get to know them and their learning preferences in new and interesting ways! Yea Google Forms!

I have not designed the form for that yet but will post it here once I have a better idea of the types of answers I hope to get.

Google Apps Qualified Trainer!

GoogleApps

One of my favorite tools for collaboration resides in the massive online giant called Google. Tonight I finally finished taking (and passing) the six exams required to call oneself a “Google Apps for Education Qualified Trainer.”

Even if you have no plans to use a certification of this sort – if your school uses Google Apps for Education taking these exams really forces you to think about and explore the power of these tools. As I took the exams this time I thought of new ways to engage students with immediate feedback using forms, quick ways to simplify my QR codes using a function in spreadsheets, and interesting collaborative research projects using docs and presentations. Definitely worth the time though the $90 might be a bit steep when you can just force yourself to review the modules on your own. (I tend to do better at reviewing the modules after I have paid for the exams for some reason).

The next step is to achieve certified trainer status. To this end I am working hard to provide training and support to educators out in the field and coming up with the other required items for this status.

Google and Research

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This morning I noticed something new on my Google Drive! Under tools there is a panel for research! What a great idea!

It pulls up a side panel that helps your research the topic you are writing on. I think this is a great tool to show students during the planning phase of their research papers. Over the next couple weeks, perhaps while I write up a draft on a white paper for ISTE’s Mobile Learning SIG, I plan to experiment with the tool. Hopefully others will do the same and comment below!

How many Google Posts is that in a row now? Straying into the realm of fanboy.

Google Drive….

….and lesser known clouds.

 

Google Drive Compared

 

Picture of a cloudGoogle Drive came out recently and now I have had a bit of time to tinker and play with the cloud syncing, document toting, file accessing, life easing, chocolate creating…well maybe not that last bit. 

Despite my pitiful attempt at turning Google Drive into Unobtainium I really do find the tool amazingly useful. As an added bonus many schools use Google Apps for Education which means they will eventually all be switched over to Google Drive as well. Professionally I love having access to my files and resources anywhere I go. Once Google develops an app for my iPhone that does the same job as their app for the Android phone I will achieve “Cloud 9” happiness.

There are other tools that allow for cloud storage. I use a variety for different reasons. In addition to Google Drive I use iCloud from Apple and Dropbox from…well…Dropbox?

Dropbox LogoThey each have their uses. The major use I put Dropbox to is files I want to share publicly and to test HTML5 experiments. Since Dropbox allows streaming I find myself using this feature quite a bit. They used to be 2GB but lately I believe they upgraded the service to 5GB. That or I paid to upgrade my service. If I did it has been worth it and if they upgraded the service for free then they have my gratitude.

iCloud iconI tend to use iCloud for more personal items and to back up my iPad and iPhone. The service has me covered even if I leave my computer at home since I can restore my iPhone from the iCloud storage. In fact both of these devices to this automatically. I also have an iTouch but I use that for students and have not connected it to my personal accounts as a privacy measure. Their max file size upload is 25MB or 250MB if you are paying (like I do). This could be an issue with some of my more nutty video experiments.

Google Drive IconGoogle Drive is definitely my current go to. The large file upload of 10GB makes it a dream for certain insane projects that I plan to put together including a book I keep imagining that I am writing. You get 5GB of storage space for free but the upgrade was cheap so I took it up to 100 GB for $4.99 per month. There is a 25GB plan at $2.49 USD. Picasa connects with that plan and it bumps my personal gmail account up to 25GB as well. Something not mentioned much is that anything in Google Doc format or under a certain size gets in for free. Nice deal and with Google’s updated policies regarding the content (despite some people’s confusion) I feel my data is nice, safe, and easy to access.

Other tools like Skydrive and Box have a certain appeal but I find them less than useful. My students cannot afford the microsoft office suite and Box does not offer anything to make me want to go explore it in more detail.

Each cloud storage solution has an individual appeal for personal use.

For educational use I have to say that Google takes my votes. I understand many people are concerned about the terms and conditions. Especially the part where they scan your content and use it to serve advertisements. I tend to go with the feelings of students on this though: “What is privacy again?” – usually said in a joking manner. Think about it. We are on video almost constantly – especially at our schools. Privacy just does not exist in the way my parents may have envisioned the world. My wireless network is an easy target despite passwords and encryption because there is always a new hack out there and security lags a bit behind innovation. I do my best to maintain my network’s integrity but I have let go of my need to own my content. I am just happy if someone does something to benefit society with it.

According to Google’s Apps for Education they do not share that information outside of Google and there are no advertisements within the Education Apps environment. If students navigate to an Adwords laden website outside the apps environment I expect they will have their data used against them in the form of an advertisement geared towards the way they wrote that four paragraph essay on metamorphic rocks. *sigh* I can’t solve everything.

On the positive side Google Drive means more than just file syncing and storage – that storage links to a word processing program, presentation, drawing, spreadsheets, and other tools. In districts where the IT budget seems to thin when asked to provide students server space (Seriously – 50MB for a middle school student in one un-nameable location) Google Drive provides a seeming treasure trove of space. In a 1:1 school this seems great and in a school that is relying completely on cloud-based storage and not taking advantage of the syncing abilities of Drive – well….5GB of storage means I can actually assign students to create a small multi-media presentation without petitioning IT to expand  a couple hundred student’s server space.

I digress and there are plenty of other arguments about which cloud storage medium is better. Check them out. Then get together a group of IT professionals, teachers, students, administrators and parents. Have this group play with each tool and review the terms of service. Give them a month of play time. Maybe all of June. Reconvene in July – take notes – give everyone equal weight – and make a decision. Don’t let the IT or teacher groups dominate the discussion – they will have opinions and honestly this tool should reflect student use in your district (right? They are the reason we are here).

OETC – Take Aways

Yarn Connection: Life via technology.

Opening activity including a yarn led interaction that involved Google Presentation tools.

At a recent OETC event I had the chance to meet a great bunch of educators. This event celebrated the achievements of the Title IID EdTech Grants. There were three consecutive sessions as well as an opening activity using yarn that progressed to the building of some interesting Google presentations as well as a great closing keynote which I missed.

Before the event began Yolanda Ramos from ISTE sat at my table and shared some information about an upcoming grant related to mobile learning. Apparently Verizon has put together a grant directed towards education. This is exciting news and I look forward to seeing what direction that heads in. With any luck I can get involved as a member of the SIG or in other ways.

The sessions contained too much information to share here so I encourage everyone to look up the presentations themselves at the OETC website: http://teach.oetc.org/arra/celebration