Maps + Earth = 3D

A new functionality to Google Maps adds more utility and, at the same time, opens some possibilities in the classroom.  Until recently, you had access to Google Maps or Google Earth, but now with some development, you have both.

Head over to Google Maps and you’ll see a new splash announcing an Earth feature.  This is very interesting when you dig in and take a look around.  Some world landmarks are shown up front and are worthy of a tour to see what’s up.  Check out the Petronas Towers or Niagara Falls or any of the featured landmarks.

Very cool.

But, how about a little closer to home.  Can we benefit from this locally?  How about the Ambassador Bridge?


Or, how about the Ford logo just off Seminole Street?


Looking north across the Detroit River, the Renaissance Centre and General Motors World Headquarters.


And so much more.  The Art Gallery, the University of Windsor, St. Clair College, and so many of the local landmarks.

What struck me in terms of functionality for navigation was how quickly you could move through the maps to locate landmarks.  While Google Earth has many of these features, it takes a higher powered machine to do the zooming in and out.  It also requires the separate Google Earth application.

Here, right within Google Maps, you have some great functionality.  In some of the older computers where installing Google Earth is not an option or in a lesser powered Netbook, you’ve got some pretty responsive action.

This is an absolute keeper.

links for 2010-04-29

Powered by PD

I arrived home really geeked yesterday.  There were a couple of reasons for this.  First, I had a chance to have prolonged discussions with two of my favourite people.  The second, and the  “Powered by PD” part came from an after-school workshop.  I am constantly humbled by the professionalism that comes from folks taking time from their lives to spend a couple of hours learning something new.  Now, we all know that enduring understanding comes from working with something until it becomes part of what you do but you do need to have a kick start and therein lies the true value here.

The workshop was about how to create your own wiki.  For my purposes, any wiki has the same educational value but I’ve zeroed in on PBWorks as my platform of choice and haven’t regretted the decision.

Many people want to be “on the web”.  Certainly, it’s a powerful step in your digital presence.  There are other reasons though – it sends a strong message to parents and students about your computer prowess; it saves on paper and a really good concept is that spelling mistakes are not forever; and you are never stuck wondering where your binder of resources are.  Just get on the web and grab them.

A wiki extends the concepts and we talk about the use of them.  They could be as simple as a glorified webpage, locked up in a fashion that would excite even the most aggressive control freak or it could be a wide open collaboration space where teacher and students could learn together.  And, of course, there are configurations somewhere in between.

I had the nice surprise of my friend Kelly showing up to co-facilitate with me.  We share the similar high esteem for the wiki technology and both took the PBWorks educator program a couple of summers ago.  Our “styles” are completely different though.  She’s the queen of bling and design.  I’m apparently dowdy.  Can you be digitally dowdy?


See a comparison of our styles at the Benson Library Wiki and my PD Wiki.  Despite our different styles, our uses are very similar.  We both agree on the concepts of collaboration spaces and invite participants, and we both agree on internet safety which you’ll see in her wiki where she protects certain content from unauthorized viewers.

But, the geeked part comes from the enthusiasm from our participants as they very quickly “get it”.  Quite frankly, the button pushing part of working with PBWorks can be covered with ease in half an hour.  It’s the power of applying this functionality into learning environments that puts you over the edge.  So, once we covered the basics, it was off to create some learning environments that support motivated, engaged learning spaces.  All too quickly, it was over.

On the drive home, I kept thinking about the evolution of web presence.  I can remember teaching how to create web content with Notepad, Claris Homepage, Macromedia/Adobe Dreamweaver, and other products.  We end up with something decent at the end but the logistics are a challenge.  Even if you get something that you can post, you then have to figure out how and where to post it.  It could go on the district’s server but you have to bother the keeper of the password to upload.  You could go to a public hosting site but they’re blocked by the content filter so a well crafted webpage just wouldn’t be available to students so that’s out.  Yes, you could have students create the content but they often confuse flashy, shiny things for content.  Want to see an example?  @dannynic shared this site this morning.  It’s called the Geocities-izer.  If that doesn’t bring back fond memories of the mid-1990s, I don’t know what will.  Hopefully, your digital footprint doesn’t look like that today.

Selfishly, I always walk away from leading a Professional Development session with some ideas about how I can go back to what I do and make it better.  I really enjoy working and learning together.  So, yesterday, equally powered, we all go forward to improve our own footprints.

I’ll close with a shameless promotion – Kelly and I take our Wiki workshop on the road this summer and will be part of the Ontario Teachers’ Federation summer program.  You can read more about this here.

links for 2010-04-28

404 Educator

Oh, I could have included so many images to support the concept.  FactoryJoe has a great collection located here.
How about a couple of quotes?
“You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do” – Henry Ford
“What can you do and what have you done lately?” – Ross Perot
Aren’t these words to live by if you’re an active educator?  Shouldn’t you have a public profile that indicates just what it is that you do as an educator?  If we are truly a learning community, can we justify not sharing information and our learnings? 
So many times we’ve heard about employers who will search for you on the internet or Facebook or any social settings.  What does it say if you can’t be found?
Having a presence isn’t exactly brain surgery.  Open a blog; open a wiki; heck even get on a writing team that publishes a PDF document of what they wrote.  Go ahead and do something; go ahead and even be wrong about it.  Your co-learners will help you out.
But, what does it say when you’re not found anywhere?  If someone visits and you’re not there, where are you?
Have you checked out your digital footprint lately?  What are you doing that the rest of the learning community needs to know?

links for 2010-04-27

Flexible Doug

I just thought that I’d play around with the blog this morning.  One of my favourite applications is Bitstrip for Schools which is licensed through the Ministry of Education for all Ontario publically funded schools.  Check out details at the OSAPAC website.  With this application, avatar creation and story telling in the comic format is awesome.

Of course, standard fare is to create yourself an avatar.  Here I am.

One of the suggestions for any  program of this type is “give me more”.  And, more we’ve got.  I’ll dedicate this next pose using the new Bitstrips flexible posing to my old group of CAIT friends.  This was the standard pose I assumed when asked why can’t get get so and so to change this for us.

I remember this moment falling up the back stairs as I was running, late for a meeting.

That wall hurt!

And, for my fashion friends who complained about a shoe crisis when creating yourself, more shoes!  Including sandals.  There are also some very nice choices for head coverings as well.

Arrrrrrr, mates.

If you haven’t checked into Bitstrips for a while, give it a go.  With more poses and clothes, your great strips will get even better.

links for 2010-04-26

Things that make you go Hmmmmm

I was lying in my bed with my MacBook Pro reading this article this morning when I felt the urge to smile.  It’s not that there was anything funny about the story but my computer does have a web cam.  And, I use the term “my computer” rather loosely.  It actually belongs to my employer.  We never actually discussed it but I always thought it was kind of implicit that I had the computer provided to help me do my job.  Whenever there is a meeting or presentation, I think that I’m supposed to bring this with me for participation.

So, it was with great surprise that I read that 80 computers had gone missing in a suburban Philadelphia school district and the solution was to turn on a tracking program to take pictures of whoever is using it.  SMILE!

I’ve been to Philadelphia.  It’s a big place.  How would a picture narrow it down if it was stolen?  It seems to me that it makes sense that the person who has it is probably the person to whom it was issued.  I guess this process would confirm it.  Does that get it back?

The article talks about insurance of $55 required by the family before the student gets to take the computer home.  Was this applied to the cost of this software to take the pictures?  The number 80 still has me wondering how this many could have gone missing without some prior action being taken.

Whether it’s a 1:1 laptop school or just a school where laptops are loaned out to take home for homework, you’ve got to wonder what sort of check-out / check-in system is in place.  Even my local grocery story has devices in place to ensure that there’s no shrinkage.  I pay for every banana that I take home.  But, you don’t need to go to that extreme in education.  If you’re a 1:1 school and using the technology in the classroom or as textbook replacement, it seems to me that you just take a glance through the classroom and those students who don’t have a computer on their desk earns a visit to the principal’s office.

From a curriculum basis, it should likewise be easy.  The promise of technology is that you’re able to do different and inspiring things.  Things like updating the class wiki, or writing software, or controlling a robot, or collaborating on a project.  A student who can’t contribute should really stand out.  If the activities are motivating, wouldn’t you think every student would want to take part?

Is the problem that the school district owns the computers?  Would it be better taken care of if the parents owned it?  I know that my kids, who all have their own laptops, have our own little check-in and check-out system.  We’re forever sending messages, playing Scrabble, and staying in contact all the time.

These are all, of course, simplistic observations.  Scale it out to a large school system involves additional thinking.  But, I’m still at a loss to explain why taking an image solves the problem.  First, the computer would have to be connected to a network for the controls to kick in.  From there, services like Twitter has it done right.  Geo-tagging is something that we’re seeing everywhere.  Wouldn’t a solution like that narrow the search for the machines considerably?

I think that this incident, as unfortunate as it is for all involved, should send a message to all of us to think through all scenarios.  It needs to even extend to the loan agreement between student and school.  Some sort of acceptable use policy will need to include language indicating that the owner has the option of tracking the device electronically.  These things really need to be thought through.  I’m going to follow this story; there has to be more to it than was reported in this article and hopefully some really good recommendations for others will flow from the incident.

links for 2010-04-25