First Look at Google Earth 6


It seems like it was a stealth release.  There was no big fanfare or announcement about the release of Google Earth 6 that cross my desk.  But, I just happened to stumble onto the news and, of course, grabbed it immediately to kick the tires.  I’ve always been fascinated by maps and geography and Google Earth just brings so much to the table for me.

When I look at major upgrades or new software titles, I look at the new features and then try to put them into a personal context and get an idea of what they can do for me.  I had a whale of a time with the new features this time around.

Street View
I’m a real fan of this feature and have used it all over the place.  It’s a real crowd pleaser when you demonstrate it for the first time but really goes over the top when you do something nice with it.  My favourite, of course, was messing around with “My Childhood Community“.  I had used Google Maps previously.  Now, the same functionality and seemingly easier 3D navigation is available in Google Earth.  For students, we would call it the golden dude but I learned today that Google calls it “Pegman”.  Just as with Google Maps, drag the character to the map and plop it down on the highlighted blue tracks that indicate that imagery is available and voila, there’s your image.

As I took a nostalgic tour through the original blog post, I realized that I neglected introducing you to the Clinton Arena.  So, here you go.  It’s on the left and the grandstand for the harness racing track is on the right.

3D Trees
Yes, there are trees and they are in 3D.  It’s a matter of zooming to street level and looking around.  Google gives the example of wandering around the rain forest and sure enough, the 3D Buildings layer reveals gorgeous scenery when you get to the right places.  One of the places that is ready to go with tree is Chicago.

I headed on down in Street View to see this on East Balbo Avenue.

Ah, but let’s turn on the 3D layer with the Ground View toggle (top right of screen) and see the trees!  Just don’t complain that they don’t change with the seasons.

Now, Google has been collecting imagery for a long time now.  It’s a testament to the logic of never throwing anything away that leads to this next feature.  Where multiple images of a place exist, a little slider lets you turn the clock backward or forward to see things.

Now, going to the Faculty of Education at the University of Toronto, I would get off the subway at Yonge and Bloor and go to a walk during the nice weather.  (Otherwise it was at Spadina).

Looking down at Yonge and Bloor with 3D buildings turned off reveals this as the most current image.

Let’s roll the clock back to 2002…

It’s an urban studies delight.  It’s also a tribute to good quality cameras!

Heading down to Street View, we can see that like most places in Ontario, there’s a great deal of construction.

But, heh, heh, this artist’s rendition (switching to ground level view) shows that it’s going to be great when finished.

Other than nostalgia, what’s a practical use for this?  Well, entire buildings have come and gone in the time span for some locations.  Take Ford Field in Detroit, for example in 1999 it looks like it was a parking lot…

And the beautiful structure with Comerica Park along side today.

I just spent way too much time playing around with this.  The history timeline is really something worthy of a great deal of play.  Depending upon the location, the images go back a long way.  I took a look at the Googleplex and its timeline dates back to 1948.

So, if you’re a Google Earth user, you’ve got to go out and download this new release and just prepare yourself for a great deal of exploration as this phenomenal tool just gets so much more loaded with features.

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links for 2010-11-29


The Value of Hashtags


You’ve seen them and you’ve probably used them.  On Twitter, they are usually cryptic codes that appear in messages following the # sign.  Hashtags allow you to follow a conversation stream.  You just search for that hashtag and watch the results come in!  The value is that you are not limitd to messages from just folks that you follow.  You get the messages that anyone on the system has sent using that hashtag.

Often, you’ll see them used when you’re at a conference and it’s a method for people to share their learning with others.  Because it’s coming from Twitter, there’s little delay and they’re posted as they happen.  It’s like a continuous stream of collective thought as those involved dig in.

Last night featured the biggest sporting event in Canada.  The Grey Cup featured a rematch of the Montreal Alouettes and the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  If you weren’t fortunate enough to go to Edmonton, you might go to a local meeting place to watch the game.  There, you can follow the game with friends or just plain strangers.  Or, like me, you could settle in the rec room and enjoy the game there.  It would be nice to enjoy that with family but they all bailed on me – I guess not everyone enjoys football.  That I don’t understand.

So, I settled in and have decided to take a look at online resources.  Last year, a few friends and I had chatted back and forth during the game and that was fun.  But, this year, I was immediately attracted to the hashtag #98GC.  It was the official hashtag of the game.  Interestingly, you don’t care who or how it was made official, it was just the one that people were using.  So, I opened a search column on my Seesmic Desktop to see what was happening.

What happened next really took me by surprise.

I’ve been in situations where I’ve used hashtags before but had experienced nothing like this.  With the Twitter plug-in, the messages came in as they happened.  And happen they did.  Talk about your information overload.  There was not a second that passed without multiple messages being displayed.  Even if I could devote my attention to the stream, I couldn’t have done it justice.  But, watching the game at the same time?  Wow.

What I did do is have the monitor strategically placed to the side and used it as my own personal replay server.  For every great play, there was a Montreal take to it and a Saskatchewan take.  Perhaps it was sheer volume or perhaps it was just that Canadians are just nice people but with all of this, there was no flaming or personal attacks.  It was just citizen journalism and opinion at its best.  It didn’t take a break even during the half-time show which featured Bachman and Turner from BTO fame.  Love them or hate them, everyone had an opinion.  The whole concept raised the bar immensely.

So high was the bar raised that the topics were “trending” in Canada and Worldwide.  Trending means that there’s so much volume that it’s among the most popular topics being discussed.  At the end of the game, I took this capture of just what was trending.

Ignore the unread messages – I wasn’t up to date with my iPod.  But, look at what was trending.  Half of the topics dealt with the Grey Cup.  I just found it amazing that whole country could gather around and comment on a single sporting event.

You will notice that it wasn’t all sports related.  In the middle of the game, the National Post had sent a message that GlobalTV had reported the passing of Leslie Nielsen.  It seems quite appropriate that this news was trending as well.

If there is any doubt of the value of immediate communication, share the concept of hashtags and trends with those who need convincing.

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links for 2010-11-28


Back to Delicious


Recently, I shared my frustrations with my Delicious account going off the rails.  In an entry entitled “Moving On“, I talked about how the Delicious resource had even become unresponsive and so I had switched to Diigo’s service for posting daily links that I’ve found to this blog.  It’s my way of giving back to a community that I learn so much from.  Help yourself to my bookmarks; it’s the least I can do.

Diigo provided a good and reliable service and I was pleased for the most part with what it was doing.  Unfortunately, it has a small issue that I couldn’t resolve.  In its attempts of functionality, it seemed to add a number of returns presumably from the designers’ eyes for readability.  See the example below.

It’s not a biggy but when you’re sharing 10 or so links a day, it makes the blog post run on and on and on.

Now, I don’t want to bring up that old issue about evaluating blogs but I’ll share my personal thoughts.  For the most part, I like to read (and write) blogs that are short and sweet, make their point and move on.  I’m not really a fan of the essay type of post that goes on rather than making its point and stopping.

I guess that means that I have the same approach to a simple post that shares resources.  Here’s what Delicious does.

I just find it to be more succinct and easier to read.

So, being a good netizen, I swung by Delicious and was going to delete the entry that asked it to post for me and found that the link was back working.  So, what the hey…  I’m back.  I went over to Diigo and asked it to stop posting for me.

I continue to use both of these excellent services.  I’m just liking the format of one over the other at this point.  Fickle, eh?Tags: , ,

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links for 2010-11-27


When You Need Prompting


I was watching the YouTube videos on Danika Barker’s Blog of the Pecha Kucha sessions that were offered during the ECOO Conference and were quite enjoying them.  I noticed that some of the speakers had some prompting devices to keep them on the straight and narrow.  I saw an iPhone, an iPad, and some traditional paper.  Great techniques to avoid the “uh” moments and the “what comes next” ones as well.

Most speakers have some way to organize their presentations to make sure that they cover all the points and in a professional mannner.  Some have notes; some have speaker notes; it’s a matter of preference.  The key is to make sure that they don’t distract from the message.  My personal first noting of a keynote speaker using a portable device would have been Robert Sawyer in his message at the RCAC Symposium a few year’s ago.  Robert didn’t use presentation software or the like.  It was just his story telling abilities and his Palm speaking notes on the stage.  It worked very effectively.

Staying on track and presenting smoothly is something that most speakers aspire to and audiences certainly appreciate.  In the classroom, we do have speeches (the bane of most students’ education but an activity that keeps recipe card manufacturers in business) and more recently, the phenomenon of Podcasting which allows students to become the next great communicator.

One technique that I’ve used with students that really ups the interest ante when Podcasting is the use of the website Cueprompter.  Everyone has watched the news on television or a political speech at one point and note how smoothly the presentation is.  While there’s a great deal to being a terrific orator, they all know the value of a good teleprompter!  Cueprompter does the job and it does it for free!

A number of things that a good teleprompter should have is readability by resizing and customizing colours, controls for speed, and the ability to display the text in a mirrored format just in case you’re going to be bouncing the image around before the speaker actually sees it.  If you’ve got an internet connected computer, you can’t beat Cueprompter.

But, for the portable folks … there are some other options.  For the iPhone/iPod Touch user, there’s a free download of i-Prompt to do the job.  Load your text into the software, adjust the speed and display and you’re ready to go live.

For the iPad user, i-Prompt Pro takes advantage of the larger screen size and processing power.  It’s also a free product.  Both of these are marketed by i-Prompter.com which sells professional grade teleprompting equipment.

There is another alternative.  A prompter application with a little more flexibility is available for you to download from the App Store at a discount this weekend.  Normally, priced much higher, you have until Sunday to grab PromPterous for $0.99.  PromPterous does the text display thing but does allow for more functionality.  In addition to typing your text into the prompter, it supports the display of files on your iPad in .doc, .txt, .epub, and .pdf format.  That’s a nice feature that lets you edit offline and then upload for use.  It also feature pause, go faster an go slower buttons conveniently placed for your thumbs at the bottom of the screen.  For this app, I think that I prefer portrait rather than landscape mode for operation.

Now, I don’t want to see the presentation world turn to one where everyone is reading presentations when I attend conferences.  You still need the eye contact, the movement, the interaction and all the good stuff that we know makes the difference between a good presenter and the not-so-good.  But, I like the concept of these software for a number of reasons.

For students, I think this is a terrific way to organize their thoughts and then to use it during Podcasting.  Rather than stammering and having the audience lose interest, they can stay right on track and get a professional job done with no sound of ruffling papers!  When they’re podcasting, all that they have is their voice so it needs to be the best that it can be.

For presentations, it does scroll along nicely.  If you don’t have the entire speech on it, scrolling speaking points could be used to keep you on track.  Also, when time is of the essence like in a Pecha Kucha presentation, it can be your guide and timer.  No more wondering how you’re doing for time.

Also for presentations, I can see it being used for practice and timing.  I can’t recall the number of times that I’ve sat in hotel rooms the night before a presentation preparing and wondering how the timing would be.  No audience likes an unprepared speaker.  These applications could help nicely with timing and presentation.

Back to the student though, we know that technology can be engaging when used properly and with purpose.  I can see this as a motivator for those speeches – and we might just put those recipe card manufacturers out of business!

But, let’s not put all of our eggs in the teleprompter basket.  Here’s a classic!

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links for 2010-11-26


Bobbleheads


Yep, the title of this post is Bobbleheads.  If you’re looking for something remotely academic from me today, you would be well advised to stop now and head off to read something else.

With the upgraded operating system on the iPad, I spent a considerable amount of time organizing the applications and putting them into folders.  I ran across this one application that made me the hit of a friend’s kindergarten class a year ago at this time.  It was the Santa Bobblehead application.

I guess nothing says festive like Santa Claus and this application allows him to converge with music and motion on your portable device.  So, it had been sitting on my computer for over a year and brought out just in time for this year’s holiday season.

Believe it or not, we did manage to turn it into a discussion sitting on the carpet and passing an iPhone around.

It falls into the same category as Elf Yourself and the high level time-wasting discussions as to whether or not that website should be blocked by the content filters.  If you lose that argument and are still looking for some dancing silliness, then you can always turn to something like I Think You Can Dance.  For some festive fun, stick your favourite picture into the application and let the dancing begin.

Even for a FollowFriday, I wouldn’t embarrass friends by Bobbleheading them.  Well, OK, maybe just one because he beat me at Words with Friends.  Here’s to you, Andy!

If you’ve stuck with this post long enough to read this, then you know you’ll want to head over to the Applications Store just to check out this free application.  If you didn’t stick around, you won’t know what you missed!

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Posting 11/26/2010


Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.