My Three Things

Friday night and all day Saturday was a terrific learning experience for Ontario educators.  On Satuday, the Google Workshop for Educators was held at Humber College and Friday night was cause for a Tweetup of many who would be attending.  The Tweetup was very well attended as friends (physical and virtual) had a change to meet for some of the ongoing conversations that are the stuff that make these gatherings so valuable.  It was so great to have a chance to talk and continue the conversation with so many of the folks that I interact with on a daily basis.

Then, a quick nap, and we were ready for a full day of active learning.  Our setting was a pair of computer labs at the beautiful Humber College.  The place was packed with eager educators ready to go at 8am even though the first click wasn’t scheduled to happen until 9!  But, breakfast was a great opportunity to get a chance to meet those who couldn’t make the Friday night event.

And then we were off.

The agenda was very simple – docs, sites, search, and maps.  What would have been more accurate would have been “The Tip of….” and then each.

Once the compulsory technical glitches were addressed, we were off and running.  I was curious as to the approach that would be taken.  After all, when you get 60 people together, there’s no way that everyone will enter the event with the same skill set.  It was handled nicely though.  There was so much to explore that nobody would be left wanting.  The problem was trying to focus on meaningful, personalized learning.

And then seemingly we were done.  The day literally flew by.  In the wrap up, one of our lead learners, Molly, addressed the information overload situation by suggesting that we focus immediately on three things.  Three things?  Heck, I had a million that I wanted to work with.  But, if I have to focus on three, here are my top three.

Google Insights for Search

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What happens when you marry information results since 2004 with the desire for knowledge?  Deeper insight for your search results.  That’s what you have here with a special insight towards the trends that emerge as the world searches.  The results are fascinating.

Google Image Swirl

This one comes from Google labs.  We’ve all done image searches and have come to think of them as pages of image results.  But, image your results organized by folders of related images.  It makes so much sense.

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Then, open the folder to explore the images!  If you’ve enjoyed the Wonder Wheel, you’ll really enjoy the graphic organizer display for the results.  Over the long haul, this may be a more efficient way to find what you’re looking for instead of the seemingly random results that can appear at times.  Expand on a theme.

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When Spreadsheets meet Search

Interesting things can happen.  I knew this but had forgotten so it was a nice jog to the memory.  Open a Google Docs spreadsheet and type a word (or a number or …) into a cell.  Then, select the cell.  In the bottom right corner, you’ll see a blue dot.  We’ve always used that as an opportunity to click and drag to fill a range with the contents.  But, hold down the CTRL key (Windows) or the Option key (Macintosh) and watch what happens.  To focus the results, enter a few related terms and then perform the technique.  Here, I’ve entered “ontario” and “quebec” to seed the process and get…

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Let’s try that again with “michigan”, “ohio”, and “florida”.

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The obsessive, compulsive in me is going to have a lot of fun with this!

So, there are my three things.  I would challenge the rest of the folks who attended to share their three.

The power of all of this learning is in the discussion and networking.  If you’re a Twitter user, the hashtag #otfcue will give you an idea of what happened yesterday.  Just an idea…you really had to be there.  Send a message to @cyndiejacobs if you want the Ontario Teachers’ Federation to offer a similar session again and maybe even in your neck of the woods.

An immense value added only available to those who attend is access to the Google Workshop for Educators discussion groups.  I had the chance to sit with Molly and was her test case getting access and I’m in as of this morning.  My initial poke around reveals that this is going to be a great spot for deeper discussion of the concepts.

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