If I Had A Billion Dollars


I must admit that I was completely intrigued to figure out what a piece of software worth $1B looked like.  So, I downloaded the Waze application to my iPad to check it out.

Simply put, Waze is a mapping, turn by turn travelling, crowd-sourced traffic reporting, geographic discovery utility.  By monitoring crowd reports, the driving public in theory can become smarter about travel, avoiding heavy traffic, bypassing accidents, find local businesses, and so much more.

The concept of layers on maps is one that I think we all have come to take for granted these days.  It almost makes looking at a plain map kind of “blah”.  We want more information to add context to the map.  Unlike a tourist map, Waze applies its layers real time.  The idea of all of these social layers (see below) is very interesting and provides a really engaging look at your drive.

So, I fired it up to check it out.  From my comfy chair here in dougpete labs, where would you expect to find traffic congestion?  Of course, Huron Church Road in Windsor on the way to the Ambassador Bridge and Detroit, Michigan.  After all, the Detroit River International Crossing and the ongoing construction has made travel interesting as of late!

Let’s see what Huron Church looks like during rush hour — you can see that Waze has overlaid the basic map to show a slow traffic of 31mph.  Hmmm.  I need to change the defaults to metric if I’m keeping this!

And, unsurprisingly, it gets slower as you get onto the bridge and head over the Detroit River.

I did find the graphic representation addictive.  Moving around Windsor, that was the only reported slow area at the time that I did some screen captures.  Across the river, in Detroit, things were completely different.  Particularly in the downtown area, things were not moving terribly well!

I then turned my interest to the other layers that were available with Waze.

Things that get in the road of a smooth drive can be crowd sourced – police speed traps, traffic, accidents, etc.  It’s just a matter of selecting which one to check it out.  There was nothing from the police on this side of the border but just north of us…

In addition to the visual layer of traffic slowdowns, they’re also itemized on the traffic screen.  Presumably the passenger could be following this and giving directions to help find an alternative route.  Of course, nobody would use your portable device while driving.

The objects appear on the map to provide information for the route seeker.  If you’ve ever used a standard GPS system, you’ll be well versed with how it’s going to work.  The addition of the wisdom of the crowd adds the value to the product.

The acquistion isn’t going unnoticed.

Crosstown Traffic: Why Google’s $1B Waze Deal Faces U.S. Antitrust Scrutiny

In the meantime, I’m having fun playing around with the product.  Those who are concerned about privacy will need to pay attention to how the data is gathered.  For the classroom, it’s a great place to talk about the collection of big data and what can be done with it.

And, finally, you get a chance to see what a $1B piece of software looks like!

Mapping the Wind


Information comes in all shapes and forms.  This project from hint.fm is intriguing.  It’s also so appropriate since I went to bed last night, comfortable in the knowledge that spring had finally come and then awoke this morning to snow everywhere.

Where does weather come from?  If you’re a watcher of the news, you know that it’s from the jet stream and how the winds carry the weather with it.

Wind map is mesmerizing!  It pulls wind information from the National Digital Forecast Database and then creates an animated visualization of where the wind is moving over the United States.

I wish I could embed a live animation here but a screen shot is the best that I can do.

Go to the live site and see it in action.

Now, normally a map that just features the mainland United States is something that I gloss over, this is interesting.  We get amused when we watch weather forecast on some American television stations and wonder if a child watching really thinks that the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet just north of Minnesota or south of Texas!

There is, however, a zoom feature that makes this interesting to me.  I located Detroit, which is just north of Essex County, and click a couple of times to zoom in on the neighbourhood.

Again, you have to see the map live to realize that those lines represent winds.  So, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland and points between (Essex County) are subject to winds coming from the north.

That definitely puts things into perspective – if there’s cold and snow to the north, here it comes.  The site includes a link to Wunderground so that you can get a more traditional look at the current weather.

Looking around the website, there is also a gallery worth exploring.  Of real interest are imagery of Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac.  Click on the image to see how the wind was moving.  The legend and the visual representation really tells at least part of the story.

For weather junkies or anyone teaching about the weather, this is a resource worth hanging on to.

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What Does Twitter For PD Mean


 

Twitter for PD?  What does this mean?  (Old radio listeners from Detroit will recognize Dick the Bruiser format)

I referenced a couple of blog posts yesterday in my post about hurting yourself with social media.  There doesn’t pass a day when I see reference to using Twitter (or other social media for that matter) for professional development.

I often wonder about this.  I agree with some of the assumptions made but not all of the examples given actually work for me.  I think the joy of it is that it can work at so many levels.  Here are some thoughts about mine.

Twitter Chats
Inevitabily, any discussion about Twitter for Professional Development includes reference to Twitter Chats.  I’ve bookmarked a number of references to my Diigo account and probably the reference to start with is this one. I know that people swear by these online sessions.  For me, I tried and gave up.  I find the time commitment for active participation too much and, if we’re looking for examples of echo chambers, the ones that I’ve participated in just seemed that way.

But that doesn’t mean hashtags are to be ignored.  Put together after the fact using something likeStorify can be a terrific way to quickly scan the thoughts and sharing from a focused event.

140 Characters at a time
Anything Meaty?  I got taken to task yesterday for sharing the post about Twitter and Facebook replacing Traditional Teacher Professional Development.

From the title of the article, it was probably justified.  Just getting a Twitter account and doing a couple of Twitter messages and reading a bunch certainly doesn’t cut it.  It’s a modern equivalent of going to the library and skimming the card catalogue and calling yourself informed.  Even if you do use “texting talk” to imply more than 140 characters, it can still be lacking.

Getting a PLN
Creating your own Professional Learning Network is easy.  Just log on to Twitter on any Friday and look for #FollowFriday or #FF links and follow those people.  Put together more than one and you’ve got yourself a network.  If that’s all that you’re doing, it’s the equivalent of hanging around with a group of strangers outside a movie theatre.  It’s nice to be there and associate but that’s as far as it goes.

So, now that I’ve started this post off in a negative fashion – which quite frankly isn’t something I like to do – how can it be productive and why does Doug spend so much time with it?

Lose the Development
I’m not a fan of the term “Professional Development”.  In my mind, it reinforces the concept that someone or something else is doing something to, or for you, to help you improve…just like everyone else at the session.  There was a time and place when this was valuable.  At a Teachers’ College, for example, there are a certain set of skills that should be part of any future educator’s toolkit.  Well all know, though, that once you get into your classroom and close the door, it’s you and your students.

Gain the Learning
If you’ve graduated from that Teachers’ College, your professional needs don’t stop.  In fact, they should probably grow exponentially.  The more you know, the more you need to know.  Have you ever taught the exact same class two years in a row?  Heck, have you ever taught the same class exactly the same way two days in a row?  In a lock stepped curriculum, perhaps a standardized development approach would do the trick.  For all others, learning as you go, on the fly, as needed, is a necessity.

Differentiate
You just know that there had to be some sort of edu-babble introduced into a discussion like this.  Remember those needs?  They now become YOUR needs.  At any quality conference, you are enabled by allowing you to select just what you need during any time slot.  Learning online should work the same way.  Track down and engage in the discussions that feed your present needs.

Build a Critical Mass
I was showing off my RebelMouse page to a friend recently as a way to show how we might accumulate stories for a totally different reason.  Her comments were “You have over 5000 followers?”  Yes, but more importantly, I follow over 3000.  The folks that I follow have been chosen for a purpose.  I can count on them to engage, inspire, and challenge me daily.  It really helps to grow my thinking.  I recall when I did follow 20 or so people.  My impression then was that this whole exercise was a waste of time.  Not now.

Twitter as a LaunchPad
The best learning for me happens when the conversation takes off and doesn’t necessarily stay in the social media.  I like following the links – take me to news reports, research, forums, wikis, and blogs where the meaty stuff resides.  You don’t get the full monty 140 characters at a time but like the library card catalogue, it should be there to tease and inform you about where the good stuff is.

Give Back
It’s one thing to be there and suck it all in.  Anyone who has ever put together a child’s toy where “some assembly is required” knows that there’s much more to the job that simply reading the instructions.  You’ve got to roll up your sleeves, find those tools in the toolbox and then get to the job of doing it.  The same thing happens with social media.  Find and share.  You can do this 140 characters at a time.  While you’ve differentiated for your own needs a set or sub-set of yours will undoubtedly have an appeal to someone else.

Don’t keep your best learning to yourself
You can’t get in shape by watching other people work out at the gym.  You can learn the techniques of the exercise but you don’t get the benefit until you do it yourself.  Ditto for social media.  Did you learn something inspiring, out of the ordinary, or just something that got your through to morning recess?  If it worked for you, it just might be of value to someone else somewhere.  Blog about it; add it to your wiki.  Education isn’t about the person who wins by hoarding the most; the winner will be the one who influences by filtering and sharing or creating the best of the best.

When you look at Twitter and what it can really do, I think you’ll see that it can be an incredibly powerful tool.  Unlike Professional Development where you show up for a coffee and muffin and sit back, Professional Learning with Twitter is work.  It requires engagement, active interactions, creating and sharing your learning.  Isn’t that what we expect from our students?  Should we expect no less from ourselves?

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