Your School’s Digital Footprint

Another of the things that the #otfcue group played around with at the workshop on Saturday was Google Search Stories.  It’s a simple concept with very powerful results.  Enter a search term, decide whether you want to search the web, blogs, images, etc. and repeat six times.  Google Search Stores creates little snippets illustrating your search results that you can build into a 30 second video and post it on YouTube.  I had blogged about it earlier and the Computer Contacts experienced it at one of our meetings last spring.  We thought that it would be an awesome way to do a number of things.

  1. Show off the best of your personal digital footprint
  2. Show off your student’s personal digital footprint
  3. Add to an electronic portfolio
  4. Do some real research about what’s on the web about YOU
  5. and, the logical extension – what about your school’s identity

After all, schools spent time and effort in sports, fundraising, community service, OYAP placements and academic achievement.  Chances are, these are celebrated on your school’s, board’s, or other’s websites.  Why not brag about it.  It’s one thing to put a static link to the mention but quite another to add a nice touch of multi-media and movie to show it off.  Below appears my original post about this.

A new feature of Google adds considerable excitement to the whole search process with huge overtones for the classroom.  Huge.


One of my favourite albeit condescending application in this realm is “Let Me Google That For You“.  It’s a great answer when you get the question – do you know about …?  from someone who is too lazy to use a search engine for their own purposes.

From Google comes  a new feature.  If you saw the advertisement during the SuperBowl, then you’ve already got a flavour for it.

Head over to Google Search Stories to begin.  In the example below, I used the custom template to create some Google search terms for where you might expect to see any content that I’ve ever created and posted to the internet.  Then, it’s just a matter of picking the appropriate music and let the application do its thing.  The result is a movie that you can post to YouTube.

That was amazingly easy to do.  Now, where could you possibly use it in education?

Suppose you are indeed a great creator of content.  Why not use this facility to quickly create a movie to show others where you are and how to get there?  It adds a whole new dimension to the concept of being “Google-able”, doesn’t it?  If you’re not giving back, you’re  – well – hard to Google.

Research Bibliography
I really like this concept.  If  the current project involves elements of student research to find digital artifacts as part of their studies, use this utility to demonstrate to the teacher exactly what search terms that they used to feed their research.  If the students are indeed pulling down articles from various internet resources for their works, why not embed this at the end of the report on the class wiki.  Since the length of the movie created is dependent upon the number of searches created, perhaps a nice side effect is a richer depth of research as they try to find the best resources.

School Website Enhancement
Related to the concept of a personal portfolio, how about a video about your school or organization?  If you’re active and have a dynamic presence in the community, creating content, or want to show off teacher wikis and blog, why not search for them and put together a nice montage suitable for embedding?

It’s a fun web application, to be sure.  But, I think used properly, there could be terrific enhancements to the research and reporting process.

How could you see it working?

A Mashup of Note

Like more and more people, I get my news online anymore.  I’ve tried a number of different techniques to try and get the latest.  They tend, however, to be linear.

Either they’re posted to a news site chronologically or they are arranged by the importance assigned to the story by the news editor.  Both are awesome ways of handling the news.  Pick up your typical newspaper and the big headlines will give you the big news of the day with huge fonts screaming from the top of the paper.  Lesser articles appear on the page and they are typically continued on page …  There’s also generally a story a little off the record to entice you to buy the paper and find the rest.

It’s the stuff that media literacy is built upon and the London Public Library has put together a great resource to help understand Media Literacy.  Links abound to other resources and there really is a wealth of materials to dig into.

The one thread that weaves its way through this sort of presentation is that it is linear and there are editors who are paid nicely to be able to display the stories.  They have two bosses – the consumer who wants quick access to the materials and the employer who wants to sell the media and even perhaps change the world.

I’d like to suggest that there’s another way of looking at the top current headlines of the day.

At Reuters, there is a traditional approach to the news.  Top news stories and a sidebar on the left gives you the old familiar approach to determining what’s going on world wide.

But, dig a little deeper, and you’ll find Reuters’ News Maps.  Here, the news of the day meets Microsoft’s Virtual Earth.  News stories are fed to the page, presumably by RSS, and they appear on Virtual Earth.  Move your cursor over the dots and see the news titles of the day as tags.  Very quickly, you can see what’s happening worldwide.  Find a teaser that really intrigues you and a link will take you to the complete story.  What an efficient way to see what’s happening globally!  And, of course, like most mapping programs, you easily zoom in and out to navigate to places of interest.

It serves to remind us that in today’s internet communication age, we are all closer to each other than ever.  This will not replace the traditional approach to reading the news but, if you want to find out what’s happening world-wide, it can’t be beat and should be part of your routine to stay on top of happenings world-wide that might otherwise go unnoticed.

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