Monthly Archives: January 2008

Googlebomb – new term for me

I spend a fair bit of time reading about how search engines work (particularly Google),  but I have to admit that I came across a new term today via Phil Bradley’s site. The term is Googlebomb. According to Google’s Webmaster Central Blog, this is what a Googlebomb is;

Technically, a “Googlebomb” (sometimes called a “linkbomb” since they’re not specific to Google) refers to a prank where people attempt to cause someone else’s site to rank for an obscure or meaningless query.

A better explanation (I think) appears at Google Blogoscoped;

A Googlebomb means a lot of people get together to link to a specific site, often an “enemy site,” using specific e.g. funny link text. This way, the target site will appear ranked at #1 in Google for this text, making for an embarrassing effect.

According to Blogoscoped, the Church of Scientology have been Googlebombed when the search terms ‘Dangerous Cult’ are used. Their site comes up as the first result, even though the homepage at this time contains the word “dangerous” but not the word “cult”…  There’s no doubt it is embarrassing for the Church of Scientology and Wikipedia already have it covered in their page entitled Google bomb;

As of January 29, 2008 Google bombing during Project Chanology has caused the main website for Scientology to appear as the first result when searching “dangerous cult”, as reported by Jason Lee Miller of WebProNews.

Something to use when teaching students about how search results can be manipulated when people know what they are doing.

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Visible Body – great for interactive whiteboards

 

I’m not a Science teacher, but I think this new (and free!) software looks like it would be really useful in secondary school science classes. Here’s what it can do according to their Visible Body site;

With the Visible Body, you can:

  • Search for and locate anatomical structures by name.
  • Hide, rotate, see through, and explore parts of human anatomy.
  • Move the model in three-dimensional space, by either clicking directly on the model
    or using the virtual joystick.
  • Zoom in and out, using either the on-screen zoom slider or a mouse scroll wheel.
  • Click on systems or structures to make them transparent or hide them entirely.
  • Click on anatomical structures to reveal names.

Schools with interactive whiteboards would no doubt find this useful and the fact that it’s free makes it all the more appealing. You need to sign in and register to be able to access the site. Great for schools with limited budgets – it’s amazing what you can access for free these days! Thanks to Jane Knight at Jane’s E-Learning Pick of the Day for highlighting this useful resource. 

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Think before you post part two.

I’ve been looking at my blog stats and have noticed a lot of interest in a previous post that featured a ‘Think before you post’ internet safety television ad. Here is another one. Of the two, I actually think this one about Sarah has the most impact. I used it in classrooms last year and the students really took notice of the message. It promoted vibrant class discussion, particularly surrounding the guy taking the theatre tickets. ‘Creepy’ was the overwhelming verdict. I think these are fantastic learning tools for our students – they are quick and easy to digest, but spark much comment and leave a mark. 

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Ideablob – Inspirational video and interesting website

The above video is called Ideablob – What is an idea? and you can find it on YouTube. It’s an interesting question and one we could use in our classrooms to prompt thinking. I could see you using this video in Philosophy classes, Design and Technology, English, Business Studies and Science – I’m sure others could think of myriad other subject areas which would find this of use. The video’s getting mega hits – over 1.2 million views in six days! What’s really interesting is when you follow the link from YouTube to the website who posted the video. Ideablob, according to their ‘about’ page,

‘is where entrepreneurs and small business owners can share and grow their business ideas – and have a chance to win $10,000 towards fulfilling them.

Great ideas are generated every day by people all across the country, and now these ideas have a place to live and grow. Eligible individuals can submit their business idea to ideablob.com, and based on votes from the ideablob.com online community – which includes other innovators as well as friends, family, colleagues, associates, teachers and mentors – one idea every month will win $10,000.’

It’s run by Advanta. According to the about page,

 ‘Advanta has grown to be one of the nation’s largest credit card issuers (through Advanta Bank Corp.) in the small business market.’

 A credit card issuer wanting to be philanthropic and support small businesses? Excuse my sarcasm but I’m starting to get a little sceptical at this point. I may be wrong.

I do think, however, that this is another good lesson for us as teachers and for our students – follow the links and read everything – we have to empower our students to become critical thinkers when they are surfing the Web.   

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Unexpected joy is hairy, black and eight years old.

My last post was about Lee and Sachi Lefever and the great work they do. One of the things I love about Lee’s blog is that he gives some insight into their lives. I feel like I know them even though they would have no inkling of who I am. I realise that this is something I do in my teaching all the time. I tell my students things about myself and my family and I think it helps to make connections that then help with the learning that needs to take place. Maybe I’m misguided about this but I don’t think so. For this reason, I’m letting anyone out there who may be reading this an insight into the unexpected joy that has entered my family’s life.

A friend of mine has gone to teach overseas. Her father was looking after her much loved dog, Bella. Three months or so into her appointment her father died unexpectedly and she had to return for the funeral. Knowing my friend, my first thought was ‘What is she going to do with Bella?’ I rang and offered to take her (without consulting any other members of my family). My friend was grateful but family had offered to look after Bella. (Much to the relief of my husband!) When she returned home for Christmas we went out and it was then that she tearfully revealed that the family arrangement had not worked out and would I mind if she took me up on my offer. Of course I had to say yes – who could leave an eight yr old black Labrador cross without a home? It was with much trepidation that I returned home that night to inform my husband that a new member would be joining our household. The news was met with much grumbling – a year ago we had to put down our very much loved 16 yr old Cocker Spaniel and I don’t think either of us was ready for the emotional investment that comes with having a dog.

Well, I’m very pleased to say that Bella arrived and the emotional investment we have made is making a good return. She is a sheer delight – incredibly well behaved and deliriously happy to be a member of our household. To see her run down at our local beach is to see happiness in its purest form. We are all smitten, even hubby who was all doom and gloom at the start.  She’s even doing wonders for my thighs as we trek the neighbourhood on our nightly walks and that’s got to be a good thing! Unexpected joy has crept into my life and I’m loving every moment of it.

(For the life I me I can’t figure out how to insert a photo of Bella. I’m wasting too much time trying to figure it out – once I’ve worked it out I’ll post a picture!)

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Explanation please – and keep it simple!

Lee Lefever at Commoncraft writes really interesting posts about the work he and his wife are doing in trying to make new ideas easy to understand. A recent post entitled, Discovering the RSS Explanation Problem is a great read and something I think we can all relate to. Lee talks about going to a conference where a participant asked ‘What is RSS?”The CEO’s answer was, “RSS is an XML-based content syndication format.” He describes having an ‘Aha’ moment which no doubt was the seeding ground for the highly useful ‘plain english’ videos he and Sachi create.

How many of us have had the experience of people in command of knowledge being unable (or unwilling, and that’s another story altogether!) to provide an easy to understand explanation. I think this is a major problem when it comes to technology adoption. Often those in the know are so familiar with how something works they don’t realise that many people have ‘blocks’ when it comes to learning about a new way of doing things and need simple explanations that they can apply to their own situations.  This post has made me think about my teaching and they way I explain concepts to students. I’ve come a long way from my early chalk and talk teaching days, and I’ve noticed in recent years how effective graphic organisers are for students and how my teaching has changed. Our students are such visual learners – I see it in my own kids – and our teaching needs to address this. At the moment I seem to be surrounded by talk of ‘essential questions’. Maybe we also need to address the concept of ‘essential explanations’ to help our students navigate this educational landscape.

Here’s Lee and Sachi’s RSS in Plain English, and you’ll see how they make ‘RSS is an XML-based content syndication format’ easy to understand. If anyone from my school happens to read this, I’m happy to walk you through the setup of a Google Reader, and I promise I’ll make it relevant to your needs and simple to understand!

   

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School’s out Friday

Today was my first day back for the school year. No kids there yet – just meetings. I always find the start of the school year really daunting – information overload and lots of expectations. I much prefer it when the students arrive back and classes begin – very quickly my enthusiasm returns. It is lovely to catch up my colleagues, many of whom are now good friends. Teaching is so much about relationship building and I find it incredibly rewarding.

I’m wondering how I’m going to maintain this blog now that I’m back at work. My aim for the year is to write a post a day with a bit of a break on weekends, so maybe six posts a week. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep up with it as I’m enjoying making connections and finding interesting and useful things to post.

This brings me to today’s post. Here in Melbourne we have two radio presenters on Fox FM, Hamish and Andy. Their Friday afternoon broadcast is called ‘Pants off Friday’ because it is the end of the working week. I’ve decided that my Friday posts are going to be a bit of fun because it’s the end of the school week and I’m going to call them ‘School’s out Friday’.

So here goes. I love this YouTube video. It’s called OK Go – Here it goes again    and it’s a lot of fun. It’s been around a while and watched over 28,000 times. The members of this band hired the treadmills and created this amazing video. Enjoy!

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Life on Mars, or not?

I’ve been watching the television news and have seen that our networks have picked up on a photo taken by the Nasa spacecraft Spirit in Jan. 2004, of a shape that looks like a human, or ‘bigfoot’, figure.

I love a good ‘Life on Mars’ story, but thought I should check out a favourite site of mine and see what badastronomy.com had to say about this. I discovered this site last year while helping a student who was doing an inquiry based project for a Science class.  Phil Plait runs the site and this is what he has to say on his main page;

I am an astronomer, writer, and skeptic. I likes reality the way it is, and I aims to keep it that way. My real name is Phil Plait, and I run the Bad Astronomy website

It’s a great site and one to remember so that you can inform your students and staff about it. He has over 11,000 readers so I’m sure plenty of people out there are aware already. Phil had a comment on his blog about the photo, but the link he provided to Emily Lakdawalla’s site The Planetary Society Weblog was the real find. Emily’s post, entitled Teeny little Bigfoot on Mars, was a thorough discussion of the image and what it might be. I love this paragraph which talks about the actual size of the said ‘person’ or ‘bigfoot';

The zoomed-in view of the image on the Internet also makes it very difficult to see that Bigfoot is really not very big. There’s a neat tool that another rover fan, “Algorimancer,” has written that allows you to use the rovers’ binocular vision to estimate the distance to and size of objects visible in their images. Using AlgorimancerPG, you can determine that our little “Bigfoot” is actually less than five meters from the rover, so can be no more than about 6 centimeters tall.  

These are the types of things I enjoy about the immediacy of the Web. The ability to search for the guts of a story that our media has picked up. These are the type of skills we need to be teaching our students today. 

Another good thing my search turned up was that the BBC article about this topic included this quote from badastronomy.com;

Badastronomy.com tried to apply some perspective: “A man? It’s a tiny rock only a few inches high. It’s only a few feet from the rover!”

  Well done BBC!

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Toonlet – creativity for your classroom on what has been a sad day.

Toonlet looks like a great little tool that will enable your students to create comic strip characters and then create a comic strip starring their creative efforts.  Here’s an example from their archives;

Ethan Wandingham

If you’re looking for an online tool to make your class activities a little more interesting and engaging, this could be something to consider. Best part of all, it’s free!  Download Squad have done a review of Toonlet which is worth a read.

On a completely different note, I was saddened today to hear of Heath Ledger’s passing. After seeing a quick news grab regarding this my first reaction was to go to Google News and search ‘Heath Ledger dead’ to find out what was being reported. Sure enough in seconds I was looking at a New York Post article which was providing me with a lot more detail than what my television news service was offering. When I spoke about this to a friend during the day she was surprised that I had thought to do this and even more surprised to find out that you can select news from the Google toolbar and complete a search in this field. It made me realise once again that many people are not always familiar with new technology. We need to remember this and not assume that just because we are comfortable with the Web that others are similarly empowered. Teaching opportunities are everywhere – today mine was at a swimming pool complex – and my friend was going to go home and try it out.      

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Mr. Fisch, I salute you!

In my last post I made reference to the Fischbowl, a blog site written by Karl Fisch. I first heard reference to this site last year when I attended a conference at which Chris Poole was a keynote speaker. He began his speech by showing us ‘Did you know?’, a thought provoking video that had us all hooked. I remember seeing the end credits and seeing the word Fischbowl. I thought this must represent some ‘think tank’ operating out of the U.S. As I started reading more in later months I discovered that Karl Fisch is not some ‘suit’ heading up a ‘think tank’, he’s a teacher at Arapahoe High School in Colorado.  Here’s a bit of what he says on the ‘About this blog’ page;  

The Fischbowl was then conceived as a blog to support our staff development effort. I am the principal “author” of the blog. I’m the Director of Technology at Arapahoe High School(fancy title, but basically means I’m the technology coordinator for the building). In the beginning, the blog was simply a place to “continue the conversations” we had in staff development every two to three weeks, to extend the discussions beyond the time we had face to face. As the year progressed, I started to post more to the blog about relevant educational issues, new technologies, and whatever else I thought might be related and thought-provoking for our teachers, even if it didn’t directly relate to what we had just talked about in staff development.

I’m in awe of what Karl Fisch has managed to achieve and would recommend that you check out The Fischbowl. Karl’s ‘Did you know’ video has been widely circulated and has become what is referred to as a ‘viral video’ because of it’s spread. Below is an updated version of the video that was inspired by Karl’s initial powerpoint video he created for a staff professional development session at the start of the school year.

Another great video to watch that Karl has developed is ‘2020 Vision’. In this video his slides reflect on the graduating class of the year 2020 and how they have been affected by changes in technology.  Obviously it’s a lot of prediction, but I couldn’t stop but think, ‘Yeah, that just might be possible.’ It’s reasonably long (16 mins or so) but definitely worth watching.

  Once again Mr. Fisch, I salute you!

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