Google Street View – now in Australia

Was watching World News on SBS when I saw a report about Google Street View. I’d never heard of it, but the reporter was saying that your house’s street view could be visible in a Google Maps search if you selected street view. Just had to check that out! Typed in my address, clicked on street view and next thing you know I’m looking at my front fence and driveway -the image you see above! Freaked me out a bit I have to admit. It seems a little intrusive somehow.

Andrew Ramadge, from wrote an article about Street View explaining what it is and how the images are collected;

Google Street View is an online tool that lets users take a virtual tour of landscapes from their computer by perusing an interactive database of millions of 360-degree snapshots.

The snapshots are taken by a fleet of cars fitted with special cameras that drive across the country, capturing images on every street corner and along every highway.

   He goes on to address security concerns that have been expressed and how Google hopes to overcome them;

In response to security concerns raised in the US, Google said last year its Street View service would not identify faces or license plates in Australia.

The company has recently introduced an automatic face-blurring technology designed to obscure the identities of people caught in the lens of Street View. Mr Shilkin said that the low resolution of images would prevent vehicle number plates from being identifiable.

Users can also report any Street View images they believe to be inappropriate through a link on the website. Mr Foster said it would take anywhere between a few minutes to “a day or so” to remove to offending images once they were reported.

Google have created a video explaining Street View for Australian audiences. I have to admit that after viewing this I warmed to the Street View concept. Good marketing Google! I like the fact that I and my students are now going to be able to visit places of interest and ‘walk’ our way around them. Imagine a class where you’re explaining the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge or Opera House- you can take your students there to navigate your way around its surrounds.  If you have to find your way from one place to another you type in your start address and your finish address and the program will step out for you the course you need to take.  Geography classes just got a whole lot more interesting I think! Watch the video and make your own mind up about Street View.

(If you want to see how the camera works that took the street view pictures take a look at this popular mechanics article. Thanks to Simon Brown for tweeting about this)

US election made simple thanks to Commoncraft.

Despite being at the bottom of the world (depending on which way you look at things!) and probably not even factoring in the consciousness of many American citizens, we in Australia are pretty interested in the American political process.  What America does matters to us; we are so heavily influenced by the culture, and decisions that the American Government make have ramifications for us. Just look at Iraq – Australian soldiers were deployed there almost immediately and have only just been withdrawn thanks to  the change of Government in our latest election (Labor now holds power).

That’s why this latest offering from the Lefevers at Commoncraft is going to be useful. I recently had a fantastic conversation with my Yr 7 students about the race between Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama for the Democrat leadership. They are very aware of who the people are but are not so aware of the processes that get them into Government. Electing a US President in Plain English explains the election process that will take place when the Democrat candidate faces the Republican candidate. They do it well. Make sure your tell your teachers about it. It’s a plain simple explanation that makes plain sense!

Very recent – the ‘buzz’ search engine

Tom Churm commented on this blog recently about what I assume is his search engine, Very Recent. It’s an interesting idea. It’s a search engine that searches for information on sites like Twitter, Google Blog Search, Technorati, Yahoo News, Digg, FriendFeed and Flickr. So what you’re getting when you search is the latest ‘buzz’ from people making comment and producing content in this networked world.  

How useful it will be for education is something to ponder. There’s always the risk that the returns will be potentially inappropriate – we are, after all, dealing with social networking sites where people offer relaxed commentary. However, I could see the benefit of this search engine for finding information about world events as they happen. It’s often the social networking sites that are buzzing with info straight away. If you operate in a network like Twitter you will know that the links people provide are often good.  I searched for Beijing Olympics and found some interesting information and some great photos from Flickr. You could set a task for students to find what the latest buzz is surrounding this world event. By going to a Technorati link I discovered that protestors in Beijing must give 5 days notice and ‘not harm China’s vaguely defined “national interests” ‘.  Let’s see how that goes!!

You don’t get a lot of detail about what is listed there- just the title of the blog post, article or YouTube video etc. Hard to know if there is any relevance for what you need. Phil Bradley recently wrote about it and you might like to read his take on it. It’s an interesting idea though, and Very Recent is a search engine I’ll be remembering the next time something big happens and I want to see what the world is saying about it.

School’s out Friday

So hard to choose this week because I’ve had two suggestions from my students for this week’s dose of School’s out Friday. I love it that the kids I teach want to be involved in the process. They love the School’s out Friday post and often ask if they can watch them in class. I have them during last lesson on a Friday so as a treat they sometimes get to watch the previous week’s post just before leaving school for the weekend.

Can’t disappoint them so there are two funny vids this week. The first is a quickie – a mother panda who gets a shock from her newborn’s sneeze – guaranteed to put a smile on you face. The second is two Australian comics, Lano and Woodley, who did a farewell tour when they decided to part company. This is Frank Woodley and his song explaining the origins of everything including their meeting, career togehter and decision to part. And all in one and a half minutes!

Hope you have a great weekend.