School’s out Friday

Aahhh…Google. They do it well. Take delight in their clever advertising campaign about Search. If only all advertisers understood that a good story, cleverly told, is the most powerful tool at their disposal.

I’ve been Googled today. Not in the search sense, but in the Google Summit sense. I’m in Maroochydore tonight, which is close to Buderim where the Google Apps for Education Summit is being held at Matthew Flinders Anglican College. Today was the first day of their two day conference, and I was very pleasantly surprised that there was so much learning to be had today!

My twitter stream is literally flooded with information and links that I shared. If you care to, take a look at #gafesummit on Twitter and you’ll see some of the great tips and ideas that were shared today. I’m very interested in Chromebooks and their potential for use in schools and tweeted that I had to get my hands on one to check it out. Suan Yeo, the head of Google Enterprise Education efforts, saw my tweet and replied asking me to find him out to talk about that. I did during the next break, and he gave me a Chromebook to try out for the day. Very cool! I was very impressed. A Chromebook is a thin client device – it contains no hard drive and relies on the Google Chrome operating system and obviously an Internet connection. I was using a Samsung Chromebook. It was very light and had a USB, SD Card and HDMI port. You’d be relying on your Google Drive account and the Chrome App store for creation tools, but that’s pretty achievable these days given the options available there. I think I’m going to invest in one of these in the near future and see how it goes in a school setting. At around $350, the price point is good. Given the demise of netbooks, this is looking like a viable alternative for schools with the infrastructure that can support them.

I’m going to Storify my tweet stream and try and write a halfway decent blog post about the summit on the plane journey home tomorrow night. I need to take the opportunity to write in the air, because that kind of dedicated lack of distraction time doesn’t come my way all that frequently these days.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow and the learning to be had. Better charge those devices in preparation!

Freedom vs Control – important lessons to be learned

Cyber crime expect Mikko Hypponen delivered a talk at the TEDxBrussels event that has made it this week onto the TED site. If you’re at all interested in conversations surrounding privacy in this digital age, then it’s 10 minutes well invested.

As teachers, we need to understand the implications of our use of the Internet and we should be helping our students understand it too. Mikko makes the comment in this talk that he believes you are more likely to become a victim of crime in the online world than in the real world. How many of us think about whether or not trojan viruses have infected our computers after visiting a site? Do we ever think that our keystrokes may be being monitored by a criminal hoping to gain password or credit card details?

How many people have any understanding of what a https site is in the first place and how you know if a site has an extended validation certificate? If you’re unclear, head over to “20 Things I Learned about Browsers and the Web“, a really helpful guide written in easy to understand language that won’t befuddle you. It was published by the Google Chrome team in 2010, and is a very handy reference point for anyone wanting to know more about the code, browsers, security risks, and a myriad of other eye opening details about how the Web works. I teach a Yr 7 Information Technology class and I’ve found it very helpful to support my understanding, and the understanding of the students I teach.

Mikko identifies three types of online attacks threatening our privacy and data. Criminals, looking for avenues to steal our money, hacktivists, (groups like Anonymous) who hack as means of protesting, and Nation States, who are apparently willingly infecting suspected citizens computers in order to collect information about them. Worrying, huh? I think so, and I believe it’s important that we as teachers impart this kind of information to our students. We need informed citizens who are capable of making decisions and defending their rights.

Mikko ends his talk stating the issue at hand is ‘Freedom vs Control’, and speculates whether we will spend the next 50 years wondering if we are able to trust our Governments. He’s got me thinking, I can tell you. I bet your students would find it fascinating too. We need to find avenues in our curriculums today to teach these important understandings that have implications for all of us.

School’s out Friday

George Couras sent our a tweet this week to this Google Chrome video. It’s the embodiment of what the Web allows; the crowdsourcing of material inspired by someone who has the ability to inspire and motivate people to create content. In this case it’s Lady Gaga, someone who understands that you don’t need record companies to spend millions of dollars promoting your material now. If you’re smart, you engage your audience, you talk to them through channels of social media such as Twitter and Facebook, and you make them feel like they matter to you. Your fans feel like they have a personal connection to you, and they promote your product and make you a superstar in the process. Lady Gaga gets this. So does Justin Beiber, and Will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas. If you’re an aspiring musician, you better start understanding how social media works, because if you’re going to make it big, you need to find and talk to your audience, and get them to do the promotion that record companies did in the past.

How clever of Google to link with Lady Gaga to promote their products. They are a company working very hard right now to crowdsource users to promote Google+, their new social network going up against the monolith that is Facebook. I wrote a post earlier this week talking of how I don’t think I can manage another social network. It took all of two days for me to succumb to the lure of Google+.

Pathetic, isn’t it.

I still don’t think there is room in my life for another social network, but I have to say there are some things about Google+ that I do like. The circles feature, where you group people into categories, is something I like. You can post content in your stream to specific circles and I like the perceived element of control that appears to come with that. I tried out Google Hangouts with a group including Joyce Valenza, Judy O’Connell, Cathy Jo Nelson, Linda Nitsche, Rob Darrow and Chris Betcher the other morning(see screenshot below). It worked really seamlessly. We could all see and hear one another – there was very little lag and you could conduct a conversation just like you were hanging out with this group in any social setting. No-one had to pick up the microphone like you do in Elluminate; it was a much more natural experience. There are so many possibilities here for education. If you can create circles for specific groups of students, you eliminate the problems that come with sharing content across all of your social groupings. Can you imagine end of year revision before VCE exams taking place in a Google hangout? I can. At the moment, there is no ability to upload a presentation or share a screen, and it’s limited to 10 people. If they work on it though, this presents a real challenge to a company like Blackboard that recently acquired Elluminate.


Thank goodness Google released Google+ while we are on school holidays here in Australia. It’s given me a bit of room to play. Next Wednesday, I leave for Port Douglas with my family on a much needed holiday. While I have no doubt I will check into my networks, I intend to do the right thing by my husband and kids and focus on them. There may not even be a School’s out Friday posting next week!

(And just for a bit of sheer indulgence, take a look at Maroon 5 and Christina Aguilera singing ‘Moves like Jagger’, my favourite song right now.)

Have a great weekend. I’ll try not to play too much with Google+!

Google’s book to help us understand the Web.

Google have produced a very handy online book explaining how the Web works. 20 Things I Learned About Browsers and the Web provides explanations about Cloud Computing, HTML, Web apps,  browsers, privacy, and a number of other topics that many people would have no clue about. 

Most of us use the Web on a daily basis, but many people have no idea how it works or how they can read the information in an URL to determine the nature or validity of a site. The explanations in this book are simply stated, and easy to understand. As you’d expect, the book makes quite a few references to the Google Chrome browser, but that’s fair enough given that they’ve gone to the effort of producing the book and making it freely available for us to use.

We really owe it to ourselves to have a deeper understanding of the Web, especially as it becomes more and more pervasive in our lives. I’ll certainly be using this book with the students I teach.

Google Chrome – now they have a browser. World domination beckons.

I’ve just downloaded Google Chrome. This is Google’s new browser, released about an hour ago. Just playing right now but it’s looking pretty good. The pages load very quickly and I seem to be moving faster into applications. I’ve been using Internet Explorer. Flock didn’t do it for me and Firefox has problems at work so I just went with what was comfortable. Lately I’ve been having so many problems loading pages with IE I’ve just about been going crazy.  I’ll be interested to see how this works. the buzz on the net so far is that it’s pretty slick.

Google really are covering all bases to ensure that they become our brand of choice. I really heavily now on my Google Reader and Gmail.  At this early stage, looks like I might become reliant on their browser too.  They’ve relased a video explaining the story of Google Chrome. Check it out.