Google Apps at the EdTech Conference

 Well, I was planning to record my EdTech Conference experience day-by-day, but that didn’t happen.  I was too caught up in face-to-face interaction Thursday and Friday to take time out for any solitary computer blogging.  I do have some other sessions to report on, though, so here goes.

The first session I attended Thursday morning was an overview of some free Google apps.  The main reason I attended this session was to learn more about the Google calendar, which I’ve been considering using for scheduling the laptop computers and the Media Lab computers at my school.  I’ve heard other media specialists praise it on the SCASL listserv, so I wanted to find out more about it.  I like the fact that my invited users can edit it themselves, because I’d like my teachers to be able to put themselves on the schedule rather than emailing me or worse, sending me notes on little pieces of paper asking if the computers are available.  This is one of the things I love to see technology used for – removing the drudgery of clerical tasks from my daily life.  With my Google Computer Calendar in place, I will no longer have to spend time keeping up with those schedules myself.

What was unexpected in this session was discovering Google Sites, which allows users to quickly create websites that can be made private, semi-public (by invitation only) or public to everyone on the internet.  I like the fact that my pages can be kept in a controlled environment (sometimes necessary in the world of education), but the thing that surprised me about the Google Sites pages our presenter, Karen Minter, has created is that they are ad-free.  I didn’t realize that Google ever refrained from promoting themselves, but according to Karen they do not run ads on educator-created websites.  This was good news, because I really tend to shy away from using sites that run ads of any sort.  After all, if my name is on a webpage, I want to be able to control all of the content that appears there.  (Collaborative work with colleagues excepted, of course.) 

For example, I heard about a new webpage aggregator site called Only2Clicks that displays a full-page-view snapshot of all the sites you have stored there.  This was exactly what I was looking for to use with a project I was doing for my teachers, and when I took a look at the site, I loved the design and the layout of it.  However, there were those rows of little Google ads showing up at the bottom of each 2Clicks page, so I reluctantly decided to stick with using my Netvibes aggregator for the project, even though with Netvibes, the link modules are much smaller and harder to read than those on Only2Clicks, and the Netvibes webpage modules show only the top left corner of a website, rather the the entire webpage.  (See an example of what I’m talking about here.)  Hmmm, now that I think about it, perhaps I should take another look at Pageflakes to see how they handle website views.  If anyone out there is using Pageflakes, maybe you could leave me a comment and let me know…..

Boy, I really got sidetracked from describing my EdTech experience, didn’t I!  It’s getting late, and I think this post is long enough; I’ll report on some more sessions later.

Update: 11/11/08  Well, I did try to go back and take another look at Pageflakes, but the site is down, and apparently has been down for at least two weeks.  After doing some research, I’ve found that there is rampant speculation on the web that Pageflakes is gone for good.  Due to financial difficulties, Pageflakes was acquired by Live Universe in May of this year, and the general web consensus at this time is that the faltering company will not resurface.  Too bad.   

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Google Lit Trips

I have been working on another Mash-Up project this past week, this time using Flickr and Google Earth.  I’m creating a Google Lit Trip for the book How to Bake an Apple Pie and See the World by Marjorie Priceman.  Google Earth is a free download that lets you fly anywhere on Earth to view satellite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings and more. You can explore, save your toured places, and share them with others.  Google Lit Trips use features of Google Earth to plot the events in a book so that students can take a virtual tour of the setting and happenings of the story. 

French Chickens and Egg

The premise of the book I’m using is that when the market is closed one day, a young baker must travel the world to gather the ingredients she needs for her apple pie.  I searched Flickr CC (which is an invaluable site for finding Flickr photos released under the creative commons license) for images to include at each stop on my Google Earth journey, so that students can see not only where each country is on the map, but also a photo of the actual area, as well as the animal or plant providing the necessary baking ingredients.  For example, at one point our heroine travels to France to get eggs, and I was able to find this photo of a freshly laid egg, actually taken in Bretagne, to include in my trip.  

I am currently working on the last step of the project, which is to create a path to link all of the destinations together.  Once I have the Lit Trip completed, I will update this post.

(Flickr Photo “Speckled White Egg” by hugovk)

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