Deferred Learning

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I was talking to an elementary teacher this week about ways she might be able to use Google Earth in her instruction.

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With her interactive whiteboard, LitTrips, for studying history, exploring other cultures.

She told me that it all sounded wonderful, something her students would really respond to and enjoy using.

And then… “Maybe we can plan to do something with Google Earth after the SOLs.”*

Sigh!

Wouldn’t it be nice if everything we did in schools was that after-the-SOLs kind of learning?


* SOL = Standards of Learning, the shorthand name for Virginia’s spring collection of standardized tests. What did you think it meant? :-)

Conference Time

I’m just about finished with my not-quite-at-the-last-minute prep for my trip to our annual state edtech conference, sponsored by the Virginia Society for Technology in Education.

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The program starts on Monday but I’ll be headed to beautiful downtown Roanoke just before noon tomorrow, mainly so I don’t have to leave at 3am. :-)

If you happen to be in the neighborhood, Tuesday afternoon I’ll be doing a concurrent session titled You Don’t Have Too Much Information. You’re Using The Wrong Tools.

It’s a variation on the same presentation about why you should be using Google Reader, Delicious and Evernote I’ve been doing in 90 minute to three hour time frames for a while.

However, this is the first time I’ve tried to squeeze the essence into an hour so we’ll see how that goes.

Bright and early Wednesday morning (7:30?!), I’ll be doing a Bring Your Own Laptop workshop on Building Tours in Google Earth.

Around my sessions I’m looking forward to catching up with friends and colleagues from other parts of the state in an analog, face-to-face way that’s still not possible with Twitter.

Even if you’re not staying to hear my ravings, stop in and say hi.

Touring Margaritaville

Google released version 5 of their Earth software this week and their engineers have done a great job of improving what was already an excellent resource for teaching and learning.

The most notable new feature is called Touring in which you can record a fly-through tour of stops you’ve placed on the map and save it into a KMZ file for easy sharing with others.

But that’s not all. Touring also allows you to record an audio narration at the same time and save it into the same file.

To show everyone what can be done, Google presents a tour of the Hawaiian Islands with stops at the sites of Jimmy Buffett’s 2009 tour, complete with the man himself performing Margaritaville as the sound track.

Just download the KMZ file (remarkably small at 8mb) and open in Earth 5.

Then take a look at the short tutorial on how to create your own tour with sound, also posted this week.

Better yet, show the demo and tutorial to some students (maybe one of the other demos that don’t involve Jimmy singing about drinking :-) and let their imaginations work.

Very cool stuff!

I Can See Clearly Now

For almost as long as Google’s mapping tools have been around, if you searched for One Observatory Circle, Washington DC, you received a very pixelated image.

That is the home of the Vice President of the United States, and, unless you and Wilson were rescued yesterday, you know that the occupant at that address has recently changed.

So has the view from above.

The changeover happened on January 18 in Google Earth, the search engine’s 3D mapping service, and on Thursday in Google Maps. In other words, the vice president’s house was revealed on Google the same week Cheney moved out and Joe Biden moved in.

For the past four years, since Google first began introducing high-resolution satellite imagery into Google Earth and Google Maps, people have noticed that Cheney’s house remained obscured, even as the White House itself could be seen clearly.

A small thing to be sure, but still a sign of more openness and less unnecessary secrecy in the new administration.

Crafting a Good Impression

A post at the Using Google Earth blog addresses the evidently frequently asked question Can I Take My House Out of Google Earth?.

The simple answer is… maybe.

The more accurate response is that doing so will take a lot of work and you should be prepared to be disappointed.

Of course a concern about the images of your personal property in Google Earth is just one relatively small part of the larger issue of privacy on the web. Or the lack of privacy on the web.

Most days we celebrate the vast amount of information that can easily be obtained on the internet.

But the other side of that coin is that large chunks of our personal data have also been swept into that stream.

The entry reminded me of a discussion at WordCampEd DC on the topic of student privacy and all the efforts educators go through to preserve it.

We basically came to the conclusion that there’s really no such thing as privacy anymore, at least not in the way we understood the concept in the pre-network age.

In our overly-large school district, we do a lot of worrying about topics like if we should display student pictures on school web sites or whether we can allow students to put their work out in public. Other systems probably do the same.

But expending large amounts of time, effort, and money trying to isolate kids from the world is something of a hopeless cause.

Certainly we need some basic gates and gatekeepers.

However, a better approach than relying entirely on those lock would be teaching our students about the persistent nature of the information they post and helping them craft an identity for the web they can be proud of.

A public impression that won’t embarrass them when someone in HR digs it up years later for a job interview or derail their run for political office when a blogger does a Google search.