Posted on April 24, 2012 by Ollie Dreon
It’s that time of the year. Across the nation, collegiate faculty members are checking luggage, riding in cabs and staying in hotels to attend and present at academic conferences. Having just returned from a stint of three international conferences in four weeks, I’ve come to realize that the conference format is not an ideal format for professional development. Although many people have begun to question the type of discourse that occurs at traditional academic conferences, I want to just focus on the economics of conferences here. Let’s take a look at AERA, the conference from which I returned last week. The American Educational Research Association was held in Vancouver and over 30,000 educational researchers descended on the Canadian coastal city. Each attendee paid registration fees, airfare, hotel costs, meals and other expenses to participate in the conference. If each attendee spent $1,000 to attend the conference, the grand total would eclipse $30 Million. While the conference was rewarding and helped me grow as an educator and as a researcher, I wonder whether there are better ways to spend that money. I also wonder if there are other ways to foster the same type of academic discussions without the time and money spent on traveling.
Google is attempting to shake up the conference world by offering a free, one-day online conference on May 2nd from 12 – 10 PM Eastern. Drawing on a variety of topics from a group of speakers worldwide, Google Education on Air utilizes Google’s new Hangouts on Air functionality. With traditional Hangouts in Google+, a chat was limited to 10 users. While Hangouts on Air doesn’t allow more participants, the feature allows any number of observers who watch the conversation as it streams through YouTube. For the Education on Air conference, each presenter will identify nine participants to share in the discussion while any number of attendees can watch the conversation live. It’s a really ingenious format and has some real potential to shake up conference formats.
While the structure of the conference might be a little nontraditional, the schedule spans the EdTech terrain and offers some unique topics including Mind=Blown with minutephysics, Becoming a Google Search Ninja, and A Global Hip-Hop Passport. With over 40 different presentations planned throughout the day, Education on Air has been organized around six larger themes that include:
- Hot Topics in Educational Technology
- Communicate, Connect & Share
- Google Apps
- Harnessing the Power of the Web
- Instructional & Assessment Tools
- Get Productive
If you’re interested in attending the conference, be sure to check out the conference schedule and the list of presenters for more information. The best part of Google Education on Air is you won’t have to worry about losing your luggage on your way home from the conference.
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Posted on April 10, 2012 by Ollie Dreon
Google created quite a stir last week by announcing one of its projects currently in development. Project Glass (also known as Google Glasses) will allow users to connect to a wide range of information through a wearable pair of glasses. Using augmented reality functionality, people wearing Google Glasses will be able to access a wide range of information as they go about their normal lives. Want to see a bus schedule? Google Glasses will have you covered. Wondering about the weather? Google Glasses will let you see today’s forecast. Trying to find the quickest walking route to the library? Google Glasses will help you get there. Visiting a foreign city and wondering about when a certain building was constructed? Google Glasses will have that information as well. If you’re having trouble visualizing what this will look like, check out this video created by Google.
While most analysts see Project Glass as being several years away from reaching the everyday consumer, the technology is definitely on its way. As an educator, I see technology like Google Glasses and wonder about its effects on our curriculum and our roles as educators. Think historically for a second. Looking back 100 years ago, most students came into contact with very few sources of information. Students could get a book from a library or possibly read a newspaper, but they relied on educators for most of their information. With reference books being scarce, students needed to memorize facts, figures and equations so they could easily access that information when it was needed. Today’s students experience a much different informational environment, both educationally and socially. Students are literally being inundated with information everyday. Technology like Google Glasses is not causing this information overload, it just makes that process more tangible. With so much information at our students’ fingertips (or line of sight), some may wonder, what is the role of education and teachers? Despite having access to a multitude of resources, students must learn to critically analyze and apply the information they encounter. Learning to do this requires skilled educators. Even with the emergence of technology like Google Glasses, the future looks bright for education.
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Posted on December 20, 2011 by Ollie Dreon
Google Docs just keeps getting better! For those of you who have used Google Docs, I’m sure you already appreciate its ability to allow real-time collaboration in online word processing documents, presentations and spreadsheets. Used in educational settings, Google Docs can be a tremendous tool to help groups of students work together on projects and to allow them to edit the work of their peers.
One of the challenges with Google Docs, however, is that there is no real clip art or image library. I know this may seem like a minor feature, but for many educators, this is a deal breaker. If students are using Microsoft Office applications, for instance, they have access to a full library of copyright-free images to support their work. If they are developing a document, they can easily incorporate images without searching the web or worrying about determining the copyright status of an image they’ve obtained. Until recently, Google Docs did not offer the same functionality. To incorporate an image, a student needed to upload one of their own or search through Google Images to find one, which could expose students to undesirable material. Google Docs has alleviated these challenges by incorporating stock photos into their Office suite. Now, students can search through an online library to find appropriate images that relate to their topic and simply click to include them. It really couldn’t be any easier. To access the stock photography features, however, be sure that you’re using the new version of Google Docs. That’s one of the best parts of using a service like Google Docs. New features are constantly being added without the need to purchase anything. In the current economic climate that many schools face, free educational tools that offer a wide range of services are critical.
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Posted on August 2, 2011 by Ollie Dreon
Google Maps is one of the go-to applications that is part of my everyday life. It seems like I’m always pulling up Google Maps on my computer or my iPhone to find directions to a school, a restaurant or some far-off destination. In classroom settings, however, I haven’t used Google Maps that often. Sure, I’ve used ZeeMaps (which interfaces with Google Maps) to create a wiki map for students to share information across a class. I like using sites like ZeeMaps because the map evolves through collaborative student work. While a map created in ZeeMaps grows with student involvement, the end product is still a static map. A visitor can see the additions made by students but miss the evolutionary nature of the map itself.
Animaps, however, lets users create an animated map with markers that move, images and text that pop up on cue, and lines and shapes that change over time. Animaps can be shared with others where all of the animations can be watched like a video. Visitors can play, pause, slow and speed up the action. With Animaps, the map takes life and viewers can watch the action.
In a classroom setting, an educator could use Animaps to describe some historical battle to share with students. A science teacher could use Animaps to discuss the movement of landforms or the migration of animals. Beyond instruction, an educator could also use Animaps as an assessment tool where students create Animaps to discuss the events in a book or to show how different political events shaped history. Think of Animaps as a platform which draws on student creativity and can be integrated in almost any content area.
Be sure to check out the Animaps tutorial below:
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