Thursday, 25 June 2009

Backing Up My Photos To The Cloud: Picasa Web Albums

    I'm sure that many of you out there have asked this question, "how should I back up my photos?" In the days of 2.0 MP cameras, I would back them up to CD(s), and as the resolution inched up toward 10.0 MP, this changed to DVD(s). It was a task that I didn't enjoy, sometimes Nero wouldn't work correctly, sometimes there would be a disk write error, and sometimes I just wasn't in the mood. Also, I was always worried that a computer crash and building fire would occur simultaneously (I'm really not that paranoid) and destroy any backups of my photos. 
    So, about 1 year ago I started using Picasa, which is a freebie by Google, that allows photo editing, sharing, and organizing. Prior to this I used Corel Photo-Paint which is better at editing than Picasa, but was not very user friendly and not a freebie. I had wanted to start using Adobe Photoshop, but I just couldn't justify the price. Anyways, about a month into using Picasa, I discovered Picasa Web Albums, which allows web storage of photos (~1 GB) along with sharing (most photos on this blog come from a web album) and geocoding. The original photo quality can be maintained and any changes to the photo done within Picasa will be synched to the web. The photos should be extremely safe on Google servers because.....well... it's Google!! Currently I have 380 MB of my web storage, to upgrade my storage to 10 GB/year (which can be used as storage for any Google App) is just $20 USD/year. For this low price I think it's definitely worth it to use web albums, plus I can access them from anywhere as along as there's an internet connection. If you know of any better places to store photos, please leave a comment below. 

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Search Web 2.0 Apps With Go2Web20

Recently I wanted to know what online presentation tools were available. I was aware of Google DocsZoho, and Sliderocket, but I wanted to see if anything else was available. After some searching, I came across a Go2Web20, which is an online searchable directory of Web 2.0 tools. The site is very easy to use, and I was surprised with the variety and number of web  2.0 tools(apps) available. As an example, using the search word "presentation" resulted in 33 hits. If you love using web 2.0 apps, definitely visit Go2Web20.  

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

People Don't Know What A Browser Is!!

One of my favorite blogs for unofficial Google related news is Google Operating System. I came across this post about a former intern at Google asking internet related questions to people in Times Square, New York (video below). Most people didn't know what a browser was, they thought that a browser equals a search engine, and no one heard of Google Chrome (this is possibly acceptable since Chromes market share is ~1.8%). Our society definitely needs to increase their TechEd (technology education). I know some people, who I'll classify as younger (less than 40), that do not have an email address, have no desire to do online banking, and have no clue what a MP3 player is. The gap between low TechEd and high TechEd is growing, how will the low end survive?

Imeem: Access Your Music From Anywhere

As an educator, I work hard and play hard. During the play part of my life, I rock out to some music (and also when I'm checking work email). What I've been using for music is not iTunes, nor Media Player, nor MySpace, I've been enjoying life with Imeem. With this service/site, your music is stored in the cloud which means you can have access to it from anywhere. So, when I wrote the first two sentences of this blog, I was on my home desktop computer, then I wrote some more on my girlfriends laptop, and finished this on my home desktop computer. I can access the same music because it's all stored in the cloud. There is no more transferring of songs, no more incompatibilities with file types, and no more use of the slow/clunky media players (some are). The catch to this service is that the first 100 songs uploaded are free, if you want to store 1000 songs it will cost $29.99/year and if you want 20 000 songs, it is going to cost $100/year. There is also an iPhone an Android app, so you can access your music on your smartphone. Besides uploading your own songs, you can search for a song and it to your playlist (no uploading!!), songs can be embedded in websites, songs can be purchased from vendors such as amazon, there's a ton of music videos and a bunch of social networking features. I've been using it for the past 2 weeks, and I absolutely love it. For more on cloud storage of music, check out this article

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Free Ecology Software

Part of my work as a General Science Lab Instructor involves developed new aspects of already existing labs. One lab that I've been looking to improve is our ecology one where we needed to do something that showed how this sampling was done in the real world (the lab activity consisted of counting items). So, we decided to search for some free ecology software. I came across this excellent page by RP Gendron that lists all sorts of free ecology software (some links are broken). After trying a few of them out, we decided to go with PopSize and Populus. Popsize (screenshot below) is a simple, quick program that can be used for capture-recapture sampling, and allows adjustment of variables such as mortality rates and emigration. Populus is at the other end of the spectrum, and can used for many types of ecology models such as insect resistance management and heritability, altogether there are about 30 different types of models here. If your an instructor of ecology, you should definitely give these programs a try.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Classroom 2.0: Social Networking for Educators Using Web. 2.0

I have just discovered the ultimate social networking site for you teachers out there who love using Web 2.0 technologies, the site is Classroom 2.0. It is a typical social networking site, where you can add friends, make blog posts, upload videos, and so on. The feature that I like the most is the Forum where you can read discussions and post replies to them. I've only been a member for ~3 days but I've learned so much. It's just an excellent community to learn about Web 2.0 technologies in the classroom and education in general. I love social networking!!!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

A Teched-out Classroom

I was tweeted this video yesterday, it's about Lawfield Elementary, which is a rebuilt school in Ontario that is now full of technological devices (a list is provided 40 seconds into the video, very impressive), I call it teched-out. This is definitely the way things are going in the educational world, and as the video says, we have to replicate in the classroom the world in which students are living. Why do we teach with chalkboards and write on paper when students spend most of their time watching and typing on their computer or smartphone? The quote below (taken from the Lawfield Elementary School website) really says it all about using technology in the classroom:

“Schools are anchored in the past and should be at the forefront of change not at the tail end. We should be change agents. Given the nature of our educational system a universal design model is the only way we can reach our goal." (William DeMille, 2008)

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

14 Signs That You Love Technology In The Classroom

Here are some of the signs that you love using technology in the classroom:
  1. During a 2.5 hour dentist appointment, you spend 2 hours thinking about student collaboration projects with Google Docs.
  2. At an In The Flesh Concert (local Pink Floyd cover band), you wonder how people are "connected" (like the facebook graphic)
  3. You have accounts for Thinkfree, Zoho, and Google Docs, you login weekly to check for updates.
  4. Each year you use different presentation technology, and you say that "PowerPoint is for the dinosaurs."
  5. You are eagerly awaiting HTML 5.
  6. You look at the source code of fellow instructor's webpages.
  7. 95% of your feeds in Google Reader are web/education related.
  8. Students call you a computer geek.
  9. You think that every student should have an smartphone android phone.
  10. You lecture students on the evils of internet explorer.
  11. Students have never heard of 95% of your software .
  12. You come to work early.
  13. You leave work late.
  14. You simply love your job.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Using Facebook To Connect With Students

OK, so, unless you have been living off the grid or under, you've heard of facebook, the great/famous social networking tool. It's an excellent way to connect with people, and this fall I may use it to connect with my students by creating a facebook group. There is already a "connection" tool used by our school (don't want to mention it, I'll avoid the legal issues), but very few students use it because: (1) It's not very user friendly (2) it is very click-happy and (3) it's not facebook!! The reason why I would like to use facebook are:
  1. Mobile Friendly: facebook is smart and dumbphone friendly, students can send messages, update status, etc. via text message or mobile app. Our current "connection" tool is years behind this.
  2. Everyone's Using It: There's about 200 million facebook users, I would say that 95% of my students are on it (they're always checking it with their cellphones during the labs)
  3. Excellent way to deal with questions: Questions could be posted and myself or a student could respond to it.
  4. It's Facebook: Connection, connection, connection!!!
Reasons why I may not use it are:
  1. Privacy: I'll have to strictly monitor what photos others and myself put up of me on facebook. Also, since I do teach at a Canadian university, the computer people may not be happy that students are forced to use a service where data is sent to US servers (damn the Patriot Act). This is the reason why my university and others haven't switched to Google Apps.
  2. Internal Fighting: I heard a story about a person creating a group for his workplace, members started slinging personal insults to each other, and eventually the creator lost his job. Not cool.
  3. Forcing Students to use a non-university app: My university paid big bucks for its current "connection tool", administrators may not be happy if I get students to use this free app.
It is definitely a tough call. I'm going to talk it over with coworkers, students, and the web. I'm definitely looking for your feedback and I'll let you know what my final decision is.
Note: Hope you like the new feel of this blog.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Not a Google Cloud in The Sky

This blog used to be Google's Cloud, but I decided that the people over at Google Operating System and Blogoscoped were doing a very good job at covering the world of Google. So, I have switched focus again, this time I'm going to talk about the technology that I use as a teacher, both for work and fun, along with relevant news. Hope you enjoy the new look and feel, I've included all of the posts from the old blog.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Speed Up Those WebPages!!

Have you ever wondered why your pages are loading so slow? Well now you can find the answer with Page Speed which was released today. It is a Firefox add on that will suggest how to speed up your pages by doing things such as identifying issues with CSS and JavaScript. This is going to be really useful, especially for people like me who are beginner web developers. On this note, I absolutely love working on webpages, it will definitely be a future career for me, maybe as a side business. It's now time to give Page Speed a try. 

Sony Signs Up With Vevo

First of all, Vevo  is an awesome name. Along with Universal Music Group, Sony has joined up and will offer acts such as Akon, The Killers (Yes!!), Black Eyed Peas and so on. Along with music videos, Vevo will offer reality shows, video blogs and other great stuff. Personally, I can't wait for Vevo to lauch; YouTube is good, especially for home videos, but for mainstream content, it's OK. Hopefully Vevo will turn out to be a great product.  

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Watching YouTube On The Big Screen

YouTube has been trying to get onto the big screen, yesterday they announced YouTube XL is available on all large screens, prior to this only Wii and PS3 owners could access this. This is a stripped down version of the YouTube website with a black background and large buttons and has a few extra features like continuous play (watch all related videos sequentially). I still watch most of my TV shows on the TV. Occasionally I'll buy one from iTunes, which requires downloading it, transferring it to my iPod Nano 3rd Ed, and placing this on the Universal Dock. It is OK, but I can't wait for the day when I can have the ease of TV surfing with the on-demand selection of internet video. 

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Google Docs Supports More File Formats

Google Docs just received another great update, now .xlsx and .docx documents (Office 2007 files) can be uploaded and converted to Docs. Prior to this, if a document was in these formats, it would have to be converted to another format such as .doc or .odt and then uploaded. This can get really time consuming if your dealing with 100's of documents (it happened to me last semester). The only thing that is missing for me using Docs all of the time is the incorporation of an equation editor and larger file formats. The lab manuals that I prepare every year are over 200 pages filled with graphics and text, Docs just can't handle them. Hopefully the future (and Wave) will bring these features.

Google's Wave Is Going To Be A Tsunami

If you have time, check out the video below (Warning: it is 80 minutes long). It's about Google's new product called Wave which will change email, and the web, as we know it. The premise behind it is that Wave is built on today's technologies and knowledge and is being pitched as a new way of communication. You'll definitely agree with this after watching the video.