Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Most students today have never lived in a world without Google.”

A pretty amazing fact – no?

In fact, for most of us, Google search is a regular part of our daily life.  But have you ever considered just how Google search works and how in just ⅛th of a second your search result is generated?

How Search Works gives a fascinating insight into the complex system of algorithms involved in generating the simple page of results received in response to a search request.



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Just last week a dinner guest asked me to elaborate on my occupation because today, he said with assured confidence, there’s no need for librarians, Google can provide all the answers!

With desperate determination to not let him see my eyes roll in despair, I launched into a defence of our profession explaining why Google wasn’t the panacea for all learning.  It’s a topic I blogged about more than five years ago: 10 reasons why Google can’t replace learning

Ho-hum …..  I guess the message just needs to be repeated and repeated and more – much more – needs to be said and done to continue impressing on the public the valuable role performed by those of us working in the field of librarianship.

Then I came across this fabulous post on the State Library of Victoria blog: So you want to be a librarian?  For those who have been in education for a while it serves as a lovely trip down memory lane.  For those of us who are newer to the field of librarianship however, it provides a chance to look back, contemplate and realize how vastly different the role of librarians are today in the 21st Century.

From my own vantage point, working as a teacher librarian in a senior school library, its comforting to know and see how much our image has changed.  I’m left questioning though whether we are doing enough to communicate how much we can teach, assist, mentor, guide and support our library patrons – both students and teachers.

Publicizing all that we can do and give needs to extend to the wider school community as well if we are to achieve that end goal of helping the general public understand why we cannot be replaced by Google!

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If you’ve ever visited Amsterdam, you’ll know that the city is totally saturated with bicycles!

Hundreds, no thousands of them, seem to be absolutely everywhere you look.  They line the footpaths, are parked along the canals, and constantly traverse the very narrow streets.  If you’re a pedestrian,  be on guard!  Just walking on the footpath or trying to cross the road can be a scary experience as bicycles bombard you from virtually all sides!

So like many others – more than two and half million as I write this post – I was intrigued by Google’s development:

This spring, Google is introducing the self-driving bicycle in Amsterdam, the world’s premier cycling city. The Dutch cycle more than any other nation in the world, almost 900 kilometres per year per person, amounting to over 15 billion kilometres annually. The self-driving bicycle enables safe navigation through the city for Amsterdam residents, and furthers Google’s ambition to improve urban mobility with technology. Google Netherlands takes enormous pride in the fact that a Dutch team worked on this innovation that will have great impact in their home country.

The video, flawlessly made, says it all!

Nice … no?!

Well … if you missed the date this video was uploaded to YouTube, you may have picked up the date flashed on the screen at the end of the video:

Google self drive bicycle

Yep – that’s right!   This was a very well produced April Fool’s joke!!

Listed on Factually as one of 22 April Fools’ Day products that are totally fake but should be real, this video has to be one of the best gems produced!  Take some time though as you look at this link to check out some of the other really ‘great ideas’ that have been promoted!

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Just lately I’ve been bombarded with a number of different articles and videos about the same topic:

The Internet of Things

Many may think this is a somewhat new idea, but in a recent Big Think video, Chris Curran estimates that it’s a term that’s been around for at least ten to fifteen years.  While early ideas explored how electrical appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines connected to the Internet, the focus soon shifted to how machine to machine communication could be achieved without any human intervention.  Subsequent exploration turned to developing consumer products such as the connected car and smart homes.

Current thinking, Curran concludes, is focused on what the Internet of Things is for service companies in business.  Not only is there a need to develop and refine new systems to collect data, but new kinds of processes need to be developed to manage the stream of data which will be collected by sensors in various service companies.  Curran intimates that a new kind of data architecture will evolve to capture, store, process, aggregate, and analyze data collected by installed sensor streams.

As I listened to his words, I couldn’t help thinking about the kind of data collected daily by the security gates at the entrance and exit of our school library.  How many of us, I found myself wondering, collect and analyze this data and consider its impact on our day to day operations?  What improvements, modifications or adjustments could we implement if we were to consider this data?   And what about those libraries who have installed RFID technology?  Is data being collected by this new amazing library technology feeding into our planning, programming and operational processes? Is there a need, as Curran suggests, for a new architecture to interpret this data?

An article in Education Technology Solutions, How the Internet of Things will transform education, highlights how education as we know it will be transformed and enhanced.

With estimated wide-scale adoption only five years away, and the pervasive spread of mobile devices from smartphones to tablets, and increasingly portable computers within student populations, IoT technologies will be able to connect the right people together to accelerate learning as well as collecting and interpreting data on learners’ behaviours and activity.

Along with enhanced initiatives of tailoring education to individual learning styles, making education more engaging and capturing data which can be used to inform the future, this short article also hints at the dangers and risks that can occur from mismanagement of data collected if issues of data security and integrity, along with the development of new education policies are not concurrently addressed.  Seemingly the implication is that new processes and perhaps new educational roles need to be developed to handle the many implications that the Internet of Things may bring to education.

And then, stepping away from the implications of the Internet of Things on business and education, I found myself contemplating a new world in which we’d be sharing, or as some predict, forgoing our roads to driverless cars.

About a year ago, Google released a first prototype of a driverless car and as you can see in this video, was received with delighted acclamations from those given the opportunity to ‘have a go’ being passengers in them.

Nearly a year after Google publicized its Self Driving Car Project, driverless cars are about to make their debut on the roads.  And with it, was a thought provoking article penned by Peter Martin: Reasons to be cheerful. What driverless cars will do for us in the Sydney Morning Herald (July 25th, 2015). With increased ‘freed-up’ time, our leisure time and productivity level will be increased dramatically.  Although many may be apprehensive about the demise of drivers – particularly for example “truckies” who, it is predicted, will no longer be needed five years from now to fulfill their present role of transporting goods in trucks around the country – there really is much to be excited about.  Have a read of Martin’s article and be inspired!

But ….. and there is always an ‘on the other hand’ kind of warning ….. smartcars are not immune from unforeseen dangers.  Have a look as WIRED senior writer, Andy Greenberg, takes his SUV for a drive on the highway while hackers attack it from miles away!

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Just today I recieved an email from LinkedIn congratulating me for being among the first 3 million members from Australia!

I gave a smile, silently accepted the personal congratulations of the LinkedIn Managing Director for this region, and then noticed the last line of the message suggesting that I try getting more out of LinkedIn by connecting with more professionals you may already know.  A nice ploy to publicise the value of LinkedIn I thought.

Now I must say, there’s more to this than meets the eye.   Just recently I had, in the one week, four different surprising and interesting experiences with LinkedIn which really paid dividends for me.   All four happenings were totally out of the blue and are worth mentioning if only to illustrate the power of this professional social network.

  1. An old friend, someone I went to Teachers’ College with many moons ago, found me on LinkedIn, connected with me and we subsequently enjoyed a very long coffee!   Truly a blast Liz!
  2. A few days later, a work colleague asked me about a new connection I had with a specialist teacher.   It turned out that this colleague  had noticed my recent connection with my old friend and asked me if I could ‘introduce’ them to each other on LinkedIn so that they could network on their common specialization and possibly tap into each others’ networks.
  3. Someone I knew professionally, asked me to join his network.  When accepting, I sent him a message indicating my interests in exploring the area of proofreading.  Next thing I know, I had the pdf of a soon to be published book in hand with the opportunity to ‘have a go’.   It was a great way for me to develop an understanding of the complexity of proofreading, as well as a ‘real’ experience to test if I want to explore this area further.
  4. When the phone on my work desk rang one morning, I was blown away by the request of a journalist from Australian Teacher Magazine asking if I’d agree to be interviewed about the process of getting into presenting.  How did the journalist find me I queried.   On LinkedIn was the reply.  How powerful is that!   The call came out of the blue, but resulted in a lovely article in both the online and hard copy of the March edition of Australian Teacher Magazine.

Just these experiences on their own are proof of the unexpected value of a professional social networking platform such as LinkedIn.

Then ….. later today …..  a link to a recently screened video Looking for a Job? How to Catch Google’s Attention was sent to me.  How interesting to hear comments made which reflect much of what I wrote about in my last post: Don’t be shy to share with others.   While acknowledging that the most appealing candidates for a job are not actually looking for a job because they are happy in their current position and are treated well by their employer, Bock notes that employers look to see how capable a person is by checking if the person has a “presence” – whether they have presented at a conference, have published something or have a blog.  These attributes are, he says, of greater value than a company recieving random resumes.  The other point that Bock makes is that networking really matters.  Mentioning the value of social networking platforms like LinkedIn and Google+ Bock points out the advantages of being recommended to a job.

Very powerful advice for job seekers.

Have a listen to this short interview:

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Seen the Gmail Man video yet?

Produced by Microsoft, it was originally intended for internal use only to spur Microsoft employees on in their efforts of promoting and marketing Office 365.  The opening disclaimer at the start of the video states that Gmail is everything that Office 365 is not.

Take a minute to have a look:

It’s a parody – quite humorous in parts I thought.  We’re all familiar with the ‘big brother’ accusations levelled at Google, the accusations that Google claims are baseless.  It is automated machines, not humans, who scan our mail they say and, they are quick to point out, the process is in place for our own benefit.

The process is lost on me though.   Google’s attempt to lure me to specific websites or to explore products they suggest may be of interest or value to me totally fails!  Not only don’t I go there, I literally don’t see the ads.

You have to wonder about the impact of targeted advertising.   I have at least one friend who admitted that she was totally discouraged about the barrage of ads and emails that were targetted at her.  Being bombarded with ads best suited to a ‘middle age’ woman, were not for her.

Sometimes you feel like screaming – “Hey give us a break!”

Ah ….. but where would be without advertising?  Interesting thought isn’t it?!

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A few days ago, I received an email from a friend who was distressed at revelations that hit her when doing a Google search:

I’ve decided that Big Brother (Google) is definitely watching me (and you). On a couple of occasions recently when I’ve done an internet search about something, your face pops up on my screen and I get a message telling me that you have blogged about the topic! It happened to me last night again when I decided to create a Wordle and did a search for it……….. “

As I replied to my friend ….. and as further proof that I think while I write! ….. I realized that my friend didn’t understanding that Google’s massive processing of Internet data incoporates blog posts equally alongside other websites as valid sources of information. No surprises here – the background ins and outs of how search works is very complex.  Out of curiosity, I ran a search for Wordle and found that the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th returned hits showed the mug shots and blog posts of people who are in my PLN – all of whom I communicate with on either Google+, Twitter or have listed in my RSS feed on Google Reader.   I admit to not full understanding how Google knows this, but do realize that it is part of Google’s grand plan to become more encompassing and improve the search experience for its users.   If you’re unaware of this intention though, it can be a little unnerving to have what you think is a personalized search or communication between you and a friend being incorporated into something far bigger than you could ever have imagined!

Just this weekend there was a lengthy article about Google in The Age Good Weekend Magazine.  Google World explains and describes much about the development of Google and the direction in which it is moving.   Interestingly, there was reference to the very issue that my friend was concerned about!

Thinking about a trip to Bali? If you’ve mentioned it on Gmail, Google knows and has already bombarded your screen with advertisements about where to stay and what to do. Precisely where were you last Thursday at midday? If you are one of the many millions with an Android phone, Google knows because it tracks your phone’s movements. Daniel Soar, of the London Review of Books, took the trouble to check Google’s tracking of his own phone’s movements, and discovered that “on April 30, 2011, at 4.33pm I was at Willesden Junction station, travelling west”. Favourite shops, style of clothing, restaurants, genre of books? Google’s got it covered, and learns more and becomes smarter every time you ask it a question, check out a YouTube video, pull up a map or log into Google+.”

In an attempt to provide some further info to my friend, I suggested that she have a look at Eli Pariser’s TED talk: Beware online “filter bubbles”.   Although I found some of this info to be fairly heavy, it does give a good explanation of how perceived bias ends up being incorporated into our Google searches.

When I first saw this presentation, my mind went into overdrive thinking how important it is that our students really need to understand what happens when they run searches.   Recognizing that it was way too complex a video though, I went on the hunt for something simpler.   Taking a logical step, I turned to the many Google videos that are out there to see if there was a simple, appealing explanation that could be shown to our students.   Of course there was!  Have a listen to How Search Works and see just how much transpires in the ½ second between pressing on the search tab and receiving a list of hits!

It really is incumbent on us as teachers to teach our students how to use Google and to develop in them an understanding of how to word a search so that it finds hits that are relevant to the information being sought.  Or, as so succinctly said on one of the sites I came across when researching thoughts for this post:

Searching the web to find responsible, verifiable, genuine information of the professional or educational kind is a skill. Like all skills, it’s an acquired one.”  Search and teaching your kids to research

An excellent post by Jenny Luca: “Its what we know – Helping our students understand Google search” also talks about how we can’t assume our students know it all. Mentioned in this post is the very cutely named Dumb Little Man Tips for Life 20 tips for more efficient Google searches – an excellent list of tips that we should all know to enable better searches.

Exploring this topic gave me the inspiration to look back on the lengthy notes taken at the recent Joyce Valenza conference I attended in Melbourne.   A range of search tools were mentioned.  Figuring out how best to teach our students to search the web for info means that we need to take time to explore what’s out there.   Following is just a starting point of some of the many great resources that are available:

  • Spingfield Library Google Search Options created by Joyce Valenza can be a great starting spot to sift through the many Google offerings and decide which ones you’d like to highlight to students.
  • A similar list can be found on Kathy Schrock’s Bloomin’ Google search page. Hung around Bloom’s Taxonomy, this sorting of the many Google offerings may be just a little easier to sift through.
  • Teach kids about RSS feeds, how to set them up as well as how to set up Google email alerts.   Both offer excellent ways to expand their knowledge of information that is “out there”.
  • Expose senior students to WolframAlpha so that they can use this computational search engine to locate answers to questions.   View the short video explaining this great search tool to develop an understanding of how it differs from Google search.
  • For younger students Boolify is a fun way to teach Boolean logic.  Bright and colourful it’s use is instant.  Have a look at Boolify: Basic Operation video or at Boolified on the Ed Tech Axis Blog.
  • Although still in Beta (trial) phase, Twurdy analyses texts to determine its readability providing web searchers with information that is most appropriate for them.  A simple colour coding panel to the right of the returns lists easier to read to harder to read websites.  Very nice and easy to use!
  • SweetSearch a search engine for students.   Check out the tutorial listed on the homepage: SweetSearch Web Research Tutorial to develop a clearer understanding of this powerful tool.

Let me know if there are any great search tools  you’re using with  your students so I can explore them.

For now, I guess the next step for me is to figure out how best I can share some of this information with students and staff with whom I work.   Check back to see if I end up creating something worth sharing!

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