Tag-Archive for ◊ google ◊

Streaming and Samba
Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 | Author:

I don’t know why it came to me so late, but this morning I had an idea. Why not stream our concert live to the world? Today was our Listen to Me concert which is the culmination of a term’s music tuition from Hampshire Music Service. They give us weekly sessions in a range of styles and then for the last session, we invite parents in and we perform for them. We also performed for the other two classes in the year group too. This term’s concert was Samba drumming.

I’ve streamed things before but it can be a bit hit and miss depending on internet connection, software issues and other factors (such as pressing record to get a copy afterwards!) but today I thought about using Google+. Now I know that Kevin McLaughlin (@kvnmcl) is a huge fan of this and I gave it a go. I had to use an account that wasn’t part of our Google Apps domain, which is fine, I used a generic school account e.g. somethingsomething@gmail.com and loaded it up. I tried it first on a Chromebook but that was having WiFi issues and then switched to a netbook instead, using an external webcam instead of the built-in one. This worked fine. I simply started a Hangout, ticked the enable hangout on air option and started to stream it live. What I really liked was the ability to not only give a link out to everyone watching – the few people who had seen my tweets earlier this morning – but the ability to embed it directly into a blog. So I copied the code, pasted it into a new post and tweeted the link to our blog. This would make it much easier in future as I would know the URL of the stream before it was set up and I could give this to parents ages in advance if needed.

I set the stream up around 45minutes before the concert and muted the mic. There was a lot of silliness, showing off and playing up to the camera before we started, but hey, they’re children and it was a new thing that we hadn’t done before! The concert went well, parents loved it and the children were fab. Afterwards we looked and the children liked that it had put the video onto YouTube for us automatically. We discussed what to do with the 45minutes of ‘rubbish stuff’ at the beginning and we found the trim button in YouTube. We simply used this, removed the excess and saved it. An hour later (maybe less) the video was trimmed and of course, it was already embedded on our blog.

It must be noted that we also had a video camera in use too because we were checking it worked ahead of the Easter production this afternoon! All in all, it was very easy and we might look at doing it for future events.

The copy of the stream is available here and the version from the video camera is available here on our blog.

My Week with the Nexus 7
Sunday, July 29th, 2012 | Author:

I have had the Google Nexus 7 tablet for about 10 days now and I thought I should probably share what I think about it. Firstly, I am not really a gadget person. Actually I  am, but I am not the person that buys the gadget on the first day of release and then must have the latest update the following year. I have a set selection of gadgets and they do a job. I don’t like spending money on stuff unless I need to. In fact, I only bought an Xbox last October. That’s how late I was to the party. So I don’t personally own a tablet as I haven’t seen a need for one. At home I have a PC (as does Charlie) and that is for work mainly. We also have a netbook but that spends 99% of the time connected to the TV rather than being using in any constructive fashion. Charlie bought it for use when she was at her previous school and the children didn’t have laptops in class, so she bought a netbook for them to use. I have always thought that I am happy with my distinction that my PC is for work and that is done upstairs in the study, the last thing I want is a tablet to work on while sitting on the sofa. Sofa time is spent relaxing (or playing on my phone). All in all, I don’t fancy getting a tablet.

So why am I writing about the Nexus? Well I’m borrowing it from school. We have a range of netbooks at school and these are great (from off to desktop in 4-5minutes) we use them for research of course, but also office stuff, google apps, blogging, scratch, photo editing and so on. They do everything we need them to. But a post from Pete Richardson (@primarypete_) got me thinking about tablets. I hadn’t thought much about them before for a few reasons:

Cost – We were in the third year of our three year leasing scheme so I knew we didn’t have much money to spend. There would be some if we wanted or needed to, but equipment wasn’t really on the horizon.

Apps – It’s all about the apps. Apps are great, but they require a different approach. Different can be good, of course it can, but in the space of two years we have tried to launch netbooks, blogging, Google Apps, Purple Mash, Brainpop, new ICT planning and many other things. Some have worked a little bit here and there but the thought of giving staff new devices with loads of new tools on them just frightened me. I’m all for innovation, but in our school we weren’t there yet.

I think the last bit is key. I was looking at this from the point of view of me, the staff, the children and the school. Not everyone does this. While at the Hampshire ICT conference, I had conversations with 5 different schools that were looking at iPads/iPod touches and all asked for my view on them. Should they buy them? I asked them all one simple question – “What do you want to do with them?” and the answers varied from “I’m not sure” to “the head saw them and thought they looked good”. This is worrying isn’t it? There are many great things happening with tablets but it scares me that many people will buy these devices and not know what to do with them. I went to a school a year ago, it had 30 iPod touches and many, many other devices around the school too. I suggested looking at the apps available for the iPods and the teacher looked shocked as she thought iPods were just for music…..

Anyway. Back to our school and our thoughts. I wrote back in May about our first tablet, the Playbook. We bought one to play with and it gradually made it’s way around the school from class to class. Some loved it and used it to blog photos (such as Reception www.stjohnsblogs.co.uk/reception) and some used it as a tool to go on the internet with. What the Playbook offered was a way of ding what we were already doing (taking photos and blogging them) but in a much quicker fashion. I was happy to go ahead and order more of these until the Nexus was announced. I spoke to the head, bought one and it arrived just before we broke up for school. My plan is still to try a few different devices, put them in the hands of children and staff and see what they think. Then hopefully, find some money to buy some. I still haven’t been able to afford an iPad or find a company willing to let me try one for a month, so that’s not been considered.

So…as the blog post suggests…what do I think?

I am definitely an Android user. My last two phones have been Android and I am happy with it. I haven’t used an Apple device for more than about 5 minutes. I once tried to use iTunes and I hated it and I haven’t gone back. When it comes to choosing a phone, Android was always a bit cheaper than an iPhone so that has helped sway me too. I know I should be more open, but I like what Android does so the Nexus feels normal and comfortable straight away.

It is very much a device for showcasing the content that you have bought. When it loads up you are presented with a splashscreen showing the videos and books you have bought through the Play store. The default browser is Chrome and this works nice enough, browsing in fact is very quick indeed. I liked the fact that when I went home, it already knew what my wireless was called (because of the profile on my phone) so it connected it straight away.

As for price, it is £159 (or £120 without VAT for schools) so that is very much in the iPod touch ball-park but with a bigger screen. Hhmmm….

One major flaw though is the lack of Flash. Now I know that many people hate Flash and see it as the devil that is holding back web development, but many sites in school require Flash. My vision is to use the tablets to watch videos, use Purple Mash, explore Busy Things and so on. All of this is being held back by a lack of Flash and the fact that not everything is in HTML5 yet. In fact, after 3-4 hours of exploring workarounds and different browsers, it is only yesterday after 9 days with the Nexus that I have finally got Flash working through a Beta of Firefox. It’s a big hassle. It doesn’t play properly, but it will do.

Another downside to the Nexus is the rubbish camera. There is only a front-facing camera so taking snaps is a complete no-go. The camera is used for Skype etc and that is about it.

Overall the Nexus is a nice enough device but it just feels like a big phone. Typing on it is not quite as quick as my HTC One X but maybe it just takes some getting used to. I do like it, but I don’t think it offers me much more over the devices I already have at home.

I’ve also brought a Playbook home with me for the Summer too. One of them will go with me on holiday but which one?

The Playbook has more storage 32GB vs Nexus with 8GB, but the apps and games on the Nexus are easier to find and as I said, I have an Android phone so they are all synced already. I think for this holiday the Nexus will win, after all, I will take a camera on holiday so I won’t be using the tablet’s camera. I’ll mainly be watching videos on the plane and using it in case I;m bored if it rains and we’re stuck inside.

But what about for school? The Playbook wins by a landslide. It gives children the chance to have a device in their hands for £150 that can browse the internet (with full Flash), take pictures and blog them, use Google Apps, access YouTube and geocache as well. In fact, at the moment, everything we need from a device is available within the Playbook. I will still give the children the chance to play with both devices when we go back but so far they have loved the Playbook and yes, I know that if I gave them an iPod or iPad, they would love this too, but as I said. Cost has to come into these decisions as well.

What devices do you have in your school? Who was involved in the decision?

 

Update: During pre-holiday testing, I tried uploading some .avi files to both devices to watch on the plane. The Nexus didn’t play them at all, said that codecs were incorrect and some Googling says that I might need to convert them first or find other players but the Playbook plays them straight away. Maybe they will both need to go on holiday? Playbook for the films on the plane and Nexus for playing games when I’m sunbathing?

2nd Update (4 weeks later): Both devices went with me on holiday and I didn’t touch the Playbook once. Why? I used the Nexus for two main reasons. One was for the Kindle app, allowing me to read multiple books while relaxing on the beach.  The other was that there were superior games available on the Nexus so that when I had finished reading, I could play those too. Now I have used the Playbook on the train a few times since and this has been to watch films that the Nexus didn’t play. I have to say that I like both devices but for school, the Playbook still wins hands-down. The fact it has Flash, a camera and a blogging app all for (Curry’s special rate of) £129inc vat. It’s a bargain and I can’t wait to take them into school and let the children loose with them.

My first thoughts about Google+
Monday, July 04th, 2011 | Author:

Once again Google have managed to cause a stir (see Google Wave) where some people get an invite to a new product, then slowly the invites spread and we become divided between ‘haves and ‘have nots’ and probably some ‘I couldn’t give a monkey’s’ too.

What’s the current project/toy? Google+, that’s what.

Now, I know others have written about it elsewhere (like here) and their thoughts are as valid as anyone’s, but here are mine. Also I must stress that I have only had this since Friday (thanks @kvnmcl) and I haven’t played a lot.

You might be wondering how can I be in a position to discuss a product I haven’t used properly? Well it’s because I want to see what the point of it is first. I currently use social media and I love social media but do I need another tool to use? I have Twitter for school stuff, personal development, chatting to fellow teachers and sharing ideas. I have Facebook to…err….keep in contact with my friend in Canada and some people I went to school with. So, where does Google+ fit in?

The idea is that a user will have different circles of friends/contacts/whatever (I’ll use contacts from here on in) and these contacts can be grouped into schoolmates, people I went to Uni with, football team, and so on. People can be in more than one circle e.g. your mate Bob plays on your football team but also went to school with you. You can then send information, pictures and so on to a particular circle. You can also check your main information feed and just see information from certain circles too. So it groups people very well and removes a lot of the noise that Facebook has problems with.

I think my major gripe with it at the moment is that all of my contacts on Google+ at the moment are people I know through Twitter, so the only circle I have is “Twitter people”. I guess I could make one for Google people and so on to help a bit but still it feels a bit like I’m looking at the Facebook accounts of the people I follow on Twitter. Maybe in time this will develop but will my friends be tempted away from Facebook or will this just become Facebook for educators? One benefit is that it seems like their posts stick around for a bit longer. On Twitter it is easy to miss things but on Google+ they seem to stay a bit. Maybe it’s because I only have 37 contacts? Will it all become to much when there are 500+ people or will I need to be selective with my circles?

Now this might all sound a bit negative, but maybe it’s because I can’t see how I will use it outside of school. Inside of school, that’s a different beast entirely.

So what are the school plans? Well let’s just assume that Google+ will become part of Google Apps for Education. If it does then we have an incredible tool on our hands.

The reason for this is that I want to teach social networking in school, I want my children to know the dangers of it but more importantly I want them to know the benefits too. After all, everything I learn these days is through social networking, blogs, tweets etc so it seems only right that I also show them the way to use these tools too.

I investigated Edmodo and I know lots of people rave about it but our children didn’t see the point. Admittedly I only tried with a small group of children but the first thing they asked was “Why can’t we message our friends?” It seems in Edmodo you can message everyone but not just one child. The children currently use Gmail for this purpose so Edmodo was quickly turned off again. But Google+ could give us the platform we need.

Imagine different year groups, classes and even tables in different circles. You could share a link with your whole class then assign a different Google Doc template link to each table for them to complete their work. They can of course chat to each other and collaborate as they do it.

When they get home they can continue the discussions using the Hangout video conferencing feature if they like. They can then share their finished projects with the whole class and their teacher too. They can also keep a social side of their Google+ if they want to.

The question remains though, how much control will I get as an administrator? Will I be able to see what my pupils “get up to” without me? Currently in docs/email/sites etc, I can only see their content if they share it with me. I imagine the same will be true with Google+ so education and trust will be needed.

It is exciting, but for me, it’s all just a bit too new to make any clear decision about it. Ask me again in six months time!

 

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Googling
Thursday, November 11th, 2010 | Author:

Here is my video presentation looking at how to search with Google. This video was for Teachmeet Sheffield but I hope you find it useful.