Saturday, February 23, 2013

Are we safe (from Meteorites)?

Meteorite? It sounds so distant to us! Many of us heard about meteorite. But what's 'closer' to us are terms like "shooting stars" across the skies where people start making wishes that hopefully would come true! But hardly, we come across "real" news on this hitting the earth, until the recent Meteor strike in Russia, a huge one that's so impactful and caused worldwide attention!

So, what's meteorite? In fact, one of the articles reported the 'difference' in the use of terms like meteorite, meteor, etc. A check at wikipedia ( says...
"A meteorite is a meteoroid (a solid piece of debris from such sources as asteroids or comets) originating in outer space that survives impact with the Earth's surface. A meteorite's size can range from small to extremely large. Most meteorites derive from small astronomical objects called meteoroids, but they are also sometimes produced by impacts of asteroids. When a meteoroid enters the atmosphere, frictional, pressure, and chemical interactions with the atmospheric gasses cause the body to heat up and emit light, thus forming a fireball, also known as a meteor or shooting/falling star."
This is really interesting... the link shows a map that maps out the places on earth that have been hit by meteors. By zooming into the Asia region, actually, it seems like Singapore is pretty "safe" from such 'hits' (of course, that also means people in Singapore would hardly get the chance to make a wish before the shooting star! Haha).

On the other hand, does it also imply the chances of being 'hit' is relative to the size of land that each country has? What do you think?

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Google+ Community for Classroom Learning (Preliminary Thoughts)

Google+ Community, the primary function I can think of is no other than creating a 'live' community where people of some common interest can come together to share and interact (which I think is the primary role/ function when Google rolled out this feature). Hence, we started creating several community to 'contain' interaction that are directed towards a common strand, e.g. Technology Bites @ SST (for teachers).

In the recent Conference in Chiang Mai, I decided to use it differently. The original intent was to create an environment that would excite the Thai Teachers who would be sitting in my Breakout session. However, as I explored, I notice it comes with some powerful features that be employed for other purposes, as I also discovered several 'features' or characteristics that come with Community.

Actually, like it or not, I think, to stretch the use of a platform and being able to implement it successfully, or at least smoothly, it requires one to think through quite thoroughly and hence put it into action systematically.

Here are some things that I think that makes the platform useful, and relevant for the learning or for running of some programmes:

1. Tagging of posts
I like this feature very much, which is absent from "Events" or the general posting in the main G+ page. Main reason is it allows us to tag the post so that we can subsequently filter the posts by topics. For sure, this is one feature that is absent from Facebook (be it main page, created pages or groups).

2. Comments under each post
Well, this feature is also available in Facebook. So, it's not 'unique'.
But this is very useful when discussion is encouraged, especially related to a specific post.
And of course, these comments are posted up as instant as in Facebook.

3.  Photos consolidated within a post
I like this feature. In other words, we can 'contain' a specific event (e.g. a presentation), and at the same time key in relevant comments (e.g. observations, or even questions) to go with the posts and get the readers to comment on this particular posting!

4. Editing feature of the post
Yup, to-date, Facebook allows us to edit the comments we entered in response to a post. However, we are unable to edit the post. So, to 'edit' the post is as good as re-posting the entire post and all the comments that go with the original post would be gone if we decide to replace it with the updated post.

Click HERE to view the Community set up to document the Conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand (24-27 January 2013)

Google+ Photo Albums vs Facebook Albums

Riding on the recent Conference trip to Chiang Mai, I took the opportunity further test out and make comparisons across platforms that I know - Facebook albums and Google+ album, of which the latter is pretty new to me... although I had used PICASA (also under Google) in the past, however, what's in Google+ was something that I had not explored.

I guess, it's because of the settings I did to my mobile devices, where both my iPad and iPhone were installed with the G+ apps, all the photos I took with these 2 devices using the "Camera" apps were automatically uploaded to the "G+ Photos" automatically (at least at the end of the day without me having to 'email'/'upload' manually! Of course, the 'fortunate' thing is, by default, the instant uploads are only visible to myself!

Somethings I like over G+ Photos & Album over Facebook:
  • A photo can appear in more than one album - this is something that I'm still trying to figure out in Facebook
  • Under Instant Upload, the photos are organised by dates, which makes it easier to manage (esp to select)
  • It's easy to move the photos around within the album; of course, this is similar to Facebook's improved features :)
  • We can run slideshow for the photos in the album whereas I think we can't do so in Facebook
Something that we can't do in G+ Photos & Album now but can be done in Facebook
  • tagging location to photos and adding introductory text which is possible in Facebook
Other things that both are comparable: Making comments and tagging of people in the photos

Somehow, I think I am now more incline to use the G+ Photo Album :)

In Google+ Photos,

  • click HERE to view album on the Conference Welcome Dinner
  • click HERE to view album on the night market (below)

In Facebook, click HERE to view album

"Event Blog" vs "Event in G+"

Most of my friends know that I have this habit of creating travelogues to document my trips; and indeed, it's a place where I would occasionally carry out some reflections and learning points. Of course, the travelogue also doubles up as my photo album, which I had given up coming up with hardcopy photo albums since I came back from Bhutan! It's also a means to help me manage my resources - especially space.

I've not moved away from blogging about my travel... On the other hand, each time when I worked on my travelogue, I also see it as an opportunity for me to explore new things, which potentially can be introduced into the classroom.

The introduction of Google+ Events is pretty timely!

The very first attempt using it was a personal exploration trip with some friends:

In fact, for this exploration, I set up a blog to document the trip at the same time:

In other words, during this exploration, using the mobile devices (my iPhone and iPad), I uploaded photos and comments simultaneously to both platforms. There's certainly a difference, in terms of the posting experience and what we can view there and then :)
(Note: Downloading the apps for Blogger and G+ into the devices helps! and there's where we experience the 'power' of technology-on-the-move)

Both exploration and experience arose from this trip were good, in particular the use of the G+ Events (I won't say much about blogger because I'm so familiar with it).

Though it was my very first attempt, I discovered the "strength" of this G+ Event feature, compared to others. Of course, I also surfaced some limitations! It is very important for us to "unearth" both pros and cons of a platform so that we would be able to deploy this in the most appropriate situation/ scenario.

I did not really pay attention to what was the original intent (if it exists when Google rolled this out, or its name is already explicit enough?). Nothing beats trying it out personally compared to being invited to use it (in the 2012 July eduCamp@SST event).

AN event can be private or public. The personal trip was therefore pre-set such that it's private and therefore only invitees could access.
(Compare with blog: When we set the blog to private, then only co-authors or selected accounts can view/ edit)

Let me flag out one obvious limitation of both Blogger & G+ Events, especially for those who are pro-Facebook - the location tagging of both apps is very limited, which came as a surprise to many of us because we assumed that all these should be well-linked to the very respectable GoogleMap! No, no... it was a definitely assumption that was not true at all!

One of the primary strengths of G+ Events is being a photo album like what we had for Facebook. It allows us to upload photos almost immediately and line them up nicely, in real time, and at the end of the event, we can choose to view it as a photo album:

Alternatively, we can revert to the view that allows us to refer to some of the conversations entered before/ during/ after the event. The 'conversations' can include hyperlinks to information or resources to that any member of the event posted up.

The features discussed above definitely is absent from Blogger, which has a very different primary function - documentation with text.

Hence, G+ Event is more favorable for event documentation that does not require much text documentation, but relies a lot on pictorial documentation, and it's more for a one-time event. In addition, the advantage of this is allowing multiple contributors to the same album at any one time, as long as these contributors become the member of the event. This is especially when we want to do any photo collage quite insistently. We can run the photos as a slide presentation almost insistently, too :)

One other drawback of G+ Event is about adding captions to the photos. In my last attempt in December 2012, we were unable to add captions via the mobile devices at the point of photo uploading. Instead, we have to browse through the photos and update the captions from the computers.

Here are some Events that I thought we have used the platform well:
When will I choose blog over Google+ Event?
  • When the programme comprises of several events/ modules - because the photos will be lumped together as one album
  • When heavy text documentation is required
  • When there are links or additional information that needs to be made available to the reader at all times (the gadgets in the blog does a great job to serve the purpose)
  • When there is a need to embed several other platforms (not one, two or three, but many) - e.g. GoogleMap, Wallwishers, GoogleForm
  • When we need to embed videos - note "embed" against "link"- we can insert links of video clips and another other thing in events, but not embedding.

Exploration with Google+

One of the biggest achievement in December 2012 was venturing into the Google+ environment/ platform!

It's not that new, after all, if we were to "hear" the GCTs talking about it during the GTANY in October. However, to me, it was... although I first heard about it when the boys introduced it when we ran our eduCamp@SST for educators in July last year.

You see, it's always this "needs-driven" mentally. If there is "no need", one might not even see the need to look at it or be bothered about it. Of course, there are some urgent needs (at the back of my mind) when I made an effort to carry out some systematic exploration. There's a target in my mind :) It's not so much to address my personal curiosity, but it's a professional need. No regrets... after making the first move into to... lots of potential, however again, the degree of potential really depends on the individuals. The more open minded we are, the greater potential we see its uses in education, definitely :)

The backbone environment of Google+ is quite similar to "Facebook" - a social network where one can broadcast to friends. However, it makes a 'conscious' effort to remind one to choose to whom one wants to broadcast the info to.  The circles would automatically appear, unlike Facebook, which appears as a small icon which quite often we might just ignore it unless we make a conscious effort to remind ourselves when posting the comment.

In Facebook: it appears as a small icon before the "Post" button

In Google+: it was obvious, as it appears right above "Share" - the box is huge and we can't miss it!

For posting, of course, Facebook is 'clever' enough to detect the link, etc. and we can click at "Add Photos/ Videos" to add other media. G+ can do the same in detecting the link and providing a preview. The additional feature is, in G+, there are specific buttons for us to add these media too.  (So, to some, it is redundant; anyway, it's a neat way to insert comments that go with this media). One observation when using the G+ apps in iPad, the link that was copied earlier will show up automatically in the G+ posting dialog box that prompts us if we intend to post that link. Clever!

I guess, so far, one difference is capturing the location where the post is put up... when G+ not as "advance" as Facebook yet.

One other thing that I like about G+ is... it's free of advertisements... so, we are save from those embarrassments when inappropriate advertisements showed up when we need to do a demo of the work carried out in Facebook!