March madness and April foolishness

My professional life is indeed about March madness and April foolishness. It’s that time of the university cycle – Courses Review and future Course planning!  Not an annual process, but something that has to take place every few years. Me? I’ve been in the ‘job’ of Course Directors for 8 months for one bit of it (teacher librarianship) , and 2 months for the rest of it (Bachelor and Master degrees in Information Science).  Hence my head is buried in paperwork, planning, re-organization ……. and DREAMING.  Oh how I wish creativity, innovation, and change was not so complex.

So, I have very little time to write in this blog until some time in May. Fact!

My time for reflection is limited to ‘saving’ good reads and important information for later examination or immediate action (but not blogging). For that I always use, EvernotePocket, Diigo, or Zotero for resources I will need to reference at a later point.  I am thoroughly pleased with the updates made to Feedly (thanks Google for finally killing of Google Reader!) and I am enjoying Prismatic on my iPhone as an alternative way to crowd-source newsfeeds (I’m well over Zite, Flipboard and the like).

So April foolishness is what I’m now headed into!  April Fool’s day has set me off to a good start. Thanks to Tech Crunch for an awesome April Fool’s day list and for Google’s contributions.

My absolute favourite was Google Maps treasure mode.

Archeological analysis has confirmed that our Google Maps Street View team has indeed found one of history’s long lost relics: a treasure map belonging to the infamous pirate, William “Captain” Kidd.

The map was found on a recent expedition in the Indian Ocean, as part of a deep-water dive to expand our underwater Street View collection. Captain Kidd was rumored to have buried his treasure around the world, and tales of a long-lost treasure map have lingered for generations.

Image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Stéfan

Google your brain

You hardly go a single day without googling an idea, thought, interest, question? Right? Sure, you might use another search engine, but the fact that the word googling has entered the vernacular, and that we do all google is a dead give-away that something big has happened.

But to be honest, it wasn’t until I recently read Turing’s Cathedral: the Origins of the Digital Universe by George Dyson, that I really stopped to sniff the revolution and feel the digital sizzle in the air.

The staggering potential of our information and knowledge web is built on an intricate history of science, mathematics and the genius of a handful of men and women, and a bigger  pool of  quite brilliant people. What is staggering is the way data  and data connection has now become a major factor of knowledge. It is impossible to have one without the other, and it is becoming less and less obvious which side of the data/knowledge equation is driving the other.

Thirty years ago, networks developed for communication between people were adapted to communication between machines. Since then we’ve gone from transmitting data over a voice network to transmitting voice  over a data network. Google started buying up “dark fiber”, awaiting a time when it would be worth the expense of connecting it at the ends. This is now being lit, and the “last mile” problem – how to reach individual devices without individual connection costs – has evaporated with the arrival of wireless. Google is a force to be reckoned with.

There was a time, in the prehistory of about 1995, when our ideas of “search” still carried the sense of the word’s Latin roots – a search was a kind of “arduous quest” that invariably involved “wandering” and “seeking” and “traversing”. Not any longer. For those who are growing up to search in this millennium, it implies nothing more taxing than typing two words into a box – or, increasingly, mumbling them into a phone – and waiting less than an instant for a comprehensive answer, generally involving texts and images and films and books and maps.

But one of the most interesting news around Google Search last year was the introduction of Knowledge Graph, in May for English queries and in December 2012 for many other languages. Now the Knowledge Graph “covers 570 million entities, 18 billion facts and connections, and about three times as many queries globally as when we first launched it”. To refresh how Knowledge Graph works, it’s worth (again) watching the video :

In the chapter The tale of the Big Computer my mind was riveted by the potential of the future:

Virtual machines never sleep. Only one-third of a search engine is devoted to fulfilling search requests. The other two-thirds are divided between crawling (sending a host of single-minded digital organisms out to gather information) and indexing (building data structures from the results). The load shifts freely between the archipelagos of server farms. Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, algorithms are systematically converting the numerical address matrix into a content-addressable memory, effecting a transformation that constitutes the largest computation ever undertake on planet Earth.

Google..has been executing precisely the strategy that Alan Turing had in mind: gathering all available answers, inviting all possible questions, and mapping the results.

We celebrate the open communication that the web has come to make possible. The capacity to share and build knowledge.  But the reality is that the machines are doing the building for us almost more rapidly than humans. I want to believe that this will all end well! We want a global knowledge cathedral – a glorious repository that celebrates out humanity.

How will Google instil wisdom into it’s machine-made disembodied neural knowledge networks? Or will we just be assimilated so we can google your brain?

I really loved reading Turing’s Cathedral (the title refers to the significant contribution to theory known as the Universal Turing Machine), to know more about the origins of the digital universe, and the shape of things to come. The visionaries who laid the foundations saw the future, and sometimes the peril. We see these too, and the topic is covered over and again in Fantasy and SciFi books and movies, almost as if our global subconscious is pondering this technological revolution and it’s impact on humanity. Look for it, and you’ll see it everywhere.

Never mind. I have faith in the best scholars and creatives amongst us in getting us through the knowledge assimilation process.

Mashable reported the story of Kaleb Lechowiski, who at 22,  thanks to his short science-fiction film R’ha, is off  to Hollywood.

He created the story of an alien race betrayed by its machine army in search of independence, R’ha centers on a single interrogation scene between an uprising computer and its sentient captive. Looking to break free of the limitations of their design–and carry out total elimination of their creators–the machines use some particularly nasty “motivation protocol” to extract key information from their prisoner.Most things were done in Maya, like animation, rigging, shading, and rendering (Mental Ray). But he modeled almost everything in Blender for speed,  using Brush to sculpt the alien and paint a lot of objects. Post-production was done in Nuke and After Effects.

Enjoy!

Image: Turing cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Leo Reynolds

Effortless quick searching

“Like most people, you probably use Google to search most of the time. But what if you want to quickly look something up on Wikipedia? Or Youtube? Or Wolfram Alpha? Save some time with Chrome’s other built-in search engines. Here’s how!”

Thanks for this quick Youtube tutorial http://youtu.be/b3fMNi4zxSE  Chris.

The Googlization of everything



The internet has changed the way with think of information. The web as we know it is significantly changing our literacy and information encounters.Participative  media tools have altered the shape and experience of learning, and provided teacher and librarians in this changing learning environment with the need to embrace new skills, new tools and new ways of working with literacy, information literacy and digital fluency. If there is any doubt about the scope and impact of the new technology environment, the Horizon Report K-12 edition (2011) issued annually since 2009 has identified and described emerging technologies that are having a significant impact on K-12 education, re-iterating the diversity of influences in the learning spaces of our schools.

For some the 21st century school library seems to be trapped on a treadmill of technological progress, while for others the mystique of new technology provides the only impetus needed to go further, faster, and in more directions at once. The best course, as always, is somewhere in the middle, and depends on an understanding of the emerging capacities of the internet that is now hardwired into our student’s lives.  Think of the web  as being portable,  focused on the individual, on a lifestream, on consolidating content, and which is powered by widgets, drag & drop, and mashups of user engagement.  This socially powered web is exploding, and is the new baseline for all our internet and technology empowered interactions.

Underpinning our knowledge transactions is the power of search or information connections between disparate sources and data pools.We are constantly looking for new ways to create, massage, analyze, and share information – at least I hope so! In our global info-maze, are school libraries at risk of becoming irrelevant, or is the librarian’s expertise more critical than ever?

To answer this question (in the context of the web) you need only turn to one thing to realize how vital – indeed critical – is the role of a quality information professional in our schools. The implications for education are profound because they will impact on our information literacy strategies and knowledge construction processes. While I do not for a moment underestimate the contribution of other geek, net savvy teachers to the learning environment in a school, I do wish they spent more time understanding the possibilities of information search and information curation.

So here follows a reflection about Google  – read it if you will, share it if you can, embrace the challenge if you dare!

1. Google is a problem. It’s not just because it’s embedded in the psyche of teachers and kids, but because it is not understood. Google is not a benevolent search engine. It has a commercially inspired ever-changing focus. Search Engine Optimization skews the results. Out personal login (if you are logged into gmail or iGoogle) changes the results. Google is a blessing and a scourge as a result – and it’s up to educators to point all of this out.

Do yourself a favour and get your school library to buy a copy of The Googlization of Everything by  Siva Vaidhyananthan professor of Media Studies and Law at the University of Virginia, then share it around and talk about the ideas. It’s less than $10 for a Kindle version – no excuses.

It’s not that I’m shooting Google  – I just really want teachers to get some wisdom around this whole ‘searching the net’ for answers that we expect of our students.I want librarians to be information evangelists via better Google usage. Take a short cut, and listen to a 4 minute podcast from Siva with Minnesota Radio. Or listen to Siva Vaidhyanathan talk about  The Googlization of Everything: (And Why We Should Worry) in a longer interview where Siva explores how so much of the world has embraced Google and our  need to look critically at that embrace.

2. Google should not be the first or last place to search. This is something we can spend a whole hour or day experimenting and learning more about. Take the time to look at Knowledge 2.0. This is a workshop session that can work really well in a hands-on setting. If you discover just one new approach to information management then it’s a win-win for your students.

3. Google has lots of neat tricks. Any Google Certified teacher will tell you about the advanced search options in Google. If you don’t have one of these on hand, then be sure to at least expore every single bit of the left-hand menu – and click on “more options” to find the hidden treasures. But when it comes to Google search, without a doubt, the best trick of all is Google Scholar and how to  set up your preferences to link directly with the databases that your school or institution has access to (including public libraries etc). Here’s an example from my library at CSU that shows tertiary students how to set this up. There’s a nice short video that explains it in more detail. Have you done this?

4. Google represents a renaissance. School librarians are involved with and responding to an information renaissance that is rewriting the world as we know it. Google epitomizes this renaissance by the very fact that it is there – always there, on any device 24/7.  Our students in primary and secondary schools need to be nurtured in ways to learn how to learn from a multiplicity of resources at their disposal, using   the best information organization and critical thinking strategies that that we can show them.  We need to build a culture of enquiry at the heart of each of our schools. It’s not just tools and skills.

Thinking about and organizing information  in a digital world has heralded a totally new approach to information curation. Emerging devices, tools, media, and virtual environments offer opportunities for creating new types of learning communities for students and teachers. Searching for content requires wise information literacy strategies (embedded in the curriculum learning processes) to avoid being lost in the information labyrinth.  Learn to understand this. Learn how to do this. Learn.

Image cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photoshared by Sheila Ryan

Google+ plus Deeper Web

Google Lego 50th Anniversary Inspiration

I have a feeling that there is still so much I have to learn about the ‘ins and outs’ of Google, Google+, whatever! What annoys me is how easy it is for me to miss or forget something important about the world of online search.

Here’s the thing –  I had completely forgotten that Google filtered my search results if I was logged into Google. My test run on a complex search showed me that Google cannot predict the information I need. Message to self – “log out of Google if you want to embark on some serious searching”.

So a comment from @hamishcurry today at the ScreenFutures conference  reminded me to share a ‘new’ enhancement of my Google experiences with Deeper Web – an innovative search engine plugin and an essential Firefox addon for Google. By my reckoning this is ‘old’ technology – a Youtube video pegs it at 2009, as does a bookmark in my Delicious collection from the same year.

Here is a Google+ experience of a different kind!  Who knew?

With Google Wonder Wheel retired (for a while anyway) I have installed this Google Search engine extension for a test run on my old MacBook.

Deeper Web results appear in the right hand of my search screen – though there are other options to choose from. Suddenly I have a way of filtering my searches on the fly – from sources and by tags, phrases, sites and zones. I can delete tags or phrases and the search results are automatically resorted.

I am also supplied with a series of window boxes below the tag window providing search results from a range of sources. I can hide those sources I don’t want to see e.g. Wikipedia, or Answers.  However, I do like the other collection options of ‘metrics search‘, ‘news search‘, ‘resources search‘ and ‘blog search‘. So I can see this needs further investigation – and perhaps I really should add this functionality to all my Firefox browsers on all my devices. I’m not sure what I am missing – but I must be missing something if this isn’t known or used more widely.

So while this is no direct replacement to Wonder Wheel, it seems a definite enhancement of my Google Search experience. Rather stupidly I am now  wondering what other tools or enhancements of my web search experience using Google I have forgotten or missed out on.

Please tell me if you know about something else that is pretty good. Tweet me, Facebook me, or Google+ me.  While the social networks go through a period of shakedown, I seem to have acquired another place to keep an eye on!

Things worth tweeting about

What a couple of weeks of change!  If you have been watching your twitter stream or RSS feeds you couldn’t help but be surprised by some of the juicy tid-bits that have occupied social media. I can’t remember a week like this one for a while, which makes it all the more interesting as I prepare for my next round of subjects. One of these is #inf206 Social Networking for Information Professionals, a subject in which we not only use new media tools, but we explore ways in which we can use them to empower library services.

So here we are with a list of things for #inf206 to think about, and for the rest of us to be bemused by!  I’ve plucked these tidbits from my tweets in the last few days.

According to Search Engine Land  Google Wonder Wheel feature has been taken offline. A group of users who also used Wonder Wheel for keyword discovery and to spot relationships and new concepts were educators, librarians, and students. For example, a librarian might use it to help a user find new words to search with not only with but also using other databases. A teacher or student might use Wonder Wheel to identify ideas for a research project. Will Wonder Wheel be back and available soon? Google didn’t provide a timeline or commit one way or another if it will or will not be available in the future. At the same time  Google Realtime Search has also gone off line. Google’s agreement with Twitter to carry its results has expired, taking with it much of the content that was in the service with it.

Meanwhile, of course, Google is occupying out social media time as we explore Google+. If you are interested, you can go look at 25 Google+ tips to enhance your Google+ experience. I like the way Google+ operates on my iPhone, but right now the idea of the personal shift required in moving to Google+ is ….well looking like a holiday job! Read Google Plus (Google+): The Painful Realization and you’ll see what I mean.

As an aside, I also was interested in a press release from IBM. For the first time, scientists at IBM Research have demonstrated that a relatively new memory technology, known as phase-change memory (PCM), can reliably store multiple data bits per cell over extended periods of time. (instantaneous memory 100X faster than flash) Solid-state flash memory is widely used as a storage medium in tons of consumer devices, from cell phones to laptops like the MacBook Air. While it has big advantages over hard drives in terms of speed and a lack of moving parts, it has a limited lifespan. Now IBM researchers say they’ve crafted a way of encoding data that works better than flash—and has a greatly increased lifespan. Where flash memory can typically be overwritten only 3,000 to 10,000 times, PCM can endure in the order of 10 million write-erase cycles. Read more at PCMag.

OK, I admit I don’t understand this fully – but I do understand that it promises more of what we like –  FAST FAST FAST!

Meanwhile, in the global business world of books, Amazon.com has announced that it is set to acquire The Book Depository, a UK-based online bookstore that offers more than six million titles and ships to more than 100 countries. The Book Depository was founded in 2004 by Andrew Crawford, and in the last financial year its turnover was thought to be in the region of £120m.

So the rush of technology continues, and surprisingly we still can’t seem to quite believe the shift that technology is having on books. After all, we have been making the content for ebooks ever since we shifted from hot-metal presses to digital composition – so even before we had good ebook reading capabilities we were preparing for 21st century book experiences. I can’t be bothered engaging in the ‘best e-reader’ debate – because in the end the shift will happen somehow or another.

The promise of eBooks is definitely flipping our idea of what is possible. With the release next week of the pocket-sized, ultra-light ”flipback” book, it will be possible to enjoy the feel of a printed novel and the portability of an e-book. The books measure 12 by 8 centimetres and weigh less than 150 grams, barely more than an iPhone. The format was invented in 2009, when Dutchman Hugo van Woerden, the CEO of Christian printing house Jongbloed, was looking for ways to use excess Bible paper. He put the lightweight, high-quality ”onion skin” into a series of miniature sideways books that can be read with one hand, perfect for crowded buses and trains.  Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/books/new-books-look-to-flip-ereaders-20110702-1gvym.html#ixzz1RBjLqHMT

Stop turning a blind eye! Media literacy in action.


cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Cayusa

I’d like to think that all teachers and librarians are clever enough to know how to work well with images to promote creativity in learning. My post-grad students working on Digital Citizenship in Schools  have just completed a phase of their learning that included an investigation of how to find and use images in their work using free images online, and even using Greasemonkey and Flickr to speed up their image attribution. Media literacy is an important part of digital learning environments.

Media literacy education helps people of all ages to be critical thinkers, effective communicators, and active citizens. Media literacy is the capacity to access, analyze, evaluate, and communicate messages in a wide variety of forms. This expanded conceptualization of literacy responds to the demands of cultural participation in the twenty-first century. Like literacy in general, media literacy includes both receptive and productive dimensions, encompassing critical analysis and communication skills, particularly in relationship to mass media, popular culture, and digital media. Like literacy in general, media literacy is applied in a wide variety of contexts—when watching television or reading newspapers, for example, or when posting commentary to a blog. Indeed, media literacy is implicated everywhere one encounters information and entertainment content. And like literacy in general, media literacy can be taught and learned. Using images is just one aspect of media literacy educaiton – but none-the-less a vital one. Media literacy education can flourish only with a robust understanding of fair use.

Fair use in education means that educators and learners often make use of copyrighted materials that stand ‘outside’ the general use e.g. in the classroom, at a conference or within a school-wide setting. When this takes place within school fair use indicates flexibility.  Each country has it’s own specific rules and regulations that apply to copyright. But for teachers, the aim should be not to teach or bend rigid rules, but rather to promote media literacy in action and help students learn HOW to use media to empower their work, and promote a creative commons approach to sharing and mashup works.

For this reason I was excited AND disappointed with the newest enhancement to Google Images, mainly because in my experience teachers have continued to turn a blind eye in this area of media literacy action. Google has announced you can now sort Google Images by subject.

To see this in action, go to Google Images, conduct a search and look on the left hand side for the search option. Directly under the “More” link, you will find the default sort option set to “by relevance,” click on the “Sort by subject.” The results will then shift and group images by subject topic.

Decorating print and digital material with google images is pretty standard amongst kids – no attribution, no use of creative commons materials etc. Your students may be different – but I’m considering the general norm that I have seen, and now the job just got easier!

What interested me most though was watching the video about this new feature.  Notice how they’ve cleverly ‘covered’ the value of this new feature?  You’d use this feature to help you understand a topic better? pick a better dog! and perhaps add a nice image to presentation at school?

Sorting just made searching a lot more visual.  Yes.  No mention of copyright, creative commons, fair use. No mention of th Advanced Image Search, and the option to filter by license. So there are rules…and they did not promote breaking them. But they did leave the rest of the job up to us!

OK – so I guess it’s up to teachers and teacher librarians to get the fair use message across, as part of our media literacy education.

Will you stop turning a blind eye now?

Bonus:

Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media LIteracy Education

Copyright Livebinder

Via search engine land

Google’s new search features …

This presentation by Karen Blakeman was given at the Online Information exhibition, Olympia, London,  1st December 2010.  It focuses on the new search features and options launched by Google this year and Google’s personalisation of results.

This is one for teachers and librarians to check out in more detail!

Shortened – by Google

Google’s URL shortenergoo.gl – is now open to the public.   Take note of the fact that all goo.gl URLs and click analytics are public and can be shared by anyone.  Does this mean that we should already  have been taking note of what we ‘shorten’ and which services we use?

Of course, as @khokanson reminded me – it really helps if you have the capability to customize the URL.  I often use the customization feature to create a url that is easy for my students to understand. Google url shortener doesn’t seem to offer this service – at the moment anyway.

In addition,  sophisticated users can also add a QR code (Quick Response code) which contains much metadata; a QR code can be read by scanners and mobile devices.  Is this a good thing? Yes, if you are running a website and are interested in analytics.

Create a digital history with History Pin

Want to know what was happening on the corner of your street a hundred years ago? Now a new online project will let you ‘pin’ historic photos to images on Google Streetview giving you a snapshot of that particular location throughout history.

The HistoryPin website encourages web users to upload their archive photos and ‘geo-tag’ the modern-day locations onto their modern Streetview locations. The site allows users to share images from their personal photo albums and wants them to include the stories and history behind them.

What a great project for school students to get involved with!  Combine history, culture, and geography in one fell swoop!

Read more at:  A snapshot through time: The website that lets you ‘pin’ historic photos onto Streetview