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.

Tagging my Technology and Teaching Practice

This week sees me concluding a year of academic activities by participating in graduation, and other professional events at Charles Sturt University in Wagga Wagga. It is always a pleasure to celebrate the big graduation day with a new batch of happy graduates!

Meanwhile, much of the discussions back in the ‘academic halls’  hinge around technology and teaching practice, one way or another. Much planning for 2012 as a result!

As educators we are always looking for yet another way to bend an online tool to our purpose. Thursday will see me contributing to the Technology and Teaching Practice Research Group 2011 Symposium. The focus is on the communicative affordances of online tools. My spin is really just a futuristic focus on the changing context of the web, and the deepening issues for educators around search strategies and information retrieval.

Just a 20 minute discussion starter – so what could I do that introduces something new?

You can see the presentation slidedeck for From Web 1.0 to Web 3.0: A wolf in sheep’s clothing or a new culture of learning. You’ll notice a QR code on the front slide. This QRcode created at TagMyDoc points to a supporting document – and this code will download that too directly from TagMyDoc to your e-device!

The presentations throughout the day will have a series of papers included in a print document,  to provide supporting information and material for the presentations.  While I thought that this was useful, I also thought it would be interesting to show how to provide access to the electronic file directly from within  that printed document – or from where it is attached to the front of the slideshare presentation (that I have embedded in this post).

Now, it’s available to all ~ either at the Symposium, or anywhere else on the planet!  I do like this way of enhancing a slideshare presentation, and the ease of being able to share an electronic file.

Image: cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by opensourceway

Intelligent searching with[out] Google

I’ve noticed a few comments recently on the continued changes in Google’s search
facilities.  Amazing how we have to keep in touch with all this – and just
as well that we do.  I’m thinking that there are plenty ‘out there’ who
never do.

So did YOU loose Google Advanced Search?  or did you never make use of anything other than the Google slot [search]  box ready to punch in your query? A random query amongst non-library friends told me that plenty of folk never even bother to do anything but type randomly into the Google slot [search box] so apparent simplifications of the Google interface makes perfect sense for the masses.I’m not game to run the query past teacher friends because I feel they should know better – but I just might be dissappointed.  Perhaps I feel that sometimes it’s easier to stay away from inconvenient truths?

If you want to use Google Advanced search, you’ll find that it is now accessed via the small ‘gear’ in the right hand of the navigtation bar of your google interface. Of course, you can bookmark the direct link too. Phil Bradely provides a step-by- step instruction to find Google Advanced search.   I think Google explects you to be ‘logged in’ . Clicking on the gear brings up advanced search, language tools, and more.  So Google advanced hasn’t been moved, so much as changed in terms of the access point.  But it doesn’t stop there for Advanced Search, as some other features have also changed.

I also recently mentioned Google Verbatim, another change responding to the removal of Google keyboard operators like +.  And so it continues…change, change, change…

But of course there are so many other issues at stake and so many other options for positive quality research. Too many teachers just don’t get it! As my friend Dean wrote today, the internet research task is not about ‘googling’ information in response to questions generated by the teacher. That teaches students nothing:-

The point is to develop judgment or understanding of questions that require a nuanced grasp of the various facts and to develop the ability to think about and use those facts. If you do not have copious essential facts at the ready, then you will not be able to make wise judgments that depend on your understanding of those facts, regardless of how fast you can look them up.

So mindful of this I’ve been collecting information at Knowledge 2 which has other search engines and options included. 

In actual fact, it can be a challenge to keep up-to-date with all the developments, so If you have some additions, or changes that you’d like to see made, please do let me know.

For more in-depth investigation and review of the search possiblities, you can’t go past this excellent set of slides from Karen Blakeman on searching without Google.

Image:cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery

Google Verbatim – what’s that?

Google has a verbatim search mode which looks for exactly what you type. Get it?  ver.ba.tim Adverb:In exactly the same words as were used originally: “recite the passage verbatim”; “verbatim quotes”.

Wait, isn’t all of Google search like that?   No way kids! Actually, Google used to have that functionality  with a well-known (but, they say, little used) “+” operator. And then they dropped it…..and then Twitter exploded!

As Wired told it “Google phased out the + operator yesterday, which means I now have to “quote” “every” “term” “like” “this”. Nobody else finds this annoying?” Many of us found it annoying, and Google seemed to end up agreeing.  Less than a month later Google has added a search option which makes the not-outrageous assumption that what you type is actually what you wanted to search the web for. “Verbatim” is not the default setting — so Google will still fix what it thinks is a spelling error, and search for that — unless you turn on verbatim search.

Your search query is just the starting point for Google’s searches. Sometimes Google fixes misspellings, replaces some of the keywords with synonyms or other related keywords, disambiguates your query using your search history.

Philip Bradley explains it all in detail, step by step.

You need to check this latest change (enhancement?) out, and be sure to pass this information on to all your students – young and old.

What is interesting is that in Chrome I can turn Google Instant on or off, and that there is a suggestion that Chrome will also soon include the same option for Verbatim.

As Google explains it as you start to type your search terms, Google Instant automatically shows results for a popular search that begins with those letters. If you don’t see the results you want, just keep typing and the results will dynamically update.

This very ‘dynamic’ nature of google instant is a smokescreen to make us feel successful. But since fast search doesn’t necessarily mean intelligent search, and since Google’s adjustment of my basic search is equally confusing at times, it just may be that turning off Google Instant and turning on Verbatim as the default for students can take us back to teaching the key elements of search – choice of the best search terms and strategies.

Oh wait!  Your institutition might not let you use Chrome?  Never mind – just be sure to update your integration of search strategies in your curriculum practices. On the other the sort of customisations that Chrome can offer for key things like ‘search’ might be just another reason to beg for Chrome deployment on your devices!


Top image: cc licensed ( BY NC SD ) flickr photo by Yersinia

Learning without frontiers – social media and beyond

I am really enjoying participating in the ASLA National Conference in Sydney. We have had the most amazing presentations and workshops, which together show the way forward for teacher librarians keen to participate in 21st century learning and library services.

The keynote presentations will be available as a video as well as slideshare presentations, and I will post about these when they have been completed.

Today I started the day off for the crowd with some ideas and provocative thoughts to set the scene for the second full day at the conference. I really want school librarians to embrace social media, and become  builders of knowledge in new media environments by drawing on their passion and their love of culture and learning.

Ultimately we should be Learning without Frontiers!

It isn’t about learning how to use a particular digital tool.
It isn’t about social media.
It isn’t about new media, augmented reality, immersive story-telling.
It is about our ability to understand when and how we move across the everexpanding
meta-literacy environments.

Social content curation – a shift from the traditional

The notion of content curation is one that has traditionally been associated with libraries, archivies, galleries, or organisations working with objects or data in some way. For example, in the DCC Curation Lifecycle (UK) you will see a complex flow of the “appraise and select” activities which  requires data managers to “evaluate data and select for long-term curation and preservation”.

So ‘selection’ or ‘acquisition’ is then closely linked to a repository or institutional policy on collection development.

Now the extraordinary thing is that the term ‘curation’ has become one of the latest buzz-words in the social online sphere, which  has been transformed into an activity that is both about marketing and about organisation of the vast information flow that is delivered via social media.

Social networking has definitely provided us with main channels for information flow. But in Curation: Understanding the the social firehose we are introduced to the fact that mainstream news reporting not only contributes to or makes use of this social news firehose, but is now also getting involved in curation – because someone has to make sense of the flow of citizen reporting of events.

millions of tweets spewing out – different languages, mostly personal, some from people actually there, authorities, governments, media outlets, fake media outlets…you name it. And then someone has to make sense of it all – but if they do, the reward is possibly the most accurate, unbiased real-time account of an event you’re ever likely to get.

So in the social media sense, content curation is  the organizing, filtering and “making sense of” information on the web and sharing the very best pieces of content with your network that you’ve cherry picked for them .It comes down to organizing your sources, knowing which of them are trust worthy, and seeing patterns.

So for teachers and librarians it comes down to  keeping up the pace in adopting these strategies and using tools to publish curated content in the sense of ‘reporting’ what’s happening. So as a teacher and librarian I see myself doing these things:

  • curating my own content for myself (my own ‘go-to’ repository with tools like Diigo, Delicious, Evernote, Pinboard, Vodpod, Flickr, RSS readers etc.
  • sharing this first level curation because my online tools are socially connected
  • curating content for others via targetted tweets or Google+ circles, Facebook pages, Facebook groups, wikis, livebinders,  etc. (Does Paper.li fit in here seeing as it is automated?)
  • sharing this second level curation as a direct extension of the first level of personal curation.

Now I can see a reason for educators to move into  third level curation as a form of info-media publishing.  Think of this as dynamic content curation that’s about helping keep up with the news.   The flow of information through social media is changing:

While we’re dismantling traditional structures of distribution, we’re also building new forms of information dissemination. Content is no longer being hocked, but links are. People throughout the network are using the attention they receive to traffic in pointers to other content, serving as content mediators. Numerous people have become experts as information networkers.

Now I can use all my social networking resources and return information back to my social community at the third level of curation. I saw Howard Rheingold’s use of Scoop.it, for a number of topics, including Infotention – which got popular. I watched with interest as  Robin Good’s Real time News Curation grew and grew.

Social content curation is about collecting, organising and sharing information – in a new package. I’m no archivist. But I am a digital curator of information for myself, and perhaps for others. I’m interested to see how (what I call) the third level curation evolves. I like the idea of socially connected ways of publishing ‘what’s new’ and ‘what’s newsworthy’ as an ‘aside’ to my ‘go-to’ information repository such as my social bookmarks.

Check out my test run in this new area with

My target audience are my past and present students in my subjects. I see my target audience being anyone interested in these areas?  Or perhaps this is a waste of my time?

I recommend watching this interview of Robin Good by Howard Rheingold , where they discuss Content Curation and the future of search.

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!

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!