More ready access with Google Drive

This week both Microsoft and Google got their acts together and released Dropbox-like applications for their online storage services, SkyDrive and Google Drive respectively. I’ve dabbled with SkyDrive, but have never become a convert. I use DropBox every day! Now I’m waiting to see what I might (or might not) do with my Google Drive.

Indications are that Google Drive is more a revamp of Google Docs than it is a brand new service. Essentially, Google is rebranding Google Docs to Google Drive, and modifying its user interface to suit a bunch of new features.

Signups for Google Drive are open, although you may see a notice that “your Google Drive is not ready,” and asking you to sign up to be notified by email when it is turned on. The Google Drive service includes 5 gigabytes of free storage. Google Drive will initially be available for use with PCs, Macs, and Android devices. A version for iPhone and iPad users is under development.

Dive into Google Drive some time soon!

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

Don’t like the new Google Reader?



To be honest, I’ve always hated Google Reader, so the current round of complaints since the update have had no impact on my RSS reading habits.  One quick look tells me that the interface is more palatable, having adopted the new Google look common to it’s other product upgrades. However, my RSS reads also tell me that many are unhappy, and that one of the key issues is the social interface.

Google Reader’s  redesign  removes social features to other websites. The Google Reader team has prepared for the release to be unpopular with some users in the userbase saying in a preemptive post “we recognize, however, that some of you may feel like the product is no longer for you” adding that they extended the amount of exportable data.  “Starting today we’ll be turning off friending, following, shared items and comments in favor of similar Google+ functionality” and iterated “we hope you’ll like the new Reader (and Google+) as much as we do, but we understand that some of you may not. Retiring Reader’s sharing features wasn’t a decision that we made lightly, but in the end, it helps us focus on fewer areas, and build an even better experience across all of Google”.

Google Reader is certainly changing. In truth I am not at all ‘qualified’ to comment on the current iteration of Reader. Why?

I’m been a long time fan and user of Feedly. If you’ve been around in any of my presentations, you’ll know that I like Feedly so much that I recommend it all the time.


cc licensed ( BY SD ) flickr photo shared by heyjudegallery

If you currently manage all your feeds in Google Reader, Feedly is a nice way to transition to a different style of feed reader. Feedly syncs with your Google Reader account, but uses a more magazine-style interface. The minimalist interface thankfully doesn’t put as much emphasis on whitespace as the new Google Reader, either. The service offers support for a plethora of social media services, but doesn’t include any built-in substitute for Google Reader’s social features.

Just in time for the launch of the new Google Reader, Feedly also just launched version 7 of its web service

As an added bonus, there are also  various mobile and tablet apps for Feedly which work nicely now. However, when it comes to my iPhone I also have a friendly relationship with FeedlerPro!

Top image: cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo by stylianosm

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

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

Google reading levels and more


cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo shared by Cayusa

Google does have traction, and can be used for many useful things, especially when people are not familiar with many other options. So it’s good to keep up-to-date with new features added to Google.

Google Docs has added pagination to their product. Useful?  YES!  I can’t tell you the number of times I have used google docs to work on something over a period of time, because I know I might be accessing the document from different computers in different places. I don’t always want to use dropbox, especially while brainstorming, and collaborating on a document. The downside was always the pagination stuff.

Pagination, or the visual display of actual page breaks – demonstrating how words will actually look on a page, how changes in margin/spacing will change page flow, etc. – has been a standard for offline word processing since the 90s. Having it available in Google Docs is both important in matching the standard and in adding a number of other vital features. This includes putting headers/footers on each page, putting footnotes on the bottom of corresponding pages, and in-browser printing (in now, a feature restricted to Chrome). However, pagination may also lead to other in-demand features such as page numbering. Users who prefer the unpaginated approach can switch to the classic format by going to View > Document View > Compact. If you’re eager to use paginated documents and haven’t seen the update yet, be patient: the feature will be come your way soon.

There are also some new sidebar options in reading leve and dictionary. Back in December, when Google first introduced its reading level limit on the advanced search page, it appeared there but not in the “search tools” section of the sidebar. So after complaints about the reading level limit not being in the sidebar at last month’s Computers in Libraries conference, it’s great to see the addition of the reading level limits to the sidebar today. It seems to be rolled out to all the browsers I’m using today. At least a few more teachers might  notice it when it is in the sidebar, even though searchers still need to click on the “More search tools” link to see them.

Along with the new Reading Level search tool, Google has also added a “Dictionary” search tool. Google has had a long history of connecting search words to dictionary definitions. Searchers used to be able to click on their search terms in the now-gone blue bar at the top. The words (or the definition link) went to dictionary.com and then in 2005 to Answers.com. By the end of 2009, Google was using its own definitions, including automatically generated ones from the web. Now, the new dictionary search tool may retrieve information in these various sections:

The Web definitions seem to match the results searchers can get from using the define: operator (compare define:library with the new results).  It’s much more visually accessible.

The older Google Dictionary which used to be available at http://www.google.com/dictionary seems to be gone.

via SearchEngine Journal; SearchEngine Showdown