Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What will your verse be?

Image is licensed for reuse on wikimedia.org
I was watching TV the other day and I saw the most inspirational commercial ever!  It was the "Your Verse" commercial for the new iPad Air, and it completely moved me.  I was so moved, not only because it integrated one of my favorite movies of all time, Dead Poets Society, but because it also integrated technology and education.

The message of this commercial is to do what you love; be who you want to be in life; and let technology help to express yourself along the way.  It's about being human, and enjoying all of the things in life that make us human.  Finally, it's about the fact that each of us is special, and that we all have something unique and valuable to contribute to society.



Robin Williams is the voice in this commercial which was taken directly from the movie, Dead Poets Society.  In the movie, John Keating (played by Robin Williams) has a soliloquy in the classroom where he gives the most inspirational advice anyone could ever give to another person.  In his soliloquy, he borrows a few lines from the poem, "O Me! O Life!" by Walt Whitman, which adds to the beauty of his message:

"We don't read and write poetry because it's cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, 'O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless... of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?  Answer.  That you are here - that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse.' What will your verse be?"




The final message in his speech reads, "What will your verse be?" This is such an empowering message to those students in the film.  This is not only a great reminder to each of us, but it is a great reminder for us as educators to instill this message into the hearts and minds of our own students.  To believe in them. To challenge them. To empower them to follow their passions. And to do the things in life that make them happy.

This message also reminds me of the ending to the book "Orbiting the Giant Hairball" by Gordon MacKenzie.  Gordon MacKenzie uses this same concept, but instead he uses painting as an analogy, rather than poetry.

“You have a masterpiece inside you, too, you know.  One unlike any that has ever been created, or ever will be.  And remember:  If you go to your grave without painting your masterpiece, it will not get painted.  No one else can paint it.  Only you.” 

So, I leave you with a message that is a combination of the words by John Keating and Gordon MacKenzie.  We need to encourage our students not only to identify their "verse" in the "powerful play" of life, but to also make sure that it is documented and that it gets spoken!

As educators, let's always remember to ask our students,  What will your verse be? And how will you perform it?


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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Did You Know? Google Image Search Tools

Image is CC licensed
Did you know that Google recently updated its Google Image Search features?  Now, you can simply perform a Google Image Search and click the "Search Tools" button to access Image Search Tools such as Usage Rights and many more.

How it Works

Before Google made this update, users had to click on the Settings icon and select Advanced Search icon when performing a Google Search in order to access additional features, such as changing the Usage Rights of images.  This feature was practically hidden, therefore it was not used as much.  Now, with this new update, I am hoping that more teachers and students begin to use these additional Image Search Tools to ensure that they are not infringing on any copyright laws.

There are four simple steps that you need to complete in order to use the Image Search Tools correctly.

  1. Visit www.google.com and perform a Google Search.
  2. Click on "Images" after you perform your search
  3. Select the "Search Tools" button to the right of the search bar. 
  4. Select "Usage Rights" or any other Image Search Tool that is available.
     


You could also perform a simple shortcut to the first step by simply clicking on the Images button on Google's Home Page.  This will take you straight to a Google Image Search




Here's an Example

Let's say (hypothetically) that I wanted to find an image that was free to use, share or modify for this blog post.  I might perform a Google Image Search for "magnification instruments" and change my Usage Rights, Image Search Tool, to "Labeled for commercial reuse with modification". Then, I would find the picture that I wanted to use, upload it to my blog post, and cite the image with a proper attribution.   




Well, if you couldn't tell already by the first image I used for this blog post, I guess this wasn't so "hypothetical" after all.


Now that you know
  1. The next time you need to perform a Google Image Search, consider using the Search Tools button to find an image that's Creative Commons licensed
  2. How might you integrate this new tool into one of your lessons?  How might you teach your students about Copyright?


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Did You Know? Details and Activity in Google Drive

Image is CC licensed
Did you know that Google recently added a Details and Activity icon to Google Drive?  This new icon looks like this "" and it allows users to see "details and activity" regarding files and folders in their Google Drive account.

How it works

This is a very new update, so it might take some time before you can actually see the icon displayed in your Google Drive account. However, when this new feature finally updates in your account, you will see the "" icon at the top right of your screen, next to the Grid and List View buttons.  When you click on the icon, it will provide you with "details and activity" about your current selection.  If you have recently selected "My Drive" it will provide you with "details and activity" in your entire Drive account.  However, if you select a specific file or folder, it will only display "details and activity" about that specific file or folder.




Here's an example

In the screenshot below, you can see that I have selected my Google Certified Trainer Docs folder inside of my Google Drive account. You can also see that I have selected the Details and Activity icon and then selected the Details button.  This displays the details of my Google Certified Trainer Docs folder.





The next screenshot highlights the Activity part of the Details and Activity icon.  When I select Activity it will display all of the activity in my Google Certified Trainer Docs folder, starting by displaying the most recent updates at the top. This allows me to easily keep track of my activity, and the activity of others with whom I'm collaborating.




Now that you know

  1. Instead of always reverting to your "Revision History" for each of your files in your Google Drive account, consider using the new Details and Activity feature for quick and easy access. 
  2. Consider using this new feature with your students in order to quickly and easily keep track of edits made on individual and group assignments in Drive. 


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Friday, January 10, 2014

Did You Know? Bitly Bonus Features

Image is labeled free to use or share
Did you know that there is a way to easily customize your own short URL?  All you have to do is create a free account with Bitly to get started.  Bitly, is a URL shortening and bookmarking service that allows its users to customize their own short URLs, which makes it pretty awesome.

How it works

I'm sure you have seen these types of short URLs before, and you have probably even generated them to share content on the web with others.  But you have probably seen or generated a short URL that has a combination of meaningless alphanumeric characters in it.  This makes it difficult for others to accurately view, copy, and type the short URL.  However, with Bitly, users can customize their short URL to make this sharing process much easier and more efficient. Moreover, Bitly even has some bonus features that will actually save your customized links in your account AND it will provide you with statistics regarding the time and location of when and where your links were viewed.

Here's an Example

I like to create and share customized short URLs on Bitly when I give presentations to colleagues, or when I am teaching lessons to students.  I typically create custom short URLs that are meaningful or related to the content that I am presenting or teaching.  For example, if I wanted to share a Google Form that I created for my staff to collect information about professional development, I might create an ending to my short URL such as "/staffpd".

To get started, you will need to first create a free account on Bitly, or sign in with Bitly using either your Facebook or your Twitter account. Then simply copy and paste the website URL that you would like to shorten.



Then, when you click "Shorten" it will create a default, alphanumeric short URL for you. However, there is a small "pencil icon" next to it that will allow you to "edit" this short URL to a custom URL of your choice (one that has not already been created by you or someone else). 




Next, click the "pencil icon" to "edit" your short URL in order to customize your link.  When you are satisfied with your link, click or select "Enter" and Bitly will give you feedback as to whether or not your customized link is available.  If its not available, then try a different combination of characters until you create a customized link that is both unique and available.




Finally, when you have successfully created your unique, short URL, feel free to copy and paste it wherever you want, or choose to select the "Share" button to share your customized Bitly link. Then revisit your account at a later date to checkout the "viewing" statistics of your link or add it to a "Bundle" to start a customized collection of the Bitly short URLs that you have created. 




Now that you know
  1. The next time you need to share a link, consider using Bitly to create a customized short URL to enhance the sharing experience. 
  2. How might you use Bitly's bonus features with your students and colleagues? 


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