Friday, June 27, 2008

All a-Twitter Over TinyPaste

After dropping by TechCrunch this morning I read a nifty story by Mark Hendrickson about TinyPaste. It's news that I'm sure all of my Twitter-using friends will appreciate. When my pals exceed their 140 character limit in Twitter (now who'd ever do something like that?) they can turn to TinyPaste where, after pasting a larger than allowed block of text, the service conveniently generates a short URL. The short link sends its users to a page displaying the poster’s message. Like Hendrickson notes, it's sort of "like TinyURL for text."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Change We Want to See

Today, I'm sitting in the San Jose International Airport where, I am delighted to report, the wi-fi is free to anyone and greatly appreciated. I wonder why can't Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport hasn't done the same? At any rate, traveling geeks like having the internet nearby and airports that cater to us are held in high esteem.

Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to be a candidate in the Google Teacher Academy. Fifty-five other people from places all over the earth and I spent a goodly portion of the day exploring Google's ever-growing collection of tools. Aside from the fact that I was actually there and not dreaming, I was very interested to know how my GTA peers integrate technology in their respective environments. I was intrigued because I want to share what's going on in places other than my corner of the world in southeastern Georgia. What I learned was that my friends have been
In addition to doing absorbing as much as I could from the GTA participants, I also kept my eyes and mind open as our group was given a tour of the Googleplex so we could all see, first hand, how Google structured its working environment so as to foster innovation. To say that our trip through the Willy Wonkaesque cognitive workshop was enlightening is an understatement. The experience was akin to having our mental batteries recharged...and then some! Everywhere we went we observed surroundings that superbly meet the needs of those who pass through its boundaries. Walking into Google is like crossing over into a parallel universe where things have somehow, suddenly gone right. While it's not Utopia, it's pretty darned inspiring.

Those fortunate enough to be employed at Google have a work environment that, while demanding, is simultaneously humane. Great things are expected of the folks who power Google. At the same time, the company recognizes the value of its employees and does all it can to make their work a joy rather than drudgery. The company has a set of values that drives its decision-making. Education would do well to take them to heart. These values are:

  1. Focus on the end user and all else will follow.
  2. It's best to do one thing really, really well.
  3. Faster is better than slow.
  4. Democracy on the web works.
  5. You don't need to be at your desk to need an answer.
  6. You can make money without doing evil.
  7. There's always more information out there.
  8. The need for information crosses all borders.
  9. You can be serious without a wearing suit.
  10. Great just isn't good enough.

Before we left Google, our group was charged with the mission to go forth and be the change we want to see in the world. I've been thinking about that. What I would like to see is a world where anyone can learn in environments not unlike that of the Googleplex, places that are fun and fundamental in solving the complex issues that challenge all of us. If Google can do it, so can we.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Even More from Google

Like Google? It's got a ton of tools for innovators. Check this out:

Knock yourself out!

Live from the Googleplex

Today I'm in Mountain View, California attending the Google Teacher Academy. I think it's going to be a blast. There's a decidedly diverse gathering here, educators and innovators from all corners of the earth. I've already met teachers from Maine, Louisiana, California, Arizona, and many other places. One extra surprise that thrilled me: Vicki Davis of Cool Cat Teacher blog is the keynote speaker!

Maps and Territorities: Into the Great Unknown

Many of us have seen Google Maps and know our way around the territory fairly well. We understand how to use this resource. However, lest we grow a bit complacent, it's probably a good idea to move a little further afield in terms of applying what we (think) we know. We need to proceed beyond the confines of our comfort zone. For example, how proficient are we when it comes to using Google Maps as a 21st Century cartographer might employ the resource? Are we able to, in effect, become Google Map Makers? Maybe it's time we concentrated on how to get started using Google Map Maker. Check it out.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Get the Picture: Brainstorming with Moodstream

Everyone talks a good game when it comes to brainstorming. By that I most people tend to get extremely verbal. They talk a lot or write down an enormous amount of terms. Using words isn't a terrible thing to do while generating new ideas. However, administrators, teachers, students, parents--anyone really--can benefit from using images to spark the creation and perception of new concepts. An easy and engaging way to put pictures to cognitive use is Moodstream from Getty Images. To be sure, it's a different approach to activating neurons but it's mighty interesting. In order to do out of the box thinking it's necessary to do things in a different way--that includes brainstorming.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A World of Data to Explore: GE-Graph

Although it's hard to believe, the wildly robust features of Google Earth can be made even better. Case in point: GE-Graph. This nifty, freeware application handily generates impressive graphs from kml files saved by Google Earth.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wandering Around with My Head in the (Word) Clouds

For those of you who enjoy tinkering with text, there's an intriguing new toy on the web. Check out Wordle. The site provides visitors with a means of creating word clouds from their own, user-generated text. A word cloud is an engaging visual depiction of frequently used words. These textual clouds depict keyword density using font size. The more often a word appears, the larger it is within the confines of the word cloud. Clouds at Wordle can be constructed using different fonts, layouts, and color schemes.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Starting Over

I've come full circle.

When I first began blogging, I used Blogger. It was a wonderful tool for sharing and it served me well. Later, when I was looking for more robust features, I turned to Wordpress. I was satisfied with it for quite a while--almost 5 years. Yet, here I am again, cranking up another blog with Blogspot in its address. Funny, really, when I think about it.

Recently, a lot of things in my life began to go through some interesting changes, one them being the Wordpress blog that a few others and I had been maintaining. It was a useful blog that had a great run. All good things, it seems, must come to an end. One day, not long ago, someone hacked our site, infected our archive of posts and left us with a deviously malicious code that redirected visitors elsewhere. After talking about our options (i.e., should we try to work our way through 5 years of daily posts in an effort to remove the offending code or should we just hose everything and start again), it became clear to me that none of my fellow contributors felt the same sense of urgency that I did. That's okay because, well, we're all different people with individual goals and aspirations.

I've held out as long as I could. I've tried to keep busy doing other things. In an effort to keep my mind distracted, I started tinkering with some of side projects. I plinked around with Python, checked into a few, new Linux applications, and took apart and reassembled a few old PCs. During this interval, ideas began piling up in my head. Usually, I share them, via the web, just to get them out of my cranium. For two whole weeks, I stayed away from my old Wordpress login screen. I told myself, no blogging for a little while.

Not anymore.

I have to share my ideas. It's what I do. Judging from the reactions I've been getting from a few faithful visitors to my old blog, they'd like access to the kind of content I was posting. In an effort to be a useful person and partially to get some mental relief, I'm going to start over. I'm going to take a whack at reinventing myself. Everyone should undergo a personal renaissance from time to time. It looks as if I have an exciting opportunity to dust off the remains of failure and start again...with a little more perspective. That why I'm starting this new blog.

I've always tried to approach life in an eclectic manner. I look for the best ideas from all kinds of sources--literature, the Arts, Science, technology, other people--just about anything. Why? Everything captures my attention, a condition that is simultaneously something of a curese and a blessing. I'm curious and love to learn. I try, as much as possible to glean the most useful, intriguing, and puzzling aspects of each experience I encounter. I like to think that I'm gathering a wealth of handy concepts--new, innovative, creative ways of seeing hidden or obscure leverage--that'll eventually be applied to problems and challenges I'm likely to face in the future.

I think of my approach to life as being eclectic before I'm forced by circumstances to be eclectic. In fact, I've coined a word that describes people who share my outlook. The word is preclectic. This term describes the quality of assembling the best ideas from many systems, disciplines, sources, people, et cetera long before they needed. It's a blend of responsibility, lifelong learning, advanced problem-solving, and fun that I'd love to help others crave in the same way I do.

So, I've created a blog--this blog--to help me in my endeavor. In the days to come, I hope to use this blog as a means of collecting, categorizing, and cataloging useful ideas and resources that I discover. I also want to use this blog a tool for collaborating, actually applying what I've learned and helping others to do the same. I know it'll take a lot of work but that's fine with me. I thrive on a good challenge. If anyone out there reading this would like to experience a little (or lot of) personal growth, feel free to join me.

Let's be preclectic!

Monday, June 16, 2008