Gridding up

I was turned onto this rather cool new tool that I think has a ton of great potential in the classroom. It’s called Flipgrid. It’s a way to collect short video responses to a prompt. As well as looking great, it works on mobile (with the Flipgrid app), doesn’t require a login, and is super simple to use!

I’ve embedded a link to an example. Just click the container below and it will take you to a topic page. Then just click the big green plus button to start recording (and you’ll probably also need to click “allow” to give permission to your camera). Then just record your message, add your name and a poster frame, then submit it. As more people submit theirs you can revisit the site to see what they add. Give it a go!

After you click the button, say who you are, where you’re from, what you teach, and how you might use this with your students. You have 60 seconds! Go!

The direct link to the topic page is https://flipgrid.com/2a35ea

The administrator of the grid has a lot of control over things like moderation and approval of comments before they go live, whether replies are allowed, whether likes and plays are shown, whether auto transcription happens, and more. This tool is well designed for classroom use!

I see this as a great way to collect feedback from students, allow them to share their learning with the rest of the class, reflect on an activity, brainstorm ideas, and so much more. What suggestions can you come up with?

PS: If you’re on mobile, grab the Flipgrid app for Android or iOS. I love that it works so well on mobile as well as the web. Well done, Flipgrid!

Header image: Sprites by Thomas Quine via Flickr CC BY

 

Dear Twitter… Help!

Sad Twitter BirdI started on Twitter back in February 2007, joining the service as user number 779,452 using the name @betchaboy. At the time, I thought I was already late to the Twitter party but looking back at it now that the number of users has crossed into the billions, I guess that wasn’t the case.

In the time I’ve been part of Twitter, my use of it has grown considerably. As I write this, my Twitter account follows 3,931 people (mostly other educators with a nice mix of others thrown in just to keep in interesting), and there are 8,496 people following me. With over 11,000 tweets since I joined, Twitter has been a big part of my learning for the last 7 years.

Twitter has been an incredibly valuable tool of connection and learning, and has enabled me to be part of conversations and communities that I never would have discovered otherwise. Twitter has, quite literally, been life and career changing for me.  I’ve written quite a few blog posts about Twitter over the years, some of which have been quite widely read. You could say I’m a fan of Twitter.

So here’s the problem…

Twitter had a security breach earlier this year and numerous passwords were compromised, apparently including mine. Now, when I try to access my account on www.twitter.com, it tells me that I have to change my password.

Fair enough. Click the link and it sends me off to do a password reset using either my username, email address or mobile number. The trouble is, no matter which one I use, it doesn’t work. The username and email options are supposed to send me an email so I can reset the password, but no such email arrives (and yes, I’ve checked the spam folder).  Likewise, requesting a password reset using my mobile number is supposed to send me a text, but no text arrives.  After exhausting all these options, I get a note on the screen that says “If you still don’t receive a message in a few minutes, then unfortunately there is nothing else we can do to help you regain access to your account.”

Come onTwitter, you can’t be serious!

To make things even more bizarre, I can still tweet from that @betchaboy account from devices on which I’ve never logged out since the password problem arose, and which are set to remember my password. I can tweet from my iPad, from the Chrome web app of Tweetdeck and from Tweetbot on my Macbook, all of which I have never logged out of since the problem.  However, on new devices I can’t connect, and I can’t connect any app or service that needs to talk to the Twitter API.

I find it really odd that I can tweet from existing devices that remember my  password (presumably the old password) but that I can’t log in with any new devices. And the fact that I can’t retrieve or reset my password and that I’ve written to Twitter Support six times now, all with no response, is just beyond frustrating.

I suppose I could set up a new Twitter account and just start again, but with so much invested into my original Twitter account, I really don’t want to have to do that. My Twitter username, betchaboy, has been very much part of my online identity and digital footprint and I really don’t fancy losing it. And of course, it takes time to develop a large network on Twitter so I definitely don’t want to have to start that process over again if I can avoid it.

Twitter, please, can you help me sort this out? I don’t know why the normal reset processes are not working for me. I don’t understand why I can’t get anyone to respond to a support request made through the proper channels. I’m super frustrated by this whole thing, but I really want to get it sorted out.

If you know someone at Twitter, could you pass this post on to them?  If you have any suggestions, could you let me know. I just want to get it resolved and move on.

The Twouble with Twitter

Sorry Twitter… I really like you and all, but this little video has quite a bit of truth to it. Funny too!

Did I mention that someone I know sends out tweets, on average, including sleep time, every 8 – 10 minutes? Needless to say, I don’t actually follow them.

You are the Search Engine

Geocaching is a great way to combine a bit of fun technological geekery with some good old fashioned go-outside-and-get-some-fresh-air action.

I spent an afternoon with another blogger using our GPSs, iPhones, Flip Videos and other techy toys and went geocaching around Sydney. If you’ve never tried it before, geocaching is essentially a treasure hunt where you go looking for a hidden treasure (more correctly known as a geocache) which someone plants and publishes on www.geocaching.com. It’s a simple enough concept… once you sign up on the site, you enter your current position and it will tell you what caches are hidden nearby. You then just pick one that sounds interesting, enter the cache coordinates into your GPS and navigate to the hidden treasure.

It sounds simple enough, but once you start to allow for the real-world factor it does start to get a shade more complicated. GPS devices will tell you where you are but they have limits as to how accurately they are able to do so. Under perfect conditions – clear sky, no obstructions from trees or buildings, no atmospheric interference, etc – a GPS ought to be able to pinpoint your location to within about 2 metres. I reality, the tracking is often far more vague and the accuracy level only gets you within 5-15 metres of the target. Both caches we found today were quite small and well hidden… as you might imagine, trying to find a small object within a 15 metre radius can be a little difficult, especially when you have no real idea what you’re actually looking for!

The first cache was at North Sydney, called Woof’s Water. It was easy enough to get to the general location, but much harder to locate the cache itself. The small park to which we were directed had several garden beds and landscaped shrubbery surrounding it but because it was nestled between the Sydney Harbour Bridge rail line and some tall buildings across the road, the view of the sky was a little narrow. This makes it hard for the satellites to triangulate accurately and usually gives somewhat dodgy results. This is where geocaching gets interesting. The GPS can get you close, but once you find the general spot you often need to start thinking laterally, asking yourself where might be a logical place to hide a cache around here… (“if it were me, where would I hide a cache?”) We agreed that the garden bed along the railway line would be a good place to start, and we spent a good 15 minutes peering our way through the long grassy plants. I was just about to give up when I heard the call of “found it!” Sure enough, it was pulled from the long grass and the log book filled in.

To make life easier before we chose our next cache, we dropped into the Sydney Apple Store to look at geocaching.com on one of their 24 inch iMacs. While we were there, we also logged the first cache on the website and worked out our next target.

For cache number two, we decided on one called Imax, named presumably because it would lead us to the Imax cinema at Darling Harbour. As we strolled down King Street and along the pedestrian walkway, it did indeed lead towards the Imax, but also to huge throngs of people in Darling Harbour.

Cache 2 for the dayGeocaching is a pretty simple concept really… after you punch in the cache coordinates, your GPS will draw a line between you and the cache. Just keep walking towards the target until the line disappears and you should, theoretically anyway, be standing right on top of the cache. As we approached the spot where the line was about the vanish, the GPS started doing some very odd things. The target coords started jumping all over the place and the GPS was going haywire. I looked up to see the Western Distributor overpass going directly overhead and started cursing whoever was silly enough to plant a GPS cache somewhere that did not have a clear view of the sky. Fancy hiding a cache in a spot which did not get a direct line of sight to the satellites! The freeway was right in the way…. the freeway was, oh wait, I get it!

This was a classic example of a cache not being where you first expected to find it, and having that “aha!” moment when you realise how clever the cache owner has actually been.

We used the iPhone to browse the geocaching.com website when we needed to look for clues or read the comments of other geocachers. We used Qik on my Nokia N95 to live stream video to my blogsite of our searching. We took footage on our Flip video cameras. We used Twinkle on the iPhone to tweet the results of our searching out to our PLN community, along with photos. It was a good day for gadgets and to play around with their ability to keep the blogosphere in the loop while we did it.

If you’ve never tried geocaching before, I recommend you give it a go. It’s a great outdoor activity, allowing you to get out in the fresh air while also satisfying your inner geek. It often causes you to think, gives you some exercise, makes you laugh a bit, and teaches you things about yourself, your city and your world, all at the same time.

PS: I’ve since discovered a very cool app for my Nokia N95 called Geocache Navigator. It enables you to enter geocache coordinates in your Nokia phone and a mapping app appears, directing you to your cache target. Because it uses the N95’s built in GPS and also integrates directly with geocaching.com, it can tell you where the nearest cache point is, and let you update your status once you find it. Nice work! That class geocaching project could perhaps be closer than you think!

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Privacy or Openness. A shift in values?

While catching up on my Tweets tonight I noticed one from @shareski (and swooned over by @speters!) pointing out that Twitter made a cameo appearance on CSI, as shown in the video below…

It’s always interesting to see a less mainstream technology such as Twitter showing up in a very mainstream place like a top rating TV show… it’s sort of like being a teenager and seeing your dad wearing the same brand of clothing as you… You just sort of get the feeling that he’s only doing it to appear cool…

It seems to me that seeing Twitter on CSI signals a recognition of that technology, sort of the two ends of the long tail coming face to face for a moment. It’s like reading a novel where the main character is a webdesigner or a podcaster, rather than a lawyer or an accountant.

I’ve never watched CSI so I don’t know who they two characters are, but I really liked the exchange between them in this scene where they are looking through the victim’s Twitter page for clues. As they browse the page, one guys comments that because the victim was a blogger she may have left a clue amongst her tweets, and with a slightly sarcastic tone he says “Some people just don’t value privacy.”

His partner retorts that “They don’t expect privacy. They VALUE openness.”

His colleague snorts back… “Whatever.”

Listening to this exchange made me think about why some people are maybe less enthusiastic about embracing web 2.0 technologies. Whether they realise it on a conscious level or not, perhaps for many it really is about an idealogical struggle between two world views. Between valuing privacy or valuing openness. Many of our kids today seem to value openness more than they value privacy. Perhaps this gives an insight into why they are so willing to connect and share, so ready to engage in social networking practices, so willing to make connections online… perhaps they are growing up with a completely different mindset about the value of openness versus the importance of privacy.

As society’s values change it can create a shift in our ability to see things from a new perspective. My parents generation generally valued things like thrift, savings, hard work, stability, personal sacrifice, and yes, probably privacy. That’s quite a different picture I get of many kids today, where they seem to value things that are almost antithetical – living for the now, spending and materialism, flexibility, what’s-in-it-for-me, community and openness.

As an educator I have to keep reminding myself that there has been some fundamental changes in what my kids value compared to what my parents taught me to value. While I don’t want to put a blanket statement around this and make silly sweeping statement about “all kids today”, I think there is certainly some truth to the idea that there HAS been an underlying shift in values that cause our kids to see the world through a sightly different lens than we do.

And even more importantly, we need to make sure our response to this difference is not just “Whatever.”

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Twitter – Killer App or Overkill?

I’ve become quite a fan of Twitter, although I’ll readily admit I never really “got it” to start with. However, as I mentioned in a previous post, and also in a recent tutorial video, Twitter makes a lot more sense once you add a group of people to your network. Having a likeminded group of fellow Twits from which to tap into some collective wisdom turns Twitter from a curious plaything into a rather amazing personal learning environment.

Twitter has an open API (Application Programming Interface), which mean that programmers who can think of interesting ways to mash the basic Twitter feed into another service are able to tap into the guts of Twitter in order to get it to power their own apps. There are a number of interesting tools/toys that hang off the Twitter API, from useful local clients like Twitterific, Twitterroo, Snitter, Spaz and Twitterbox, to fun implementations like Twittervision and Twittervision 3D. And just to show how circular life is, I’ve just been alerted to Twitterposter, thanks to, none other than my very own Twitter network.

Twitterposter creates image grids of the top Twitterers’ icon files, arranged so that the more influential (most followers) are shown larger than the others – sort of a visual tag cloud idea. Two things struck me as I browsed the grid… one was the number of people whom I actually recognised, at least by reputation. @Scobleizer, @ijustine, @Biz, @Gruber, among others. Seems that despite its vastness, the Internet is still a finite place full of very real people.

The other thing was just how big some of these Twitter networks can become. There were several I saw with well over 4000 followers and the largest following I saw was @Scobleizer with 6893. That’s crazy enough, but he is also following 6923 people!! How anyone could manage that sort of volume is totally beyond me, or why anyone would want to. Surely there must be a limit to how many in your network is the “right” number? If you can believe Dunbar’s Number, the “right” number is about 150. I tend to agree, and imagine that things would start to get a little messy after that. Just doing the math, I’m following about 100 people at the moment and I get tweets popping up every couple of minutes (especially during the North American daytime), so I imagine that following nearly 7000 people would have tweets popping up every few seconds? That’s just crazy stuff, and I would think totally blows away any usefulness that you might be able to get out of the collective wisdom of the network. Maybe someone with a large follow list might leave me a comment and let me know how that works for them. I’m really curious.

PS, In late breaking news, for a long list of Twitter-based apps, take a look at http://twitter.pbwiki.com/Apps, courtesy of @whynot88. Thanks Anne!

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