Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Untangle the Web With Me, Adam Bellow, and Steve Dembo

Last year Adam Bellow and Steve Dembo published a book titled Untangling the Web. Next week I am going to join them for a Google+ Hangout of the same name. We'll be talking about strategies for avoiding information overload in the information age. And as I'll be fresh off the plane from London where I'm attending the BETT Show and TeachMeet BETT, I'll probably have some things to share from that experience too.

The Untangling the Web Google+ Hangout will be held at 8pm EST on January 29th.

Now You Can Download Your Remind 101 Messages

This week the popular text messaging service Remind 101 introduced a new option to download all or part of your message history. To download your message history just look for "export message history" while viewing your account settings page. From there you can have a PDF of your messages emailed to you by Remind 101. You can have all of your message history sent to you or you can select a specific set of dates from your message history.

For those who haven't tried Remind 101 (currently works in the U.S. and Canada) it is a free service that allows you to send text messages to groups of students and or parents from your computer, your iPhone, or your Android phone. The benefit of using Remind 101 over Google Voice, which I used to use for this purpose, to text students and parents is that your phone number is not revealed and your students' cell phone numbers are not revealed to you. Students and parents have to opt-in if they want to be added to your text messaging list. Students and parents have to enter a confirmation code to state that they do want to be contacted by you through the service.

Applications for Education
As Remind 101 pointed out in their announcement about the new message export option, it could be a good way to present your communication log during evaluations or to save for your teaching portfolio. The pragmatist in me also thinks it's a good option for covering your butt to have an offline record of messages sent to parents and students.

What an Insect Can Teach Students About Search Strategies

Last week in my house I found an insect that I had never seen before. I tried to get the clearest picture I could of it before settling on the not-so-clear picture you see to the left. The construction of my house was just completed in October so I was worried that this bug might be something that could damage my house. I immediately went to Google to try to figure out what this mysterious insect was and if it could damage my house. Let's take a look at the search strategies I used to try to find my answers.

1. I tried uploading the picture to Google Images and adding the words "insect" and "Maine." That wasn't terribly effective because my picture was of a low quality and what I ended up with didn't get me very far. (I didn't expect that this method would work given the low quality of my image). Read more about this strategy here.

2. As I always encourage others to do, I created a list of the information I already had before going onto my next search attempt. Here's what I knew:

  • The insect is brown-ish. 
  • The insect was in my house which has lots of pine board, tongue and groove, ceilings. 
  • My house is sided with wide live-edge pine boards that were installed and sealed in October. 
  • If I type "bug" into Google I'm going to get results for the insect and the car. I needed to search using the word "insect" to refine my search from the start.  
  • I was worried about invasive insect species. 
3. Given everything I knew about the situation what I ended up using for search terms were "Maine insects home" which landed me here where I found a picture of the insect in question. From there I jumped to a fact sheet about the insect. The fact sheet answered my question about whether or not the insect could damage my house.  

Feel free to use this picture (click it to enlarge it) and search challenge with your students. Can your students find out if this insect will damage my house? Is the insect native to the ecosystem of Maine? 

Wellcome Images Releases 100,000 Images Under Creative Commons Licensing

The Wellcome Library recently made more than 100,000 drawings, photographs, paintings, and advertisements available to the world under Creative Commons licensing. The images available through the Wellcome Images library are primarily of a historic nature. You can browse the galleries or search for images by keyword.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London

Applications for Education
Last week I had a conversation with a couple of teachers about the power of images to prompt students to ask questions and investigate their answers. The Wellcome Images library could be a great place to find images to spark questions about a wide variety of topics in cultural and scientific history.

Thanks to Domhnall O Hanlon for sharing this resource with me.