Monday, March 22, 2010

Google Streetview & Augmented Memory

A week ago, Doug Peterson shared a highly personal, reflective post: My Childhood Community. While Doug's blog is always informative and thought-provoking, this one has created more ripples than he likely imagined.

Like many others, I have frequently dragged the little yellow dude onto a map in Google Streetview, but I hadn't done so through my 'little kid' eyes. What I discovered took me on an emotional ride that is sure to continue. Let me just share a few highlights from earlier this evening.

A virtual visit to what will always be for me, the home of my granparents, sent me to reconsider a tree that was gnarled and gigantic in my youth; to reminisce about playing with the large-grated air vents in the upstairs bedroom; to reflect on my grandfather's habit of listened to Tiger games on the radio, while simultaneously watching a game or two on television.

And that thought sent me to Tiger Stadium. Though it no longer stands, the glow of the stadium at nighttime was a common spectacle from downtown Windsor... so Google Streetview beckoned.

Most images in Google's cache still show the home plate quarter of the stadium, but this one photo was taken another day, after the camera car had completed the Michigan-Trumbell-Cochrane loop. This image captured the fall of the Ernie Harwell's booth and the best seats in the house, while a proud flag waved from the centre field flag pole!

My inner conversation let me next to consider the two most significant sports fields of my youth. The first was the street in front of my house that was home to road hockey, street football, and kick the can.

The other, was the school down the road where I learned to run track, play basketball, and work on my short game on our custom par three golf course". The most surprising memory trigger for me, was the pole that now sits outside of the school playground. It marks the spot where we played tag games like British bulldog, and where hero pranksters opened the fire hydrant to flood our schoolyard for winter skating. It's also where the Duncan Yo-Yo man wowed us with tricks and hooked us on what was to us, a brand new toy.

The details of my memories may be of little interest to others (including my own children), but to me, the memories are priceless. And the detail and pace at which they came flooding back was surprising when inspired by modern day digital images.

But I'm late to the party!

Shortly after My Childhood Community appeared, Stephen Downes contributed Where I Grew Up, a reflective post very similar in flavour to Doug's post.

A few days after that, Megan Palevich posted A Walk Down Memory Lane with Google Streetview. After embracing personal memories with her mother, Megan took the idea a step further, considering how students and teachers might embrace this idea.

The lesson she developed was later shared with Zoe Branigan-Pipe whose reflection highlights what for me was the biggest story in the experience... the great value we can discover in sharing our ideas with other networked teacher-learners.

Doug Peterson started more than a meme. He set memories in motion; initiated creative storytelling; inspired collaborative networking. Now that he's posted An Idea that Keeps Growing, you can take your digital time travel to new levels.

As a first step, reward yourself with an augmented trip through your own memories.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Siberian Express: Mission Accomplished

Ray Zahab and Kevin Vallely have crossed Lake Baikal!

Running daily marathons would be incredible enough, but they've done it while toting provision-laden sleds through high winds; in arctic temperatures; across rugged frozen terrain. The Impossible2Possible team made the journey in just over 13 days, and in doing so, inspired thousands of students who followed the expedition.

In just a few weeks time, Ray will be joining us as a live speaker at TEDxOntarioEd. To say we're exited, would be an incredible understatement. To see what they endured, visit Impossible2Possible, or check out this video summary of the expedition:

Siberian Express Wrap-Up from GOi2P on Vimeo.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

It's time for Educators to "Pay Attention"

If the ideas you are about to hear are new to you, it's only because you haven't been paying attention. Voices scattered across the edublogosphere have been saying these things for some time. Maybe it just rings more true when a youthful learner says it?

Did you catch the sheep doing cartwheels at the end of this video?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Creative Commons Collaboration

A few weeks ago, I received a collegial email from Alma Taawo alerting me to a newly published teachers' guide on Creative Commons. Not only had the Swedish National Agency for Education (Skolverket) published a reader-friendly manual for teachers, they had licensed it for use, re-use and sharing.

Cool! Except... I don't speak Swedish.

As luck would have it, within a few minutes of putting out a distress call via Twitter, I was introduced to a Alastair Creelman. Born in Scotland, Alastair has lived in Sweden since 1983, and had already forged connections with the authors of the original document. After a few brief emails, the text translation was underway.

By coincidence, this correspondence took place in between Skype conversations I was having with group of 6th graders from Lawfield Public School in Hamilton, Ontario. Following up on an invitation from Zoe Branigan-Pipe I was introducing students to the potential of Creative Commons.

Just prior to a return check-in with the class, I'd had the privilege of viewing a video clip of Zoe's students teaching adults about blogging, including why they were adding Creative Commons licenses to their blogs. Not only had they taken the lesson to heart, but they were teaching others about what they'd learned.

Even though it would be fairly easy for a tech-savvy educator to re-publish the Swedish CC document, I decided then and there, that it would provide a perfect opportunity for Zoe's students to further share their expertise by contributing to Creative Commons in the Classroom, a teaching resource. The invitation, and the class' enthusiastic response, is documented in a recent podcast.

Creative Commons - Draft 1

Three Related News Items
1] You may be interested in visiting (or re-visiting) Creative Commons: What Every Educator Needs to Know, which was revised this winter. As proof that more people are learning about CC, the audio version has been viewed some 15,000 times!

2] I'm making plans to provide a workshop on Creative Commons in August at the ABEL Summer Institute in Toronto. Join us if you're able. ;-)

3] This past weekend at TEDxNYED, Creative Commons pioneer, Lawrence Lessig, implored those present, to consider teaching and learning in a world characterized by openness and sharing. You can learn lots about CC or about presenting in general by watching Lessig's presentations.

4] Late addition: With Scribd moving to a pay-for-use model, a duplicate, freely downloadable copy of 'Creative Commons in the Classroom' has been posted to

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Roger Ebert Speaks

Last week, I had the good fortune of stumbling across 'The Essential Man' an Esquire article that reconnected me with storied film critic, Roger Ebert. The article prompted me to locate Roger Ebert's online journal, where he seems to be saying more than he ever did 'from the balcony'.

As much as I'm glad to see this man's passionate commentary in text, this morning, I learned that Roger Ebert can now communicate using synthesized audio built from samples of his own voice. To find out how this is possible, listen to Dr. Matthew Aylett, chief technical Officer at CereProc as he explains the technology on NPR's All Things Considered.

Voices in School
While we don't have access to Ebert's voice, staff and students in my district are coming to realize that they can leverage a range of voice-augmented assistive technologies including a talking word processor. In a workshop today, for a combined group of staff and students, my colleague Pat Hammond, introduced many of these Premier literacy tools. My interview with Pat, is episode #219 of the Teacher 2.0 podcast:

I suspect it won't be long before we see personal digital language assistants adopted as universal designs for learning.

Photo Credit: .m.e.c.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Digital Pheromones and Maple Leafs

At the close of the Olympics, the chair of the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC), John Furlong highlighted the fact that Canadians were united in experiencing the 2010 Winter Olympic Games

“I believe we Canadians tonight are stronger, more united, more in love with our country, and more connected with each other than ever before. These Olympic Games have lifted us up. That quiet, humble national pride we were sometimes reluctant to acknowledge seemed to take to the streets as the most beautiful kind of patriotism broke out all across our country."

I believe that modern communications technologies played a pivotal role in bringing us together for the past 17 days. If you were on Twitter during the Men's Hockey Championship, you felt it first hand. In today's podcast, I consider our evolving use of communications technologies as 'digital pheromones'.

In case you want to relive the games, check out the Boston Big Picture Site for Winter Games Part 1 and Winter Games Part 2.