Google Media Tools and Journalists

In a recent post, Google noted that The New York Times used Google+ Hangouts to interview U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry about Syria’s chemical weapons. Also, The Weather Channel uses Google Earth to illustrate storm damage with before and after satellite images and live YouTube video. And journalist Svenska Dagbladet used the Google Maps API and crowdsourced information from readers to plot disparities in neighborhood mortgage rates as part of a story in Sweden.  

Since journalists around the world are using Google tools as for reporting and visualizing data and to further promote that use, they have launched Google Media Tools which they 
unveiled at the Online News Association ‘13 (ONA) conference. The site is more of a hub where the tools are collected than a new tool itself. That's why it seems to be a good place for teachers and students to also use.

For example, it points you to where you can get up to date information on U.S. politics and elections rather than using a largely unfiltered Google search on those terms.  

It will also expose you to tools that you may not have heard of or used, like Google Fusion Tables.  This web application lets you host, manage, collaborate on, visualize and publish data tables online. Fusion Tables takes large volumes of spreadsheet data and makes it easy to read, present and share the charts and maps. For example, you can embed them on your website - the sample below is a screenshot from from The Guardian that was used to show meat consumption around the world using Google Fusion Tables.


Khan Academy New Look

Khan Academy recently launched a new interface that is smarter and can figure out where you have gaps and help you fill them.

Take a look at and find (or create, if you're a newbie) your personal homepage.

They have started the new look with math (their most popular content), but they are adding more subjects and new badges, and ways to level up on the skills you’ve practiced.

Especially, for high school students, Khan Academy has become a kind of build-it-yourself MOOC.

Of course, the content is geared towards school subjects, but that doesn't mean you can't learn about alien life in the universe, the muscles involved in shooting a free throw, or understanding Ponzi schemes (something many adults don't understand).

You can watch a video about science, economics, history, health, or something unexpected.

You can sharpen your math skills with an interactive exercise from the knowledge map.

You can even start programming without any previous knowledge or explore some existing games and simulations.

Student Video Production

I have yet to see educators settle on one way of having students produce and share video, especially for online courses. There is such a staggering amount of devices, tools, services and apps to produce and share video that I think most of us are as baffled as the tyranny of choices we confront in the supermarket aisles.

I was looking again this summer at some services I had not used before to see if there was a new FREE tool for students to produce video that could incorporate live action but also screen captures, images and maybe even desktop interactions. I wanted this for producing short "lectures" or presentations and for assignments, proposals, evaluations and portfolios.

In the past, I have used any commercial service that the school had purchased and I could offer my students. These products like WebEx, Echo260, Camtasia Relay etc. are not only costly but often too much of a tech hurdle for faculty and for students to use with any regularity.

Many people suggest that students use things like Voice Thread in online or F2F courses. Instructors can start a topic and students can all add comments, either voice or text, around it. Students can collaborate on a thread about a course topics. Images and videos made using other tools can be included too.

Animoto is free for 30 second video (which might be useful for icebreaker introductions or other small assignments) but has costs otherwise. offers a maximum recording time of 15 minutes, no max free hosting for up to 15 minutes per upload and a variety of file and publishing options.

Similarly, I have had students use Jing which is free from to create images and videos of what is on their computer screen, then share them instantly. The videos must be short, but I find it works well for proposals and elevator pitches for research topics.  It can also be a good icebreaker exercise to have them introduce themselves in a n online course. I have used it to give students my thoughts on their work in online courses. It's not difficult to use but it also can signal to me those students that are going to have issues with using technology.

I hear about more teachers using Google Hangouts in the classroom. Besides the video aspect, it offers commenting, messaging, and chat features so that students can ask questions while you lead the course, and they can interact with you and each other.


Gmail Redesign: Tabs

Things keep changing to web apps every day when I log in. Recently, Gmail Tabs popped up without prior warning as a new way of organizing my mail.

I hadn't really wanted a new way to do that, but these tabs, which sit at the top of your inbox page, are supposedly just a first look at a completely redesigned Gmail experience.

I guess I really am getting old because I'm not dealing as well with change these days.

If you are active on social media and subscribe to blog posts, this new tabs look might be appealing. It can separate your work related emails from your updates. I was already doing that using filters, labels, and the priority inbox but I suppose the Gmail tab feature might save some scrolling time.

QuickTip: Gmail Aliases

Although Gmail doesn't offer traditional email aliases, you can easily use a kind of alias (alternate) email with your existing account. This is useful for sorting and directing messages.

For example, let's say I own the email but I want to use it with students in one of my courses. I don't want that course-related mail mixed in with the rest of the messages, so I tell students to email me at (352 being the course number, but I could have added media or any other characters). I will receive those messages sent in my regular mail and then I will set up filters in Gmail to automatically direct these messages to a folder for the course. I could also apply a label or star them, skip the inbox, or forward them to another email account or any other options offered in Gmail. It's a nice way to stay organized. For a small business, you could use aliases for different inquiries by adding +info, +estimate, +billing or any useful label to customize the message.