Google Earth & Group Projects

Not sure why I posted a question on a Google Earth Community without posting on my own blog? Love to have some ideas on this question…

I’m trying to understand how I might put together a group activity that allows students to build a collaborative List – without having to do lots and lots of downloading and editing of individual files….

One way I try to help students in my course connect to the course content is to have them read through/explore the “Geologist’s Lifetime list” (, then contribute to a discussion where they connect their own experience to the topics mentioned. (They describe their experience relative to some of the topics mentioned in the list, then comment on at least two other students’ experiences). This usually produces a vibrant discussion and is a good way for students to get to know each other.

This year I assembled their list into a downloadable Google Earth tour. This took quite a bit of time (though it was fun!)

I would really like to have the students do this. I know I could ask them to not only post a message, but also attach a kmz file of the location(s). However, I would still need to download & open each file and build a list – not the immediacy that I am I’m looking for.

Is there a way that one could design this so that each student could pinpoint the location on a map and provide a description (plus or minus photos) – and the tour/kmz file builds along the way?

Anyone have a sense of how this could be done?

Posted in Google Earth | 1 Comment

Closing the Gap

I really enjoy the “For Better or For Worse” cartoon series. They have been running a series of comics recently which show how young people are communicating with one another. Today’s cartoon was priceless, I thought, and relates strongly to another discussion I have been privvy to about how we support “reluctant” technology adopters.

I, like many of my colleagues believe that the students are helping to drive that train… and today’s cartoon helps drive that home.

Check it out:

For Better or For Worse, Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Posted in Fun Stuff | Comments Off on Closing the Gap

Library of Congress on Flickr

I was doing some casual Sunday cruising of Flickr and discovered the Library of Congress photostream on Flickr! They have shots from the early 1900’s through the 40’s. All the ones I saw had no copyright restrictions on them…

Its interesting to page through and see some of the comments left by people on these photos. There are the usual flip comments, but in some cases people discuss a memory that that photo brings back or provide links to more resources about the content of the photo. For example, see the comments on”

Suffragettes posting bills (LOC)

Starts me thinking about possibilities for teaching and learning uses for various types of photos on Flickr – “honouring history” mashups….

Cool resource!

Posted in Photo Sources | Comments Off on Library of Congress on Flickr

Muddling about in the PLE space

In the ever-expanding search for ways to visualize the “new” PLE environment, I ran across Scott Wilson’s latest visual (posted back in Nov 2007). I have to noodle on this a lot more, but it sure points out the “murky land” between…

He explains this to encapsulate ““…. the set of connections between what an institution offers and what individuals manage”.

I re-arranged this a bit for my use, so I thought I would re-post it here. Any messing up of the original is my fault and my apologies in advance to Scott for this.

He’s certainly right – these new systems are not like VLE’s/LMSs we deal with now. We are starting to see some possibilities with the SOA model… I also still struggle a bit with the difference between the coordination space and a portal… Mabe its becuase my concept of a portal is so different than that of the reality of portals.

To me the portal should be the flexible interface that allows us to put things together (ala netvibes) but the reality is a bit too rigid. Sigh.

What I am still trying to figure out is how we make this concept “manageable”. People who are immersed in the Web 2.0 world understand that there is a beautiful order and simplicity in this “chaos”. Those that are used to a world of well-bounded systems shake their head and shudder.

I can’t wait for the day where are institutional identity and portal systems catch up….

Posted in Teaching & Learning Online | 2 Comments

Far too long….

Its been far to long since I visited my own weblog and got comfortable again here…

Time to (re)start!


Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Creative Commons +

Will Kraft, “Creative Commons Introduces CC+ License,” Campus Technology, 1/3/2008,

Will Kraft reports on the ins and outs of a modified Creative Commons licensing option that enables copyright owners to release their work for free for non-commercial, but charge for commercial. Not sure how very different this is, but its a good thing to flag.

He points to the document released by Creative Commons, CC and CC+ Overview for the World Wide Web.

This is oddly good timing for me… I was actually just thinking about how I was going to do this. I am introducing a wiki into my course this year and want to provide some resources to more fully explain intellectual property and proper attribution to my students. This is a good one to add in…

Posted in Course-Related | Comments Off on Creative Commons +

50 2.0 Ways — Nice!

Emerging from a long, couple of seasons sleep…

I was looking over my RSS feeds and noticed Alan Levine’s “50 Web 2.0 Ways to tell a Story”.

That Alan! Always doing amazing stuff!

He describes the inspiration & history behind this in his blogpost:

The actual workshop content is here:

As usual, Alan just blows me away with the resources he makes available.

I like the concept….
(Though whew! That many tools might make the eyes and brain go spinny. Luckily that is a state I am used to.

I love the 1-2-3 approach, with its associated, target resources:
1. Outline a Story Idea
2. Find Some Media
3. Pick a Tool to Build Your Story

And the scaffolding/structure provided.

With respect to the structure, note how he has pre-populated resources, logins etc., for the workshop context.

Can’t help but think it would be interesting to have the same setup for our training contexts. Plus, it would be cool to wrap some Canadian contexts around it (content sources, discussion about using sources/tools from locations external to UBC), and add in links to tools developed here. For example, the tools on Arts’ Learning Tools site (

I like it when something makes me spinny and gets my brain spinning!

Posted in Web 2.0 | 2 Comments

PollMappr – Intriguing tool

I saw a reference to “PollMappr*” on the Google Earth Blog (who saw it on the Free Geography Tools blog). What an intriguing little piece of software!

The software allows you to set up a poll then track where the responses are coming from, and then allows you to explore the results through Google Earth. Very cool. You can link the poll from a variety of blogs/websites… hmmm probably should let the LEAP folks know about this… might be a new an interesting twist on their polling…

Beyond cool, though, is the educational value piece…. Say your students want to explore some question that they believe will vary from place to place in the world… perhaps the poll would not be “scientific” but that’s part of the interesting piece. You can talk with them about sampling…

If this were an application that could be locally hosted and managed, you could start to use it in a systematic way – setting up connections between schools..

Actually you could do this now -just take some coordinating up front. Sister cities & schools could become networks… Peer institutions could network in this way…

Lots of fun in thinking through something like this!

*(I guess Flickr made it cool to drop e’s – from what I remember it’s the most common vowel anyway!)

Posted in Google Earth | Comments Off on PollMappr – Intriguing tool

Geo Lesson Tip?

As I perused my bloglines this morning, as usual, I look at the earthquakes feed first (the USGS makes a variety of feeds available at

As usual, there are names of places I have never seen before. I never even heard of the Kuril Islands before I started monitoring this…

How could I use these data in a classroom? Icebreaker, perhaps?
1) link the RSS feed into your course web site
2) with the students input, select a location.
3) Take a look at the description on the USGS site…
4) Fly to it on Google Earth and talk through the geological setting…
particularly since you can also load up the plate-boundaries layer (available linked off the same page above).
5) Depending on your course – there are other layers available (cultural sites, parks, etc.) What are the implications of an earthquake in that area? What else can we learn about the region? (you could even do breakouts with the students at that point and see what each of them find out by searching for more information on the area).

This would work for all ages of students, pretty much, I think…

Yes, Google Earth does have a recent earthquakes layer… but I like the idea of pulling up a list on a “2-D page”, letting the class pick a location and then flying in from there…

Just an idea… has anyone tried something like this? Seems like it would be a fun way of pulling “current” data/events into the classroom…

Posted in Teaching & Learning Online | Comments Off on Geo Lesson Tip?

Why use a VPN

One of the points we covered in the podcast interview with Sally Taylor was the importance of a VPN (Virtual Private Network) connection. I’m not sure, but I suspect that the importance of this type of connection is not well understood. This seems to be particularly relevant to the advantages for online access to libraries.

Along the way I discovered the link with Google Scholar was more accessible when linked into a VPN. The behaviour is slightly different for Firefox and Explorer (I think — at least that is how is worked for me!) – but essentially, if I am linked into a VPN, Google Scholar searches provide information contextualized to UBC – with library catalogue links, etc. Very cool.

I took a bit of time yesterday and through together a quick overview of VPN connections. I uploaded it into my course. Not sure if others will find this useful, but I thought I would share it here:

Why Use a VPN When Researching Online.

Last year I actually found that is was not only library resources this applied to. One of my students was in England, and she had difficulty accessing a required movie resource from the a public site. Turns out these films were only available to North American web sites. Once she accessed via a VPN she was good to go.

Hope this is useful to others!

Posted in Teaching & Learning Online | 2 Comments