Don’t goggle at Google. Time for a fling with Bing…

Search Engine Logos - Bing, Yahoo & GoogleWhich search engine do you use? I suspect probably Google. But have you ever stopped and wondered why you use Google rather than another search engine like Yahoo or Bing? I’m pretty sure that most people won’t be able to answer this. No-one blinks at the phrase “let’s Google that” when some online information needs to be gleaned. Google, it seems, is very much hard-wired into our online searching habits. When I first started using the internet, back in the mid-1990s, the most widely used search engine was Altavista. It quickly located webpages (although there weren’t many pages back then) and it had a rather gimmicky button called ‘Random’ which took you, unsurprisingly, to a random webpage. In those early days of the internet I recall spending hours being mesmerized by the reams of information, topics, places and people I had never heard of. I’m pretty certain I can trace my love of the internet back to my student days, wiling away the hours with that random button. Following a brief flirt with Ask Jeeves I quickly became one of the millions of people who use Google every day. I’ve never looked back; until now.Read more…

Face-off with Facebook: a stand for ‘community standards’

Facebook1Extreme graphic violence – acceptable. Nudity – banned. Is this how you would expect Facebook to interpret its own Community Standards?

My Facebook wall recently contained a video which had been shared by one of my friends. “This is amazing!” my friend proclaimed and before I had even decided to watch it or not, the auto-play settings on my phone made the choice for me, and the video began. The opening scene shows an execution. This is followed by a brief moment of animal cruelty and then scene-upon-scene of violent deaths, blood-splattered corpses and trigger-happy shoot-outs. All this is played along to a music track happily entitled Motherf**ker.  I felt strongly that this video would be breaching Facebook’s rules given it’s graphic content. I admit that I had never read Facebook’s rules carefully but I was sure that my reporting of the video would have it immediately removed. I was also partly expecting Facebook to be grateful to me for bringing this video to their attention. After all, by sharing a video it can automatically appear on the walls of unsuspecting Facebook friends. Much to my surprise, Facebook rejected my report saying that the video did not contravene its community standards. I was gobsmacked. How could more than 4 minutes of gratuitous graphic violence be considered acceptable by Facebook and thus available to anyone, including the youngest members, of their community?Read more…

When’s your first Online Concert?

Students singing on an online concertJust a few weeks ago I was heading home, from school, much earlier than normal. As I do every day, I switched on BBC Radio 3 and expected to be treated to the stations usual expertly selected recordings, interesting interviews or even a live performance of some musical gem that I’d never previously heard. However, this day was different. I had forgotten that it was BBC Music Day and I happened to stumble on a world record attempt.  The concept of the record attempt was simple – get two choirs, each with a soloist, to sing the same hymn at the same time. The catch – the choirs and soloists would be located more than 12,000km away from each other. To add to the pressure, the joint performance would be broadcast live on radio stations in the two different locations and via the web making this online concert available to anyone in the world. What I experienced, on what would usually be an uneventful journey home, gave me a ‘goosebump moment’. Those wonderful experiences that literally makes your hairs stand on end and tingle with delight.

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Cl’apped out? The demise of apps

AppsThere’s no denying that apps have transformed the way we work, learn, live and communicate. I use them, students use them and I strongly suspect that you use them. However, I’ve always been very wary of apps and consciously avoided tablets, like the iPad, that run nothing other than apps. While apps can be helpful, informative and even fun they’re pretty basic when compared to ‘real’ computer programs. I do, admittedly, have an iPhone which has plenty of apps, but I never use most. Those that I do use are very much collators of information such as Twitter, Facebook, BBC News, Weather forecasts etc. All of the information presented in these apps is easily available online rendering the need for an app pretty useless. If you’re worried about how these sites will look on a mobile screen without using the app, try it. They look virtually identical, they’ll even log you in automatically, just like the app. If I really think about it there are only three items on my iPhone that I couldn’t do without: the phone/text calling facility, the camera and my rather nerdy need for geotagging with GPS. In short, I don’t really need a fancy smartphone with apps. Do you? Do students? I’m not convinced anyone does.

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Hidden from View: the Scope in Periscope

periscope_border-01Just as YouTube is celebrating 10 years of existence another video app, Periscope, comes along and steals the limelight. While YouTube is now firmly bedded-in as the most used video sharing platform, Periscope has the potential to offer something that YouTube doesn’t do well; live video streaming. The Periscope app, only currently available on iTunes, burst into life in March/April 2015 and despite being the new kid on the block, it is managing to be one of the most talked about apps for quite some time. Allowing users to broadcast, live, anything they wish there is now a cornucopia of live video content available. But that’s part of the problem, a quick scan of the live broadcasts reveals a rather mundane list of everyday activities: ‘walking to work’, ‘the view from my window’, ‘making an omelette’ and so on. There is still a novelty of being able to broadcast anything to anyone and broadcasts seemingly happen randomly with no way to search for relevant content. Once the dust settles I see oodles of potential for this app both in the classroom and for budding journalists everywhere.

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Socrative: To cahoot or not to Kahoot – that is the question!

Computer_ScreenI know which I prefer. In fact I’ve always been unapologetic about my preference. If I ever stumble across a colleague using what I considered the inferior resource I immediately want to shake them vigorously and ask “why are you using that!?”. However, a recent Twitter exchange, which involved the CEO of Kahoot, made me question my choice. Until that point I had always thought that one of these two frequently used online resources was just fundamentally better than the other. How did I know? Experience. Having used both resources for my lessons it was, to me, obvious that one was fun but lacking educational value. Whereas the other was more suited to classroom learning and superior at improving my students knowledge of a particular topic.Read more…

Apple Watch: a Time ‘Keeper’…?

Apple WatchIf you don’t already know, the next ‘big’ apple product is the Apple Watch. Yes, a watch. Do you remember them? They were those handy devices which attached to your wrist enabling you to check the time (it may have even beeped on the hour). They started to disappear when everyone started using smartphones like the Apple iPhone. So the company who made the world’s most recognisable smartphone, which abruptly halted the sales of watches, now want to sell a watch. This is an intriguing paradox so why has Apple shifted its focus to wearables rather than augmenting and improving, let’s say, the iPad? Do we really want to buy an expensive watch and what can it do that my old £30 watch can’t? As someone who is neither pro nor anti Apple I decided to have a look at this new direction for the company post Steve Jobs.

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