Friday 13 November 2020

Bye-bye Google Photos

If you've been paying attention to the tech news over the last couple of days, then you would have noticed an alarming post that Google has decided to end it's free unlimited storage of photos.

This is a service that I've been recommending without even thinking twice over the last four or five years. I myself upload every single photo to Google photos and all of a sudden it forces a rethink of what I use to store and back up my photos.

Prior to online storage, an external hard drive was necessary (and multiples of these because physical drives tend to fail) but since Google Photos, the convenience, security, and the ability to access it from anywhere has become invaluable. For Android it's a no-brainer, but I have also long recommended to iOS users to use Google photos because of Apple's measly 5 GB of iCloud storage. From June 2021, however, Google is following in their footsteps - yes you will get 15 GB instead of 5GB before you have to start paying, but it's still a big blow.

What frustrates me is that the relationship between end-user and Google has been symbiotic. Users were given the opportunity to store an unlimited amount of photos and files in the cloud, but Google also used this data to improve their AI significantly. All these photos uploaded had to have been used to improve their facial recognition algorithm. Google itself will obviously deny this. But I'm sure most of you will join me in being skeptical!

They have gotten what they need from us - their facial recognition AI is pretty amazing. They don't need our data anymore - so now they start charging for a service that was previously free. And the worst thing is: we're hooked. We're invested and the hassle of trying to find an alternative solution will probably mean that most people will just pony up (if they can afford it).

My question is this: are you going to make the most of the last few free months, or are you immediately going to look for an alternative solution? 

Google does offer a tool that will help you estimate how much time you have left before your storage runs out (my initial estimate is 10 months). I have started scratching my head and will need to figure this out!

Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Thursday 5 November 2020

Online learning for Teachers

Covid-19. Aah, the dreaded phrase. It has caused so much disruption to our day-to-day lives and we have had to learn to live with this dreaded disease. One of the things we have asked our students to get used to, is the idea of learning online. Zoom or Google Meet calls have become part of their routine. Learning looks and feels very different. Yet, if we're honest, most of them have dealt very well with all this change!

But what about Staff? How do we as teachers feel about the shoe being on the other foot and learning online? We expect our students to do it, and we do it, but how do we actually feel about it?

I for one am a big fan of the idea of a self-paced learning environment. I can do my learning in a space where I feel in control of when and how I learn. I can log in when I want to or need to, have a break when I want, and then resume when I feel ready.

When you give me the choice between attending a live webinar or just watching the uploaded video after the fact, I'm not sure which I prefer. I sometimes prefer to just watch the recap after the fact, but then I do not get the benefit of the interaction and the asking and answering of questions in real-time. Engaging with other like-minded people is surely part of what makes learning fun, no? Also, being committed to your own learning and attending in person definitely increases the "Rate of completion" of online courses - I know I have started a few that I still have to finish!

The bottom line, though, is that we have never before been in a situation where there is so much learning available online. We can attend PD sessions from the comfort of our own homes and many companies offer amazing training at a fraction of the cost of in-person sessions. Many conferences have gone exclusively online where we can listen to incredible speakers share their knowledge, and often these are completely free.

What is your take on this?

Friday 11 September 2020

Unified Gmail on iPadOS

 It's finally here!

As a Gsuite Admin , I have long looked forward to the roll-out of the new, unified experience in Gmail. This was rolled out recently on the web, but as an iPad institution, the eperience on iPadOS is the one we have really looked forward to. And it arrived this morning on my test account!

The Meet app on iPadOS has had its ups and downs over the last few months (crashing frequently and more recently not being able to share your screen) but now with Meet integrated properly into Gmail, there is no longer a need for the standalone Meet app. Presenting your screen works as long as you access the meeting from Gmail.

It is also great that the experience across different devices is becoming more streamlined. This really is what users want - to have a familiar experience regardless of the device that they pick up.

What do you think?

Sunday 17 May 2020

Live-stream lessons using Google Meet (and iPad if you have no webcam!)

Google Meet

With a return to school imminent for South African teachers, there is a lot to think about. This week I have been measuring classrooms to try and see how many we can get into each venue while still maintaining a safe 1,5m distance. The answer? Not many! This fast-tracked my thinking into solutions that would mean we could still teach the same number of students, but in many more venues and with the same number of teachers.

The obvious answer to this problem would be live streaming. If your school is in a fortunate enough position to have the infrastructure to support it, having a teacher's lesson beamed to other classrooms in the school (and even those who are unable to attend school) is a godsend.

And making use of Google Meet's built-in live stream feature makes this possible.

Now, in order for this to work, you would need a few things.

Firstly, a decent internet connection that can upload the stream. If you have multiple people streaming simultaneously, this would need to be even more robust.

Monday 20 April 2020

And so it begins...benefits of being guinea pigs! @legoeducation #lego #legomindstorms #ZAedu #edtech #remotelearning #stayhome #covid19 #corona

Love the learning happening with @seesawlearning Great work done by @intschoolct #proudlyisct #ZAedu #edtech #ipad #remotelearning #stayhome #covid19 #corona

Colouring in @explainevrythng using #ipadpro and #applepencil . . #ZAedu #edtech #stayhome #covid19

Tuesday 14 April 2020

Want Free Textbooks? Snapplify's got you covered!

Amidst the global crisis of COVID-19 we have seen Edtech companies do their bit to help out where they can. Kahoot has given teachers a free upgrade to the premium tier which adds more question types, Google has extended its offering of Meet to allow for live streaming with up to 100,000 participants and up to 250 in group video calls.

But what has just been announced might be the most beneficial of all to students in our current South African context. EBook platform Snapplify has just made more than 5000 educational titles FREE until the end of the school year.

Snapplify partners with a ton of publishers (too many to count...maybe I'm just lazy) and they have been working ridiculously hard to get these guys on board to help out.

I have done a quick search and found books for every subject I could think of. These also include teacher guides and student study guides. Popular series like Mind Action or the Zoom interactive books (seriously, if you haven't checked these out you should!) are there and to download them is a very straightforward process.

Simply create a free account, check out the books you want and then download the Snapplify Reader application for your platform. They have apps available for all the major platforms

If you've found this information useful, please go and follow me on Twitter and Instagram @techteachersa

Take care!

stay home