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?