Sunday, May 26, 2013

My Phone's a Scanner? #GoogleLove

Happy Memorial Day weekend American friends!

I woke up this morning to find a little surprise from the gurus over at Google. Inside the "Drive" app, my phone now has an additional option to add documents - scan. Here is the tweet I sent out this morning announcing the arrival.

Notice the arrow is pointing to the new scan option. A couple of things to note:
1. I'm on an Android (of course!).
2. Some have reported needing to update the app for the scan function to show.
3. Obviously you need a working camera on your device.

So in between making a German Chocolate Cake from scratch (LOVE my KitchenAide), I started toying with the functionality of the app. After selecting scan, it is fairly straight forward. There are two buttons. One is the blue circle identical to the camera app and the other is the flash. Pressing the flash icon turns the light off or on. I used some of the kids school work to play and noticed that there was no color showing up. Ah! But there are options for that. After taking the shot (i.e. scanning), you get a preview of the shot. There are four options above and three below.

The crop icon does exactly what you may expect crop to do... with one additional little "smart feature". If the paper is curved or on another surface that ends up in the shot, it is automatically cropped and straightened. The second icon is a square that is created by a dark triangle and a light one. THAT is where the color options are. You can select None, Black and White, or Color. The third icon is the trash can which of course deletes the scan. The fourth icon is the settings icon standard in most Android apps. It takes you to settings to make selections such as enhancements, paper size, orientation, and quality.

The three across the bottom look like a +, a refresh, and a check mark. The + icon allows you to scan multiple pages into one document. Each time you press plus, you return to the "camera" screen to scan another page. The "refresh" icon in the middle allows you to retake the scan again. It doesn't matter if you are in a series or only a single shot. The final icon, the check mark, marks your scanning as complete for that project and saves it to your drive.

If you select a folder BEFORE selecting "add new", the scanned document will automatically be added to that folder. The file is a JPEG named as Scanned_YearMonthDate-Time.pdf  I haven't found a way to change the name of the document from within the scanning feature. When I converted the JPEGs to Google Docs, it did a decent job of deciphering the handwriting into text. If the scan was image heavy with little to no text, it kept the entire file as an image.

This is exactly the kind of functionality that makes my life so much easier. I have been taking pictures of documents, notes on the board, presentations, etc for a good while now. This makes it much simpler and automatically saves to my drive. I can add a scan straight into a saved folder and all those I have shared it with have instant access too! What do you plan to use this new functionality for?

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Inaugural #TxGoo

Wow! It has really been twenty-four hours since I arrived at the LSC TheWoodlands campus to start  setting up for #TxGoo?!?! My back and arms hurt from carrying, moving, and then removing so much stuff. My feet are still swollen and blistered (partially because I made a poor shoe choice :) The physical ailments aside, yesterday was one of the most amazing days of my life!

I've blogged before about being a bit of a conference junkie. That certainly hasn't changed. I did get to see the process from a whole other perspective however. While I have volunteered for numerous conferences, I have never been one of the actual conference planners. That was a completely different experience. From programs to scheduling to call for presenters, securing facilities, creating a website, choosing a keynote, format, etc.....  There are SO many moving parts to conference planning. It's one of those things that you logically realize but the work, effort, and coordination cannot be fully understood until you are actually in the trenches. The hard work and sleepless nights are so very worth it to be able to bring passionate educators this kind of learning opportunity.

Our morning opened with a three member panel being asked questions submitted and voted on by attendees. The feeling was casual and energetic. Feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive. They enjoyed the diverse perspectives and opinions. It was different. It was fresh. It was a great start to the morning!  Thank you Amy Mayer, Carl Hooker, and Kevin Hodges for your candor, enthusiasm, and knowledge.

48 sessions then came and went in the blink of an eye! All sessions were color coded by difficulty to offer participants something to meet them on their level. With time for only four slots, there were twelve sessions happening simultaneously. We received a good deal of feedback that participants had a hard time choosing sessions and often felt like they were missing out by not being somewhere else. While that is certainly a good problem to have, it is a problem none the less and one we will work on for next time. Thank you presenters for your hardwork! We look forward to seeing all of you next time and sharing more Googley Awesomeness.

Closing session then came and it was time to call it a day. One of the highlights from closing session stemmed from this tweet from @morelandja :
     Sad! If u find my name badge w/my tickets, plz turn in! Don't want you feeling guilty if u win a       
     chromebook w/them! ;) LOL! 
That tweet posted at 1:30. I know because I retweeted it. Fast forward to 3:30 in the afternoon. Guess who won the Chromebook we gave away? Yup! She did. A nice conference attendee who's name I do not know returned her badge to her. That is #AwesomeSauce multiplied! It really sums up the entire day for me. I had the privilege of learning and sharing with amazing educators yesterday. There was an energy and electricity that flowed through the day that left me calling 350 of my friends.... Family. We took notes for each other when we wanted to be in two sessions at once. We shared dongles, power cords and sometimes seats. Even more important, we shared obstacles, challenges, and successes in our classrooms. We shared what worked and what didn't. At the end of the day, we even turned in winning tickets. Thanks y'all! You come back now, ya hear!

   Post lagniappe:
Here area couple of tips for being a conference planner: 

  • Figure out how much time you need to plan and then double that; it probably still won't be enough!
  • Know that things do come up. Presenters will cancel last minute, the weather will grace you with 90% humidity and Google will have a conference that completely changes some of your sessions. Have a plan B, C and D. 
  • Use volunteers. Our student volunteers were amazing and the day would not have been possible without them. Thank you students!
  • Do not schedule multiple sessions for yourself or anyone on your team. You will be so stressed and distracted that you can't fully enjoy all your hardwork. 
  • Have a midday pow wow with your team alone somewhere. It gives you time to reenergize, reflect, and finish the day. 
  • Have the best team on earth! Um, scratch that. That team is taken! My friends and the Techs4tex Board: Amy Mayer, Jessica Johnston, Pam Cadwalder, Jessica Powell, Kellie Lahey, Laura Kile, Kim Strauss and Ann DeBolt. 
It would not have been possible without the talents of Matthew Lahey, Rebecca King, our tech squad, the presenters, participants and sponsors, thank you!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Google I/O Goes to School

For those who weren't glued to their computers for the three hour keynote from the Google I/O Conference today, here is a quick recap highlighting the important pieces for education.

Google Play for Education
If you have any experience with mid to large scale deployments of tablets in schools, you know what a nightmare the management and "pushing" of apps has been. Add in the logistics of credit cards or gift cards and who owns what and it has been a nightmare. Today's announcement from Google appears to be all our dreams coming true. Google Play for Education is an App Store of sorts built by teachers for teachers. One click push for classrooms of apps and an account tied to an allotment for funding. In true Google fashion, it will just work. Finally!

Conversational Search
One of my favorite tweets of the day came from my friend Rafranz Davis (@RafranzDavis) "Kids can literally "Ask google"…literally! #googleNow #io13" And she's right. From any Internet connected device (tablet, phone, desktop, etc) you can now ask Google anything. This is news, big news. You can activate the search with a "hotword" without touching a thing. This isn't a smarty pants little personal assistant. Conversational Search searches the entire breadth and depth of Google to come back with answers and information. And the best part.... It helps you figure out what you want! You dont even have to ask a question. You could simply say "places to eat in Houston" or "Houston traffic report". If you want a generic personal assistant that is limited to the very specific questions you ask, hey that's your business. But if you want the help of the entire Internet, then conversational search is for you. You may have heard, Google is pretty good at that whole search thing.

The bonuses for education? Thing physically or visually impaired. Think setting the whole system for a language you are learning instead of your native tongue. Think young students who are limited when searching by spelling or typing ability. Think of the possibilities.

Auto Awesome
I must be fully forthcoming. I cut my teeth on teaching eight graders computer apps including PhotoShop. Didn't know a thing about the software when I started but figured as long as I had a general idea of where we were going and a really talented kid or two... It worked out beautifully. I feel in love with design and frequent the many online tools that have the same flair. And yet with the click of a button, Google made my years of work feel.... Almost wasted. The new image enhancements take the average photo (talking to you soccer mom and you first time grandma) and enhances the photo fixing lighting, saturation, red eye, etc. That in and of itself is pretty. It does a far greater job than anything else I've seen on the market. The jaw dropper? Photos uploaded to G+ can have Auto Awesome applied to them. When Google recognizes a series of similar shots it may stick them together in a pano or animate them as a gif. Have five shots of the same group and in each one someone is inevitably not smiling? No prob Bob! Google will fix that too! Yeah that's pretty Awesome in my book. That should be a compelling reason to go to a digital yearbook!

It's late and my tired eyes grow weary. Come back tomorrow for my personal favorites:
Hangout Extension and Canopy
Google Wallet
Goodnight Googlers!