So long Europe! The jet lag is now gone and I’ve had my cravings of a big cup of ice water and a hamburger taken care of. For those of you unaware, I took a group of 42 students and teacher chaperones on an 11 day trip to France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany and just returned a few days ago.
Although I don’t plan on blogging on the personal level here, I did think I would share some of my education and ed tech "Take-Aways " from this incredible experience.
My first “take away” would be a “thank you” to a program I rarely speak highly of, and that is Facebook. Yes Facebook, that privacy invading, addictive like meth, behemoth of a social network that I have tried to avoid for so many years. You see I needed a way to share our groups progress and although email would have worked I decided on Facebook. So, my daily routine was to take notes on my cell using Google Keep and then in the evening edit this and post the review of the day on Facebook for the family and friends back home. I could have used email for this feature but wanted to have the threaded conversations that Facebook allows. Plus the closed group allowed our conversation to only be with those interested in the trip. The main downfall of this though was that were some who did not have Facebook and this left them out of the loop. Here’s a few screenshots of how I used Google Keep and then the Facebook group.
“Take Away #2” is CONNECTIONS. Oh… how I really became used to the “connected everywhere” world I lived in. I had set up an international plan but this limited my usage and
boy… did I need some connectivity. During the day it was so strange to not have this contentedness; for example our group would have questions about the world that we could not just “Google”. From, “what movie was that from” or “when was this built” we all had that odd feeling of not being able to know the answer.
In the evenings we went back to the hotel and I thought “at least here I’ll get on the wifi and reconnect”. Oh, little did they know what a group of teenage kids from American can do a WiFi network! I often struggled to simply log in while during bed checks I would have kids tell me “Mr. O’D, did you know they offer different movies and TV shows on Netflix in France?”
And for my “Take Away #3” is Photos. I had planned on using a camera not focus on using my phone which is a Nexus 6. I even told the kids to bring a camera and not solely using your phone. But… I ended up using the phone most of the time. Sure I was frustrated with the lack of a real zoom and slowness of the shutter speed, but in the end I found I that I really liked several of the features. First of these was the auto upload on WiFi to the web on Google Photos (see Take Away #2 about frustration with WiFi!) This made the sharing of photos so easy. Second was the ease of use. It was the device that always with me and therefore never needed to remember it, or carry it around my neck. In fact I had a couple of pickpocket incidents on the Paris metro and each time the only real valuable I carried was my phone in its folio case that was securely in my hand! The final reason was the Google features that make picture taking just a little bit cooler. From the auto-awesomes, to the animated gifs I made using Gonny Cam (in the Android Play store… made a fun one jumping over the Berlin Wall) and to the PhotoSphere’s of some of these amazing locations. I have taken PhotoSpheres before but now here I was in Notre Dame or standing in a museum next to my favorite painting of all time and wanting to take it all in. So, I shot quite a few of these on the trip. Below are two links of some of these; one from Notre Dame and the other from picturesque location in Switzerland. Since I have been back I tried to Share these with Google Maps in the hopes that they can be included on the Public Google Maps features of these locations.
The final “Take Away #4” is one that most get after a travelling. The impact that seeing the places, cultures and people of places so far away from where we all are familiar with. The impact that I saw on the kids faces make you appreciate that moments like these will stick with them forever. For example check out this shot of our kids after 9 hours on the road, right when we emerge out of a tunnel in Switzerland and take in the most beautiful scenes we’ve ever seen. Travel is the best education the world has to offer. Side note…. if any of you are interested, I used the company EF http://www.eftours.com/ and they made the process so easy. If you any questions about setting up a trip or more about my experiences just let me know!
So all in all… great trip. I do have quite a story regarding my iPad but that may be for a later date!