Google Photos – Local and Remote

We are in Kauai, HI, and I am finding so many things to photograph. I have a nice camera, but I also always have my camera in my pocket and also like the GPS data stored with iPhone photos. As my local (camera) photo collection has grown, I have started investigating the options for storing photos remotely on Google Photos. I have never uploaded all my camera or phone photos to Google and I must also now contend with very slow Internet so there are multiple reasons to be selective. I think I have the local to remote options down so I thought I would write a tutorial.

Three lines or three dots

In the following content, I may make reference to three lines or three dots. This is a reference to icons that appear on the left (lines) and right (dots) when the Google search box is open at the top of the Google Photos display. The icons to control important actions drop down from the three lines and the three dots icons.

Is it local, remote, or both

The display of your photos on your phone provides some information about where a photo is actually stored. If you examine the lower right-hand corner of a photo in thumbnail mode, you may see a circle consisting of two arrows. This means the photo is on your phone, but has not been uploaded to your Google photos account. If you select one of these folders and then select Backup from the three dot icon, you will upload this specific photo to Google.

If an image has no such circle of arrows, the image has been backed up. To test this distinction for yourself, connect to your site from a computer and compare what you see on the computer versus the phone.

Here is the interesting thing. If you have the Google Photos app on your phone and connected, you will still see photos you have deleted from your phone (deleting photos from the phone does not happen just because you backed up) because the thumbnail for the image will still be downloaded and displayed. Selecting the thumbnail will display the image by download. If your phone is offline, you will not see images stored only remotely. So, images can exist locally, remotely, or in both places.

Free up space

There are two ways to delete local photos. A photo that is stored in two locations can be deleted by using the three dot drop-down menu and selecting delete device local. (see image above for options to backup and delete original)

An option for free up larger amounts of space by deleting local images is available under the three line drop down menu (free up menu).

Remember, some folks claim that a file that exists in only one location is not actually backed up. I certainly trust Google to keep the files stored only on their servers and they must have backups of these backups, but if you are paranoid, I am just telling you what some folks say.

BTW, you can reverse the backup and delete process by displaying an image that has been deleted locally (meaning you see it from the Google server) and selecting download from the three-dot menu. I guess this would be a way to determine if both options I describe above applies – no download=both, download=remote only.


[I am going to cheat a bit here so I don’t have to include pictures of all possible variations that appear under the three dot icon. Options come and go depending on the image viewed. So, backup will not appear if the image has already been backed up. Download would appear if the image has been backed up and the local image deleted.]

Backup vs. archive

When you select the three dot icon, the drop-down menu will list both backup and archive. Archive is for photos you do not want to display (locally or remotely). For example, I share my photos with my family and I may want to not bother them with work photos. This is what archive accomplishes. You will not see archived images remotely or locally. Fear not, the images still exist and you can locate them by using the download from archive icon available from the three line icon.

Understanding the iPhone Cohort

Jean Twenge, a social psychologist from San Diego State University, writes about generation effects. The term I would use is cohort effect. When I talked about methods used for developmental psychology, I would describe the longitudinal and cross section methods and identify limitations of each method. I would suggest that a combination of these methods had some benefit because of the need to differentiate patterns purely associated with age from cohort effects. What Twenge calls generation effects I described as cohort effects. A cohort is a group of individuals who have been through similar experiences. Individuals of a given age at a given time represent a cohort, but not individuals of a given age from different times. When teaching, I tried to explain the difference using myself as an example. I would explain that when I was their age I was drafted and the reality of the draft and being sent to Viet Nam influenced those of my generation at their age in ways that they did not have to think about. Of course, I added, you face challenges that never concerned me at your age.

Parents and educators are typically of a different cohort than the children they work with. It is worth recognizing that personal experiences at a given age parents and teachers can be deceptive when parents and teachers use such experiences to understand the perspective of children and students now at a similar age.  In fact, even when parents and teachers think they have the perspective of young people figured out factors can change and they find they are working with a different cohort of the same age.

Twenge proposes that the iGen represents a distinct cohort. The oldest members of the iGen were young adolescents when the iPhone was introduced in 2007. In 2015, she claims ? of U.S. teenagers own an iphone.

Twenge uses a mixed methods approach. She relies on several large scale national surveys to establish behaviors or positions associated with individuals of a given age and then uses interviews to provide examples of these behaviors or positions and to search for possible explanations. The conclusions she reaches have been criticized as arguing causation from correlational methodologies. She does recognize this issue at many points in her book, but tries to refute likely counter arguments. These are also likely issues that would be impossible to explore with experimental approaches. Manipulating issues such as level of cell phone use, extent of parental supervision, or depression would be difficult to manipulate. In many cases, it is the direction of the relationahip among two variables that would be at issue – e.g., depression and low levels of face to face interaction with peers.

What I find potentially useful about this book is the opportunity to use it with educators as a way to challenge what might be existing assumptions about their students and to engage in a discussion of whether the connections Twenge proposes might be explained in some other way. The book itself is a long read, and some conclusions are provided elsewhere.

Twenge identifies a combination of positive and negative behaviors and characteristics in iGeners and sometimes argues that positive characteristics in the short term have negative consequences long term. Using cell phones and social media are not argued to be responsible for all of the characteristics and trends associated with this cohort, but the consequences of phone use are argued to be important in many.

Some exampes. iGeners are less likely to interact directly with peers, less likely to get a driver’s license when available, less likely to work as adolescents, less likely to have sex at a younger age, less likely to read long form content, more likely to be anxious and depressed. Twenge argues that many of the positive behaviors/experiences (less sex and other risky behaviors, less need to venture out with peers) end up poorly preparing these young people for the freedom and pressures of college.

She claims the dependence on the cell phone limits interaction, encourages a passive and home-based existence, and creates self doubt associated with exposure to online ideals and a constant need for likes and approval.

Twenge does have a chapter on Solutions.  She proposes later access to phones, use of SnapChat rather than other forms of social media that allow group based, extended exposure, and parents doing less (driving) and being less protective (allowing more freedom for face to face experiences) to develop skills necessary for later independence.

I do propose that educators need to ponder the arguments Twenge makes.

Blogger iOS fix

Blogger was once my goto blog tool (and then service). Google seems to have lost interest in Blogger, but I still want to use it for special purposes. I have a travel blog I use to post images and comments on recent trips I want to keep separate from this and other more general-purpose blogs I maintain. I usually write blog posts from a computer to speed text input, but when I travel I often want to use my iPad. There used to be an iPad Blogger app. This was discontinued. Then, there were other blog tools (some specific to younger users that would allow an educator to moderate before posting to a Blogger account) and these stopped working and were discontinued. You could kind of make due if you used Blogger adding content using a browser. However, this approach had the annoying problem that you could not access your iPad photo library. What good is a travel blog without photos?

I have found a fix that works. The iOS app App for Blogger or App for Blogspot (these are really the names) still works. The cost is $3 and the app seems a little crude and is missing features I would prefer (I can add images, but I cannot align them as I want). I use a combination of browser access and this app to generate the posts, but for the time being this works fine.

Limiting access to a Google site

When I have my students explore online services and provide an analysis, I always ask that they offer information on whether the site allows any controls over access. Privacy issues can be an important consideration in K12 classrooms.

Google sites is a great and free tool for creating web sites. Google is rolling out a new feature that allows the creator of a site to control who has access.

If as a Google user you have been updated, you will find the new features under “sharing and permissions”. You will find these settings by clicking the gear icon that appears at the top of the Sites page. You change the permissions to limit access and you invite those you want to have access using sharing.

With permissions, you will want to select “shared with specific people.

After you have indicated that only those you invite should have access, you use sharing to identify these individuals.

Youtube cutting off the long tail

On Feb. 20, the rules for participation in the YouTube Partner Program will change. Among the benefits of being a partner was the opportunity to earn revenue from the ads that run when a Youtube video is displayed. Before this date, a creator became eligible for ad revenue once he/she had accumulated 10,000 lifetime views. After this date, you must have 4000 hours of viewing time in the last running 12 month period and 1000 subscribers.

Google indicates that the change will:

“will allow us to significantly improve our ability to identify creators who contribute positively to the community and help drive more ad revenue to them (and away from bad actors).”

I am the type of creator that will be penalized by this change. I meet the 10,000 view metric, but fail both the 4000 hours and 1000 subscriber standard.

I am not a bad actor. I post instructional videos for educators wanting to use technology applications in their classrooms. I have a couple of textbooks devoted to this goal, but made the decision several years ago to create much smaller and less expensive textbooks (available via Amazon) in combination with free online resources (supplemental information and instructional videos). The price when my textbook was last published by Cengage was $140. The Amazon price is now $9 and the Kindle combination with the online resources offers more and more current content than the $140 version.

I originally offered the video content I created from the server I rent. As more and more content was added, I became concerned with the load serving the video required. Moving the content to YouTube was a way to avoid this issue, to offer content to those who had no interest in my other educational products, and to make a little money (a few dollars a month when my instructional videos are viewed). Just for the record, when my YouTube video is embedded within a web page I serve, viewing the embedded video generates no revenue.

Consider the reality of reaching the 1000 subscribers and 4000 hour thresholds. Nearly all of my videos are say 8-10 minutes in length. Several are recommended by YouTube and have been viewed in the 1.5K range. Still, my estimate is that my annual viewing time would be about 18,000 minutes (YouTube analytics are reported in minutes). This is a long way from 240,000. I also do not have a lot of subscribers. People come to my individual videos when searching for a particular need or perhaps when assigned by a college professor. I make no effort to continually create videos which is what tends to attract and hold subscribers. I create videos when the issue or product presented fits an instructional need related to my other content. I could continually create videos on the many similar products available to educators but the replication in this approach has little benefit.

The YouTube decision fits a disturbing trend I see with tech service providers. The initial promise that all could become creators (this was what Chris Anderson described as the long tail) has given way to only the big content generators will be supported. The few dollars YouTube might compensate me is of little actual consequence, but the cost to YouTube was also quite minimal. It is the principle here that is disturbing (see Rushkoff’s “Throwing rocks at the Google bus”).

Writing so your mother would understand

The willingness of much of the public to dismiss scientific conclusions has led to calls for scientists to do a better job and take the time to describe their work and their findings to the public. I think this issue in this political climate is more complicated and there are some scientific conclusions that are simply too inconvenient for public support, but part of the problem is certainly lack of understanding.

I think I have developed some skills in doing this. I have written several textbooks and this requires communicating in a more basic style. One of my editors told me I had to “unpack” certain ideas I was trying to communicate. I think this meant that I was assuming too much and I needed to be more careful in what I assumed. Given all of the criticisms of college textbooks, I may be assuming too much. Yes, textbooks are expensive and textbooks are lengthy and this is a reason for much of the criticism, but effective communication is still an additional issue. In fact, you may not be able to both “unpack” what you are trying to communicate and shorten what you have to say. I read somewhere that there were more new vocabulary words per page (important, but unfamiliar terms) in Introduction to Psychology textbook than a foreign language textbook.

They tell you in freshman English composition courses that understanding your audience is important. My recollections of freshman composition do not contain any actual strategies or experiences related to this problem. I learned much more when I took a course in “Technical Writing” which I credit as among the most valuable of my undergraduate experience.

Back to the topic of writing so your mother can understand. I don’t think my parents ever quite understood what I did. They understood the teaching part, but not the research or writing part. I did learn to write for novice learners by writing for my wife. I write textbooks that concern the classroom application of technology. My wife worked directly with teachers to help them apply technology. Because she had so much experience in application, she was a great judge of whether I was adequately explaining ideas so that practicing and future educators would understand.

There is a level beyond what I am describing here. What about writing for those without much of background and who may even be hostile to challenging ideas? This is the challenge for scientists. They are not writing for college students enrolled in courses, even introductory courses, in their disciplines.

Here is a blog post that examines this challenge. I found the suggestions and the perspective to be quite helpful. The author describes writing “opinion pieces (op-eds)” that might appear in a newspaper. This seems a practical way to understand the challenge and the techniques. I will not review the ideas here, but I do recommend your attention to what this blogger suggests.

TIES, MECC and state-level k12 edtech services

This article from the Grand Forks Herald caught my attention. The articles describes a decision by Minnesota K12 institutions to end their collaboration to support TIES (Technology Information and Educational Services).

TIES is an organization that goes back as far as I can remember in supporting technology use in Minnesota schools. TIES and MECC (the Minnesota Educational Computer Consortium) provided some of my earliest exposure to the field of educational technology back in the days of the Apple II and the first Macinstoshes. TIES was around even before my wife and I first began working in this field which was before the day of the microcomputer. Because of several leading technology companies at the time (Honeywell, Control Data, IBM) and the role of state universities, Minnesota was an early leader in the field.
(see the section on the history of MECC which also describes TIES)

This history is likely unknown to most, but I can often get a hint of understanding among the earliest generation of innovators when I mention Oregon Trail. Cindy and I worked in Grand Forks, ND, so our proximity allowed us to attend NECC and TIES conferences in Minneapolis.

MECC was founded in 1973 and disbanded in 1999. TIES had earlier origins and it appears it is now ending its run as an organization supported by schools and perhaps will live on if another agency steps up. The way schools procure technology (hardware and software) and services (access to larger tech systems and professional development) is changing and funding models have changed as well. The cost to individual schools contributing to TIES increased to the point that schools began to drop out creating a death spiral for the rest.

My own experience has been with North Dakota and this experience has become less relevant as I have been out of the state now for several years. When my wife and I began our focus on educational technology my wife was working in a district that was ahead of the curve. She was one of two individuals hired to support the local school district with the understanding at the time that this was likely a two-year position. Twenty five or so years later, she has been retired for several years and the local staff is much larger. Cindy worked in what was one of the larger districts in a state that has many small districts. The region created a consortium to provide professional development, but the district continued to support a local staff. The state also provides certain services and unlike Minnesota that state is expanding certain services to higher education institutions. It is interesting to see adjacent states moving in opposite directions.

I don’t see a huge role for state level services. There are simply too few services at this level that can compete with commercial online services. I would not spend money at this level. If districts are large enough, I am still a fan of Human Resources available within a the district. The problem with infrequent access to expertise and guidance is the same problem so many see in professional development in general. Too much happens without the opportunity to explore and then too little mentoring is available when ideas are implemented. If practical, I suppose online interaction could provide a way to deal with these issues. I am just unaware that many have been able to make this work.