application, Computers, Google

Pacman Comes to Windsor

Or a town near your browser…

You can always count on Google for a good gag for April Fool’s Day.

Just in time for this year’s big day, swing on over to Google Maps and look for the new button in the bottom left of the screen.

If you’re located in a place with a lot of streets, you’re ready to go.

Or, move the map to somewhere where there are a lot of streets or you just might feel lucky.

Ready … Set … Go!

And you’re off!  Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate the streets and keep them clean of the ghosts!

application, Computers, Education, learning, Read/Write Web, Teaching

Just Drumming–At Various Levels

The drummer in my first band used cardboard boxes.  He didn’t have a great deal of money to buy the good stuff but he did have a nice set of drum sticks.  By using cardboard boxes of varying sizes, he was able to put together a nice collection of drums for various sounds.  The others of us in the band had legitimate guitars and we would practice whenever we could.  The nice thing about the boxes was that you could also work on the band’s logo with magic markers.  If you made a mistake, just get another box.

But, we were doomed for failure – what with no jobs, boxes for drums, and going to school for Grade 4 at the time – we really didn’t stand a chance.

Kids today have it so much easier.  With their devices, they don’t have to learn to drum on boxes – they could use the HTML5Drum Machine.

Fire it up and you’ll see how electronics, programming, recording, downloading, music styles all converge into one neat little tool.


It was fun to mess around with and take it for a musical spin.  Plug in a good set of headphones for a better enjoyable experience.

But it gets even better.  In the category of “How did they do that?”, I decided to poke around.  I had the drum machine loaded into Firefox so I right clicked to View Page Source.  Here’s where being able to understand HTML pays off.

The code that’s behind this is actually embedded in a frameset with the real code coming from


My next stop was to head over to that site and, indeed, there was the drum machine. Checking out the page source there gives the story behind the story.  This isn’t for your typical Grade 4 student but it’s interesting reading the code behind genius that makes for such an interesting front end.  It’s certainly far removed from editing out header tags but there’s that secondary school student that will really dig in to just how it works.  Maybe they’ll be inspired to write one of their own?

If only we’d had this technology when we were in Grade 4.  We coulda been somebody.

Teaching, Education, software, iPad, application


This is a “must explore” if you’re interested in animals.  But, it goes further than that.

This application is one of the most amazing applications of Artificial Intelligence on a portable device that I think I’ve seen.  Watch this review.

The application is ZooKazam and available for both Android and iOS.  I think that you know you’re in for something special just visiting their website.  By itself, it takes the concept of the web to the next level.

They call it “magical animals” and the name is so true.  You have to experience it to fully understand.  Words just don’t do justice for a good description of the experience you’re about to enjoy.  Download the app and get started just by pointing your camera at a number of the targets provided on their website.  Then, dig in and you won’t be putting it down any time soon.

Experiences can be recorded and shared.

YouTube is a terrific repository of compositions shared.  Of course, the sharing continues on Twitter.

The application is free to download and the Mammals category is free.  That’s plenty to get your virtual zoo started.

It’s not just the virtual reality, either.  You just know that there will be a hook into education.


I’m posting this on the weekend so you’ll have lots of time to explore and play!

And, lest you think it’s a Macintosh thing since all the captures seem to be done on that platform, here’s my zebra.


application, Computers, Firefox, learning, Read/Write Web

Hello, there…

In the beginning, there was Skype.  It was great for face to face and audio conversations with others anywhere they could be connected.  Problems evolved over time; it wasn’t available on this platform or incompatible with that platform and every time I would use it, there was the inevitable update.

Then, there were the commercial products.  When I was on the OSAPAC Committee, we evaluated a few (having a whack of fun doing so) and eventually licensing Adobe Connect for the province.  This was really upping the ante since you had so many features that you’d find in formal meetings.  The problem with it was that it did require that you have access to someone who had a licensed version of the software if you wanted a conversation or meeting.  I kind of became the laughing stock of our committee when we moved to online meetings.  At the time, it required a great deal of bandwidth in order to work and send video.  With my incredibly slow internet here, the committee was robbed of my image…

For two years of planning the Bring IT, Together Conference with my co-chair Cyndie, we seemed to live on Google Hangouts.  There was so much planning and so many details that we seemed to be meeting at least once a day to go over details.  Hangouts were a great way of handling things.  There came a time with a browser update (I can’t remember which browser now) that the button needed to give permissions to use the camera and microphone were hidden under another menu bar in the browser.  It was bizarre and no matter where I clicked (or how hard I clicked – Doug has issues…), I couldn’t give the appropriate permission and so was effectively locked out of using Hangouts on that browser.  Fortunately, Google Chrome still worked and so I was good.  Recently, Google has broken Hangouts into its own separate application.  It feels a little kludgey at this point but still works nicely.

Then, with an update to Mozilla Firefox comes conversations right in the browser again!

It’s called Hello and it just works so smoothly as shown in this tutorial on the Mozilla website.

It’s a button that sits up there with your other extensions.  Click it to get started.

Then you need get a unique link to the person you’ll communicate with.  You can see that there are a couple of options for doing this in blue.

Send the invite and wait for them to join the conversation.

So, here in the labs, I’m talking to myself again.  I’m in the host window, lower right, and I’m talking to the wall behind me.

The whole process was very slick and easy.  No software to install and, according to Mozilla, it’s not restricted to Firefox – just any browser that supports WebRTC.

The list needs to be updated – it seems to work well with Vivaldi as well.

But not Internet Explorer…

IESo, why would you be interested in this over the other offerings?  The really nice part is that you don’t need to have a login on a particular service to access the conversation.  Just a working browser and an invitation to a conversation.

Join me for a video conversation using Firefox Hello:
You don’t have to download or install anything. Just copy and paste this URL into your browser:
https: //
If you want, you can also learn more about Firefox Hello at
Talk to you soon!

You’ll note that, in the screen capture above, Mozilla has it marked as Beta.  There are some features that others in this class that aren’t there.  Document sharing, back channelling, private conversations come to mind.

For what’s there now, it’s the easiest way to start a conversation without the hoops that other tools have.  This is one to watch.

And, I got some homework for myself.  I spent some time reading and trying to get my head around just what WebRTC is and its potential.  There’s lots on the horizon.

application, Computers, Education, learning

Approximating Pi

I think it’s irrational that Pi Day turned out to be on a Saturday this year.  Next week is Spring Break so students won’t really get to enjoy the day.

As I sit here reading and just loving the Pi stories, I’m flipping them away into a new Pi Flipboard.  (Here, if you care.)

It was actually pretty depressing reading some of the words used in the stories.  Things like “dork”  or “geek” reflect the attitude towards mathematics from certain sectors.  It’s politically correct to make fun on those whose passion is mathematics and even more politically correct to praise those who do amazing things in the Arts.  At the same time, I’m watching the Formula 1 qualifying from Melbourne and I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful blend of mathematics, engineering, and the arts that make for such a spectacle.

Is it because mathematics is so precise that people get this mindset?

I thought back to the couple of times that I taught mathematics…I was told that you could tell what elementary school the students came from based upon their understanding of mathematics.  It actually was kind of true.  I remember asking the class what Pi was.  The answers were all over the map, although all correct at some level.  “It’s an irrational number”, “It’s a math concept”, “3.14”, “22/7″, “It has something to do with circles” …  The students who gave the first couple of numbers were really able to elaborate on the concept.  The others just knew that 22/7 or 3.14 were numbers that were inserted into problems.  It was a good example of understanding versus rote memorization for me.

I was thinking about this and was reflecting upon my initial discovery of Pi.  I still remember Pi written in paper going around the classroom written on paper over the top of the chalkboards — 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307816406286208998628034825342117067982148086513282306647

(I did have to look it up.  My memory only goes to 3.1415926535.)

But, I do remember my introduction to 22/7.  It was a classroom activity that had us engaged in groups.  We’d done the investigations with measurements to come to determine just what 3.141 might mean.  I still remember our teacher’s instructions.  “What would you think if I told you that you can approximate Pi with a fraction composed of numbers for the numerator and denominator somewhere between 1 and 30?”  When you place it into an equation to solve, often you can divide the denominator into the equation and easily solve things.

Our groups were given chart paper and we were asked to create a table with the headings “Numerator”, “Denominator”, and “Result”.  Our results were calculated by simplifying the fraction and our goal was to find the answer that best approximated Pi.  I’m sure the process kept us busy for quite a while!  But, we persevered.

It was a nice memory as I was dog walking this morning and I sat down and wrote a program in Python when we got home since my memory had actually generated the algorithm.  The logic went something like this:

set pi to 3.14

for numerator = 1 to 30

   for denominator = 1 to 30

      result := numerator / denominator

      if result is closer to pi

         set best_approx to result

         set best_numerator to numerator

         set best_ denominator to denominator

      end if

   end for

end for

print best_numerator, best_denominator, best_approx

There are lots of ways to learn about Pi and explore its significance.  Hopefully, simply memorizing one number or one fraction isn’t one of them.  There’s passion to be expressed in the learning of mathematics.  Witness how worked up the world gets over one number.  Wouldn’t it be nice if all mathematics was approached this way?

In the meantime, enjoy this video….

application, Google

Clouds in Google Docs

One of the reasons that my online document space is Google Drive is for the excellent tools.  Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms, Drawings, …  There’s nothing that I do that isn’t well handled here.

But even further than great tools, they have the facility to be even better through the use of Add-ons.  If a particular functionality isn’t there, chances are there is an Add-on that provides it.  Just like you might add more functionality to your browser itself, these Add-ons extend the functionality of the tool you’re using.  Just choose the Add-on menu item and then Get Add-ons.

Sit back because you’re going to spend some time taking a look at what more you can do with your document.

The reason for this post was I had to create a document the other day and needed a Word Cloud.  

Now, we all know that there are excellent utilities to do this on the web already.  It’s just a matter of going to them, paste your text into the creator, let it create the cloud, then you save it and import it into your document.  I’ve done it a whack of times.  I’m sure you might have as well.

But, as I started to create, I wondered out loud.  Does one exist right in Google Drive?

Sure enough there is one.  It’s called Tag Cloud Generator.  It worked beautifully for me.

Just complete your document and invoke the generator and voila!  For the purpose of this post, I opened the interview that I had conducted with Donna Fry a way back and created a cloud.

The utility took the content from our interview and nicely summarized it for me.  So nicely, in fact, I’m sitting here thinking – why didn’t I do this all along with my interviews?  Checking out the cloud reveals the passion that she has for education nicely.  (As well as a love for her beloved Thunder Bay).

The whole process was so quick and it was all done within the document.  This is a learning keeper for me.

application, Computers, Education

Science and Shhhh, Learning

ENWIN Utilities has launched a very kid-friendly site designed to teach about Electricity, Water, and Conservation.  Decked in bright colours, it’s fun to explore and just packed with all kids of information.  Kids Zone is the place.

After some background reading and researching, it’s time to take your learning to a new level.

A series of quizzes and games put your understanding to the test.  The information is presented in a very readable format, chunked together in topics.

There’s lots to learn, including things like learning how to read the meter on the side of your house. 

This is a well designed site and I’m sure will find a nice place in the elementary school science classroom.

It’s fun and engages nicely. 

Just don’t overlook the fact that there’s a great deal of learning going on too.