Timeline creation

One of the powerful visual tools, depending upon the story that you want to tell, is a timeline.  I’ve used a number of programs over the years to create timelines and even have just plunked my data into a spreadsheet for the concept.

Recently, I played around with Time Graphics.

This is a pretty comprehensive implementation of a timeline creation utility.  Now, I’ve always created my timelines with text values.  Time Graphics incorporates so much more.

Clicking on your timeline lets you add an entry pickable from this selection of items.

Screenshot 2017-09-15 at 17.22.21

You might recognize some of the icons.  Working my way around the wheel of entries…

  • Event
  • Time period
  • Percentage
  • Statistics
  • Reporting APIs
  • Grouping
  • Yandex Metrika
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Calendar
  • Import from Google Sheets

Everything that I had ever created pales in comparison to what can be done here.  The resulting timeline can be public or private.  If it’s public, then you can see the work of others, including the ability to embed in another document.

I poked around with some of the public timelines and was impressed with this one – Video Game History Timeline.

Screenshot 2017-09-15 at 17.36.28

 https://time.graphics/embed?v=1&id=886 Time.Graphics – free timeline online maker

In this one document, I think I’ve changed more of my understanding of timelines than ever before.  And, the video game collection is worthy of starting a classroom discussion.  I’m glad that the author made it public.

A private idea?  How about a timeline of students by birthday?  Have an image of each to mark them on the time.

I’d suggest you take a wander over and check it out.  I’ll bet you can think of all kinds of ways to use timelines after you see this.



When will we ever need this?

It’s been a long time since I took an English course.  It would have been in my last year of high school – three mathematics, three sciences, and English.  You needed six credits and English was my fail safe.  Sorry, English teachers.

Now, I did learn a great deal going to high school and I like to think that the skills learned there continue to serve me today.  As a person who blogs every now and again, I do want to come across as somewhat literate.  Blogging does give you license to do various things that were projects in high school.  There are all kinds of things to try out.

How do I know if they’re effective?  Really, I don’t.  There’s always the kick that I get when someone writes a reply or shares a post with others.  I’m pretty sure that this is inspired by an idea I’ve shared and not as an example of the quality of my writing.  I do know that I’ve been affected by various authors on the internet and I know that periodically they do things that would have generated red ink in high school.

So, it was with more than a passing interest that I took at look at this blog post from the Google Open Source blog.

Making the Google Developers Documentation Style Guide Public

Holy Turabian, Batman.  There are standards?  Don’t people just sit down at a keyboard and hammer out instructions for their product?  Or, take the original and plunk it into Google Translate so that it becomes “English” for sale in Canada?  Could I have been right all along by asking my Computer Science students to create manuals/instructions for each program they submitted?

Google Developer Development Style Guide

I dove into this like a duck into water, like a moose to the woods, like an airplane to the sky, ….

And, you know what?

Much of this I remember from high school.  And yet, there were things that we never addressed.  I guess I just never wrote any technical manuals.  Certainly, we didn’t have a Google at the time.

How’s this for advice?

Google, Googling

  • Don’t use as a verb or gerund. Instead, use “search with Google.”

How many people have done this?  I guess it goes without saying that Googley as an adjective is out too!

Then, there’s a section about good writing.

Some things to avoid where possible

  • Buzzwords or technical jargon.
  • Being too cutesy.
  • Placeholder phrases like “please note” and “at this time.”
  • Choppy or long-winded sentences.
  • Starting all sentences with the same phrase (such as “You can” or “To do”).
  • Current pop-culture references.
  • Jokes at the expense of customers, competitors, or anyone else.
  • Exclamation marks, except in rare really exciting moments.

This is fantastic stuff.  I’m going to work my way through this and hope to learn more or just take a refresher course on writing.

If I was an English teacher, I’d have this bookmarked as the answer to the question “When are we ever going to use this?”

In the real world.  You know, the one that’s behind everything on your phone!

Doing it right – never too early

It’s never too early to do the right thing.  As students start to produce digital documents for class, there’s always a desire to dress it up with graphics and images.

I’m still a big proponent of having students create their own, whether by their own digital camera or via a drawing program.  That adds so much to the process.

In the early days, clipart use was pretty clear.  You bought it or a number of pieces showed up within the program that you were using.  I was on the OSAPAC Committee when we licensed a collection for all schools with classroom friendly pieces of clipart – we called it the Canadian Clipart Collection.  The committee also reached out to the Royal Canadian Mint and the Bank of Canada to license high resolution images of Canadian money – we called that the Canadian Currency Collection.  A link to it is no longer on the OSAPAC website but you can be sure that I blogged about it here.  It was helpful to have licensed images because so many products include US currency as the only option.

Like most things, time and technology moves on and things can often be simpler.  Now that so many things are done inside a browser, it’s quite easy to right click and copy an image and then head to the document in process and paste it.  But, do you have the legal right to do so?  Maybe yes, maybe no.

Big search engines allow you to easily search for images.  But, it’s important to know that the results only point to the images as they are hosted elsewhere.  It’s really up to the person doing the copying and pasting to make sure that they have the legal right to use them in their personal documents.  Teachers need to seize this as a teachable moment to talk about public domain, copyrighted, and then the whole area of Creative Commons.  Creative Commons isn’t a thing but a number of different ways that people protect their creations.  You need to understand it before using it and, in particular, the tough way of attributing the original image.  Much has been written, including on this blog, about this.

A way to get started is with Photos for Class.  The service will search Flickr (a repository for images) for images that you want, respecting the license.  So, if I’m interested in “puppies”, I can do a simple search and there’s an incredible collection of puppies that come back.  Now, I have two problems.  1)  Which one to use?  2)  How do I attribute it properly.  Neither the website nor I can help you with the first problem.  But, Photos for Class really helps out with the 2nd problem.  When you download the image, it attaches the proper attribution to the image.  Check out these adorable pups.


OK, enough puppy gazing.  Look at how the image is properly attributed.

You can’t beat doing the right thing.  Of course, there may a time when you want an image that’s not found at Photos for Class.

That’s when you really dig into proper licensing and attributions.

Learning about hurricanes

It’s been a rough couple of weeks for hurricanes.  It’s been the lead story for so many news programs and the pictures have been non-stop showing us the worst of what can happen.

These things can be the lead to some terrific learning opportunities in the classroom.  You won’t find the real details about what makes for a bad hurricane on the news through.  You have to dig a little deeper.  Here are a couple of sources.


From the National Hurricane centre, a tool that lets you investigate the conditions that are necessary to create such a storm.  Inside the simulator, click on the various controls to customize your hurricane.  Can you make an 80?


Atlantic Hurricane Simulator

This, I really like – for a number of reasons.

First of all, it is very graphic in nature as you would expect in any project of this type.

Secondly, like any simulator, you can adjust the controls to see where your hurricane will go.

Thirdly, it’s written in Scratch.  That demonstrates that you can do serious stuff with Scratch.  And, of course, since it’s open, you can “Look inside” to see what makes it tick.  There’s so much to learn from reading code.  And, of course(2), you can remix the original to make your own simulator.



In the big computer technology deal, here’s a chance to “do different things”, enabled by your helpful technology.

And, even if you or your students don’t have a Florida connection, don’t forget that it can happen here.  Hurricane Hazel

Maybe this will help

Do you ever walk into a room and then forget why you went there?  It happens all the time here!

Even worse is the digital equivalent.  As I read or work on something on my computer, I’ll use it as a launchpad to do something else.  If it’s a link, I’ll right-click a link and open a tab to remind me and, hopefully, get around to it later.

Sometimes, though, that isn’t sufficient.  So, I’ll use a Keep or OneNote document to keep track of things.  I just have to remember to visit them to do whatever it was that I was supposed to do.

Yesterday, I think I may have found a better solution.

It’s called the Papier extension.

It’s the ultimate in minimalism but fancy formatting and every feature under the sun isn’t what I need.  I just need a place to make a quick note so that I don’t forget.  Papier might be the answer.

It replaces the New Tab feature in the Chrome browser.  Now when I open a new tab, I just get a wide open whitespace to do some typing.  (Or blackspace if I turn on Night Mode)

Then, I make my note.

There are a few features available via menu or shortcut.

Screenshot 2017-07-26 at 06.33.06

Essentially, you just open the tab and start typing.  It remembers the content every time you open the tab.  The nice thing is that it’s all kept in the browser and you don’t have to leave to go anywhere else to use it.

I’m going to give it a try and see if it helps my memory.

I just hope that I remember to click on post to share this.


Is set and forget good?

I think we all would like to think that we set up a computer, set up services, set up this and that, and we’re good for time immemorial.

That might work if you were in total control of everything.  But, if this world of computer updates and services that we use changing, I’m convinced that’s not a good approach.

So, I do and recommend to others that they check their settings and see just what it is that you’re allowing to be shared – and with whom.

It will take a few minutes but it’s a good summer cleanup / checkup activity.

There are three biggies for me.

  1.  Google.  https://myaccount.google.com/privacy
    Screenshot 2017-07-25 at 09.22.40
    It’s not just for search anymore.  You watch videos, manage documents, buy things, search for things, share things, use social media, log into other services using your Google account.  Just what are you sharing with the world?
    Log into your Google account and then follow the link above and double check.  You may be surprised at just how much information is available and how you’re sharing it.
  2. Facebook.  https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=account
    Screenshot 2017-07-25 at 09.17.47Of course, all of the above applies to Facebook as well.  But, there’s a little more since Facebook is all about the sharing of information and, often, very personal information.  In addition to working your way down the list, pay special attention to the Privacy section and see just who is able to see your content.
  3. Twitter.  https://twitter.com/settings/account
    Screenshot 2017-07-25 at 09.21.06You know, for 140 characters, there are certainly all kinds of settings that can be tweaked to make sure that you’re getting the most from the experience.  Most of these settings should be familiar now once you’re checked your Google and Facebook settings.  An important one to check is “Apps”.  Just how many applications and services have you given access to your Twitter account to?  You might be surprised.  Revoking the ones that you’re currently not using is a good idea.

Do you feel safer and more confident about your online presence now?  Of course, these three are just the biggies.  If you have a Bing, Yahoo!, Zoho, or more accounts, it’s worth checking out to make sure that it’s all good on your end.  Things do change since you set up your original account.

It’s just a nice rainy day activity.

Put it in your calendar as a recurring event.

Learning to navigate

At the CSTA Conference, I had the opportunity to proctor the session “Blast Off with Space Battle:  The Real-Time, Networked, Space Simulation Programming Project” presented by Brett Wortzman and Michael Hawker.

With a title that long and descriptive, I just knew that it had to be good.

And it really was.

Essentially, they recommend tackling something like this with students after they’ve written the AP CS exam.  By the time, students will have a solid background in Java and may be looking for an interesting way to apply their knowledge.

In a nutshell, here’s what happens.

The teacher downloads and runs “Space” on a host machine and it sits there looking for clients (students) to navigate their space.

Students, at their own stations, name and control their spaceship using their knowledge of Java within the Space environment.  The suggested timeline is given in terms of weeks but most of our room was up and navigating within the three hour session.

Participants were involved in the game “Find the Middle”.  Below, you’ll see the space and a number of spacecraft navigating in real time.  Their challenge?  They had to navigate their craft into the centre ring below.  To make things easier for learners, the dangers of the sun or collisions with others was turned off.  Oh, and the Space Dragon too.

Just like in the movies, they navigated with thrusters and there was no friction or gravity so it took the careful hands of a programmer to slow their spacecraft.  It was more challenging than you might think.  But, the engagement of the entire room was testament to the quality of the activity.

Some of the commands needed to master the task:

  • IdleCommand(double)
  • RotateCommand(int)
  • ThrustCommand(char, double, double)
  • BrakeCommand(double)


The project is supported here – “Space Battle Arena” with all the downloads and detailed documentation to make it happen.