Interactive Maps

Over the weekend, I ran into this story

How to make awesome interactive map using Google Sheets in under 1 minute?

Of course, I had to share it with my friends.  It was interesting to see it being favourited and shared.

And, of course (2), I had to try it myself.  Here’s my result as an image.  I was really impressed with the stats popping up as you would mouse over various countries.


Did it take more than the minute promised?  Probably; I’m a slow reader.

It was fun and would have been the sort of activity that would have been done at a computer contact meeting.  There’s a lot there like finding and copying data, moving to a spreadsheet, copying it and then using the magic Google pixie dust to turn the data into the map.

I was ready to bookmark and move on when I got a message.  “Hey, Doug, we’re an Office 365 board and can’t use Google.  Will it work with Office 365?”

I didn’t know the answer right off but it seems like it should be possible.  I don’t have an Office 365 account so I can’t be sure on that platform but I do have my regular Microsoft account.  I decided to give it a shot and go pure Microsoft.  That meant using Windows and the Edge browser.

I didn’t get far before I ran into challenges.

The first challenge came after I selected the data from the Wikipedia article.  It copied all right but wouldn’t paste into Excel Online properly.  Instead of honouring the various cells, everything from that country pasted into the same cell.  This would take a lot of fixing to get right.  I tried a few times to see if it was something that I was doing wrong.  No dice.  Then, I opened a new sheet in Google Sheets and it pasted properly.  I copied again and pasted back into Excel and it went well.  So spreadsheet to spreadsheet was OK.

The second challenge came when I wanted to draw the map.  The selection of charts in Excel Online didn’t include an appropriate map.  There was this…


It wasn’t the same.  I poked around and looked for some add-ins that might do the trick but I couldn’t find something that looked like it would do the trick.

I’m now well over a minute.

I turned to OneNote.  Bringing the data in generated an error that only 100 items could be pasted.  I went with a smaller set of data but couldn’t find a way to generate the map.

So, for this example, it looks like there was only one choice.

A New Concept – Opera Neon

I find that it doesn’t hurt to try out new things that will challenge my way of thinking or doing things.  There’s nothing worse than getting stuck in a rut.

Over the weekend, I had read about Opera Neon, a concept browser from Opera, and read their rationale that the web needs a new browser.  I was definitely intrigued so I immediately set off to download and check it out.

I installed the Macintosh version and was up and running in a few seconds.  And, in that few seconds, I realized that I was in a different world.

In my world, I turn off bookmark bars and status setting so that I get more room to read content rather than constantly scrolling.  So, I was really interested to see what would happen as the information indicate that Opera didn’t have tabs in the traditional sense.  Traditional tabs do take up screen real estate.

But before I got there, I experienced “newness” just in the setup.

Neon, rather than taking a traditional approach to a browser mimics a desktop.  In fact, you can bring in your desktop image as its background.  So, I did that.  Interestingly, like most browsers upon installation, you’re invited to bring in settings that are already there from another browser.  I expected to be able to import from Opera Next or Chrome since it’s based on the Chromium project.  Instead, the only option was to import from Firefox.  Not a problem.  I wonder if I had the actual production version of Opera that I could pull from there.  No matter.

And I was off.

My next step was to look for a few of things that I have come to rely on with Opera Next – Turbo Mode, ad blocking, and the VPN.  They don’t appear to be available.  That didn’t come as a big surprise; after all, it was a first download of a concept.  I did look to install some extensions – notably LastPass and Scribefire, two which I use daily.  Extensions aren’t available either.  OK, not a real problem, I can use WordPress’ internal editor and do an Option-Tab to copy and paste from Opera Next.  It’s still early days.

Instead of lamenting upon what wasn’t there, I decided to poke around to see what was there.  Exploring was really a pleasant experience.  Here’s a screen grab.


Regular browser users should notice a few things.

First of all, there are no tabs at the top of the screen.  Instead, take a look to the right side and you’ll see a number of bubbles.  These would correspond to the tabs that I would normally have open.  And, yes, you can have more than six.  I’d be dead in the water without all the tabs that I normally use.  Add more and you get scrollbars to go through them.  It was an interesting experience; I thought that I’d be scrolling forever but I wasn’t.  The latest used tab goes at the top and the browser works to identify the tabs that you use most and they bubble to the top.  I didn’t find the need to go looking; perhaps that says more about my untidy browsing habits.

On the left side, you’ll see a number of icons that let you quickly access media, crop part of the screen, check downloads, etc.  That’s a very nice touch; I often have to go searching for the features in the menu or use an extension.  As with Opera Next, videos can pop out and play while you go about your business.  If only I had fast enough internet access to truly enjoy that.

But look in the centre.  Here is where I was really blown away.  You have the ability to have side by side browser screens open.  That is a feature that I took to immediately.  When working in a Google document, it’s often so nice to have another resource handy.  In the screen capture, I have Monday’s post on the left and today’s editor on the right.  See how productive I can be?  The reality is that I might just have Twitter or Facebook open in one so that I don’t miss a thing!

The new tab takes on an interesting format for Opera’s Speed Dial.  The new address reminds me a bit of the Edge  browser.  But the floating bubbles for bookmarks stole my attention.


Click one and you’re on the site.

It was an interesting and yet uneasy tour of the browser.  I liked that there was so much new to explore and play with.  I didn’t like the frustration when I would reach for something that I would do in a traditional browser and it wasn’t there or worked differently.  I guess we just get engrained with a certain skillset.

If you don’t like any of your existing wallpapers, the Neon browser has a couple of new wallpapers “inspired” by Neon that you can download and use.  They are very well designed; I may end up using one of them eventually.

If you want to explore and possibly get thrown out of your comfort zone at the same time, download it for Windows/Macintosh from here.

Is this a look at the future of browsers?  In a world where every browser works essentially the same way to the end user, it was a refreshing experience.  I can’t wait to see where Opera takes it.

Your country – in languages

Localingual is another terrific way to explore the world.

And contribute back, if you are so inclined.

Visit the site  and you’re presented with a nicely coloured world map.

So, pick a country – any country. In my case, I chose Denmark.

Then, check out the sidebar to the right.

Look at the variety of languages.  Click on either the female or male icon to here the name of the country spoken in that language.

But there’s more.

Beside some of the languages, you’ll find what I would call a conversation cloud.  Click it to open a new panel showing various phrases or more.  Each of these are playable as well.

I’ll bet that you give your mouse and speakers a good work out.

What an interesting and engaging way to explore the world!

The whole project is incredibly well done.  Sure, we’ve all seen maps online but this takes it even further – what more can we do with maps?


Whatever happened to …

… CU-SeeMe?

It was one of Peter Skillen’s “back in the day” messages that brought this back to mind.

It was first developed for the Macintosh which probably meant why he was early to use this and I wasn’t.  We hadn’t embraced the Macintosh platform at the time but I do remember my first experience with it at an event at OISE.

We’d long struggled with the concept of guest speakers.  Typically, you’d bring a guest speaker in to speak.  That cost money and was very time and energy intensive.  With CU-SeeMe and a lot of extra technology that we now take for granted, the presenter could be virtually in the room with you as you learned.  Sure, there were alternatives like speaker phones (or even lower tech solutions with a phone, a microphone, and a speaker) but here you could actually see the person on the other end.

The whole process added that human layer to the experience that was hard to quantify but I just sensed that this was a glimpse of things to come and I knew that I just had to explore.  After all, it would be much more time efficient than hopping in the car and driving across the county to meet with teachers or students.  As I think back, it is pretty funny.  It didn’t come cheaply; I had to buy microphones (remember the snowball microphone), sound cards, and cameras for each end of the conversation.  Then, it was a matter of driving to the destination to set everything up, call my secretary to go into my room and talk her through how to set up the connection and make it happen.  I have to smile as I convert the whole experience to a single paragraph.  It sure involved much more than that.

Later, it was time to take it live.  At the appointed hour, I initiated the call only to get dead air on the other end.  I had to make a phone call only to find out that the intended conversation had been interrupted by an unexpected on call at the other end.  We eventually did make it work but it was a great deal of effort for a proof of concept.

Thankfully, technology provided better solutions.  Now computers come with everything ready to go.  The camera is there; built in speakers and microphones are things we just take for granted.  It makes for a very easy way to bring in a speaker.  Recently, I visited Leslie Boercamp’s students in Owen Sound while I suffered with my cold at home.

And the software is so much more sophisticated than in those early days.  We now have a wide variety of options when it comes to video conferencing.  From Hangouts to Google Duo to Skype to the Ministry of Education licensed Adobe Connect and more, we have so many things to choose from.  Conversations aren’t limited to 1:1 either.  Group discussions can be great but there’s always that one person who has one thing that doesn’t work.  You can even video conference on your phone.  I’ve had many a dog walk interrupted …

The whole technology piece has become so much better and morphed into greater things that we enjoy today.  Pick your favourite piece of video conferencing software and you can now chat with others, send emojis, conducts polls,  and even draw on the screen.  It’s a long way that we’ve come, to be sure.

For conference planners, bringing in a speaker via video conferencing offers great flexibility in addition to the Plan B when flights are cancelled for bad weather or for a myriad of other reasons.  Some conferences will even broadcast their events live so that you can enjoy even if you can’t be there.  Just make sure to ask for permission!

We can now focus on more important things.  Typically, people will position themselves in front of a bookcase so that everyone thinks that you’re a scholar with all those books behind you.  I don’t have that luxury here though.  Right behind me is a bathroom so I just need to make sure that the door is closed before I go live. I’m sure that, if I was in Hawaii, I’d position things so that there’s an ocean in the background.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this Sunday.

  • Did you ever use the original CU-SeeMe?
  • What’s your favourite choice of video conferencing software?
  • Have you ever heard a presenter do their thing in this manner rather than in person?  Is it just as powerful for you?
  • Have you ever brought a guest speaker into your classroom via video conferencing?  How did it go?
  • Have you ever experimented with the concept of virtual fieldtrips for your class?

Please share your thoughts via comment below.

Do you have an idea or thought that would be appropriate for my “Whatever happened to … ” series of blog posts.  They can all, by the way, be revisited here.

Please visit this Padlet and add your idea.  I’d love for it to be an inspiration for a post!

Generating ideas

2017 is almost upon us.

For many, it’s a time to make (and then probably break) a resolution.  Here’s help to hopefully stop you from breaking one.

In the blogging world, there’s a flurry of blogs that will appear as the New Year’s resolution “I need to start a blog” kicks in.

Unfortunately, there will be some that are up for a bit and then are gone.  There will be all kinds of reasons and excuses – I don’t have the time – the day job takes most of my time – and then the biggy – I don’t have any ideas.

Of course, if you limit yourself and your blog’s scope, it’s quite easy to run out of ideas.  But, if you’re willing to expand that scope, there’s lots to write about.

Particularly in education.

By nature, educators are observers.  That’s what we do.  So, why not take your observations and turn them into blog posts?

There are lots of areas where others would like to read your thoughts.

  • something happened in class today
  • you wouldn’t believe what the board office said that we have to do
  • I work with the greatest of professionals
  • you have to check out this new resource
  • uh oh – here comes the latest educational fad

How’s that for a start?

However, if you’re looking for constant inspiration, you might want to check out the Blog Post Ideas Generator.  That’s the web version; an extension for the Chrome browser is available here.


Here are some ideas that it generated for me.

  • 9 Proven __________ That __________ Like Crazy
  • The biggest myths about X are…
  • Lessons learned during my time at…
  • My favorite place on earth is…
  • The best way to respond to….

Doesn’t that inspire you to sit down and write and share?

Don’t limit the use to yourself; if your students are blogging and have hit the wall, this might just be enough to inspire them to write and write more.

Not for everyone’s eyes

Now that presentation packages are so easy to use in a browser and online, you see many people giving up on the traditional application to get the job done.  Why not just run it in your browser?  And, when you’re using a Chromebook, you just don’t have that alternative anyway.

Good presenters will interact with the audience and often take notes or ask questions to keep the audience engaged during the presentation.

Your first inclination might be to use Google’s Keep, Evernote, or Microsoft’s OneNote or some other notetaking tool.  They’re all good choices but do have one little potential problem.  When you open the application, not only does your audience see the note that you’re creating, they could see every other note or collection that you’ve ever taken.  That could be a little embarrassing, depending upon the content.  

I know that it could be for me – I know that I keep notes for myself on just about every topic under the sun.  I make no apologies; after all, that’s what these utilities are for.   With just a little bit of preparation, you could avoid this altogether.

You could have a tab open in your browser with a blank note ready to go in Google Docs or Microsoft Word.  But, there’s another alternative that will convince your audience that you’re the tech guru that you are.

It’s just a matter of opening a new tab or a new browser window and enter the following:

data:text/html, <html contenteditable>

The result?

Certainly not the most glamorous display but very functional and clean.

Just start typing.  Your cursor is set and ready to go.

Sitting in the audience, you’ll just see two things.

  • the presentation
  • the notes

and that’s that.  None of the telephone numbers, Twitter accounts, blog post ideas, jokes, graphics, etc. that you’d see if I’d just open my Keep application directly.

And, the cool thing is that you can make the text as big as you want so that everyone can see and it’s just limited to the notetaking window!

Listen to me

If you’re old enough to know what a 2400 Baud modem is, then you’ll appreciate this.

At one point in time, this sound defined the internet as we knew it.  Your computer’s modem connected to a modem on the other end of a telephone connection and data was transferred by the sounds that were generated.  Unless you were a real sucker for pain, you’d configure your modem to turn its speaker off once the connection was made so that your human ears didn’t hear the “conversation”.  Of course, if you’re like me, you just had to have one session where the speaker was left on, just because…

These memories came back to me as I played around with Google Tone here at the lab.  

It’s a simple concept and yet I could see playing around with it on a more serious level.

When you’re doing a lesson or a presentation, how do you get students or attendees to go to a specific URL?  Chances are, you open a slide in your presentation program and copy/paste the URL, make the font bold and as big as you can to fill the screen.  Then, you wait while everyone types the address into their browser and then further wait until everyone gets to the website.  If you’ve ever done this, you know the frustration of waiting until everyone gets it right.

Of course, the sophisticated user you are, you’ve moved on and instead of having a long URL to key in, you use a shortener like:

They’re shorter but might actually be more difficult since the characters are very random containing a mixture of case and digits in addition to letters.

Or, perhaps you have your class wiki with the link already in place.  The student just has to go to the wiki, click the link, and they’re there.  Of course, they have to key the address to the wiki correctly and then navigate to the proper page.

Could there be something simpler?

That’s where Google Tone factors into this.  It’s a simple concept – the link above takes you to a Google Chrome extension.  When you find a URL that you want to share, just click on the Tone icon.  

Your computer generates a series of sounds which was my original connection to the modem.  All that you need is to have another computer with the same extension installed listening.  When it hears the sounds and interprets them, you’re presented with a little popup that indicates that you could go somewhere just by clicking on it.  Voila!

Now, the lab here doesn’t have a multiple of devices sitting around listening but the few that did worked just fine.  From an academic point of view, it would be cool to see it work with a multitude of computers.

Of course, the ultimate would be – and here’s an idea for anyone looking for a smackdown idea – play the sound through the sound system at a conference and have the entire audience all load the same page at the same time.  (They just need to have the extension installed)

In the meantime, it was a hoot to play around with.