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.

map

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…

book-6-xlsx-microsoft-excel-online

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.

2017-01-16_0642.png

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.

2017-01-16_0645.png

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!

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Welcome to Friday and it’s a 13th too.  Check out some of the great reading that I enjoyed this past while.


SOCIAL MEDIA & DIGITAL CITIZENSHIP

So much in this post that Rusul Alrubial references from an article in the New York Times makes so much sense.  She nicely summarizes it at the bottom of the post.  Schools that wish to send home a message to parents about their involvement with social media would be well advised to take a read and incorporate it into their message.  Basically, it means that kids can definitely figure out the technology given enough time but it’s the parent and school interaction that add the “social” and the “responsible” part into the mix.

I think that this table from the post deserves more than a passing glance.  There’s much to be read into it and many takeways.


The Best Gift

Diana Maliszewski started the post in a fun way talking about a Christmas gift that she received.  Rather than run out and spend all kinds of money, it was created by her sister and shipped just in time for gift opening.  It was a nice, warm start to the post.  There was a bit of librarian critique to the content that was interesting to note but then it got a bit serious.

After a flurry of texts exalting her amazing gift, we discovered that there were actually more comics that she had created using Bitstrips, but when the site closed, she was unable to access or upload her work.

It was, for me, a sad reminder that the Bitstrips application was no longer available to Ontario Educators.  Acquired through the OESS process, it made a huge difference in how educators used technology in the classroom.  It was a creation, making application available to all long before the current focus on “creating”.  It was central to so many workshops and presentations that I gave.  Then, with a message on the OSAPAC website, it was no longer available.

In its place is Pixton for Schools.  Will it have the same impact?

Sadly, it wasn’t the focus of any presentations at the Bring IT, Together conference.  That’s too bad.  Back in the day, Ivan or Danuta and I would have made it a part of our “Freshly Minted Software” series.

Hopefully, school districts are rolling on professional learning for this application so that teachers can continue to enable students to create in the classroom.

In the meantime, I really feel for Diana.  I think we all know what happens when a favourite application is no longer available either by licensing or updates or closing.  All that time and effort learning its uses and nuances shot.


Professional Learning: Does it work?

Speaking of Professional Learning….

Deborah McCallum takes on this question with a well reasoned post.  I like her summary of strategies to avoid change.  My context is, of course, in education.

I think she’s nailed it with these points.  She concludes with a question.

What are your personal insights on this?

A topic near and dear to my heart.

My answer is “yes” but I need to qualify it with an “only if” …

Sadly, I think that schools and school districts by their action plans put into force a system where it’s so easy to avoid the change.  If Professional Learning is limited to the big one day PD Day and you get to spend an hour on a topic, you’re guaranteed to fail.  Attendance at these events are compulsory and an opportunity to put a check mark on the chart that says “Provides PD”.  Maybe next year, we’ll get to Step 2.

Professional Learning and change to practice needs to be ongoing.  Teachers are not adverse to it.  Success happens when school districts offer ongoing, continuous sessions on topics that allow for grow in confidence for whatever the topic is.  Once the confidence happens, change is more likely to take place.  It doesn’t have to be formal either.  In fact, it may well work best when it’s not formal.  Maybe it’s me but when the memo would arrive that “Tomorrow is PLC Day”, I just knew that I had other things on my mind.  Why couldn’t it be done on my terms?  Some of the best change I ever did for myself was to meet with colleagues for breakfast at 6am to share our thoughts.  I know that others met informally for book talks.  In my case, it was software talks.  I remember a superintendent telling me once that they was afraid that it was a subversive activity and that all PD had to be controlled centrally.  That way, the message could be controlled.

Sigh.


Instead of “Rich Tasks”, Try “Variations on Tasks”, or “Classes of Tasks”

As I read this post from Matthew Oldridge, I was so much in agreement.  The notion of a “Rich Task” has always bugged me.  We talk about differentiating instruction, working with students at their level, meet them where they are, and then throw a “Rich Task” into the pedagogy bucket.

Does the same level of “richness” apply to every student?  I sure hope not.  Of the alternatives, that Matthew provides, I prefer “Variations” the best.  It doesn’t imply that we’re ranking the tasks somehow.  I like the thought that variations show that there are many ways to approaching topics.

Many of these short and simple questions wouldn’t be considered rich tasks on their own, but then again, what is. There are no rich tasks without thinking classrooms full of talking, thinking, conjecturing, and wondering students. Context is everything. When we say context, with respect to classrooms, we might really be talking about culture. What sorts of classroom cultures promote richness?


A Review: Professional Capital:Transforming Teaching in Every School

Stacey Wallwin read the book so you don’t have to.

Or, perhaps because of this post, you’ll ask your teacher-librarian or principal to add it to the professional library at your school.

I liked her summary of the takeaways she had from reading.

  • You can’t do it alone.
  • Teachers need to be a part of authentic, professional learning communities that both support and challenge their  ideas and contribute and support ongoing professional growth.
  • To support the rich potential of a PLN/PLC educators need to have a voice in the implementation.
  • It is morally imperative that as educators we see all students as own and make ourselves accountable to the learning of all these students.

In summary, she shares some of her thoughts about the rules of empowerment.  I couldn’t help but wonder – we talk about students owning the learning; shouldn’t the same apply to teachers.  As Stacey notes, success won’t come as a result of budgets or top down edicts or chasing the latest and greatest.


Numberless Word Problems

Jonathan So had moved his blog from Blogger to WordPress and was good enough to let me know so that I could update my Ontario Edublogger list.  I figured that the least I could do is check out his latest writing and he does share a good one.

There’s no more depressing textbook than a mathematics textbook.  Only there in education can you work for 15 minutes on a problem, then turn to the back of the textbook, look for page 146 and then the answer to question 27 only to find that it is 6.  You didn’t have that; so you’re clearly WRONG.  How depressing.  Fortunately, as students know, they can still get partial credit for showing your work and your thinking.

What if you took all the numbers out of the equation and just focused on the problem?

That’s the message in Jonathan’s post.  It’s filled with lots of great ideas and I’ll bet that you know the ferris wheel that’s at the heart of it.

In a world where you’d have some “experts” telling you that computational thinking is a separate entity, you’ll be inspired with the record of discussion that ensues.


As Technology Advances…

creating-a-culture-of-collaboration-as-technology-advances

Mark Renaud starts this post with a bit of wisdom that it never hurts to revisit and share with others.  I’m struck with the number of new teachers entering the profession with only a bare minimum of “effective learner” tools.

It’s not necessarily their fault.  They typically have relatively good computer skills but that’s not enough any more.  Of importance is staying abreast of new advances of both technology and the latest insights into effective pedagogy.

There were a couple of other posts above devoted to professional learning.  They make a nice bundle to read.

When was the last time that your principal expressed these concerns like Mark has?


It’s been yet another great week of sharing from the blogs of Ontario Edubloggers.  Please take a few moments to click through and read the entire posts mentioned above.

Until next week!

Here’s the course I failed


A couple of years ago when the concept of Sketchnoting was new, I was bound and determined to learn how to do them.

I started small; scribbling things on my iPad.  The results varied between childish and embarrassing with a severe tilt towards embarrassing.

I’m not sure what I would do with sketchnoting but I had a couple of ideas that I think would present well nicely using this artform.

I tried; I really did.  

I tried various applications; my daughter bought me a stylus for my birthday; I had a number of other styluses that I’d obtained from here and there but nothing seemed to improve when I was done.  I reverted to my finger.  I’m now convinced that I have a defective finger.

At a Bring IT, Together conference a couple of years ago, I had my chance to learn in the class of the master – Sylvia Duckworth.  I still remember it.  I sat in the front row, eager to learn.  My friend Colleen Rose sat next to me.  I should have known there that I was out of my league.  I’m convinced that when Colleen breathes out in the cold northern Ontario air, it is a beautiful piece of art.

So, I followed Sylvia’s instructions to the letter.

The results were still embarrassing.

The best, positive takeaway is now my Twitter avatar.  Colleen drew it as I tried my best to learn.

I guess that I need to keep on keeping on.

Fortunately, Sylvia has made her presentation available for us to enjoy in the form of a Google Slides presentation.

I’ll keep at it.

Maybe someday I’ll surprise myself.

In the meantime, we can all enjoy her lengthy slideshow here.

Puzzling


Recently, I had the need to create a maze.

I suppose that I could have done it manually but, in this day and age, I didn’t need to.

When I went looking, I ran into this entire page devoted to making Puzzles at Discovery Education.

Consequently, I’m passing it along.  Every now and again, you need a puzzle created on your terms rather than one created by someone else that you end up repurposing.  So, I’m suggesting that you poke your way through this and see if this fits a need or a potential need that you might have.  If that’s the case, just bookmark it and bring it back on demand.

There’s a nice selection of puzzles available that you create to your specifications.

They’re quick and easy to create.  You make them for your own specific needs. 

You can’t have it better than that.

And, the price is right too.