Watch Toronto Grow


This is simply amazing and may well be the most addictive thing that you watch on your computer today.

It’s Google’s Timelapse resource.

Timelapse is a global, zoomable video that lets you see how the Earth has changed over the past 32 years. It is made from 33 cloud-free annual mosaics, one for each year from 1984 to 2016, which are made interactively explorable by Carnegie Mellon University CREATE Lab’s Time Machine library, a technology for creating and viewing zoomable and pannable timelapses over space and time.

Consequently, I spent way too much time looking at the growth of one of the areas in Ontario that just seems to explode – Toronto!

If you can work Google Maps, you can use Timelapse.  Start with the default location and move the map around or zoom in and out to get to your location.  Or, simply type the address of concern in the search box in the top left and away you go.

Look a little wider and check out the activity near the airport.

https://earthengine.google.com/iframes/timelapse_player_embed.html#v=43.68409,-79.61573,11.238,latLng&t=3.24

That’s just a start.

You don’t have to limit your exploration to the big city.

Pick a place, any place, and watch it change over time.

I took a look at my high school.  When I taught there, we were just this lovely little campus surrounded by corn fields.  It’s amazing to watch it grown into the place that it is today with access to the new community centre.  As you drive along Laurier Parkway, you can see the fire hydrants already in place as a sign that this is where housing is planned for the future.  It will be interesting to run the simulation again in ten years as development continues.

If you’ve ever wanted a bird’s eye view (albeit a very high flying bird) of the growth of humanity, this is it.  You have to check out Google Timelapse.

The value of menu surfing


I do it all the time.  When I get a new piece of software, I don’t necessarily want to know what it can do.  I generally have a good idea.

I want to know what more it can do.

My routine is to work my way across the menus, pulling them down, flying them out if necessary, and getting the big picture.  Quite frankly, there are often way more options than I know that I’ll ever use.  But, that’s OK.  I’ve seen them – just in case.

Sometimes I actually find a routine that saves my bacon – maybe not at the moment but at some time in the future.

I had such an event in preparing for the Bring IT, Together conference.

If you attended, you’ll know that outside the session rooms, there was a digital monitor that displayed the session currently being offered.  Now, we don’t ask the presenters to do that!  We did it.  Well, actually we provided the data and someone at the convention centre piped it into the displays.

I got a last minute request to prepare a .csv file with the time, room, presenter, and session title for each session for each of the three days.  There were somewhere around 250 entries to create.

Now, when I said that I would do it, I thought it would be a piece of cake.  After all, all of the conference planning and documents were sitting in a shared Google Drive folder.  I’d just extract what I needed and do an export to .csv format.

Upon further inspection, this turned out to be more that a quick export.  We had a document that we called a “Minute by Minute” which detailed everything that we planned to happen for the conference.  The sessions offered was embedded in that document.  If you picked up a paper copy of the planner, you basically have what I was working with.

There was one catch though.

The document was formatted for human reading.  The columns weren’t sorted by time; they were sorted by room.  As I looked, there was Room 101 and then what was scheduled for 10:00, then 11:00, then 12:00, etc.  The file that I needed to create was to be formatted by time.  At 9:00, these sessions were offered in Room 101, 102, 201, etc.  It wasn’t a huge deal, it was just a matter of taking the timetable which was in this big matrix and changing the orientation.  

Then, there was one final step.

I’ll use, as an example, the person who will first read this post – Aviva Dunsiger.  She was offering this session.

Everything I needed was in there.  It wasn’t just the way I needed it.

I needed the presenter(s) names in one cell and their session descriptor in another.  I was about to settle in for a bit of copying and pasting until something nagged me in the back of my mind.  I should be able to write a script to do this.  Checking all the descriptors, there was a dash(-) between the presenter name and the title.  I could just write a script to take what was left of the dash and put it in one column and then what was right of the dash and put it in another column.  But something still nagged.  I went looking and found why I was hearing those voices.

In the Data menu, there was an option to “Split text to columns”.  I remember doing it once just to see how it worked.  I typed a few full names into cells with a space between first and last name and used that option to split them into different columns.  

Could I use it here?

You know the answer.  This wouldn’t be much of a blog post if I couldn’t report success.

The dash wasn’t one of the default separators but “Custom” allowed me to select the dash.  It was just a matter of highlighting the entire range of sessions and applying this to the range.  Easy peasy.  Well, almost.  Just remember that a computer will only do what you tell it to do.  There were a few sessions that had also included a dash in the descriptor.  I ended up with a little more splitting than I had expected!  But that’s why they put erasers on pencils for.  Right?  It was just a matter of putting the outliers back together.

It was an interesting reflection on my part about how I’d seen this obscure menu item at one point and never really had had a use for it.  It paid off with its effectiveness.  It was much more efficient than copying/pasting or writing/testing/applying my own script.

I love it when a plan comes together.

How big?


You never know where your next bit of inspiration comes from.  I was looking around to see the entries for next Sunday at Leamington Raceway and then got into a stream of Twitter messages from harness racing people.

In the midst was this …

In terms of Toronto, it identified two of my favourite places.

  • downtown Toronto
  • Woodbine Raceway

and placed them together for comparison of size. 

I would never have guessed.

But, of course, there’s teachable opportunities here.

Fire up Google Maps, switch to Earth view so that you can see the area to be measured, right click a starting point and then click an ending point to create a measurable distance.

So, OK, Leamington is just a bit smaller!

But think of the possibilities when you’re discussing other areas, regions, etc.  Measure something known (like your school yard) and the do the math to see how many of your yards it would take to fill your topic.

There are so many computer skills to master to make the task worth and then the good stuff.  Calculating area, doing the measurements, …

It’s a great answer to the question “When will we ever use this stuff?”

Now and Then


I’m a big fan of Google Maps and, in particular, Street View.  I guess that I might be a very visual type of person because, when I want to go somewhere, I’d like to know a bit more than an address.  I’d like to know what the place looks like too.  That way, I know exactly when I get to my destination.  It’s also handy to check out the neighbourhood and see where the parking is as well.

It’s also intriguing to check out some personal history.

We were having a conversation recently about living in Toronto while going to the Faculty of Education.  I yearned for a look at the house where I stayed.  I still remember the address; after all, I had mail sent there for a year.  Off to Google Maps I went and I entered the address and then I dropped to Street View.  What turned up surprised me.

It was a new house or maybe even a small apartment building.  I certainly didn’t recognize it so I spun Street View around to see if could remember any of the landmarks.  In fact, there were quite a number of new buildings on that street but I distinctly remember the house right next door so I was sure that I was looking in the right spot.  I’m guessing my hosts had sold their house to a developer.

That’s not uncommon.  Ah, too bad I couldn’t have just one more look at the old place.

Not so quickly, Doug.  You can.

Street View has a history of all of the images that were ever taken of a particular spot!  I rolled back the clock and, sure enough, there was the old house.  Great memories of living in the apartment over the garage were the result.

How to do this?

I checked out some places locally that I knew had had some reconstruction and rebuilding.  Sure enough, they had some of the older images.

Just for fun, I checked out the Municipal Building in the town of Lasalle which has had a beautiful facelift in the past few years.  I drive by it regularly so I didn’t even need to know the address.  I just zoomed in and then dropped into Street View and adjusted so that I was close enough.

There’s the rough-ish address that I was at when I looked at the picture.  You’ll see that the Street View image was taken in June 2014.  To the left, though, there’s an icon that I’d describe as a clock with arrows circling it.  Click that.  That’s where the magic lies.

Full screen, you have the current image and a little thumbnail of the image appears in the fly out window.  Check out the bottom of the window for a little scrubber bar.  I slid it back to 2009.

Now, the angle is a bit different or maybe the building was moved a bit in its reconstruction.  You can drag things around and relive what was.

It’s a fantastic way to relive at least some of the ancient history anyway.

How about in your classroom?

    • Have you had a reconstruction of the school that the students could look back at?
    • What about all the places that you lived in when you went to university?  Are they still there?
    • If you work at a new school, what was there before the building was built?
    • How about your old house?  Do you remember that car parked in the driveway?

    The sky’s the limit when you start thinking personal history.

    New to Google Classroom – Resources


    For the new school year, there will be many who are using Google Classroom for the first time.  The concept of a Management System, along with the desire to go digital and use less paper, has been a desire for many for a long time.  

    There are a number of similar learning environments but many are going with the familiar way of doing things the “Google Way”.  After all, most people have been using Google resources for years and, certainly, with the influx of Chromebooks for students, it makes a great deal of sense.

    Like any tool, there are a myriad of ways to use it.  

    Yet, you have to start somewhere.

    Hopefully, your district has been providing teaching resources and workshops to make sure that you get up and running quickly.

    To that support, you may wish to add this document from Steve Wick.  It’s titled simply “Google Classroom Tips and Tricks“.

    In a testament to the web and collaboration, the document isn’t complete.  Visitors are dropped into Suggestion Mode.  That allows the document to grow and become even more useful.

    If you’re using Google Classroom, or contemplating using a Management System, or even using another system, drop by and check it out for ideas.

    There are many ways to get the job done and reading all about great new ideas is always helpful.

    More with the Olympic games


    Who isn’t watching the Olympic games?

    There certainly isn’t a shortage of television or internet coverage.  It’s hard to imagine that there was a time when you’d have to wait for the next day or even longer to get the results via newspaper.

    This time around coverage is everywhere – CBC, TSN, Sportsnet.  There’s always something to watch.

    But, for those few moments of downtime, there’s now the Google Fruit Games.

    You’ll need to download the Google App for your device.

    You’ll see games like you’ve never seen before.

    My current favourite is the bicycle riding game although trying to out run the watermelon was pretty challenging.

    I guess it could be worse; I could be chasing Pokemon characters.

    Ever the programmer, I’m impressed with how gestures are incorporated into navigation in addition to access on the screen.  To date, I don’t think anyone has videoed my body English as I navigate.

    Just some advice – if you’re sitting on a park bench and don’t want to be swamped by little kids, turn the volume down or use headphones.

    Just saying…

    Doug gets cultured


    One of the things that I really like to do anywhere I go is explore.  There’s so much to see if you just take the time to do so.  I don’t know, for sure, if my wife enjoys it but I certainly do.  With Google’s “new” Arts & Culture application, I can extend my exploration into places that I’d never think possible just be being connected.

    It’s not that there’s a shortage around here.  Just across the border is the magnificent Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village complex.  So much to see and yet so little time.  And, as we know, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  In Windsor, we have museums and galleries of our own.  I’m certainly not an expert at any level, but I do enjoy looking and resist the urge to touch. 

    Given what’s happening in the US political process right now, it’s a interesting to take a look at “Electing Lincoln” from The Henry Ford.

    Of course, politics isn’t the only topic in this curation of culture. 

    One of my all-time favourite visits was the Harry Houdini museum in Niagara Falls.  Sadly, it’s gone now but artifacts from Houdini live on as a result of a simple search within the application. 

    And, it’s not just stuff.  Check out the categories.

    Even just poking around, you get the sense that there could be more categories and the use in education just smacks you between the eyes.  You’re only limited by your imagination and desire to inquire.

    Check out the details and launch of the app on the official Google Blog.

    What really puts it over the top for me is the integration with Google Cardboard and Streetview.  Some of what you’ll have seen may be a one off situation just exploring on your own.  The application brings it all together.

    Download the application here.

    When you do get your copy, you’ll absolutely want it installed on your device and your classroom devices.  If the time isn’t right for your district’s IT Department, you can always plan to enjoy it on the web here.