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.

    Better results

    I read another one of those posts yesterday from, well I’d rather not mention the name, of a bunch of shortcuts that you can use with Google Search to make you a “master searcher”, whatever that is.

    You know, advice like 

    • do your search inside quotations for exact results “<blah, blah, blah>”
    • related:<blah, blah, blah>
    • site:<blah, blah, blah>
    • link:<blah, blah, blah>

    I do have some of these committed to memory and they can be helpful if searching from the URL bar in your favourite browser.  That’s pretty much become standard.

    But there’s a better way that I’ve always used.  Instead of going to the basic search page, most search engines have a pretty sophisticated Advanced Search page that makes learning all the cryptic codes somewhat less important.

    So, if you’re a Google user, instead of going to and getting this:

    I’ll have bookmarked the Google Advanced search at: and get this instead:

    This is just part of the form that’s presented.  Scrolling reveals even more options to help zero in on exactly what I’m searching for.

    One bookmark and I’m there.  None of those modifiers to remember.

    There actually used to be a link, if I remember correctly, on the base page to take you to the Advanced_Search page.  I don’t see it any more – maybe it’s ultimately going to go away? – but for now, I’m more interested in getting the results that I want rather than memorizing a list of things so that I could use one or two of them to help me search.

    Do you have a great technique for successful search?  I’d love to hear it.

    Google resources

    There are so many very good Google resources available for classroom use.

    Of course, to find them all, you could “Google” them.

    Or, you could rely on the efforts of others to collect and share resources.  This is the case with a Symbaloo created by Annette Sapp.

    Like all Symbaloos, it’s just a matter of finding a button that has the content you desire and clicking it to launch the resource.  No matter what level of experience you have, there’s always room to learn some more.

    If you don’t have a Symbaloo account, it’s well worth creating one.  There are so many great ways to use it and it’s a perfect launchpad for students to get to resources that you’ve chosen.

    You can access this one “Google Classroom/GAFE” right now.  Make sure that you share it with your Google-using colleagues.