I've seen this before


In my stories about Google stuff recently, there has been a great deal of excitement about a new feature for planetary navigation in Google Maps.

Google Maps now throws you into hyperspace when switching between planets

Spotted on Reddit, Google Maps now shows a neat hyperspace animation when you switch from Earth to other planets in our solar system. We’re not entirely sure when this animation was added, but it seems possible it was added as a nod to the latest installment in the Star Wars franchise. The design of the animation is also nearly identical to how it looks in the latest films.

So, of course, I had to check it out and it really is kind of neat. If you haven’t explored the planets elements of Google Maps, you really need to. There are so many ideas that come to mind for class use. The collection is impressive.

So, I’m warping between planets enjoying the animation and I had this nagging feeling that I’ve seen this before.

As it turns out, it wasn’t like this but more like the original opening crawling text to Star Wars.

Then it hit me. It was a Computer Science class a long time ago and far far away.

We did boring?! programming and one of the programs that we were writing dealt with creating navigation with menus and returning for smooth navigation and not letting the user get lost.

That wasn’t good enough for one student.

Instead of just going to the target of the menu, he inserted a Star Wars-like scroller that explained where the user was going and why. I remember thinking at the time “don’t you have better things to do?”. But, when I thought about it, doing this was probably far more challenging than the original assignment.

I’ve lost touch with this student. Who knows? Maybe he’s working for Google now. (grin) But the biggest bit of satisfaction for me was letting him include that in his code and making for a more sophisticated application.

Who knew that I’d see the concept again?

Keeping control of your email


Is email a thing anymore? <grin>

In my world, there are other ways to get in contact with me. My email address is generally used as a repository for blog post notifications and newsletters…

But, your mileage may vary.

If you’re using Google’s mail system, you might be interested in this feature. Suppose you send an email to someone. The natural assumption is that it goes there, they read it, and then act on it. But, sometimes, the “act on it” can be not nice things. Like forwarding it to someone else, for example. Hopefully, it isn’t printing it and putting it in a binder. (Don’t laugh; I know people who did that)

Some of this Gmail addresses in a new feature set.

You can access the feature at the bottom of a message you’re creating…

Before you send that message, clicking the little padlock/clock combination icon reveals…

Check out the functionality. Want a message to expire – there’s a pull-down menu for that. The concept of a passcode in order to read the message is intriguing. Much like two factor verification, it adds a new level of security to things.

The whole thing is an interesting concept. I’m sure that the tech savvy are right away thinking of ways to get around this (screen shots anyone)?

It will be interesting to see if this feature has any legs to it. Will it be picked up by the emailing, er, gmailing population? If it’s popular there, will other email providers provide the same feature? What happens when you send a Gmail message to another provider? Will this invoke a new standard for email that all providers will have to observe? Lots of questions at this keyboard.

How about you? Do you see this as a must-have feature that you’ll be using regularly?

Another phishing quiz


I don’t think that you can get enough of these things. You have to realize that while you may be getting smarter, those who would do nasty things are at least keeping pace.

Quizzes like this are a fun way to make sure that you’re on the top of your online game.

And, in the classroom, it shouldn’t be a matter of a “one and done” approach to online literacy and safety. It should be done regularly and constantly revisited to make sure that the lessons are learned and reinforced.

With that introduction, I turn you to a Phishing Quiz posted on the withgoogle site.

It doesn’t take too long to complete if you know what you’re looking for. There are eight examples to work your way through.

I like how the authors personalized it by asking for a name and email address which will appear in the questions so that it approximates what might happen in real life. The site claims this information never goes anywhere but I didn’t give out my real stuff just in case.

I am proud to say that I have been paying attention and got 8/8 on the quiz the first time through. I even did a screen capture to prove it. But, I decided to step back the ego just a bit and not include it in the post.

If you’re reading this on the Saturday morning that I post it, take five minutes and put yourself to the test.

Santa Tracker


This is a feature that I look forward from Google every year – the Santa Tracker from Santa’s Village.

The big kid in me enjoys the activities and the obvious design and planning that goes into them.

You can read all the details here.

Despite the fun appearance of the village, there’s a great deal of learning to be had by digging into the activities. They’re all accessible via the hamburg menu in the top left.

My fascination, at least for now, is Code Boogie as we head into Computer Science Education Week. Do a little drag and drop coding to follow the teacher or create dance steps of your own. It starts easily enough but then …

And, the cool thing is that you can actually view the Javascript code once the activity is over.

But that’s just one of the activities available. I’m sure that you’ll have your favourites after a while. The Gumball Tilt is a challenge for my fingers.

Follow the link to the Google blog post above and then head into the village. Or, for the impatient, just click here.

Getting serious about privacy


I think we’ve all heard of the stories – I mention that I was looking to buy this or I did a search for that product and then, lo and behold, advertisements for that product appears on your desktop. Coincidence or not, it’s pretty freaky when it happens.

A long time ago, I took action around here to block advertising and third party cookies. When I want to purchase something, I would like to do my own research and come to my own conclusions about products. Plus, I didn’t like all the bandwidth that these advertisements were using. It definitely slowed things down here and my internet access is slow enough to begin with.

If only this setting, which is available on all modern browsers, did the trick.

Basically, websites are on their honour to recognize this and do something about it. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a banner that told you that they respecting you. Actually, search engines like DuckDuckGo that do respect you make that claim up and front. Thank you for that.

For the others, I guess we’re on our own. Allow it to happen or do something to prevent it like installing an advertising browser blocker.

Fortunately, for us, latest releases of browsers are helping the cause.

Opera has advertising blocking built right in and also offers a free VPN.

Brave also has advertising blocking as a key component. It also has an interesting feature – most modern browsers allow you to open a “Private Window” which has a limited privacy protection. But, Brave also allows you to open a tab using the Tor network. That’s very handy instead of using the Tor Browser.

Chrome is promising a feature that will block what they’re calling “heavy” advertising. Where the advertisement blocking extension fits into this remains to be seen.

This weekend, I’ve been playing around with the latest in Privacy protection from Firefox. It’s labelled as “Enhance Privacy Protection”. Rather than just taking their word that they’re blocking things, a graph, by day, shows what they’re blocking. As I write this, Firefox claims that it has blocked 47 trackers. For the record, it’s 11:15 on Sunday morning. I’ve been on Twitter, Facebook, Flipboard, my blog, and a couple of newspaper websites. I haven’t even checked my email yet; it’s the weekend…

So, what’s it blocking?

There’s a warning that some sites won’t work with this level of paranoia. That’s always been the concern when you’re using blockers. For those special times when I absolutely need to go to a website, I’ll open it in a Private Window so that it can set all the cookies it wants and they’ll be gone when I close the window.

If you do one bit of learning today, read the corresponding documentation from Mozilla.

Trackers and scripts Firefox blocks in Enhanced Tracking Protection

This Week in Ontario Edublogs


Well, as noted yesterday, it’s been a tough couple of days. As it turns out, despite all of the troubleshooting undertaken, the voicEd Radio edition of This Week in Ontario Edublogs ended up not being saved. Such are the challenges of live radio.

Never fear though – today is another day and here’s the blog version with the five posts that Stephen and I had a nice chat about and a couple of more.


Class Size and Composition Matters

On the ETFO Heart and Art blog, Deb Weston shares her thoughts backed with plenty of research and a lesson in history about classrooms. The key message is right up front.

Much has changed in the last few years with the promotion of student integration and inclusion of special education students into mainstream classrooms. This integration policy further resulted in closures of contained classrooms thus limiting alternate options for students with significant learning and behaviour needs.

I’m not sure who her intended audience is with this. Those who go to a classroom later today know what realities and challenges they face. Old timers like me will remember self-contained classrooms and even schools where specialized teachers could intensively help every student. We knew that not every student had the same pathway.

That’s not the reality today. In a few years, there will be teachers that will just have to listen to the stories of the good ol’ days. I certainly hope that Teacher Education is staying abreast of this; I know that my Faculty days didn’t cover anything about how to deal with such classrooms.

I think that the most shameful part of this post is the recognition of some parents that they can’t wait for the school system to test students for appropriate modifications and are paying for it themselves.

Students, Education Assistants, Teachers, Parents, Principals, School Districts are all aware of the challenges. It seems that it’s the province which guides the funding isn’t. Or isn’t listening.


Exam

Well, you know what they say about paybacks!

Amanda Potts takes a little retro-educational trip to take a course for upgrading. Kudos to her for that.

But, there’s one thing. Assessment, er, final exam!

Three hours of it.

I haven’t written a three hour exam since university so I felt for her. My most striking memory was hating those that finished early and got up and left. Are they really that much smarter than me?

Writing the exam at home bring in modern comforts like a tea for company during the time period but that also brings up new challenges.

I’ll admit to smiling when she describes the exam and how she attacks it just like we tell students to. Nobody starts on question 1 and then moves on. You plan strategically as she describes.

There are a couple of takeaways.

I’m lucky because I know I did well, but I have renewed empathy for my exam-hating students.

So congratulations to her and let’s hope that her “exam-hating students” will be the recipient of a different form of final assessment.


Digital Breakouts Using Google Forms

The concept of the breakout room has been big over the past couple of years. And, if is good enough to gain the attention of the general public, why not the classroom?

Shelly Vohra shares how she implemented a breakout strategy with her students. I think there’s a great deal of value for those of you who are considering this because Shelly describes step by step how she implemented things when she did it.

Since it has a digital component, Shelly used Google Forms as a strategic tool to do the deed. If Google products are used regularly, technology wouldn’t get in the road and mess things up.

There, except for a combination, lies the prize.

She describes a successful venture with her class.

Would such an approach work for you? Check out this site for even more details.


O is for Outside the Box

I’m not sure when I first heard the expression about “thinking outside the box” but I’m pretty sure that if I had a dollar for every time I heard it, I’d be fairly wealthy.

Lynn Thomas goes way beyond the superficial treatment often given by keynote speakers. Quite frankly, it’s used with the intent to inspire but I don’t know that it ever worked for me. I was always looking for exciting things to do; without them teaching can be a pretty boring profession. When you inspire students with thoughts about different things from a progressive and creative teacher, good things happen.

Have you ever seen a child take a big box and turn it into the coolest fort ever? No one said your box had to or should remain as is, using the box in a new way is all it takes.

I love the fact that she encourages you to consider that box and might have some success just modifying the box!

Of course, my focus is typically about technology and I think an Exhibit A might be those Breakout lessons described above.


Feeling the Ground by Getting Some Air

Terry Greene apparently has a fan club and members of that club asked him to blog on the WCET Frontiers website.

In this blog post, he shares the what, who, and how of his passion for podcasting.

What – just what is a podcast and why would someone want to create something like this? In particular what is “Gettin’ Air”, Terry’s podcast.

Who – now he’s just name dropping! Terry gives some indication of people he’s talked to and why. I like his criteria – Every one of my guests does important, interesting, and fabulous work

How – for the uninitiated, Terry shares his tools of the trade. Podcasting really isn’t a new thing and I had to smile thinking about the Snowball microphone. I used one of those in the 2000s. The problem I always had for long stints talking was feeling that I was nailed to the chair in one position because you don’t want to fade in and out!

I was glad to read that Terry is continually planning for the future. It will be interesting to see what he has in mind.


If we want our students to (insert word) it starts with us

Before I even read Jonathan So’s blog post, I tried a few different words – succeed, pass, win – of course, I used positive words.

Then, I read the post and got his message. Dare I say he’s thinking “out of the box”?

So, as a premise as both a parent and teacher he wonders how he can get students to try new things and will he have better success if he’s trying new things himself?

It’s an interesting concept that had me asking a couple of questions…

  • do the kids or students actually have to see you experience those new things or is just knowing that you doing them are good enough?
  • does trying something new give you empathy for something else – like, oh, writing a three hour exam, for example

Every now and again you’ll hear about the “need to fail in order to succeed”. I think the message here goes much further than that – there’s a meeting of the minds taking place that raises the stake significantly.


Slice of Life: Published

Really short blog post here by Lisa Corbett and I’ll summarize it.

She wrote something and got paid for it.

The comments to her post are much longer than Lisa’s actual post. That’s always a good thing.

You can fact check me if you wish but I’d bet real money that Tolstoy’s first writing wasn’t “War and Peace”.

In Lisa’s case, I can see all kinds of things.

  • she’s now published – things like that are important for resumes
  • her ego just got stroked – someone likes her stuff enough to publish it
  • she’s going to be more likely to write something publishable again
  • a whole lot of people that Lisa doesn’t know just read her thoughts
  • she’s on her way to being an authorative voice in another medium beyond her blog(s)
  • she probably had a professional proofreader to make her content look masterful
  • that ice cream is going to taste extra special

So, congratulations, Lisa! Remember us little guys struggling to write blog posts on your way up the publishing ladder.


What a lovely collection of blog posts! There’s a great deal of terrific writing and a little something there for everything. Please take the time to click through and read the original posts.

Follow these people on Twitter:

  • @dr_weston_PhD
  • @Ahpotts
  • @raspberryberet3
  • @thomlynn101
  • @greeneterry
  • @MrSoclassroom
  • @LisaCorbett0261

I’m sorry that the radio version didn’t go live. You missed Stephen with a bad case of the hiccups.

The blog post originated on:

https://dougpete.wordpress.com

If you read it anywhere else, it’s not the original.

Useful assistant


I don’t know that I ever was really excited about the assistants that are available for use. Of particular interest was the Google Assistant.

Who hasn’t heard the “OK Google” as someone activates it on a device.

And, who could forget the infamous Burger King commercial.

I wasn’t terribly excited when Chromebooks started having the ability to use the assistant in Version 77. But, I’m going to change my mind.

Now, I’m not sure that I’m going to use the voice ability. A lot of the time, whenever I talk, the dog interprets it as “Let’s go for a walk”. But there’s another way to activate the assistant. Just use the shortcut key Search+A and a window pops up over top of your screen where you can do an immediate search.

OK, now this is a simple example. I mean I could just look out the window or listen to the rain on the roof. But, there’s a bigger advantage for me.

Often, when working I’ll need to research something and will open a new tab. By the time that I get to that tab, I’ll have forgotten what I was going to look for. Don’t judge me – it happens to you too.

But, allowing the assistant to overlay my existing screen, I can seize the moment. Believe it or not, once this revelation hit me, I use it all the time.

Best. Timesaver. Ever.

I just went into the settings and turned off the vocal response.

It’s working great for me.