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.

In search of

For the well connected citizen, there isn’t a terrible need to remember everything.  Just search for it.

Or rather, “just Google it”.

Can there be no bigger commercial name that has become part of our language.  I can think of a few.  How about this…

“I’ll have a Coke”.

What kind?

It’s interesting to see something like that take over a whole class of things.  In this case, searching.

You never hear

“Just Bing it” or

“Just Duck Duck Go it”

But how many times are you told to “Just Google it”

Even if you use one of those search engines, the language hasn’t adopted it.

Today’s connected person uses search all the time rather than remembering facts or learning everything.  It drives you crazy at times but why rely on a memory that might or might not be 100% correct when your search engine can give you the facts that you’re looking for?

Who doesn’t use a search engine as a second opinion to a doctor, to get directions to a location, to fact check something that you’ve just seen on television, to dig up a new recipe for those leftovers, and so much more?

As we all know, search engines retain these things unless you find some way to turn it off or use a utility that does your search in an anonymous manner.

We all should know that you can check out your popular searches.  So, if you “Google” things and keep the history alive, you can always check your searches here after logging in to your Google account.

It should also not come as a surprise that you’re just one in a billion but when the results from those billions are accumulated, it’s interesting big data to read.

Google has pulled together some really interesting facts in what it calls “Google’s Year in Search”.  Check the link here –

I found it fascinating.  No longer was a search history based upon the whim of this guy just looking up stuff, it’s a snapshot of an entire nation searching.

So, if you’re searching for Canadians, here are the top hits.

Isn’t that an interesting list?

Top ten lists are available for news stories, politicians, sports celebrities, and more.

There certainly is huge value in the results and brings back some memorable moments from 2016.

In the classroom though, I could see this being a very interesting provocation for some serious digging.  Why did these names make the list?  What did they do or what significance is the topic to Canadians.

It really would bring forward some excellent discussions, speculations, and research.

Well, actually, I did know…

… at least some of these things.

It doesn’t take long when you’re reading about things online to run across a post that is titled XXX Things You Didn’t Know About Google.

How did they know I didn’t know about them?  <grin>

When you’ve been around the internet block once or twice, you do tend to use features and don’t really think about them.  Certainly, I wouldn’t put them into a post although it used to be fun to do various things online during workshops.  The more we spread the knowledge, the better we all become.  I’m a firm and continuous believer in that.

Having said that, I still click through and read the posts.  There’s something powerful about being able to say to myself – hey, I already knew that.

On the other hand, it’s even more powerful to find a feature that I truly didn’t know about or had forgotten.

Such was the case with some recent reading.  I love it when there’s a takeaway that makes me know just one more thing.

17 incredibly useful Google products and services you didn’t know existed

Hah!  I was ready to add 17 checkmarks upon first skim until I saw this.

  • There’s a “Manual” feature in Google Translate that lets you draw characters or symbols.

This really makes sense if you don’t want to load a different language keyboard.  I’m not sure how often I would use it but it was fun to play around with.

10 Google Services You Probably Didn’t Know – Extended

There was nothing new here – especially when some of the services in the post were exactly the same as in the collection above!

17 surprising things you didn’t know you could do with Google

What’s with the number 17?

I thought this was going to be another repeat, this time from MSN, but it was different (and dated).

  • The cheapest airfare from all the major travel booking websites at once

I didn’t know this.  I always use Hipmunk for that sort of thing.

With this bit of knowledge, I could now start my own travel agency!

10 Fun Facts You Didn’t Know About Google

Then, I hit the gold mine with this one.  Really not a service but certainly will put me over the top during any trivia challenge.  I only knew a couple of things from this post but now know:

  • What was the first Google Doodle
  • The First Google Storage Was Made From LEGO – really?
  • Google’s First Ever Tweet
  • Google’s First Ever “Company Snack” Was Swedish Fish
  • The Google Logo Was Not Centered Until 2001
  • Google Has a Company Dinosaur

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all this new found knowledge but it was fun learning!

Why aren’t there any posts about services from Microsoft I don’t know about?  Well, here’s one 10 THINGS YOU PROBABLY DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT MICROSOFT.

Experimenting with the planet

Some things just come out of the blue and get me hooked immediately.  Such was the case with Land Lines, a Chrome Experiment.

Make sure that you can allocate an appropriate amount of time to play around with this experiment!

You start with two options – draw or drag.

Both are addictive but in different ways.

With draw, it’s just a matter of drawing a line on the screen.  The logic behind this experiment then looks in Google Earth for an appearance of that line in its collection of images.

I started with my teacher tool.  The checkmark.  Over and over I entered it and enjoyed the results of things that looked like checkmarks.

I decided to go with the checkmark that can be seen from this airport.

Next is drag.  The speed and variety of drag is quite impressive.  As you drag your cursor across the screen whether by mouse or by finger, this experiment tries to stay with you, dropping imagery into place.

To quote Mr. Spock, “Fascinating”.  It’s quite impressive how things line up – usually rivers but not exclusively.

A Better Zoom

Like many people, I use the zoom in and out feature of the computer I’m using to zoom text in and out.   It can be very handy if you’re doing a presentation and want to show a particular part of a web page to the back of the room.  You just zoom in and move the screen so that what you want to show off is centred and away you go.  

Typically, the command is done with a CTRL/CMD and + or CTRL/CMD and – with a CTRL/CMD and 0 resetting things.  In addition to presentations, it can be handy to use when you hit a web site that uses a very small font.  Rather than squinting, just zoom in on it a bit.  

That’s how I thought that zooming was all about until I played around with the Zoom Extension.

This extension takes the guess work out of resizing your screen.

It installs like any other extension and, when you click the Z, a little slider bar (or a – and +) appears to let you adjust the size on the screen to precisely what you want.

If that was all that the extension did, it would still be worth installing.

However, there’s more.  Right click on the icon to get to the options.

There’s actually two ways that the extension will use to zoom.  It will either use the browser default or will tinker with the web page’s CSS for the effect.  That’s impressive but the singularly most impressive part is that the extension will “remember” the zoom level for a web page.  This, I find, to be extremely helpful for those news sites that don’t present their content in easily human readable size.  Set the new zoom size and forget it.  When you return to the website, things will be exactly to the liking that you left.  

Give the extension a shot and see what you think.  It may well be exactly what you’re looking for.  

Coding Snowflakes


A reason to do all this coding.  Google offers you the opportunity to create your own snowflake.

I can remember an activity pretty close to this in elementary school.  It involved paper, folding, cutting, (ripping), unfolding, smoothing it out, and then putting it under a text book for a while to get it as flat as possible.  Then, we got to take it home and share with mom and dad.  It was exciting at the time – imagine cutting symmetrical holes in the middle of paper instead of coming in from the edges.

I suppose that’s pretty tame by today’s standards.

If you’ve used Google Maps recently, you may have seen a link counting down until Santa takes off.  We’re all counting on this not being a fake news story.

Clicking through takes you to a December countdown of activities tracking Santa.  Kids today have it so good.  My advent calendar had chocolates.

In particular, take a look at #4 where you’ll be able to Learn how to Code a Snowflake.  If you used any of the many block coding languages available during the Hour of Code, you’ll be right at home here.

Below the cup of hot chocolate and the workspace, you’ll see your tools for the task.

In true block coding fashion, you just drag and drop them onto your workspace.  The little white triangle is an indicator that there are options available for each block.  So, maybe you want to rotate with an angle other than 30 degrees.  You’re covered.  You’ll be able to use two of the three coding conventions – sequencing and repetition – to create your snowflake.

This is no small task.  You’ll want to know exactly how many times to repeat until you get that perfectly symmetrical snowflake.  How many different kinds of patterns are available.?  You won’t know until you try them all.

Did anyone miss all the mathematics that’s happening here?


What would a snowflake be without a way to share it with mom and dad?

But first you’ll need a suitable background….

Then it’s time to share via your platform of choice or by email!  You have so many options.

Then, make sure you return to Santa’s Village and check out all of the other neat activities.  You’ll need to do it daily to get them all.

I still can’t draw!

But I try.

This experiment from Google turned me on to just doodling at bit.

Called Quick, Draw!, the application gives you something to draw.

You have 20 seconds to do your best.

As you draw, the application uses machine learning to try and guess what it is that you’re drawing.  Now, the skeptic will say “that’s pretty easy; it told you what to draw”.  If that was it, it wouldn’t be fun.

But it is fun; as you draw, the application “thinks” and when it recognizes something or some pattern, it will give you a hint as to what it thinks you’re drawing.  When the application has it figured out, you’ll get an “Oh, I know…” and shoots you the answer.

You guessed it!  It’s addictive.

When I first played around with this, I was on a laptop and used my trackpad to draw.  This generated some pretty bad trials which improved a bit when I used my mouse to do the drawing.  I’m sure that you know that my first attempts were pretty straight and not terribly well done.  I graduated to my Bamboo tablet and then to the iPad.  With a better device, I was able to do better drawings.  You’ll notice that I never said that I ended up with something good.

But I tried.

The application claims that it learns based upon what you draw and that it uses the same sort of technology that Google Translate does.  Over time, it claims that your drawings will make it smarter.  That’s the key to successful Machine Learning.

I just hope my attempts don’t dumb it down!

It’s fascinating to watch the learning as you draw.  There are definite Machine Learning “Ah hah!” moments when the application gets it.  One object that I had to draw was a crown which ended up looking more like a baseball glove.  But, it was drawing the points that gave it away to Quick Draw!

In the meantime, let your inner artist or your students’ inner artists put it to the test.  It could lead to some interesting discussions about how “smart” computers are and can be – very appropriate for a discussion during Computer Science Education Week.