What does the fox say?

It’s one of life’s great mysteries, I guess.  

At the same time, sounds of animals are one of the more interesting and engaging things for the youngest of our learners.  I’ve got one app on my iPad that has stood the test of time through three kids.  It’s called SoundTouch and it can’t come more highly recommended.  There is a Lite version if you’re a little leery about shelling out money right off the bat.

For the little fingers, it has the greatest of interfaces…

Click on a cartoon animal and the screen changes to a random image of it, the iPad speaks its name and the name is displayed on the screen.  It’s guaranteed to keep attention for at least two or three minutes but also guaranteed for repeat visits for another go at it.  Animals aren’t the only categories – you can pick a different category from the bottom of the screen.  The imagery is absolutely first rate.

The only real problem that “we” have is forgetting to tap with a single finger and end up sort of mashing the screen with a palm instead.  Experienced iPad users know that that will generate an app switch to something else.  So, if an errant Twitter message gets sent from my account, you now know why!

If you’re not ready for the app yet, how about turning to Google?  If you have the time and patience, there’s lots of goodness in YouTube.

For immediate satisfaction, just send the search message directly to Google “what does a dog say”?

Turn up your speakers and let it woof, er, rip.

Of course, you’ll want to check out all of the sound collection.

You won’t find the fox though.  It still remains one of life’s great mysteries.

Gone skiing …

… at least virtually.

This may be old news to some but I just found it the other day and have been playing with it ever since.

There was a story on the news about Wasaga Beach.  That got me thinking about some of the great beaches that Ontario has to offer.  Grand Bend, Bayfield, Goderich, Kincardine, Southampton, Sauble, …  And that’s just on Lake Huron.  In my youth, I used to visit them all.  These days, I have more of a Lake Erie focus.  Max Webster did their research.

Anyway, back to Wasaga.  If someone was interested, you could start in Grand Bend and follow Highway 21 along the coast to Highway 26 and scoot over to Wasaga and hit all these great beaches en route.  Admittedly, it is quite a bit of a scoot.  A more direct route for me would be to take Highway 4 and enjoy the drive through Wingham, Walkerton, Hanover, Durham, Flesherton, … 

I was “in” my car driving the route on Google Maps.  But, as I left Flesherton, I saw a squiggle to the north. 

Whaaa?  Has Google Maps got a hiccup?

So, I took a detour and zoomed in.

Those squiggles were actually ski runs!  I’d never noticed this before.

I took to zooming in and looking around at the names.  Could it get any better?  Could it?  I grabbed the Pegman from the draw and I’ll be darned if all the trails didn’t turn blue.  They’d been photographed!

You know what I did next.  Well, second.  I first checked to see if the Pegman had grown skis.

Seeing none, I went skiing.

It’s been a few years since I’d been to the Beaver Valley.  I’d forgotten how beautiful it is.  I spent considerable time and bandwidth just running the hills.  I didn’t fall once.

What a trip!  It certainly was a new experience for me.  For my friends from Grey County, how long has this hidden gem been there?  Are there details about how it was mapped?  Snowmobile? 

My apologies to Wasaga … I got sidetracked.

You know search, right?

Warning – if you decide to click through, I’m not responsible for all the time that you’re going to invest in testing your searching skills.

We all know that the key to searching effectively relies upon providing the very best query.  The website “Google Image Quiz” tests your ability to do this on images.

How hard can it be?  It’s not open text; you’re given the correct number of boxes that would describe the image.  Just fill in the blanks.


After investing significant amounts of time in testing and developing my own skills, I finally got one!  Like any good gamification, you’ll get a score to let you know how well you did.  For the record,

NO, it’s not Photoshopped.

The author’s website is even more intriguing and worth poking around for a while.

How good are you?  How good are your students?

It’s a bit humbling but a solid reminder of the importance of good searching terms.

It’s also set off a remembrance in my mind of an article about student searching.  Students will often find something that they can use in the first 10 results of a Google search.  Are they that good at searching or do they have the mindset “that will do”?  The more that we can do to promote good search tactics, the better they’ll be.


Q:  How do you keep me busy for hours?

A:  Give me something new to do with maps.

Consequently, yesterday was pretty much shot thanks to Snazzy Maps.

If you think you know everything about Google Maps, you haven’t played around here.  It’s a wonderfully simple concept.  Take any Google map and apply a style to it.

Why would you want to do this?  Google Maps is great and uses a format so similar to the traditional road map.  (try explaining road map folding to today’s youth…)  But there are times when you might want a different look.  Perhaps you’re looking for something to match the colour scheme of a page you’re working with?  Or, you are using a data projector and the image seems overly bright and washed out.  Or, maybe you’re looking for something that will photocopy and show a better image? 

I’m sure that once you play around with it, you can come up with reasons of your own.

So, your Windsor/Detroit area looks like this on Google Maps.

But a dark shadow has appeared.  It could be from the Republican debate on Thursday or maybe I’m just setting the mood for my latest story.  I just applied this theme – Parks Week: Near Te Papa.

The results are quite impressive.  Settle in – there are pages and pages of different styles.  If you’re into maps, I think you’ll find it quite addictive.

Now, I’ve just done a couple of screen captures for the purpose of this post.  If you’re going to get serious about using this, you’ll want to read the About page to get complete details about what more you can do.  https://snazzymaps.com/about

I’m betting that you’ll take a while to decide on your favourite.  It’s certainly easy to do in the online editing environment.  Your theme appears in the left pane and your live map in the right.

Oooh!  A green one!

Mapping and trivia

Are you up for a little trivia and then plotting the answers on a map?

Then you need to check out Smarty Pins – a withgoogle application.

It’s a simple concept.  Start a new game and go with categories “all over the map” or pick a particular category.

While I normally have challenges with wide open challenges like this, I felt pretty proud of myself that I was able to do as well as I could.

A question challenges you to drop a pin on a Google map as your answer.

Of course, you’ll want to answer as quickly as you can, for bonus kms, and drop that pin as close to the answer as possible. Your kilometres remaining are decreased by the distance from your drop to the actual location. (Don’t forget to zoom in…)

If your mistakes exceed the km remaining, you’re done.

And, there are rewards for accumulating correct answers.

Now … to go for the gold!

Deep memories

As I was writing the post about putting the news in context, I was exploring neighbourhoods with Open StreetMaps, Google Maps and Google Earth.  I was having a great time just noodling around here and there.  I almost forgot what I was doing and that would have meant not writing the post.  Such is the bane of a forgetful mind.

It’s funny how looking down on locations can give you an entirely different perspective.  Close to Forster Secondary School is the University of Windsor.  Just about all educational buildings can be quickly identified by their tracks and football/soccer fields.  So, spotting the University of Windsor was a piece of cake.


It’s certainly so much easier when a school has artificial turf and their names painted on it!  Even I could find it with no problem.

This, compared to my old high school.


We had real grass and, if the overhead cameras had taken a picture on game day, you’d see a fairly well lined field.  I say “fairly” because one of the challenges of a real turf multi-purpose field is that it is seldom flat so when the field is limed, the lines are never perfectly straight.  As a football coach, I’ve blamed many such things as a shortage for a first down!

Of course, if you have a new school, then you get all the goodies.  Air conditioning that works and a beautiful new playing field perfectly visible from space.


As Grade 8 nights approach, I’ve always wondered why school districts don’t do a documentary to promoted themselves “Great athletics happen here”.

To show that I don’t play favourites, here’s a picture of St. Thomas of Villanova which is right around the corner from my old high school.


Now, what’s really unique about this school is the design.  If you look, you can see that the school is built in the shape of a “V”.  I was always impressed with that.  You just can’t do the same thing when your school starts with the letter “S”.

How’s that for a lead-in to what I really wanted to talk about today.  I’m happy with myself.  Like most people, I can be forgetful.  I mean, how many times have I walked into a room and forgot what I was going to do.

I love this quote –

“Did you ever walk into a room and forget why you walked in? I think that is how dogs spend their lives.”
    -Sue Murphy

So, tying all this together.  My mind was happy when it remembered a post from a long time ago.  2009 is the date in the post.

It’s called “Google Maps Typography” and is one person’s attempt to find every letter of the alphabet using Google Earth in his state in Australia.  It’s a fascinating look at earth locations other than looking for football fields!  Each of the letters is linked to the original location so, of course, you can see the original in context.


Here’s a link to a similar project.

There have been so many interesting things discovered from the air using Google Earth.  It puts an entirely different spin on your community, your province, your world.

What letters can your students find in your community?  It’s an interesting question and just doing the task is a rich combination of computer skills.  Of course, the simple task is to find the “what”.  It gets really interesting when you search for the “why”.


Where hasn’t Google been?

Recent events have probably drawn more interest and, hopefully, inquiry about our world. 

I know that I was hit this morning.  I was reading about the arrival of some refugees in Windsor. 

‘I just want to live a normal life, a safe life’: Syrian refugees arrive in Windsor

It was another important feel-good story of how Canada is embracing some of those who have left their homes.  In the middle of the story, the report indicates that the London Diocese had supported people from “Syria, Iraq, Eritrea”.  Eritrea?  That was a new county to me.  So, I did what seemed natural.  I asked Google Maps to find it for me on its world map.

Got it.

My next step was to take a look around using Streetview. Out I dragged the Pegman and nothing turned blue which is the usual indication that there was imagery.  Was Google Maps broken?

So, I went somewhere I knew that there had been images – Windsor – yep, it’s working.

So, back to Eritrea.  Still nothing.  I ended up dragging Pegman around a number of countries close by and noticed that some had been well mapped and others not at all. 

Now, inquiry is getting the best of me.  Obviously, there are some places that had been mapped and others not.  What about world-wide?

This wasn’t going to be as easy as I thought.  I zoomed out as far as I could with Google Maps and just couldn’t fit the entire world on one screen.  Maybe I need a bigger monitor?  Doing things, I also realized how North American centric my mind was.  Every world map that I’ve ever seen has North American on the left and Europe/Asia on the right.  Ditto for South American and Africa.  And, Australia is always way over there on the right.  Probably by logistics, we see bits and pieces of Antarctica but that’s about it.  If I was a student in Australia, what would a world map look like there?

For this experiment, since I couldn’t get the entire world on the screen at once, I decided to carve it up into pieces.  Even that was difficult since I couldn’t get the entire continent on the screen at once.  Time to play with the zoom on my screen in addition to the zoom in Google Maps.  Pegman got really small!  But, I knew where it should be and the cursor still changed to a grabby hand so I was able to pull it out for this purpose.

At this resolution, except for a thumbnail concept exploration, the maps aren’t particularly helpful.  If you’re looking for actual streetview imagery, zooming in rather than zooming out is a much better strategy.  Try hitting Ouellette Avenue in Windsor, for example, from this distance.

But the visual is so interesting.  Probably not for what is mapped but for what isn’t.

Some of the reasons are easy.  In northern Canada, there just aren’t any roads to map!  But, is that the only reason for the rest of the world?