Category: Google

Hey, it’s Cortana

One of my morning news feeds is Microsoft specific.  This morning, it was flooded with the news that Microsoft had released Cortana for the iPad.  Story after story after story about it.

There’s my call to action.

So, I went to the Apple App Store and, not surprisingly, it was the first result for a Cortana search.  Surprisingly, it wasn’t the only result.  So, I made sure that I had the one from Microsoft and downloaded it.

To be honest, I expected to find out that it wouldn’t run on my device.  After all, Siri won’t run on it.  Apple stopped updating the OS on the iPad2 a long time ago.  So, I was pleasantly surprised that Cortana installed without a complaint.

Now, to test it….  Then, you have one of those moments when you realize that these digital assistants want to have access to your entire life.  It needed permission to use my microphone, access to photos, calendar, contacts, …  It’s too bad there wasn’t a button that said “You already have access to all that on my Windows 10 computer, knock yourself out”.  A few permissions granted later and I’m looking at an extremely clean interface.  Now, I could have typed my query like I would normally on Windows 10 but decided to use the microphone.

“What’s the weather in Pong.., Pyong…, Pyeong…, How many times have I heard it on television in the last week?

I couldn’t pronounce it correctly so it was easier to say “South Korea”.  If you look at the results, Cortana knew what I meant and responded appropriately.

CortanaSo, a tap later and I would be on an an appropriate web resource.

What would Google do?  On my iPad, I also have the Google Application.  I asked the exact same question and got this.


What would Siri do?  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find out since I can’t install it.

I’m still up in the air about where or if digital assistants are going to run/take over my life. Heck, I’m still trying to get my head around the difference between the Google App and the Google Assistant.

I still like the concept of typing because it’s mostly accurate as opposed to voice recognition.

I’m still at the playing point and don’t really have a complete opinion yet.  But, as any kindergarten teacher will tell you, playing is good.  I’m fully aware that both are calling home to Bing and Google in the process.

So, I have two opinions that I can turn to if I need to on my iPad.

Just not Apple’s.


Historical pinned pictures

This is absolutely brilliant.

Read on if you enjoy taking a pictorial walk back in time.  I started with the historypin website.

Screenshot 2018-02-07 at 10.51.48

I tried an experiment, fully expecting to strike out.  I asked historypin about my hometown.  I didn’t think that there would be anything about Clinton, Ontario.

I was wrong.

historypin returned an interesting split screen.  On the left of the screen was a Google map showing the town.  On the right was a small, but interesting collection of images.  The first one actually had the Google Peg that, when clicked, overlaid the current Streetview with the image that was posted.  It was an interesting display of then and now.

I did enjoy the pictures that were there but then I started to pay a little more attention.  Except for the first picture which was a sort of default generated icon, all of the other images had a reference to Western Archives, Western University.  I opened that link in a new tab before doing a little more exploring just entering random locations into the historypin search and enjoying the results.  Stratford, Goderich, Chatham, Sarnia, Windsor, Kingsville, Petrolia, …

Then, I went back to the open tab.  It was a summary of activity from the Western Archives.  They had indeed been busy with a total of 3500 pins.  As you would expect, most of the pins were from their London, ON collection.

But not all.

Screenshot 2018-02-07 at 11.08.46

And, I was off.  This is a delightful collection to explore and the positioning on Google Maps puts everything into context.

Those from Southwestern Ontario will appreciate their efforts.  I can only imagine what students would think about the history of their community displayed right before their eyes.

And, of course, that’s just the beginning.  I know that early morning readers of this blog post will come from Hamilton, Peterborough, Thunder Bay, Toronto … you won’t be disappointed.  If you’re checking in from Zug though, it’s empty.  Zurich does have some.

Why not take a digital tour with your students soon?

I’m in charge here

With the upgrade in the Google Chrome browser to version 64 (exactly Version 64.0.3282.119 here), there’s a feature that I’m going to be using quite a bit, methinks.

I’m an early riser and reader.  Unless I’m outrageously tired, I’m up and doing some morning reading around 5am. I’ve mentioned this before; I get a good hour before the dog rises and wants to begin his day.  But there can be moments when all these good intentions and planning go to waste.

I freely admit that it’s my fault and I could definitely do a workaround.  But the thought to do that only kicks in around here when I visit a website that automatically plays music or a video upon visiting it.  With planning, I could have muted my computer but I’ve always relied on scrambling to mute the tab once the sound starts to play.

In Chrome 64, it’s now possible to mute a site.  Just find the offending site and right click on the tab to get the popup menu.


Select Mute site and that’s that with the noise.  You’ll get a visual that the site is muted with a little muted speaker icon right in the tab.


Change your mind?  Right click on the muted tab and unmute it.


I know that people were excited when webpage standards allowed for auto play upon landing on a page.  It was done with good intentions.  However, over time, it’s become annoying and even intrusive.  I like the fact that I can now decide whether or not to allow an entire site to use/abuse me.  I suspect that it won’t be long before other browsers incorporate this feature.

Sometimes, it’s the little things.

Oh, and there are a lot of other things that came in version 64.  Read about them here.


Cool? Or creepy?

Well, you can decide.

It’s the season for that guy with the white beard.  You see him in the malls and kids are asking him questions all over the place.

Well, this isn’t about that guy with the white beard.

It’s about this guy.

Screenshot 2017-12-19 at 07.00.15.png

At AnswerthePublic, he’s there to help and inspire you with your searches.

So, I gave him a chance to answer with information about our Prime Minister.

The results, displayed after a short wait …


You might want to right click and open the results in a new window to view the original image.  But, in the primary wheel, you’ll see the how, when, why, where, … as organizers.

From each of the “spokes” in the wheel are a clickable link to a specific Google search.  So, you may not have thought of this but if you click on the results “how to email justin trudeau”, you’ll get all kinds of suggestions specifically related to that question.  Give it a try; you know you want to.

I’ll admit to being a bit freaked out at first.  I’m worried about who might be looking over my shoulder as I search and now there’s this guy in front of me too.  But, the results definitely took me to places I’d never searched before.

For those students who need a bit of digital help for their inquiry activities or just room to expand their thinking when online, this might turn out to be very useful.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

There’s nothing like the first snow of the year to bring out your inner-Husky.  Now, having grown up in the snow belt, I know that it’s heresy to call what we’re experiencing this morning as “snow” but it’s the sort of thing that gets students here up and checking to see if buses are running or delayed.  Teachers have already done that.

Nothing says more than “winter in Essex County” than walking past the school that we do every morning and seeing the caretaker out in a short-sleeved t-shirt sweeping snow off the sidewalk for students and staff.  Or, Santa Claus arriving by canoe.

If you want one last winter-ish activity for the Hour of Code, check this out.

No matter what the weather is like where you are, I hope that you can take a few moments to read some of the great blog posts from Ontario Edubloggers I ran across this week.

Preserve Our Language Project

When Stephen Hurley and I were discussing this on voicEd Radio, he noted that he hadn’t seen me this excited about something before.  It’s a true statement.  This is an awesome project and I found out about it by being tagged by Mike Filipetti last week during Follow Friday time.  I checked out the project and was just blown away.

So, here’s the deal.  When you get a new computer and set it up, chances are it will have an American English keyboard by default.  You can always change it for your preference.  I always opt for Canadian English.  I’ve also experimented personally with a Dvorak keyboard and it delivered as promised.  But, I dropped it for some reason.  I can recall a conversation with a French teacher who indicated that it was important for French students to see a French keyboard when they’re typing in that language.  Fair enough; that can be done easily enough.  Everyone should be able to keyboard in their language.

What if that language is Ojibway?  On my Macintosh, I’d be out of luck.  Scrolling to the Os reveals…


So, what excited me about this project was that one of the features that they’ve developed is an Ojibway keyboard and made it free to download.  Think it’s not a big deal?  Try this then – switch the keyboards in your class to another language like Persian or Polish and have the students come up with a workaround to be able to type in their own language.

I am excited about this project and some of the other things that you’ll find including videos.  Importantly, check out who all is involved with the project.

It’s a project worth following and please give them a little social media love by sharing this post.

5 ways to turn the ‘hour of code’ into the ‘year of learning’

This post, from Jim Cash, is timely for the end of Computer Science Education Week.  I hope that everyone had a chance to do at least an hour of coding with students.  I also hope that you’re asking yourself “What’s next?”

If you are, this post has some suggestions for moving forward.

I’ll share three with you here…

  • Learn to code by starting your own coding project
  • Think of coding as a literacy
  • Plan a design-thinking, project-based learning activity

You’ll have to click through and read Jim’s entire post to get all five.  His vision of coding as a literacy started an interesting discussion on Twitter.  Personally, I think that  if coding skills are going to become successful and valuable, it needs to be more than a literacy.  How about it becoming a fluency?

As the Hour of Code wraps up and people are thinking of great successes and next steps, ECOO is hoping to engage you in a Twitter chat next Tuesday evening at 8pm with the hashtag #ECOOchat.  I hope to see you there.

What EQAO Doesn’t Know

Just as Jim’s post was timely, this one from Peter Cameron is equally as timely given the Ministry of Education’s review of assessment and curriculum in the province.

This is a long post but well worth the read and to share with others.  Passionate educators will also pause to recognize all of the fallout from testing that certainly couldn’t have been predicted when EQAO was first introduced.

Peter’s post reminds us that there are more than score-buckets sitting in desks in Ontario classrooms.  They’re eager learners who have a whole year to demonstrate their learning in various ways for their teacher.  Yet, there comes that moment in time when they have a pre-determined about of time to write a test for someone else.

If this is deemed to be important, are we doing it properly?  I’d suggest that you forget the notion of the test when you read the post.  Put yourself in the position of the students that he describes.  Would you consider yourself fairly assessed?

Midterm Reflections: #BIT17, PD Day, Midterms, Student Feedback, and Tracking Observations

I had to smile when I read the title to this post from Amy Szerminska.  If I had that many concurrent thoughts, I would have broken it down into five different posts and schedule them for successive days.  There’s a whole week of blogging there!

It was confirming to read her observations of #BIT17 and the importance of connections. You know that Amy is not alone in her thoughts.  We’re more powerful educators when we make these connections.  Hopefully, school districts recognize this when an application is received to go to a conference.  Go beyond the title and what you have always thought about the host; think of the connections that go far beyond the conference.

What I really found interesting was the discussion around the Professional Development Day.  Embedded in the post is her presentation.


It’s a wonderful click through and those in the audience must really have appreciated the conversation that it would have generated.

Speaking of assessment, you have to love this student’s quote

“It’s weird but if I can negotiate my way to a good grade I don’t mind.”

LONDON GOOGLE SUMMIT: Presenting Google Classroom, Meet Entrepreneurship

In case you were wondering whether or not the Thames Valley District School Board was using Google or not, this presentation from Heidi Solway and Jason Bakker will give you a definitive answer.  I really do like it when presenters make their slide deck and other resources available for those who couldn’t attend to enjoy.

Ignite the passion in your classroom by developing your students into entrepreneurs through Project Based Learning (PBL). This project has students producing product, designing marketing, and handling sales at a Business Fair. We will share how to disseminate steps of the project via Google Classroom, having students manage their business in: Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, Drawings, and Classroom. We will also touch on how students might create advertising pieces using tools such as Garage Band, green screen with DoInk and/or iMovie, Please bring a Chromebook or laptop.

Of course, the folks at Google might take issue with the final statement and the use of the word “or”.

The slidedeck links to a thing popular with the Google crowd right now – Hyperdocs.  In this case, they are worksheets to support the concepts from the project.

For the Office 365 folks, a big project like this could easily be adapted to using the O365 tools.

Classrooms Should Be More Like Trains

A “quiet table” in a noisy classroom is rather like a smoking section in a restaurant. I understand that the noise doesn’t stop when it gets to the table (oh, for the ‘cone of silence’!!) Ideally I’d prefer a room where students could go and work quietly if needed. Putting a table in the hallway or some other quiet corner of the school is also a possibility, but obviously supervision and safety is a concern. At the very least, the “Quiet Work Table” shows students that if they need quiet, that’s acknowledged and addressed in some small way.

When I read this post from Andrew Campbell, I recognized how fortunate I was with my classroom setup.  At the time, I had the ability to organize my students according to activity.

The main classroom had tables with movable chairs and wonderfully, a carpeted floor.  Behind us was a room that was supposed to host a mini-computer that never arrived.  It had tiled floor (which was great to avoid the static electricity from the classroom) and more tables to hold our computers.  Behind that was supposed to be the computer operator’s office.  It turned into a seminar room for my class.   And, of course, we had a hallway for additional organization.  All of the rooms had huge windows so you could stand in one and see what was happening in all three.  For those who needed another level of isolation, I was not against the use of headphones.

I really was fortunate.  Andrew makes excellent points and it’s a reminder that the traditional school design never really takes all this into consideration – how are you making for quiet spaces in your classroom for those that want/need them?

OTF and the Professional Learning Ecosystem

If you’re not aware of everything that the Ontario Teachers’ Federation offers, you will be after reading this post from Brenda Sherry.

I think that I knew about all of the various pieces that she touches on in her post but I’d never seen them arranged all together at once.  Looked at this way, it really is impressive.

TLLP – The Teacher Learning and Leadership Program
OTF Connects – live webinars in the evenings
OTF Summer Institutes – 3 day summer sessions
Pedagogy B4 Technology Conference – 3 days of learning
TLLP – Provincial Knowledge Exchange
Teacher Learning Co-op (TLC) – Collaborative teams

Are you aware of these opportunities?  Read Brenda’s post and then head over to the OTF Learning Page.  Check the left sidebar for even more!

Whew!  Yet again, this is a wonderfully relevant and current look at things from Ontario Edubloggers.  We’re so fortunate to have these people sharing their thoughts with us.

Make sure to add all of the above to your list of accounts that you’re following.

If you’re blogging and not in the list of Ontario Edubloggers, please take a moment to visit and add your details.

Hour of Code – Day 1

My project for this week is to take a look at the Hour of Code activities from the Hour of Code website and choose a topic that I’ve never coded before.   I’ll share my experiences here and encourage you to share yours via comment.

So, here we go – Day 1!

I’ve always wanted to create a Google Doodle so the activity “Create your own Google Logo” was my starting point.  I had a little nervousness; after all, I’m not an artist by any stretch of the imagination.  But, I should be able to hold my own coding a project designed for Grade 2 and up.

Big breath and here we go.

It turns out I didn’t have to be an artist to do the tutorial.  Of course, if I decided to go really deeply, I could have drawn by own.  But, I didn’t.

I sat down to watch the first video to explain the project and the things that we might do.  The project is do be done in Scratch and we’re given a “Starter Project” to kick things off.  I was impressed, at the end of the video, with the message about appropriate use of the Google logo.  It’s to be used just within the scope of this project.

That immediately opens the door for a discussion “Why couldn’t we create our own Google website with our logo?”

Anyway, back to the project.  I worked my way through the opening suggestions   Can I openly confess that I played the video and just knew that I could commit all the steps to memory?


Just as suggested in the video, I opened a couple of tabs and moved back and forth.  In the classroom, that might get a little noisy so I could see the teacher computer as a tutorial with everyone following along.  But, once you’ve got the basics, you’re ready to go over the moon.

It’s a question that all coders have.  We’re never done.  We don’t want to know what to do, we want to know what else can I do?

The tutorial page has you covered with a number of other videos ranging from audio to motion to changing the sprites to making random things happen to creating your own little game to … well, you’ll have to check out all of these.  They come with their own video of instructions so that your entire class can make custom creations.

I wish I could show you mine but I’m mindful of the desire not to use the logo for things other than the project.  Blogging might not be an approved use.

But, you don’t need me.  Head over to the tutorial and do your own.

Four minutes gets you the basic and you’ll be confirmed that your class will have a ball creating their own doodles.

Ho Ho Code

December is always a fun time for computer users.  In particular, there’s this abundance of Santa Trackers or similar applications.

Every year, they get more functional, sophisticated, and just plain fun.  Google’s Santa Tracker went online today.  And, there’s so much goodness there and playing with the Advent Calendar events make a daily visit here a must.  There’s always some new fun and enjoyment there, including a multi-player snowball fight.

By itself, this is wonderful but there’s an educational side!

Screenshot 2017-12-01 at 10.49.42

Now, you can safely justify Santa Across the Curriculum by going in on the educational side.  It comes with ready to use activities, including lesson plans!  Take a look at each activity and your mind will start spinning with ideas.

Again, by itself, this is wonderful too.

Could you go deeper?

  1.  How about coding your own Advent Calendar?  Looking for ideas?  Well, the sky’s the limit but how about this?  A popular activity is to code with your language of choice and draw shapes.  What about a “holiday shape of the day”?  The truly protective coder will want to make sure that only the shape of the day is available.
  2. Talk about coding in a serious way.  How does a project like this happen?  Someone at Google didn’t wake up one morning and write this.  It’s been an ongoing project now for over 10 years.  How do you ensure longevity?
    • Fully document things so that you can pass the project off to new coders
    • Draw and map out the logic behind the project.  It’s even a great activity to unpack what we see today.
    • Work in a team.  No one person could possibly have done all this.  How do teams get work done?
    • Planning – how do you plan for the future and add additional features
  3. Consider the user interface – now that the Santa Tracker is available on desktop or mobile application, how to you entice the user to get the most from the application?  How about accessibility?  Music?  Sound effects?  Colours?

Your ideas?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Will you use the Santa Tracker this December?  How will you use it?