Is set and forget good?


I think we all would like to think that we set up a computer, set up services, set up this and that, and we’re good for time immemorial.

That might work if you were in total control of everything.  But, if this world of computer updates and services that we use changing, I’m convinced that’s not a good approach.

So, I do and recommend to others that they check their settings and see just what it is that you’re allowing to be shared – and with whom.

It will take a few minutes but it’s a good summer cleanup / checkup activity.

There are three biggies for me.

  1.  Google.  https://myaccount.google.com/privacy
    Screenshot 2017-07-25 at 09.22.40
    It’s not just for search anymore.  You watch videos, manage documents, buy things, search for things, share things, use social media, log into other services using your Google account.  Just what are you sharing with the world?
    Log into your Google account and then follow the link above and double check.  You may be surprised at just how much information is available and how you’re sharing it.
  2. Facebook.  https://www.facebook.com/settings?tab=account
    Screenshot 2017-07-25 at 09.17.47Of course, all of the above applies to Facebook as well.  But, there’s a little more since Facebook is all about the sharing of information and, often, very personal information.  In addition to working your way down the list, pay special attention to the Privacy section and see just who is able to see your content.
  3. Twitter.  https://twitter.com/settings/account
    Screenshot 2017-07-25 at 09.21.06You know, for 140 characters, there are certainly all kinds of settings that can be tweaked to make sure that you’re getting the most from the experience.  Most of these settings should be familiar now once you’re checked your Google and Facebook settings.  An important one to check is “Apps”.  Just how many applications and services have you given access to your Twitter account to?  You might be surprised.  Revoking the ones that you’re currently not using is a good idea.

Do you feel safer and more confident about your online presence now?  Of course, these three are just the biggies.  If you have a Bing, Yahoo!, Zoho, or more accounts, it’s worth checking out to make sure that it’s all good on your end.  Things do change since you set up your original account.

It’s just a nice rainy day activity.

Put it in your calendar as a recurring event.

Learning about voice


This should definitely be in the running for Exhibit A when you get into the argument that the computer adds more to the learning environment than just a textbook.

The topic is science and how does your body generate sounds.

Now, back in the day, I remember how I learned about this.  There was this picture in the textbook and we were given handouts and were told to label the various parts.

That was pretty much it.

What if you could simulate things?  Well, you can with the Pink Trombone.

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This is so cool.

Grab your mouse or you finger and explore the various parts of your inner mouth.  Well, maybe not your mouth but a really good simulation.

Time flies


I had forgotten about this activity until I checked into this infographic.

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The complete infographic and the story behind it is available at

How the Average Working Adult Spends Days.

So, check it out to see where all those hours (days) went.

The activity?  In an elementary or secondary school, it would just be a guess since students have a lot of living to do yet.  Part of that living should be spent mastering spreadsheets and the features that they include.  Certainly, one of the more helpful is to take data and visualise it.

Data?  What data?

Each of the individuals in your class has a story to tell about their time.  In the activity, we would create a column for the activity and then columns for the week.  Data is entered daily in terms of hours/minutes.  Just be consistent.

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At the end of the week, it’s just a matter of tallying the rows to get a weekly summary.  Then the fun begins.  Are there any trends?  Can we convert each activity to a percentage?  Where do we spend most of our time?  Can we adjust our lives to change the time?  Can we collect to the data for the entire class to see where we stand in comparison?  Are there any activities that are out of whack with a happy life?  The list goes on and one.

Even more powerful that looking at the raw data is converting it to a graphic form.  Your spreadsheet application has you covered nicely there.

Google Sheets

From the Insert Menu, select your data, select Chart, and then decide what type of chart would be represent this data.

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Excel Online

The Insert menu flies out a number of options.  Don’t forget that, under each type, there are a number of additional options.

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The possibilities and options are almost endless.

In addition to a discussion about things that students do and how they spend their time, there’s a wealth of spreadsheet understanding embedded.

It’s only a feature when …


… it does what you want it to do.

A current rage/feature is voice recognition to instruct your device to do what you want it to.

In the field, we have Alexa, Google Home, Siri, Cortana and probably more that I don’t know about.  The naysayers will have us believing that the next field of privacy encroachment will be one where our devices listen to us and report back to someone or something.  Recently, we’ve heard of the television that “spies on you”.  Your Samsung SmartTV Is Spying on You, Basically   And, of course, the internet will provide advice and tips for protecting your privacy.  How to Prevent Your TV Spying on You  Is this the price we pay for having the latest features, higher than high resolution, a television that’s really just another internet connected device?

Now, my television isn’t modern enough to spy on me.  I hope.

But, this hits just a little closer to home.

Would it work here?

You see, I have this watch which is awesome for voice searches and quick note taking when I’m away from the keyboard.  I took a quick look around the room to make sure that nobody was watching so I wouldn’t have to explain it, turned off the speakers playing the music I always listen to while blogging, tapped the watch to make sure that it was awake, held my arm close to the computer speakers, started the video above to play it, sat back to watch, and take a picture when the magic happened.  Yes, I do think I have three arms at times like this.

The result?

In the big scheme of things, this really isn’t that big a deal.

Stepping back, suppose I was walking the dog and was curious to know what went into a Whopper.  I could have done the “OK Google” and issued the command myself.  That is good.  For Burger King to do it over the television in the form of advertising is bad.  Put yourself in the position of the watch developer.  How do you program something like that to know the difference?

I suppose the immediate solution would be voice recognition.  It’s OK for Doug’s voice to ask the question but not for some random person on television or YouTube not to.

A nice feature for a home assistant would be to “OK Google, allow my visitor to get on the WIFI”.  That would save the inevitable question when a visitor arrives to do some work with me.  But, I don’t want my mooching neighbour to be able to do the same thing.

I read once that there are two industries that take the lead in exploiting the latest technology – Adult Entertainment and Advertising.  It does pose real challenges for the end user and for applications to use it in the way that we want and not the way that someone/something else wants.

It’s not just this immediate technology that does things you don’t want.  There are a couple of games that I play regularly on the iPad to kill some time.  After I’ve played them long enough, I start to know what the next dialogue will be.  If I get into a routine of rote playing, I know what’s coming and where I should be tapping.  However, at random, the game will insert an advertisement to download another application, or buy some coins, or watch an advertisement, or …  More than once, I’ve whacked the home button and threatened to throw the device away when this happens.  Again, I hope that there was nobody watching.  My personal solution was to ensure that only I can buy things by requiring my password each time something is acquired from the Apple Store rather than having it saved and filled in automatically.

Google apparently has fixed this problem. It Looks Like Google Has Shut Down Burger King’s Ad

But, you can’t devise a strategy by putting your finger in the dike every time you see a leak.  I suspect that we’ll see a permanent solution with time but, in the meanwhile, we do need to keep an eye on our devices and make sure that they are doing what we want and not what others want.

How about Burger King’s competitor?  McDonald’s puts you in control.  New McDonald’s Ad Urges People to Google ‘That Place Where Coke Tastes so Good’  I just had to ask.  The difference is that I asked the question.

Think it’s not a big deal?  Check out the commands available per device.  Do you want to be in complete control or are you comfortable with someone/something else at the reins?

This explains a lot


I really enjoy it when interactions generate lots of new things.  That happened to me this past week.

As she regularly does, Aviva Dunsiger made a comment on one of my blog posts and turned me on to a resource being served up to the world on the Hamilton Wentworth commons.  In the process, she brought Jared Bennett into the conversation and a new name for me, Andrew Kelly.

The conversation revolved around the application ExplainEverything.  Jared had jumped in first with his comment about using $0.99 apps in the classroom for limited purposes or free ones that clutters the screen with advertising.

Andrew got into the midst; I checked out his profile to make sure that he was an Ontario Educator and, upon a thorough background check added him to one of my lists.  In checking his profile, I found a couple of new blogs Start Stop Continue and Critical Math.  And, a few clicks later and they added to the Livebinder of Ontario Edubloggers.

So, all this background leads me to the resource that was at the heart of this conversation.  It’s an Open Educational Resources Repository.

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What started all this was, of course, the conversation about ExplainEverything and a number of  templates are available at this site along with other resources.

Things can be located by a search interface…

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I would encourage you to visit the site and poke around to see if there are some resources that are of use to you.  Hopefully, you’ll be successful and inspired to create some of your own.  There appears to be a submission option to share your masterpiece with others.

A cipher widget


Another widget from code.org takes you on the route to encrypting messages.  If you’re going to send a message, you need to do something a little sophisticated than what we did in elementary school which, if I recall, was as simple as moving each character in the message one ahead.  So, DOUG becomes EPVH.  Then, you’d pass the note along to a friend who would roll the characters back one to get the original message.  And, you’d also have rules like what to do when you use a Z or punctuation mark.

You’d be hard pressed to decrypt my message of the day.  “FBFVXGYXCFWOHAWKCEHINF”, I’ll bet.  But if you use the Vigenere Cipher Widget, it’s a piece of cake.

You need to provide a couple of things.

  • your message
  • your secret key

Then, let the widget do its thing.  

Using your secret key, it will take the original message and code it for you.

When you press the play button to make the magic happen, you can see the widget at work as it determines how to encrypt your message.  

Of course, the process can work in reverse as you take your encrypted message and decrypt it.  

Falling from this could be a great discussion about how you do banking and make online purchases safely.  Or even something as simple as sending an encrypted message to someone that they would later decrypt and read.  Of course, you don’t send the key and the text in the same message.

The best thing to happen?

After poking around for a little while, the inspired Computer Science student will want to write a routine of their own.  That always puts activities like this over the top.

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.