Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Sketchnoting - Yes, You Can!

Several years ago, I would see sketchnotes come across my social media feed and think, "Wow, that's incredible.  I wish I could draw." I wasn't an artist, how could I possibly be expected to draw things on my notes? Notes by Sylvia Duckworth and Wanda Terral would scroll by on my Twitter feed while I sighed longingly, wishing I could create beautiful and useful images like those. You see, I knew that images were powerful and that they would improve my learning, I just didn't think I was capable enough or talented enough to give it a try. After having conversations with many others about sketchnoting, I'm positive that I wasn't alone. Too many people think that they aren't artistic enough to make sketchnotes. Guess what? That's a lie. A big one! It may be true that you aren't very artistic. It may be true that you don't draw well. I certainly didn't. However that doesn't mean that you can't sketchnote. You can. Everyone can.

Now, will everyone's sketchnotes turn out like Sylvia's or Wanda's notes? No, of course not, but they don't need to! Sketchnotes are first and foremost for the person who creates them. They help the person taking notes to make deeper connections to the content and to solidify the information in his/her brain. They don’t have to be amazing and frame-worthy every time. I guarantee you that if you give it a try, and stick with it a bit, you'll surprise yourself. It takes some time to develop your style and find what works for you, but it is so worth it. Sketchnotes are so powerful! When I sketch, I retain the content so much more than when I used to jot notes in a notebook or type them in a document on the computer. I can close my eyes and think of a conference session I attended or book that I read and see the colors I used in my sketchnote. I can recall the images and icons and even some of the main ideas just from the memory of my sketchnote. The gain is worth the risk.

For me, it took getting an iPad where I could draw and then quickly hit undo and try again. That gave me the confidence to go ahead and take the risk and try it out. After a while, I got involved with a community called #Sketch50 on Twitter which helped me practice and experiment with sketching. Eventually that led me me starting the #SketchCUE event which you can read more about here. In honor of the second annual #Sketch50 event in April 2018, I made a short video that chronicles my Sketchnoting journey. I hope you find it inspiring.

I want to challenge you to give Sketchnoting a try. Start simple - choose a black pen/pencil/marker and one color. Practice with some simple shapes or sketch your favorite quote. Write the words in black and then try to add some emphasis to the important words by changing the size or font or color. Allow your creative juices to flow - you have them even if you think you don’t. Trust me, I was the person who said I could never sketchnote because I wasn’t an artist. Get on Twitter and check out #Sketch50 or check out their website at Take a look at the slides from the beginning sketchnotes session I run called The Power of Sketch and try out some of the prompts. In whatever way you are comfortable - pick up a pen or a stylus, lean into your growth mindset, and start sketching.  

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Google Drive: Update Your File Versions

With a Google Doc, Slide, Form, Sheet, or Drawing in Drive, it is easy to go in and make changes - even if you have already shared the link with someone.  The links you share out take the user to the live document - meaning they automatically see any updates or changes you might make.  That's fantastic!  However, what do you do if you need to update a PDF, image, video, or audio file after you've shared the link?  Google has a solution for that too!

If you need to update a video, audio, image, or PDF file in Google Drive - but you want to maintain the same link for the file because you've already sent it out, just right click on the file in your Google Drive and choose "Manage versions" from the list. 

Now you have several options.  You can see all the versions of your file as well as a button to upload a new file.  If you click on the three dots menu for each version, you have the ability to delete, download, or keep forever.  Generally, versions older than 30 days will delete automatically.  If you want to keep an old version for some reason, be sure to go in and tell it to 'keep forever'.  

Now you can upload a new version of your file, or even a brand new file if you wanted, and keep the same URL link.  This can come in very handy if you noticed a mistake in a file you have already shared out, or if you need to update your file with new or updated information.  

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Student Made eBooks with Google Slides

Google Slides is not just for presentations - it does so many things!  One thing you might not expect to be able to do with Google Slides is make eBooks.  Guess what?  You can!  The best part is that it's very easy for you and your students to create beautiful looking eBooks using Slides.

eBooks can be a great activity for many purposes at any time of the year, but can often come in handy as an end of the year review project.  With Google Slides, students can be creative with their images, fonts, and even embed videos or other web links into their eBooks. When students are finished creating the books, they can embed the Slides files in a digital portfolio or other class website.  They can even download the Slides file as a PDF and now they have a book anyone can read on any device!

Here are a few very simple templates I made using Google Slides that you and your students are welcome to use.  They can add to them and get as creative as they would like.  Click on the links below to view the templates.  To use the template as your own, click the blue "Use Template" button in the upper right.

eBook Dark - Landscape
eBook Light - Landscape
eBook Dark - Portrait
eBook Light - Portrait 

eBook Activity Ideas:
  • Creative Writing/Fiction - example embedded below
  • Historical Fiction 
  • Informational Pamphlet
  • Non-Fiction Book (Great for science and Social Studies topics, reviewing animals, space, chemical and physical reactions, historical events, places, and people, etc.)
  • A book of story problems complete with answer key
  • Poetry
Creative Writing/Fiction eBook Example

Be sure to check out a few of my other posts about creative ways to use Google Slides!

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Quick and Easy Assessments with Google Forms

Making assessments with Google Forms is quick and easy - no really!  I promise!  Google Forms will automatically grade multiple choice and fill in the blank questions while allowing you to quickly and easily add or adjust points for longer answers or fill in the blank answers that might have been just a little off.  You can share the grades with the students immediately if it is all multiple choice, or send feedback to them later as an email.

Google Forms may sound daunting, but it really is so easy to use!  My Google Forms 101 post can help you learn more about making a Google Form, sending it out to students, and handling the results.

The video below shows specifically how to make a self-grading quiz using Google Forms.  It shows the different question types you can use and explains how the answer key works.  You'll also learn how to view the responses and enter scores for questions it can't grade automatically.  Between these two resources, you have everything you need to start building Assessments with Google Forms.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Google Slides: Edit the Master Slide Layout

Sometimes you want students to have a specific layout in their presentation, or perhaps there are certain shapes, images, graphic organizers, etc. that you'd like to have in the background of a Slides presentation for the students to use as an assignment template - Venn Diagram, specific questions you want to be answered in a certain area of the slide, etc.  This can all be done easily by editing the Theme of your slide deck, which holds all the master layouts.  Anything you place in the Theme builder slides will become part of the background of the slide and students can't accidentally delete it.  You can even choose the default font style, size, and color.  Watch this short video to see how.  Then let your imagination run wild with possibilities!

*Note - this is now found under View --> Theme builder 

Student "Blogs" Using Google Slides

Sometimes you'd like your students to do a blogging type project, but not actually have a real blog.  Google Slides is a great tool for this type of activity.  Each slide can be one entry into the blog.  This is particularly wonderful for giving the students a chance to reflect on their learning - something that is so important but often gets lost in the chaos.

I have created a basic template in Google Slides for a "blog" post.  You can click here to get a copy of it.  Here is what the template looks like:

You'll notice a few things...
  • The slide size is set to 8.5 x 11 to mimic a piece of paper.
    • I did this just in case this needs to be printed for any reason.  You can easily change the slide size to be whatever you want it to be, including something like 8.5 x 14 to give them a longer space to "blog" for each entry.  You can view this post for instructions on how to change your slide size.
  • There is a picture across the top. 
    • This mimics a header or banner that you typically find on blogs.  You can easily adjust the size, color, and font of the title or subtitle, adjust the white layer box, and/or switch out the image to meet your needs.  You can also give your students the chance to adjust these features to fit their style if you'd like.
  • There are a few "Click to add text" boxes.
    • I have gone into the master layout of the slide and added in these boxes exactly where I want them.  They are placeholder boxes that give the "Click here to add text" prompt and they will be on all the new slides that you add.   This post about the master slide layout will help you see how.
  • There is a column for evidence of learning. 
    • This is a place where students can insert images of what they are working on to document their progress.  They could also put text boxes here with links to videos, images, audio files, etc. to show how their work is coming along.  This is geared toward a reflection type blog.  You could use this column for whatever you want.  I included a sidebar because blogs typically have some sort of sidebar and I felt it added to the blog feel of the template.  To change the title of "Evidence of Learning", you'll need to go to the master slide layout and edit it there.  
I would typically put the header image, the white layer box, and the blog title into the master layout of the slide as well so that it will show up on each new entry slide the students add.  I didn't do that here, just in case you are working with older students who want to edit the picture and blog title themselves.  This means they will have to paste those header elements onto each new slide they create.  If you are working with younger students, or you just want your older students to have a specific image and blog title, you can put these elements into the background of the master slide so that they cannot be edited on each individual slide.  You can view this post to see instructions on how to edit the master slide layout.

Using Google Slides for a blog activity is great because you can put links to these "blogs" on your class pages or even embed some of them, which makes it easy to showcase the work to parents or other students.  

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Animate with Google Slides

You can use Google Slides to do a lot of things you might not expect.  One of those things is to create animations.  Yes, you read that correctly.  You can animate with Google Slides.  Here's how!

Create an Animation:

Create a slide that sets the scene for your animation.  Like this one:

Then go ahead and start your animation process.  The trick is to move things on the slide just a tiny bit, duplicate the slide, change it a tiny bit more, duplicate again, etc.  To duplicate a slide quickly, click on the slide in the left side panel and then press Command+D (Control+D on PC) or right click on the slide in the left panel and choose "Duplicate slide".  

Watch the arm on the right in these images.  Here is a zoomed in look at my first 4 slides in the animation series:

See how the arm is moved just a tiny bit between each slide?  I moved the arm with the mouse by just changing the angle of that line a little bit on each new slide.  If you are moving an object instead of just changing the angle, you can use the arrow keys to nudge it, or hold shift while you use the arrow keys and it will move just one pixel at a time.  After a few slides, stop and test your animation by clicking on the first slide and then holding down the right arrow key (or the down arrow) and checking on how the movement looks.  If you move items too much between slides, it might look choppy.

Here is how that whole animation turned out:

Publish Your Animation:

There are a few different ways that you can publish your animation.  The way that you saw it above as a Google Slides presentation that is rapidly advancing slides on its own is the easiest.  Here's how:

In your presentation, go to the "File" menu across the top and choose "Publish to the web".

A window will pop up.  You have a few options here, you can set it to automatically start once the player loads and you can have it restart automatically as well (like mine is doing in this post).  Your choice!  Go ahead and leave the 3 second auto-advance setting.  Once you have your options the way you want them, click the "Publish" button.

Once you click "Publish", it will give you a link you can use to send people to your published show.

When you copy and paste the link, change the number at the very end of the URL, it currently 3000.  This is in milliseconds and will automatically change the slides every 3 seconds.  You want them to advance much faster, like a flip book, so change that number to 100.  Try that out and then adjust the number as needed to find the speed you like for your animation.
Another way to publish your animation is to capture it with a screen recording software and then you'll have it as a video you can share.  If you want to put music in the background, you can use something like iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, or Camtasia Studio to edit the video and add the sound.  You can also just upload your animation to YouTube and then add the background music from YouTube's music library.


Here is a fun little animation by my friend Jen Roberts (@JenRoberts1):

Here is an example I found in a Matt Miller blog post of some students animating a Scientific Procedure.  Click the image to view the Slides presentation.  I recommend going into present mode and allowing the whole presentation to finish loading before you start it.  There are over 200 slides so it can be very choppy unless you do it that way.  

Animating with Google Slides is simple and fun!  Enjoy!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Google Forms: File Upload

I have many teachers wishing there was a better way to collect files like videos and photos from their students.  The separate emails or share notifications from each student can get frustrating and overwhelming.  There is a really easy way to collect these types of files - or any other file for that matter - and you won't have to search through your email inbox or Shared With Me to find them.  The answer?  Google Forms!

There is a question type in Google Forms called "File Upload" and it will ask the person filling out a form to add a file.  Once they hit submit, this file will be uploaded into a folder in your Google Drive and you have sole ownership over the files.  They are not shared with the person who uploaded them - nor can they access the file once they have uploaded it.  This is simply a way for them to quickly and easily submit a file to you.  Keep in mind that the person submitting the file will be required to log into Google - so only people with Google Accounts will be able to upload files.

If you are not familiar with Google Forms at all - check out my Google Forms 101 post which gives you all the information you need to get started making your own form.  You can always feel free to set up an appointment with me as well to help you get going.  You can read on to see how to start a new form and how to find the "File Upload" question type.

To start a new Google Form, browse to your Google Drive and click "New" --> "More" --> and "Google Forms".

Make sure to give your form a title so it looks nice and you will be able to find it in your drive later.  Then you can change the question type from "Multiple Choice" to "File Upload" by clicking on the little drop down for question type. 

You'll get a warning about how it will make the person responding log into Google in order to access your form.  You can just click on "Continue" when this message comes up. 

Now you will see some options for your file upload.

If you turn on the "Allow only specific file types" option, then it will give you some checkboxes to choose which types to allow. You can also choose how many files a respondent can upload and put a limit on the file size.  If they are uploading pictures and videos - you will want to choose a larger maximum size.  You'll also want to adjust the total file upload limit for the whole form by clicking on that little blue "Change" link you see under the "Maximum file size" (pictured above).  You can then set the total file upload limit in the settings there (pictured below).

When someone goes to fill out the form, they will see a little "Add File" link and all they have to do is click to upload their file and hit submit.  Easy!

To find the files that have been uploaded, click on the "Responses" tab of your Google Form.  You will see all the files listed there and you can click the links to open them one by one.  If you'd like to view the folder that contains all of the files, click on the "View Folder" link.  You'll notice that the name of the person who uploaded the file is included in each file name.  Thanks, Google!

Monday, February 5, 2018


*The information below was for #SketchCUE 2018.  Information on #SketchCUE 2019 will be coming soon!


My favorite Ed Tech event of the year is Spring CUE in Palm Springs.  Not only do I get to go and learn, but I get to hang out with all my amazing PLN people face to face.  These people are online colleagues, but I'm proud to call many of them friends as well.  Every January, I start to get excited because I know CUE is just around the corner.  This year, I'm extra excited!  Why?  #SketchCUE!!

I'm a sketchnoter and the Spring CUE conference is when I do most of my sketchnoting.  So many amazing sessions and keynotes - I can't help it!  I LOVE to sketchnote, but I don't consider myself an artistic person.  It has taken me years to practice and dial in my sketching skills and I still don't consider myself artistic.  I do, however, feel confident enough in my sketches to share them out now, but it has been a journey of practice!  I don't know about you, but I love to see other people's sketchnotes.  The way the learning is made visual in so many different styles just blows my mind.  

Last year, I participated in an event that took place after Spring CUE called #Sketch50.  A bunch of people joined together on Twitter and did a sketch a day for 50 days.  This sketching practice helped me so much!  Not only did it give me practice, but it also gave me a library of little sketches that I can copy and paste and use in the future.  This got me thinking...what if we did some sketch practice leading up to CUE?  Something simple and fun that would help us brush the dust off our sketching tools and get some practice in before CUE comes around.  I reached out to fellow sketchnoters Wanda Terral (@wterral) and Cate Tolnai (@CateTolnai) and #SketchCUE was born!

Here's how it works:

From February 5th until March 9th, there will be a prompt tweeted out using the #SketchCUE hashtag each day (weekdays only).  We will have 25 simple prompts that will help you practice your sketching skills.  When it is all said and done, you will have a whole library of sketches that can inspire your future notes.  If you sketch digitally, and your app of choice allows it, you might even be able to copy and paste your sketches directly into your future notes. 

Steps to participate:
  • Watch the #SketchCUE hashtag every weekday from February 5th to March 9th for the daily prompts.  (I will tweet them out, so you could also follow me - @TeachingTechNix.) 
  • Sketch using your tools of choice.  This could be on paper or digitally.
  • Tweet your sketch out to the community using the #SketchCUE hashtag before the end of the day for each prompt.  
That's it.  It's easy and it will be so much fun!  I hope you join in with us during the next few weeks as you prepare to #SketchCUE at #CUE18.

Helping teachers incorporate technology, one tech tip at a time.