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Custom logos: yet another reason to love Google Drawing

Anyone who knows me knows that I love Google Drawing. Partly, it’s because it makes me look like I know what I’m doing when it comes to creating art. In real life, drawing anything more elaborate than a stick figure is challenging to me. I know what I want my result to look like, but I seem to lack the essential brain – eye – hand connection to make it actually happen. Mostly, though, it’s because of how versatile Google Drawing is and how many things you can use it for.

My friend Lisa Nowakowski (aka @NowaTechie) recently reached out to me about doing a podcast for teachers about classroom innovation and I eagerly jumped on board. Supercool domain name of in hand, we needed to have a logo to go with it. My first thought? Let’s create it in Google Drawing! We used shapes to make the whole thing, with the exception of my glasses and a text box. Here’s how we did it. logo with callouts

We started with a transparent canvas 1000 pixels square (File > Page setup > Custom). In the step-by-step tutorial below, I have outlined the shapes in green so you can see them better. In our logo, the outlines are transparent.

Step 1: Insert Shape > Rounded rectangle. Use the yellow handle to adjust the curvature. Did you know you could do that? Neither did I, until very recently.

Logo step 1
The yellow handle is available on many of the shapes in Google Drawing. Check it out!

Step 2: Duplicate and resize your original rounded rectangle to make arms and legs. Move them into position. Add 2 teardrops and stretch them a bit to create the knot at the top of the head.

Logo step 2
Just because it says “teardrop” doesn’t mean it has to be a teardrop.

Step 3: Use a chord to make the face. Adjust size and shape with corners and yellow handles. Fill with an appropriate skin tone.

Logo step 3
This shape has 2 yellow handles!

Step 4: Eyes. We used 3 circles/ovals to make them: colored iris, black pupil, white dot.

Logo step 4
These eyes aren’t creepy at all.

Step 5: Belt. 1 rounded rectangle and 2 Flowchart: Punched tapes.

Logo step 5
Because all ninjas need belts.

Step 6: Select all and duplicate to make the 2nd ninja. I moved it over and changed it slightly; the belt was reversed (Arrange > Rotate > Flip horizontally), the knot was moved, and the eye color was changed to match my baby blues.

Logo step 6
If one is good, two must be better.

Step 7: Add other details. I can’t draw anything freehand (see above), so instead of using shapes for my glasses, I downloaded a pair from, a terrific place to find free, high quality, public domain images, and added them to the drawing.

Logo step 7
I couldn’t draw glasses.

Step 8: Give the logo a little character and depth. Place the shadow beneath the ninjas, and add in the tablet and the coffee cup. The shadow is a gray oval drawn over the top to get the right size, then moved behind the other items (Arrange > Order > Send to back). The coffee cup is a collection of trapezoids, while the tablet contains multiple shapes.

Logo step 8
The gray rectangle gets placed on top of the rounded rectangle and under the triangle to create the tablet.

Step 9: Add the text box. If you want to use the logo somewhere the transparent background could be a problem, either download your image as a .jpg or right-click on the background and change it to white or another solid color. logo
The final version with transparent outlines. If you would like to play with it, feel free to click here and make your own copy to see how it works.

Tech. Learn. Coffee. logoI’m excited to announce the launch of, a new podcast created by Lisa Nowakowski (aka NowaTechie) and yours truly. We will be discussing all forms of innovative teaching. Podcasts will be released on iTunes the first and third Wednesdays of every month. If you want to listen live, join us on Blab Mondays at 7 p.m. Pacific time. Episodes will be short, typically less than 15 minutes.

The focus of our podcast will be determined by the listeners. Contact us via the website to let us know what your innovation questions and thoughts are. Do you know someone who should be a guest on our show? Let us know that, too.

Besides Blab, you can also find us on iTunes or Podomatic.

Instagram Template for … anyone, really

At the request of a teacher who wanted her 4th graders to create Instagram-style posts without actually going on Instagram, I created a Google Slides template for her to share with them so they could edit it. I was inspired by Ryan O’Donnell‘s post on Fictional Twitter Profiles to share it here.

Instagram Template

This template could have many classroom applications. The teacher who asked me for it wanted to have her students post as Levi Strauss after reading each chapter of Mr. Blue Jeans, the novel by M. Weidt about his life. She was originally going to use photos found online for each post, but instead decided to have the students draw their own images, photograph them, and upload them into Google Drive for use in the template. At the end of the novel, each student would have an Instagram type summary of the events of the book, hence the decision to make the template in Slides instead of Drawing, so the slides created by each student could be shown as slideshow.

Other possible classroom uses:

  • Post to show the same event from the point of view of different characters in a novel
  • “Historical” posts: Francis Scott Key posting a picture of a tattered flag with the first lines of The Star Spangled Banner
  • Animals posting pictures of places along their migratory paths
  • Mathematical formulas or theories posting pictures of ways to apply them

Having students use this template will help them think critically about their topic so they can demonstrate their understanding by sharing an image with just a few words. Allowing them to create usernames for themselves and those who liked the photo makes it engaging. They will also learn about the photo manipulation tools, which are the same in Slides as they are in Drawing, and how to use the view menu or magnifying glass to zoom in on the image, since some of the items they need to edit are a bit on the small side.

If you would like to use this template, click here to view it, then choose File > Make a copy.

find advanced search options

Updated Search in Google Drive

Google is so good at helping us search that its name has become a verb meaning “to search the internet for information.” Yet, until recently, it was often difficult to find things inside Google Drive unless you knew the exact title of the item or you were much better at putting your items into folders than I am.

Enter the updated search options in Google Drive to the rescue. They make it a snap to find any file or folder you need, whether you created it yesterday or a student shared it with you last year.

To search in Drive, begin by clicking in the Search box. You are immediately presented with a dropdown menu showing different types of files. You can click on one of these to restrict your search to that type of file before you begin typing the name of the file you are searching for.

Search options
Click on any of the options to restrict your search to that file type.

However, if you can’t find what you need, you can use more advanced options. Click on More search tools at the bottom of the dropdown or the little triangle at the top.

find advanced search options

This brings up a box where you can input as much information as you have to help you find what you are looking for. You can search by file type (with more choices than you have in the initial dropdown), date modified, owner (including a specific person), who the item has been shared with, and more. You can also combine information, so if you are looking for a Google Presentation on the French Revolution that was shared with you by a student last year, you can enter all those terms. Keep in mind that the item will have to match everything you include, so if you are not sure of something, for example, who the owner of the item is, leave it out. Happy searching!


advanced search options
Click any of the dropdowns to select an item
Example of search terms
Example of search terms you can use

Alternative to the Subscribe to Post Button

Google Sites are a great tool for teachers and students. They can be student e-portfolios, collaborative writing sites, and much more. On the teacher side, they are a wonderful way to communicate information about your class to students and their families. If you create a page using the Announcements template, you communicate current news and information or homework assignments and keep the newest posts at the top. Families can subscribe to the page and get an email message whenever you update it.

The problem, though, is that the default “Subscribe to posts” button that appears on the page doesn’t work for all browsers and can’t be removed. The good news is that there is another Google tool, Feedburner, that gives people a way to subscribe to your updates. There are several steps, but it’s actually very easy to do.

  1. Log into your Google account. Create or go to the page on your website that visitors will subscribe to. Make sure you the page uses the Announcements page format. If you need to change the page format, click the gear menu in the upper right and go to Page Settings.
  2. Scroll down the page until you locate the orange “Subscribe to posts” button. This may not be visible until your site is public.
  3. Right click on the subscribe button (control + click on a Mac) and copy the subscription link. Depending on your browser, you might see different wording (Copy link location in Firefox, Copy link address in Google Chrome, Copy link in Safari).
  4. Open a new tab (File > New Tab or Command + t). Go to Feedburner. Because it is a Google service, you should already be signed in and see your email address in the upper right corner. Locate the box marked “Burn a feed right this instant.”
  5. Paste the URL you copied in step 3 into the box. DO NOT CLICK NEXT!
  6. Edit the URL. Change https to http. Now you can click Next.
  7. Give your feed a name. This is the title people will see in their email when they subscribe. Make it short but descriptive. Do not worry about changing the feed address. Click Next.
  8. At the bottom, click the tiny “Skip directly to feed management” link.
  9. On the screen that appears, click Publicize, then Email Subscriptions, then Activate.
  10. Scroll down the page and copy the email subscription code. Be sure to highlight all the code before copying.
  11. Return to the tab with your website. Click on the pencil icon to edit the page, then click on the HTML link at the upper right.
  12. Paste the code you copied in step 10 into the box, then click Update.
  13. Add any extra text you want to the page, then save your changes. For example, you may want to add something along the lines of: “Please be aware the Subscribe to posts link below does not work correctly for all browsers. To receive an email message when this page is updated, click the Subscribe to Class Announcements by Email link here:”
  14. Pat yourself on the back. You did it!
judge's gavel

Think you have educational immunity? Think again.

judge's gavel
By Chris Potter (Flickr: 3D Judges Gavel) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Every day, we and our students create content that is shared and published online. When it comes to using images and other files from the internet, many teachers think they can use anything they want because they have educational immunity under the Fair Use doctrine. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, individual teachers, schools, and even districts have been sued for copyright infringement.

Fair Use is decided on a case-by-case basis. When deciding whether using material falls under Fair Use, you must consider four things:

  1. Is the use transformative? Did you add value to the work?
  2. What was the nature of the original?
  3. How much of the original was used?
  4. Will your use of the material affect the market for the original?

Judges can interpret things in different ways, so you must be extremely careful using works (especially creative ones like music and images) that are not yours. You can use a Fair Use checklist to help you determine if material falls under Fair Use. There are many available. I like the one at 

A better way to go may be to use material that is in the public domain or licensed under Creative Commons. Material in the public domain doesn’t have  to be cited; however, it is good practice to do so to show respect for the work of others. Material licensed under Creative Commons may be used freely as long as the terms of the license are respected. There are various types of CC licenses. A good, short video explanation can be found at

To cite Creative Commons material, follow the TASL rule: provide as much information as you can about the Title, Author, Source, and License of the material. In an online publication, links should be provided. See the image in this post for an example. For more complete information, including the types of licenses and how to cite material, visit the main Creative Commons website,

Creative Commons material is available all over the web and you can find it in a number of ways. You may want to start by visiting my copyright-friendly Symbaloo webmix.  It contains links to many websites where you can find images, music, and videos that are in the public domain or have been licensed for use.

A version of this post was published on the LVUSD Ed Services blog.