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Sketch 50

Beginning tomorrow, March 27, I will be participating in Sketch 50. Anyone who knows me knows that my artistic skills are, shall we say, somewhat lacking, but I am going to be using my growth mindset and practicing by doing a sketch a day for 50 days. Prompts will be provided on the Sketch 50 website. I have created a Google Photos page where I will be sharing my sketches, and I look forward to this journey. I hope you’ll join me!sketchnote

sketchnote of Jo Boaler's keynote speech

Jo Boaler Keynote

I am continuing to work on my sketchnoting, and I just signed up for sketch50, which starts Monday, March 27. In anticipation of that, here is the sketchnote from Jo Boaler’s very inspiring keynote at the National Cue Conference, which I attended last week.

sketchnote of Jo Boaler's keynote speech

Conference tips sketchnote

Get the most out of your conference

I have been working on sketchnoting lately and recently shared this image on Twitter. I am very proud of it (and those of you who know my drawing skills will understand why) and it proved very popular, so I thought I would reshare it here, on the eve of the National CUE Conference, one of the biggest conferences of my year. Enjoy!

Conference tips sketchnote

screenshot of map

Add Pin to Map in Google My Maps

Here is a quick video showing how to use the search feature to add and customize a pin in Google My Maps. By customizing a map with their own pins, students can show what they know in a variety of content areas. These can include places where historical figures were born, where events took place, where literary characters lived, where scientific or mathematical discoveries occurred, etc.

Failing Forward

acceptance email header

Wait, what? Yes, that’s right. I was accepted to the #TOR16 cohort of the Google for Education Innovation Academy. This is a huge deal, and even though it’s been nearly a week since I found out, I still feel kind of like this.

I wanted to share my story because much of the time, our students, especially the younger ones, believe that adults are successful in everything they do. They don’t realize the amount of effort that underlies success. That needs to change if we want them to learn to persevere and follow their dreams. It’s pretty tough to follow a dream without ever making a misstep, and we don’t want them to give up at the first complication that arises. When we fail, we need to learn from it and share what we learned. Fail forward and iterate, right? So here goes.

I first heard about the Innovator Academy (then Google Teacher Academy) a few years ago, and thought it sounded interesting. I applied to go to #GTAATL in 2014 and was rejected. They were probably right not to accept me, although I wasn’t happy about it at the time and didn’t really understand why. You didn’t have to submit a vision, but you did have to do a video that focused on how you were innovating. In hindsight, I can see that while my video was fun and creative, it didn’t really show anything specific about what I was doing or how I was doing it. It was too generalized.

I was hoping to reapply again soon, but I wasn’t able to go to Austin, TX, and the opportunity didn’t arise again for over a year. The next Academy was in Mountain View in early 2016. As soon as the program was announced, I went to work on my application. This time you had to have a vision. Mine was a podcast for teachers who needed help doing innovative things in their classrooms. I thought it was a good idea, my video and vision deck were good, the answers in my application weren’t bad, but I wasn’t chosen. Maybe they felt a podcast wasn’t innovative enough. Maybe they didn’t like my responses to the short answer questions. I don’t know.

I decided to implement my idea anyway, and began a podcast with my friend, Lisa Nowakowski, who is a Google Certified Innovator. We called it Tech. Learn. Coffee. (a play on our Twitter handles) or (our supercool domain name) for short. We weren’t getting a lot of questions about how to do things, so we decided to start having guests on. We invited teachers who were doing innovative things in their classrooms but weren’t well known and whose work wasn’t being shared. It was great, and we saw a lot of room to expand.

In the meantime, the application period opened for the #COL16 cohort. I was nominated by a friend and decided to apply. I changed my vision, thinking that they hadn’t liked the first one, and made it be a website to connect teachers who were doing innovative work but weren’t sharing on social media. Again, I thought I did a decent job, but I wasn’t accepted. I was okay with it, and thought I probably wouldn’t apply again. After all, I had done a lot of work 3 different times and hadn’t gotten in.

Then I was nominated again, by a friend who is a Google Certified Innovator and a person I really, truly respect. I couldn’t let her down. I had to try again.

The Innovator Program conducted a Google Hangout for people interested in applying and I connected with someone from the #COL16 cohort through the back channel. She reviewed the short answers from the May (rejected) application and said that what I had was not bad but I needed to give much more specific answers and examples.

So I went back to the drawing board. I decided to return to my podcast vision, since it was really what I was most passionate about. Lisa and I had been doing it for a few months, and we both felt that there was a lot of room to grow. I wrote and rewrote and edited and refined my short answers (500 characters = 3.57 tweets; not a lot of space to work with) until I felt that they communicated exactly what I wanted and needed them to say. I redid the vision deck from my January application and made it much more focused. I created a new video: a trailer for the podcast including clips from some of the episodes. I submitted it, and crossed my fingers.

A week later, on September 6, I began refreshing my email every 5 minutes. I checked the #googleei hashtag on Twitter incessantly. Lots of great memes about waiting for a response, but nothing else. Until 5:05 p.m., when I got the email pictured above.

I am so excited to be heading to Toronto. Our cohort is already connecting and sharing, and I know we will do great things together. I’ll keep you posted.

P.S. If you are interested, here is the link to the playlist of all 4 of my application videos.

Uploading attachments in new Google Sites

The new Google Sites are much easier to use than the old version, although they are still in a bare bones stage. Many of the teachers I support are using new Sites for their teacher websites.

One issue they have run into occurs when they want to add a file, usually a Word document (and they should be using Google Docs because we are a GAFE district, but I’m not going there now), to their website.

Here’s what typically happens. The teacher uploads the file from their computer to the site.

Word Doc Uploaded

They check in Preview mode and everything looks great.
Doc in preview

They publish their site and someone complains because they can’t see the document.

Where is doc?

This happens because, by default, uploaded documents are shared only with the editors of the site. They are not viewable by the general public. The file needs to be shared, just like something you add from Drive, but this isn’t immediately obvious.

Here’s the fix. Click on the document to select it. You will see the editing box appear; click the pop-out icon.

Pop out

Click the 3 dots (which always give you more options in the Googleverse) and choose Share.

3 Dots

Share the document either with Anyone with the link OR make it Public on the web. (You may have to click Advanced to see these options). Be sure to save your choice.

Anyone with the link

The document is now viewable by anyone with access to view the site.

Doc is viewable

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.