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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.

CUE 2015 Conference logo

CUE marks the spot

CUE 2015 Conference logo

I have decided that, rather than follow my usual modis operandi [i.e. make myself crazy] and attempt to complete all the #youredustory prompts that I have missed, I am going to try something new. I am going to follow Elsa’s advice and Let It Go. I am getting back into the challenge starting with week 18, even though this is week 19, because it is an integral part of who I am as an educator. The prompt: What is your favorite education conference you’ve attended? Why should others attend?

I have been to many conferences (and unconferences) over the past few years. Some were larger, some were smaller, and all but one (which shall remain nameless) yielded valuable new knowledge, ideas, and connections, yet I have to say that the annual CUE conference in Palm Springs is my favorite. It has a special place in my heart because it was at the 2013 conference that my journey as a connected educator began. It opened my eyes to what was possible in the world of education. You can read more about that in this post.

Why should others attend the Annual CUE Conference? Because it is a wild and crazy ride, but if you are open to new experiences and willing to put yourself out there, you will learn a lot and have a great time doing it.

Before they fade completely from memory, here are some thoughts on the 2015 event.

Change the Size of Your Google Drawing

Google Drawing is a wonderful tool that has many classroom implementations. Students can use it to develop advertising posters for invented products during an economics unit, build custom headers for a website, make infographics to show information on any number of topics, and much more. Sometimes, though, when you are working on a Drawing, you discover that you need to change its size. There are two main ways to do this.

Option 1: Click and drag the diagonal lines in the lower left corner.

diagonal lines   

This is easy if you want to make your drawing smaller or wider, but if you want to make it taller, you need to adjust the view first so you have room to drag it down. Simply go to View and choose a small percentage or Zoom Out. This will give you room on your screen outside the canvas to drag the corner down.

view options         empty space below image

Option 2: Use File>Page setup.

You c an choose one of the standard sizes (these will match the size of the slides in Google Slides exactly) or a custom size. When opting for a custom size, you have the option of measuring your drawing in inches, centimeters, points, or pixels. If you will be printing your drawing, you will want to use inches, centimeters, or points, but pixels are useful when creating website headers or other drawings that will be shared online and need to have specific dimensions. Whether you choose a standard or custom size, don’t forget to click OK when you are done.

page setup options2015-05-13_20-41-39

child holding up hand

5 Things We Have to Stop Pretending

child holding up hand
Image by Pezibear via, Public Domain

Today I was challenged by @jaygreenlinger to share my list of 5 Things We Have to Stop Pretending in education to #makeschooldifferent. Challenge accepted.

Right off the bat, I had several ideas but, like Jay, I had to struggle to whittle them down to five six sentences. I’m sure I’ll change my mind as soon as I hit Publish, but here they are.

  1. Today’s students are digital natives and already have all the skills related to safe, appropriate, and ethical technology use. (Corollary: Most teachers are familiar with these skills and can teach them to students.)
  2. Good teachers have no need for an online PLN (personal learning network).
  3. When it comes to staff development, one size fits all.
  4. Having students connect to the world outside the classroom is nice, but is not a necessity.
  5. Giving out grades is the best way to assess student learning.

You can read Jay’s post here. I am passing on the challenge to five educators whose ideas I really respect. I hope that Karl Lindgren-Streicher, David Theriault, Alice Chen, Moss Pike, and Jen Roberts will share their lists of 5 Things We Have to Stop Pretending in Education.