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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.

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.

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

Crop your images into different shapes

A colleague asked me today about cropping a square image into a circle using Google Drawing. This process is called “masking,” and it can be done quickly and easily not only in Drawing, but also in Slides. In fact, you are not limited to masking your image with a circle; you can crop it into a number of different shapes. The illustrations below show the process in a drawing, but it works the same for images on slides.

Click on the image you want mask, then click the dropdown arrow next to the crop icon.screenshot

You can choose from any of the four categories of masks. Select a category, then click on the shape you want.


The mask is applied to show as much as possible of the original image. You can resize and adjust it by dragging on the blue handles.
Resulting image:

circular image


To add a frame, adjust the width and color of the line while the image is selected.screenshot


You can reset your image and start over with the click of a button.



Express your creativity by using different shapes to mask your images.


Original image used in this post:
Burning Yellow Sunset
By Jessie Eastland (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

New floorplan

The importance of space

I’m a bit behind on the #youredustory challenge; I should be on week 10, but I am only on week 9. I hope to catch back up again soon.

The way we organize our space influences the way our students learn. For example, are all the desks in rows? That may have been appropriate before, but I don’t think it is the best plan for today’s students, who are expected to work together to build their own learning. When desks are in rows, learners cannot collaborate easily unless they are working in pairs and, even then, it is not a simple task.

What does an ideal learning space looks like? It depends on who is using it. It has to be designed by the learners to meet their needs, and it needs to be flexible. It should be able to change quickly and easily as the needs of the learners change. It might stay the same for a few days, but it might need to change after only a few hours.

As a technology teacher, I am and always have been in a room full of computers. I have been at my current school for three years, and for the first two years the room was set up something like the image below. (I have blocked the exact details out of my memory, but I recreated it for you the best I could using Google Drawing.) All the students faced a wall or the backs of other students who were facing a wall. I have added arrows to show the direction. It didn’t feel collaborative. It didn’t feel inspiring. It wasn’t an exciting place to come into. I know there is open space in the middle, but it wasn’t as big as it appears in my design, and it was never used for collaboration. The set up of the rest of the room just didn’t lend itself to students working together. That doesn’t mean the children didn’t learn much or weren’t engaged and working hard when they came in; they were. It means that most of the work they did was done individually without assistance or input from other students.


Old floorplan


I wanted to move the furniture, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it since all the computers had to be plugged into the wall and I didn’t want to have cords running across the floor where students would trip. Then I visited another school in my district where they had solved the problem (yet another reason why it is good to connect with other teachers!). I got rid of the teacher desk and spent a couple of days unplugging computers, dragging massively heavy tables around, and plugging everything in again. Afterwards, my room looked more like this.


New floorplan


The learners are now in pods, and all the computers face the center of the pod. The children are more relaxed and ready to learn than they were before, and they are helping each other much more often. Everyone is near at least three other children they can talk to when they need assistance. The open space and the tables are getting use, too, when the students need more room to collaborate and plan.

If I could magically change things, I would transform all my desktop computers into laptops and tablets, some of the chairs into beanbag chairs, barstools, and sofas (leather or vinyl to prevent the spread of lice), and some of the tables into standing tables. I would have whiteboards and cork boards all around the room, and lots of rugs on the floors. At this point, the learners could define their ideal space, moving and changing the set up of the room to fit their needs at the moment. On some occasions, the ideal space might even be created by opening the door and going outside. I don’t know when or if it will happen, but a girl can dream, can’t she?

A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words: Google Drawing

If you have already made the switch to Google Apps, you have probably been experimenting with the Big 3: Docs, Spreadsheets, and Presentations. These are all great tools that support creativity, critical thinking, communication, and collaboration, but have you ever taken a look at Google Drawing? It’s one of the best tools you probably never knew you had. Hidden away from view, it is easily accessed with one click of the Create button in your Google Drive.

Google Drive create button

Working with Google Drawing is easy. You can add shapes (hold down the shift key for perfect circles or squares), arrows, lines, text boxes, and tables. Images can be uploaded from your computer, added via snapshot, or linked from the web. If you need to search for an image, Google Drawing has you covered. Just click Insert > Image, choose Search and you can select from copyright-friendly image results from Google Search, the LIFE Photo Archive, or stock images (these have some restrictions when used outside of Google Drive, so proceed with caution).

Once you have created your drawing, there are many ways you can use it in your classroom. For example, you can make seating charts or create content to use with students, such as KWL charts, math drawings, or virtual manipulatives. Even better, have your students use it to make any number of products, such as word webs, timelines, comic strips, or graphic organizers. In fact, there are so many ways to use Google Drawing, we have added a new page to the LVUSD Teaching with Google Apps website. Want to learn more? Visit the Google Drawing page.

This entry was cross-posted on the LVUSD Ed Tech Blog.