Google Jamboard Updates on The Suite Talk

In January, I was honored to be a guest on Kim Mattina’s The Suite Talk YouTube channel to talk about the Google Jamboard app.

I am now proud to be the first two-time guest in the history of The Suite Talk. Kim and I talked about how Jamboard has changed and grown in the 9 months since my first appearance.

Watch to learn about Jamboard updates including:

  • Jams can be found in Google Drive.
  • Jams integrate with Google Classroom.
  • The Jamboard app works on phones.
  • Frames have a few backgrounds to choose from including graph paper. Imagine that – your students have infinite collaborative graph paper!
  • The user interface has changed. The with tools are now black and the toolbar is smaller.
  • Jamboard has a streamlined web app available at

Enjoy the episode. Questions? Please comment below or tweet me at @TomEMullaney. Thanks for reading and watching.


Google Sites Layouts Vastly Improved My Digital Breakouts Site

I love Google Sites and recently spent a lot of time using it to convert 14 digital breakouts from Classic to New Sites. Since then, Google has announced a new tool in the Google Sites editor – layouts. Layouts solve the problem of aligning images and elements which can be tricky because there are no guidelines like those in Google Slides and Google Drawings. For instance, a page in my Langston Hughes-themed poetry digital breakout has side-by-side YouTube videos. I could never get them to be the exact same size and perfectly aligned. Layouts solved that problem. Have a look:

Using Layouts

Find the layouts tool under the Insert menu in the Google Sites editor.

Screenshot of layouts options in the Google Sites editor.
Layouts options in the Google Sites editor.

The editor uses the picture icon but Google Drive files, YouTube videos, Google MyMaps, file uploads, and Google Calendars can also be added to a layout. I hope web embeds will join this list in the future.

Animated GIF showing elements that can be added to layouts.
Options for elements to add to a layout.

My Digital Breakouts Platform Site

I created the platform for my digital breakouts using Google Sites. For each subject area, I embedded a Google Doc that listed and linked to breakouts. I decided to revamp each subject area page using layouts. This meant using thumbnail images and text instead of a single doc for each page. Here are before-and-after shots:

Before and after images of the Math page of my digital breakouts website.

Before and after images of the World History page of my digital breakouts website.

Pro tip: When using images in Google Sites, pay attention to accessibility by adding alt text:

Animated GIF demonstrating how to add alt text to an image in Google Sites.
Click twice to bring up the crop, link, and Add alt text options.

How using Google Sites Layouts instead of embedded Google Docs improved the site:

  • Design. It’s cleaner and nice. The thumbnails are much more prominent.
  • It is searchable. The content in the embedded Google Docs was not searchable in the Google Sites search:

    Animated GIF showing that a search of my digital breakout site for the term "The New Deal" yielded no results.
    No results!

    Look what happens now that the site uses layouts with images and text instead of embedded Google Docs:

    Animated GIF showing a search of my digital breakout site for the term "The New Deal" yielding the correct result.
    It works!
  • The site is now much more mobile friendly. The embedded Google Docs did not render nicely on tablets and phones. They had to be opened in the Google Docs app to be accessed. Now they are all available with no additional apps to open.

So check out my digital breakouts site. Hopefully, you will like how I used layouts and find a digital breakout or two to use with your middle or high school students. How do you use Google Sites in your instructional practice? What Google Sites questions do you have? Please comment below or tweet me @TomEMullaney. Thanks for reading.

Meet Google Slides – The Ultimate Resume Creator!

Google got it wrong.

Google for Education created a free applied digital skills curriculum open to all. One vital digital skill is resume creation. Google’s curriculum includes a module on resume creation that recommends using Google Docs for this task. Google reached into the G Suite toolbox and retrieved the wrong tool. This is my argument that Google Slides, not Google Docs, is the right tool for resume creation.

I recently revamped my resume for a job search seeking an edtech coach position. I wanted the resume to achieve its purpose: to compel anyone reading it to invite me to interview. My resume needed to convey my innovative use of technology. Before reading any further, know that your resume is likely a laundry list of bullet points of duties performed at jobs. That is not compelling because everyone has those bullet lists! Please read Anthony Gold’s blog post, Forget Everything You Ever Learned to learn how to write a compelling resume. Then consider my advice for creating it in Google Slides.

Other Possible Tools

Before we look at why Google Slides is so good for resumes, let’s explore other tools I tried like Goldilocks trying three bears’ beds before landing on Google Slides:

  • The aforementioned Google Docs – For years I used Microsoft Word to create resumes. When I transitioned to G Suite, I used Google Docs for resumes. Have a look at the Google Docs resume templates:Google Docs resume templatesDo they look innovative or creative? I looked at the resume I produced in Google Docs saw nothing that told stories about creativity and technology innovation. So I tried something else.
  • Canva – I am a Canva superfan. I used one of Canva’s resume templates but stopped when I encountered a problem. Canva’s resume templates allow only a single hyperlink in a text box. I was unable to use multiple hyperlinks to tell the story of how I match a job’s skills.  A deal breaker. So I tried another web-based info-graphic tool, Venngage.
  • Venngage – I was able to create a visually appealing resume with Venngage. The editor allowed inserting more than a single hyperlink in a text box. Then I tried to download it as a PDF. I could not download a PDF with multiple hyperlinks unless I purchased a $20-a-month subscription. Additionally, the editor was somewhat cumbersome and not easy-to-use like Canva or Google Slides. Venngage was out. I considered how to recreate what I made in Venngage for free. Google Drawings was an option but it cannot create multiple pages in a single file. Each resume page would have to be a separate Google Drawings file. Then it hit me. There was a tool that could do everything Google Drawings does and more:


Here is what I created:

Resume Elements

  • For the images of me at the top, I used three images of me presenting professional development and combined them using Canva‘s Twitter header template. I then added the artistic effect to the image using, a surprisingly robust website for adding effects and animation to images.
  • I changed the color of the sidebar to add some contrast. To ensure text and background had enough contrast, I used the WebAIM Color Contrast Checker.
  • I used color gradients in the small rectangle in the sidebar and the triangle in the lower-right corner. These were not essential, just some artistic flourishes I decided to include.

Why Google Slides is Great for Resumes

  • Google Slides default dimensions are not resume-friendly. However, it is easy to click “File” and “Page setup…” to use 8.5x11inch custom dimensions.
  • The ability to duplicate slides is essential. Right-clicking a slide in the preview panel on the left side of the editor allows the user to duplicate slides. This ensures precisely matching formatting on each page of the resume. Keep in mind that most potential employers will probably not read past page one.
  • Unlike Google Docs, it is easy to create and move text boxes, images, and shapes.
  • Google Slides is great for embedding on websites.
  • If a resume is viewed embedded on a website, adding a YouTube video could be very useful. A PDF viewed digitally will have a clickable link that opens the YouTube video in a new tab. Having a YouTube video on a resume that will be printed is probably not very effective. Use your judgment when considering YouTube videos.

One Google Slides Drawback

One thing Google Slides is missing is text-wrapping around images. That is the one advantage Google Docs has on Google Slides for creating resumes.

Some Resume Tips

I will conclude by sharing some tips about resumes.

  • Place whatever is most relevant and compelling to the job up top. For my last job search, I wanted to get a job as an edtech coach. The top of my resume shows me delivering professional development. The artistic effects communicate that I creatively use technology – a valuable skill for edtech coaching. Years ago, I applied for a Special Education position responsible for teaching multiple subjects. I listed my subject certifications at the very top of my resume. When I interviewed, the very first thing the interviewer said was, “I see you passed a lot of Praxis tests.” My resume told her I had what she needed for the position, exactly as intended! Do not lead with your education background. Only in rare circumstances will advanced degrees be the reason a resume results in an interview.
  • Do not use Comic Sans. Please just don’t.
  • Keep cover letters brief. No one has time to read that mess. Briefly summarize why you are a good fit. Concisely flesh it out on the resume. If you have more to share do so on your blog, website, or LinkedIn profile.

What do you think? Are you convinced Google is advocating the wrong tool for creating resumes? Will you adjust your applied digital skills curriculum to suggest Google Slides for resume creation? Please comment below or tweet me @TomEMullaney. Thanks for reading.

Let Them Play: Approaches to Technology Integration and PD That Empower Teachers

Educational technology can open doors for students. Effective and empowering professional development empowers students to give students the keys to those doors.  I argue for letting teachers play and other empowering approaches to edtech and PD in my BAMRadio Network EdWords blog post, Let Them Play: Approaches to Technology Integration and PD That Empower Teachers. Please share your thoughts technology integration and PD in the comments below or tweet me at @TomEMullaney. Thanks for reading.

The image I used for this post is from the United States Air Force Medical Service.

In Defense of In-Person Professional Development

Digital tools make it possible to convert in-person professional development to digital platforms. Is that what teachers need? I argue it makes more sense to incorporate engaging digital components into in-person professional development than it does to digitize everything.

Most teachers do not teach distance digital courses. They teach in-person and hopefully have access to devices for their students. Practice like you play – PD should reflect what we want in our classrooms. Exclusively online inherently falls short in that regard.

Simply replacing in-person professional development with online learning will likely fail for another reason besides its misalignment with most teachers’ daily practice: it deprives participants of what they need – face-to-face human interaction. As John Green explains in this 17-second clip, we have not replaced school exclusively with e-learning:

As the internet has made video conferencing and remote work easier, cities have grown and thrived. Shouldn’t this give us pause before digitizing everything? For more information about the growth of spaces where people collaborate and work in-person, read Triumph of the City by Edward L. Glaeser.

Update (10/6/18): Thank you, Ashley McBride, for sharing this on Twitter:

See how valuable face-to-face contact is for learning? Here is the video linked in the tweet:

What do you think? Should professional development be entirely digitized? Let me know if the comments below or tweet me @TomEMullaney. Thanks for reading.

The image I used for this post is a photo by rawpixel on Unsplash.

Lessons Learned About Risk-Taking in My Education Career Told in 3 Risks

Are you a teacher who loves education but feels the need to change things up in your career? For many reasons including circumstance and my itch for something new, I know the feeling and have experience acting on it. Read on for what I have learned from risk-taking in my education career.

Risk 1: Special Education to General Education

I am honored to say I was a Special Education teacher for 10 years. Burnout in Special Education is very real.  I was not burned out as much as I was ready for something new. Over the years, I attained a few subject certifications to be highly qualified. One of them was Social Studies, a subject I’ve loved since I was a middle-school student. There were two retirements in our school’s Social Studies department. I asked to be considered for one and was suddenly a secondary Social Studies teacher.

I moved 300 feet down the hall to my new classroom, but I might as well have moved to a different planet. That’s how hard the adjustment was. That first semester I was steamrolled. It was like being a first-year teacher again. I thought my Special Education background would be an asset, but it didn’t help at all. I had no clue how to manage a class of 28 students or create engaging learning experiences for large groups.

Those first few months could have killed my education career but there was a savior: block scheduling. There is merit to arguments for and against it, but block scheduling saved me. It was a chance to have the first day of school all over again. By Thanksgiving, I was able to process what was happening and plan ahead to the start of the second semester in February.

That semester was so much better. I tinkered with lessons. I developed an ability to find good Social Studies content. I managed the classroom environment. Having emerged from crisis-mode, I applied what I learned from Special Education to be inclusive and create opportunities for all learners.

Lessons Learned:

  • Take advantage of opportunities to add subject certifications.  They open doors.
  • Changing your audience changes the experience. It may not be for the better.
  • Taking a risk in an education career can pay off – but it will take time to do so.
  • On the fence about making a change? Consider block scheduling a plus in the “do it” column.

Risk 2: Pennsylvania to North Carolina

I was cooking with gas teaching secondary Social Studies. My eighth and ninth-graders received Chromebooks the same fall Google dropped Google Classroom.  But change was on the horizon. My wife and I grew tired of northeastern winters. Dangerous driving conditions, back soreness exacerbated by the cold, wintertime illnesses, and dry skin from indoor heat were among the many things weighing on us. The North Carolina Research Triangle met the conditions we were looking for: south enough to be appreciably warmer, job opportunities, and relative proximity to the northeast. We decided to move. One teacher at my school warned me ominously: “They don’t pay teachers down there.” He was right, but that weirdly worked out in my favor. Read on.

So I rolled the dice. I left a tenured job doing something I loved at a great high school in a union state to move to North Carolina where teachers are chronically underpaid.

Here’s a side-effect of underpaying teachers: it makes it easier to get a teaching job. Talk to anyone applying for a teaching job in states with strong teachers unions such as New York and Pennsylvania – it’s tough. In North Carolina, there is much more fluidity in the job market because teachers are always trying to get a little more compensation or improve their working conditions in a different district. Most teachers hired by my school district in Pennsylvania like the pay and working conditions. They have a union to collectively bargain for them so they’re staying put. I wish those things for North Carolina, but the lack of them enabled me to land a job as a Digital Learning Coach at a great middle school. That kind of job would draw hundreds of applicants in a good Pennsylvania district.

I was so excited for this next chapter of my career – edtech coaching. Then I saw the device all students and teachers used: it looked like the 1970s had a laptop. It was thick and heavy with a terrible 11-inch screen that converted any shade of gray to white. And painfully slow too! This dampened my expectations.

I am so grateful we had such terrible devices. It made my expectations more realistic. I was pleasantly surprised when I met a faculty determined to creatively use technology despite this obstacle. The next year we received brand new Chromebooks. Teachers adjusted to students completing work faster because the prior device was that slow!

Lessons Learned:

  • States with poor teacher compensation may also be the best places to attain a hard-to-get education job.
  • Realistic expectations are important. Do not put any job on a pedestal.

Risk 3: North Carolina to California

Being a connected educator, I made a connection that opened an unimaginable door: the opportunity work for the San Francisco Unified School District office. Dating back to my AP Euro teacher playing The Graduate after the AP exam, I’ve long been fascinated with the west coast in general and specifically the San Francisco Bay Area. I even proposed to my wife there when a business trip of hers took us to San Francisco.

In my excitement, I did not consider livability. The city is very expensive and has a growing inequality problem. Perhaps I should have read this, this, this, or that as I weighed taking this risk.

Having ignored the livability issue, I took the leap and was privileged to work dynamic, student-centered colleagues.

I wish that benefit made me a good fit for the city of San Francisco. In addition to affordability and inequality problems, being so far from friends, family, and my PLN on the East Coast was more difficult than I anticipated. I missed the fantastic North Carolina edcamp scene which spans from the mountains bordering Tennessee to Dawson’s Creek on the coast.

Further, in an example of biting off more change than I could chew, I worked at district office in a 12-month job. As I type this, I am enjoying the last moments of summer vacation before the school year starts. No matter what happens in my job, the schedule pushes the reset button around the summer solstice. Working during the summer, the last week in December, and spring break was a big change I was not ready for.

Having said that, I took the risk. I visited the main Google campus, watched baseball at the best stadium in the country, and enjoyed vegan soft-serve less than a five-minute walk away from my home.

Now I’m back in North Carolina with no regrets. Opportunity knocked and I answered the door. I will never wonder, “What if?” Or as Prince Ea puts it:

Lessons Learned:

  • Not all that glitters is gold. That is especially apt considering I’m talking about San Francisco.
  • Attend edcamps and value them. They’re FREE! Better yet, all participants leave their title at the door. If a risk involves a move, ask people in the potential new location about the edcamps they attend. North Carolina’s edcamp is scene is great. So is New Jersey’s. Educators in Philadelphia and New York, please take note.
  • Summer vacation is an underappreciated aspect of teacher compensation. Time is irreplaceable. The opportunity to have two months of not waking up to an alarm and being “on” is precious. If a risk involves switching to a full-year work calendar, consider the costs of losing that time.
  • Location is important. When taking a risk involves a location change, there will be unforeseen consequences both positive and negative.
  • There is value in taking the plunge and not wondering, “what if?”

I hope these lessons learned have been helpful for considering risk-taking in an education career. Converse with me about the topic by commenting below or tweeting @TomEMullaney. Thanks for reading.

Photo by Diego Jimenez on Unsplash.

Diego Jimenez

I Converted My Digital Breakouts from Classic to New Google Sites

The summer before my senior year of high school, I had to read Crime and Punishment for my AP Literature class. At first glance, the book’s 545 pages seemed an insurmountable challenge. Then I realized that if I read 10 pages a day, every day, I would complete the novel with time to spare before the first day of school. That’s exactly what I did.

A similarly daunting task presented itself when Google finally allowed Classic Sites to be converted to New Sites this spring. I had 14 digital breakouts created in Classic Sites. The Classic and New Sites platforms are very different. Simply clicking the “Try it now” button only starts the work of making a site visually appealing.

Image depicting the
Clicking “Try it now” only starts the work.

Additionally, I wanted to improve the digital breakouts as I converted them. Starting the third week of June, I set out to convert all 14 breakouts by the end of July. It took six weeks of working like Charlie when he landed a job in a mailroom on Always Sunny, but I am proud to say, much like reading Crime and Punishment 23 years ago, it is finally done. Read on to learn about the changes I made, which digital breakouts are affected, the edtech tools I used, and how I addressed accessibility.

Changes made:

  • Nicer design – Classic Google Sites rendered unattractive websites. New Sites makes beautiful websites. Classic sites did not have the option to have a banner at the top of a page, so that was the foremost design issue to address when converting to New Sites.
  • Fewer browser tabs – One of my concerns with edtech is the overwhelming amount of tabs students and teachers constantly have open in their web browsers. While I was unable to completely eradicate multiple tabs, I was able to reduce the number of tabs in most of the digital breakouts.
  • Favicons and site logos – I added a favicon and site logo (usually the same image) for each site. This avoids the generic Google Sites favicon and makes the site feel more immersive.
  • Accessibility – I regret that I did not consider accessibility when I created the 14 digital breakouts. Thank goodness I learned so much about accessibility from my colleague Lindsey Blass when I worked for SFUSD. As I converted the digital breakouts I was able to use what she taught me about color contrast, narration, and alt text to make the breakouts more inclusive.
  • Some locks have changed. For teachers who have used any of these breakouts before, please have a look to see how they have changed.
  • The URLs are all the same. One great aspect of the conversion is that no URLs change. There is no need to update links anywhere they have been published.

Digital Breakouts Updated:

Social Studies

Let’s start with a four-pack of 60’s-70s US history digital breakouts I am especially proud of:

  • Cuban Missile Crisis – The Cuban Missile Crisis was the very first digital breakout I created. I was never satisfied with it so I completely revamped it. Realizing the Armageddon Letters and Time Ghost YouTube channels told the story better than I can, I leaned heavily on their content. Another big change is the breakout is now sequential, meaning students work on one lock at a time to advance to the next lock. There are four locks in total.
  • Defeat Barry Goldwater – This is most difficult of my digital breakouts. It could be a whole class exercise or an end-of-year US II review because it focuses on the Summer of 1964, a critical time for the Civil Rights Movement and US escalation in Vietnam. Warning: I did not reduce the number of tabs in this breakout. There are a lot of them.
  • Shirley Chisholm: Unbought, Unbossed, & Unlocked – This digital breakout tells the story of the first Black woman to run for president – Shirley Chisholm. It broke my heart when beta testers told me they did not know about her. US II teachers: if you try just one of my digital breakouts with your students, please make it this one!
Image links to the Shirley, Chisholm, Unbought, Unbossed, & Unlocked! digital breakout.
US II Teachers: Please use this digital breakout!
  • Richard KNICKSon – A New York Knicks-themed digital breakout. Why the Knicks? Because they’re my favorite team and they won their only two NBA championships when Nixon was president!
  • Other Social Studies digital breakouts I updated include Escape the Guillotine (French Revolution), Ratify the Bill of Rights, Decide the 1800 Election (Alexander Hamilton), Sell World War I to the American Public, and Liberate Paris (middle school version) (high school version).


    • Combine Like Terms & Save Halloween – This very popular breakout is now more user-friendly.
    • Liberate the Sphero – A good breakout for reviewing broad concepts with 7th and 8th-grade students or to introduce Spheros and digital breakouts. to Math teachers.
    • Escape to Summer Vacation – Another broad review for 7th and 8th-grade Math. This breakout is much less complicated now and uses fewer browser tabs.

    English Language Arts

    EdTech Tools Used:

    I used a number of tools to improve these digital breakouts:

    Image links to a virtual tour of the White House I created for the Richard KNICKSon digital breakout.
    Click this image to view the tour.
    • EdPuzzle EdPuzzle adds questions to YouTube videos. It also crops YouTube videos. New Google Sites now allows for embedding external tools so EdPuzzle is fair game. I wish it rendered perfectly with the next tool.
    • ThingLink ThingLink is the go-to weapon in the fight against multiple browser tabs. YouTube videos, Google Slides, and Google Forms render perfectly on ThingLink images – with no need to open new tabs. If only EdPuzzles did too! Escape to Summer Vacation benefited greatly from ThingLink. ThingLink also a video component. I used that in Unbought, Unbossed, & Unlocked. I wish it also cropped videos.
    • Google Drawings – I replaced Google Drawings hotspot image maps with ThingLink images because they do not open new tabs for YouTube, Google Slides, and Google Forms. I still used Google Drawings to create favicons (512×512-pixel dimensions) because it produces transparent images.
    Animated GIF demonstrating how to click the 3 dots in the Google Sites editor to add a site favicon
    Click the 3 dots in the Google Sites editor to add a favicon.

    Additionally, I used Google Drawings for those times when I did not like the options my chosen Google Sites theme generated for section backgrounds.

    Create a Google Drawing with 800×200 pixel dimensions and use it as an image for the section background. Or just make a copy of this Google Drawing and change the color as needed.

    Google Sites Section Style options: Regular, Emphasis 1, Emphasis 2, Image
    Don’t like the section background options? Use Google Drawings to create the background you want and use it as an image.

  • LunaPicLunaPic is a great website for adding artistic effects to images. Ignore the 1997 web design – the site is actually very powerful. And it’s free. I used LunaPic to manipulate the site banners for Cuban Missile Crisis, Decide the 1800 Election, and Liberate the Sphero.
  • Canva Canva is another wonderful tool for manipulating images. It is a freemium site. I use the free version. Use either the YouTube thumbnail template or set 767×280 pixel custom dimensions to make a Sites banner. I used Canva to make the site banner for Sell World War I to the American Public and the Eiffel Tower ThingLink images in Liberate Paris (middle school version) (high school version).
  • SoundtrapThe Soundtrap mobile app is great for recording quick sound clips. It works on any Play Store enabled Chromebook. I detail how I used sound clips in the Accessibility section.
  • Google Forms – Classic Google Forms are still more customizable for background colors and fonts. I did not convert any of my classic Forms to new. Google recently announced that classic Forms will migrate to the new editor soon. I hope this does not change the fonts and colors on these forms because…
  • FontFace Ninja Google Chrome Extension – The FontFace Google Chrome extension is great for identifying fonts on websites. I used it to match the fonts in my classic Google Forms to the fonts in Google Sites themes. Please note: this extension does not work well with the Google Sites editor. I often clicked “Publish” before sites were complete so I could use Fontface Ninja to identify fonts in the “view published site” version.
  • Colorzilla Google Chrome Extension – The Colorzilla Google Chrome extension grabs the hex code of a color on a website. That color can then be used in components of a digital breakout such as Google Forms and Google Slides.
  • Accessibility:

    • WebAIM Color Contrast CheckerThe WebAim Color Contrast Checker website details the contrast between any two colors using hex codes. If colors don’t have enough contrast, the site has clickable levers to adjust a color until there is enough contrast. I used this to ensure text and background had enough contrast in Google Forms and Sites.
    • Narration in Tour Creator – Add audio to points of interest in Tour Creator. When I discovered this, I was excited!
    • Alt text for images in Google Sites – One final tip for accessibility – add alt text to images so students with screen readers know what an image depicts. Click the image to add alt text:
    Animated GIF depicting adding alt text to an image in Google Sites
    Click the image to add alt text.

    Thank you for reading. I hope these digital breakouts are useful for your classroom or better yet, inspire you to create your own. Please comment below, tweet me @TomEMullaney, or email me ( if you have questions, need hints, or notice a mistake.

    How Does Curriculum Fit with Personalization, Technology, and Empowerment? And a Few More Questions.

    Educational technology opens doors for students. They are no longer reliant on textbooks and other school-provided materials to learn. This has me thinking a lot about curriculum and personalization. How does curriculum fit with personalization, technology, and empowerment? I ask this and a lot more questions in my BAMRadio Network EdWords blog post, How Does Curriculum Fit with Personalization, Technology, and Empowerment? And a Few More Questions. Please share your thoughts on curriculum and student empowerment in the comments below or tweet me at @TomEMullaney. Thanks for reading.

    The Getting Started Guide for Touchscreen Chromebooks in the Classroom

    “The new Chromebooks are here!”

    Many teachers will be saying that as their school transitions to Chromebooks for students or refreshes old Chromebooks. The new education model Chromebooks have touchscreens and convert to tablet mode. The combination of touch and Chrome OS is probably here to stay awhile. Lenovo has released a Chromebook with a screen students can literally draw on with a pencil.  There is even a just-released Chromebook tablet. David Andrade breaks down the reasons why schools may switch from iPads to Chromebook tablets for elementary students in his blog post, New tablets for Education – comparing the new Acer Chromebook Tab 10 and the new Apple iPad.

    This guide is meant to help educators get started using these new Chromebooks that have both touchscreens and keyboards. Everything referenced in this post until the very end is web-based and immediately accessible upon signing in to a Chromebook. The very end of this guide suggests some tools that are great but will require district Google administrators to enable the Google Play Store.

    Before you do anything, even before reading this – beg, borrow, steal, cheat, lie, simply ask, or do whatever is necessary to get your hands on a new Chromebook the second it arrives in a district warehouse.  Reading about apps and educational uses is great but nothing matches the experience of actually using the device.

    On to the guide. Let’s start with sketching, jotting, and drawing on touchscreen Chromebooks.

    Isn’t that straight up substitution?

    Of course it is! “Substitution” has become a loaded dirty word in education. Even the most innovative teacher uses substitution in every lesson. Effective technology integration incorporates constant motion through different levels of SAMR. Jaclyn B. Stevens‘s SAMR swimming pool clearly illustrates this:

    The SAMR Swimming Pool Info-graphic by Jaclyn B. Stevens
    The SAMR Swimming Pool by Jaclyn B. Stevens of the Friday Institute. Source

    As Stevens says in this video, “Just as educators work across the levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy, the levels of the SAMR model must also be flexible and align to what students are doing in a classroom.”

    Classrooms should be places where students always feel free to quickly jot or draw something to help them process and make connections. Research suggests drawing is the most effective way to learn! Or just doodle for brain breaks. For more on the benefits of drawing for learning, please read A Simple Way to Better Remember Things: Draw a Picture from The New York Times (1/6/19).

    Annotating a website or PDF for a grade is rotten. However, getting messy annotating a website or adding content to a Google Jamboard Jam to process information, give feedback, or create a digital gallery walk is different. Use these tools to help kids get messy. Encourage it.

    An example of this is sketchnoting. Sketchnoting is so beneficial for kids and adults.  Sketchnotes are often created on iPads that are more expensive than Chromebooks with a paid app (Procreate). Why shouldn’t kids sketchnote on Chromebooks for free?

    Sketching/Drawing/Jotting/Tool #1: Google Keep

    Google Keep is a great tool for drawing on images or creating sketches. This works in the Google Keep web app:

    Google Keep is great for this purpose though it is not the most robust drawing tool. I lamented there was not another Google tool for drawing (don’t get me started about the misnamed Google Drawings) until I saw this tweet from Jessica Garrigan:

    Sketching/Drawing/Jotting/Tool #2: Google AutoDraw

    Google AutoDraw is much more than an auto draw tool. I created the image for this blog post in AutoDraw using a touchscreen Chromebook. Watch as I demo:

    AutoDraw lacks the ability to save files. Create, download, and start with a blank slate next time. Let’s hope that changes soon. It also does not have an erase tool though it has an undo button and the ability to delete elements of a sketch by selecting and deleting. For more information about AutoDraw, read these two blog posts:

    Google Keep and AutoDraw do not let students sketch or annotate on top of websites. Enter the Web Paint Google Chrome extension.

    Sketching/Drawing/Jotting Tool #3: Chrome Canvas

    Discovered by Chrome Unboxed in December 2018, Chrome Canvas is a great Google tool for drawing. It saves images and lets students download as PNG files. I like it better than Google Keep for jotting on top of images. Additionally, each drawing tool has size and opacity sliders which are absent in Keep and AutoDraw. Users of Adobe suite mobile apps are familiar with these sliders. Check out this sketch of Gritty created by The Verge:

    I’m obsessed with Gritty.

    Watch as I demonstrate this great tool:

    Sketching/Drawing/Jotting/Tool #4: (Annotating Websites Edition): The Web Paint Google Chrome Extension

    The Web Paint Google Chrome extension is great for marking up websites.

    Take advantage of this by using Web Paint with Google Keep to search the text on saved clippings from the web:

    One drawback of Web Paint is it only works with what is on screen. There is no ability to scroll down the page. Robby Payne at Chrome Unboxed figured out that using Web Paint in conjunction with the FireShot extension allows for marking up an entire page and then saving it as a PDF.

    Freeform Collaboration Tool: Google Jamboard

    Google Jamboard is a drawing tool but its usefulness is elevated through collaboration. It is the perfect platform for student brainstorming. Google recently announced a streamlined web version of the great mobile Jamboard app. Watch as I demonstrate.


    Does your district need some help determining the right Chromebook for students? I can help! E-mail to inquire about my consulting services!

    A Drawing for Assessment Tool: Formative

    Formative, found at, allows students to draw in an assignment. The applications for this, especially in Math, are innumerable. In this simple example, I draw in a formative (Formative’s name for assignments) I created asking students to explain the Schlieffen Plan.

    Schlieffen Plan Drawing in Formative

    In this example, I provided students with a map to draw on. Better yet, don’t provide the map! Students can insert images themselves. Or not. Let students determine how best they can depict a concept. I made a formative with two Schlieffen Plan questions – one with a map and one without. Feel free to make a copy for yourself.

    Drag-and-Drop with Instant Feedback Tool – Quizlet

    Dragging-and-dropping isn’t the highest level learning activity but at least Quizlet matching gives students instant feedback. Notice what happens when I choose the wrong answer and then the correct answer:

    Animated GIF of correct and incorrect answers in Quizlet matching
    Incorrect, then correct. Help yourself to this French Revolution vocabulary Quizlet deck.

    Writing by Hand on Touchscreen Convertible Chromebooks

    This applies only to touchscreen Chromebooks that are convertible – meaning that can be used in stand, tent, and tablet form factors. Students can hand write in Google Docs, Slides, to enter a website URL, or basically anywhere they can input text. Please note this does not work if a mouse is connected to the device. Watch as I demonstrate.

    Google Earth

    The web version of Google Earth is perfect for touchscreen Chromebooks. It’s not just for exploring and storytelling – Google has added a lot of educational content to Google Earth Voyager. Watch as I demonstrate in this YouTube playlist of 7 short videos:

    Bring Touchscreen Chromebooks to the Next Level – Android Apps!

    Web apps are great but the magic of touchscreen Chromebooks is found in the Google Play Store. Great apps for education productivity, creativity, and collaboration live there including my beloved free Google Jamboard app! Here are two blog posts where I review great Android apps for education on Chromebooks:

    Email your district’s Google administrator to request enabling the Google Play Store in your district’s domain. Share with them this video by Allison Mollica which explains how admins enable Play Store access and this video by Thomas Rup and Eric Lawson which explains pushing Android apps to Chromebooks.

    Keep Yourself in the Chromebook Loop

    More important than any tool is staying up-to-date on what’s happening with Chrome OS and education. To do this:

    • Follow the linked Twitter handles in this post. These educators share great resources for integrating technology in the classroom. Some of them are not Chromebook superfans like me. Great! Better to have a broader perspective.
    • Stay up-to-date about Chrome OS updates with the aforementioned Chrome Unboxed website.  The site is constantly publishing valuable updates and tips-and-tricks.
    • My Education Chromebook Reviews YouTube playlist includes videos that demonstrate the pluses and minuses of each model and show them in action. I will add to the playlist as reviews for new devices are published.

    I hope this guide is useful. To those of you already using touchscreen Chromebooks in the classroom, what did I miss? Please comment below or tweet me, @TomEMullaney. Thanks for reading.

    Immersive Learning with Google – SXSW EDU Panel Recap

    I was honored to be part of the Immersive Learning with Google panel at SXSW EDU 2018. My fellow panelists included our moderator, Google Classroom Product Manager Ope Bukola, sixth-and-seventh-grade Science teacher Carolina Carner, and Instructional Technology Specialist Melissa Lopez. Please read my recap or listen to the panel:

    The session started with four hands-on stations for attendees to engage in immersive learning:

    Link to Unlock the Lesson Plan Digital Breakout

    After the immersive learning stations, we started the panel by introducing ourselves and sharing our definitions of immersive learning. I strongly believe immersive learning happens when students lose themselves in what they are doing. Thank you, Jonathan Rochelle from Google, for documenting my answer:

    The panel shared their favorite technologies, including the immersive technologies in the stations and G Suite apps, and edtech apps such as Thinglink and Kahoot!.  

    Melissa shared the impact she has seen Expeditions VR have on students:

    Carolina shared her experiences pioneering Expeditions AR with students and how it made them better understand forces of nature:

    I shared that Google Classroom and Google Jamboard are two of my favorites because within 30 seconds of watching YouTube videos about them I could envision how I would use them with students.

    The panel continued with a discussion of teachers using technology. Ope asked us how we manage the noise and excitement of a classroom using immersive technologies such as Expeditions, Jamboard, and digital breakouts:

    Ope asked me about the best uses of digital breakouts in the classroom. I replied that teachers can make them using response validation in Google Forms to help prepare students for a cumulative assessment at the end of a unit. Teachers can try smaller scale digital breakouts as exit tickets or help students learn vocabulary.

    The Google team used Google Classroom to both facilitate the pre-panel stations and collect participants’ thoughts on what they would like to use with their students. My favorite response in the classroom was from a participant who wrote, “I’m already writing an email to our system admin [to enable Jamboard]!

    Speaking of Google Jamboard, I was too tired to pre-write this post on the flight home in Google Docs, so I used the Jamboard app to jot some pre-writing notes:

    Thank you to the team at Google for Education for inviting me to be part of the panel. It was an honor to be included in the company of innovative, passionate educators such as Carolina, Melissa, and Ope.

    What do you think of when you think of immersive learning with G Suite and other edtech? Please share in the comments below or tweet me, @TomEMullaney. Thanks for reading.

    I used this graphic and this photo from the @GoogleForEDU Twitter handle to make the image for this post.