Comparing and Contrasting Google’s Actual Drawing Apps

Google Drawings has real value for teachers and students. And it is glaringly misnamed. The tool has no way to sketch and jot. It would be a real shame if G Suite for Education had no solution for digital drawing. To learn more about the immense benefits of drawing for learning please read the following:

The good news is there are actually four Google apps that draw! Even if Google Drawings is not one of these four, it still has some great benefits that should be noted:

  • Great for tables, charts, and timelines
  • Graphic organizers
  • Hyperlink transparent shapes to make interactive image maps
  • Transparent backgrounds are great for creating logos and website favicons. I created this blog’s “ST” favicon in Google Drawings.
  • Collaboration
  • Full Google Classroom integration
  • Precise dimensions settings under “Page setup…”
  • Add alt text to images for accessibility
  • Insert Google Drawings into Google Docs (coming soon)
  • Extra space is great for notes (see image below)
A screen capture from Google Drawings showing the ability to add notes in the extra space.
The extra space to the side of the canvas in Google Drawings is very useful!
Original image source: Wikimedia Commons.

Having established the non-drawing uses of Google Drawings, let’s discuss Google’s four actual drawing apps:

  • AutoDraw
  • Chrome Canvas
  • Google Jamboard – I will discuss both the web and mobile versions because they are different.
  • Google Keep – Keep has web and mobile versions. The two versions do not differ for sketching and drawing so I will address only the web version.

AutoDraw

AutoDraw is Google’s AI experiment that predicts drawings. What a great tool! It also has a free sketch tool and text input. No login required so it is especially easy for students who struggle with signing in and passwords. Autodraw’s big drawback is that it does not save drawings. Users have to download what they create or lose it. For more about Autodraw, please watch this video.

Getting Started with Touchscreen Chromebooks blog post image.
Touchscreen Chromebooks Blog Post Image by Tom Mullaney. Created with AutoDraw.
"Welcome to the NCHS Makerspace" image created by Michelle Luhtala using Autodraw.
Welcome to the NCHS Makerspace by Michelle Luhtala. Created with Autodraw.

Chrome Canvas

Chrome Canvas is Google’s newest sketching tool. There is a lot to like here: sliders for size and opacity similar to those in Adobe Create Cloud apps, the ability to draw on an image, and a unique chalk tool. The pencil tool looks like pencil-on-paper. The marker tool becomes a highlighter when set to a low opacity. Chrome Canvas’s biggest drawback is it does not work in a web browser on iPads. For more about Chrome Canvas, please watch this video.

Richard Nixon image with quick annotations about his elections, Watergate, Vietnam, China, and the EPA.
Richard Nixon Annotated by Tom Mullaney. Created in Chrome Canvas.
Original image source: Wikimedia Commons.

Google Jamboard

The Google Jamboard web app has two big advantages over the other apps: real-time collaborative drawing and multiple pages or “frames” as they are called in the app. The app has a limited color palette compared to the others. The ability to add sticky notes is a nice benefit. The web app does not work well in browsers on the iPad. iPad users should install the Jamboard mobile app. For more on the Jamboard web app, please watch this video.

The Jamboard mobile app has those features and much more including autodraw, shape recognition, handwriting recognition, the ability to add content from Google Drive and the web, and great backgrounds including graph paper and college-ruled lined paper. I made the image for this blog post with the Jamboard app. For more information on this very powerful and fun app, please read my blog post, Bring Collaboration to the Next Level with the Google Jamboard App, or watch this video.

Notes about Shirley Chisholm created in Google Jamboard. They include a campaign poster and sticky notes that show her priorities: Civil Rights, Women's Rights, Peace in Vietnam, and Environmental protection.
Shirley Chisholm Notes by Tom Mullaney. Created in the Google Jamboard mobile app.
Original image source: Wikimedia Commons.

Google Keep

Google Keep‘s advantage over the other apps is the ability to access it inside G Suite Docs, Drawings, Sheets, Slides, and GMail. That makes it a great collaborative tool. Students can collaborate on notes and add multiple drawings to a Keep note but they will not have the real-time collaborative drawing experience found in Jamboard. Drawings can have graph paper and lined backgrounds but they do not save when the image is downloaded. Please note that drawing does not work in the web app on iPads. iPad users should install the Keep mobile app. For more about drawing in Google Keep, please watch this video.

Sketch of a house and car on a sunny day.
Sunny Day by Tom Mullaney. Created with Google Keep.

To help make sense of these drawing options, I created a table in the aforementioned Google Drawings to help compare and contrast the 4 apps. Yes, I appreciate the irony of using Google Drawings for this task.

Do you have questions about Google’s actual drawing apps? Please comment below or tweet me at @TomEMullaney. Thanks for reading.

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A Conversation About Chromebooks in Education

I recently had the pleasure of talking about Chromebooks in education with Michelle Luhtala for an instalment of edWeb.net’s webinar series.  Michelle took one thing I mentioned to heart – look at what she created after I suggested Autodraw.com as a tool for Chromebooks during the webinar:

Created by Michelle Luhtala using Autodraw.

Michelle and I spoke about how Chromebooks differ from Windows and Mac devices as well how Chromebooks can best be used in classrooms.


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


Michelle documented links to tools and media we talked about using Pearltrees:

Michelle Luhtala's Pearltrees collection of links based on our Chromebooks conversation. Image links to the collection.
 Michelle’s Pearltrees collection of links based on our conversation.

Watch the webinar by clicking this link:

Do you have questions about using Chromebooks in the classroom? Comment below or tweet me @TomEMullaney.

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 mistermullaney@gmail.com to inquire about my consulting services!

A Drawing for Assessment Tool: Formative

Formative, found at goformative.com, 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.