Why This Teacher Loves Canva


I sat in an eighth-grade math teacher’s classroom, working on problems she shared with her students using Mathspace. I do not usually enjoy multi-step math problems but found myself delighted and completely engaged. Reflecting on it later, I realized a significant part of the experience was Mathspace’s sleek, modern design. I like Google Classroom more than LMSs in part because of its beautiful design but it took my Mathspace experience to realize an important rule when creating digital learning experiences for students:

Design Counts!

If we want students to engage in digital lessons, we owe it to them to make learning materials visually appealing. Personally, I enhance imagery to make Google Sitesdigital breakouts, and YouTube thumbnails that look good and hook students. Canva is a great tool for teachers and students to create imagery that adds beauty to their creations.

Making an image in Canva is easy. Users can create images with template dimensions such as Facebook and Twitter posts, and, my favorite, YouTube thumbnails. Additionally, users can set custom dimensions such as 800 x 200 (Google Classroom images) and 767 x 280 (Google Sites banner images):

The Wikimedia Commons is a great source for copyright-friendly images to jazz up a lesson. Here is how to easily upload them into the Canva editor:


Canva lets teachers make images more dramatic or cheerful with Instagram-like filters:


A great tool to use in conjunction with Canva is the Colorzilla Google Chrome extension. It allows users to grab any color they see in an image and use it to make more elements. Additionally, Canva’s transparency tool is another way for amateurs to become instant graphic artists:

Canva is a great tool for students to use their creativity. My colleague Cristie Watson had students create six-word memoirs in Canva which inspired me to make my own:

Teachers looking for more ways to incorporate Canva into instruction should look at their lesson plans as well as tutorials and design resources.

There two small drawbacks. I use the free version of Canva so I cannot make images with transparent backgrounds. That is why I made this site’s favicon in Google Drawings. Additionally, images can only be cropped into rectangles, unlike Google Drawings which allows users to crop with different shapes. These drawbacks make Google Drawings a better tool for making digital badges.

We want our students engaging in the 4Cs in our classrooms. That engagement becomes inevitable when we engage in them ourselves. Canva is a great tool for tapping your inner creativity and drawing it out of students too.

Author’s Note: I have not been compensated for writing this. I have not collaborated with Canva. They were unaware I that I worked on this post.

Social Studies and EdTech? I Co-Wrote the E-Book!


I am honored to announce my Imagine Easy blog posts about Social Studies and educational technology have been combined with work from Matthew Farber to form an e-book, A Technology Toolkit for Social Studies Teachers. This e-book can be downloaded for free. I hope it will be useful for your practice. Please comment below or tweet me at @edtechtom if you would discuss or share feedback. Thank you for reading.

Ten Things You Can Do This Summer To Prepare For Teaching In A 1:1 Classroom With Chromebooks

Has your district told you your students will bring Chromebooks with them to class in the fall? Are you eager to integrate this technology into instruction but unsure how? Here are ten things you can do this summer to hit the ground running in the fall, brought to you by a teacher who has been in your shoes.

1. Ask your administration for a Chromebook to use this summer.

You want to know the Chromebook user experience before school starts. What better way to learn than by doing? This teacher loves Chromebooks in the classroom for many reasons. You will too, especially if you understand the platform your students use. See if your administrators are willing to loan you the same model students will use in the fall. Use it for everything this summer and you will be prepared.

2. Become a Google Educator.

If you want to successfully use Google Apps for Education (GAFE) in classroom instruction, you need to be proficient in them. Go through Google for Education’s process to earn Google Educator certification. The process involves online modules and five $15 (as of Summer 2014) tests. Author’s Note (6/28/15): This process has just changed. Please have a look at Google’s new options and see what works for you. Going through the modules will make you more than proficient in Google Apps. Taking and passing the exams will earn you a Google Educator certificate, a nice asset for your CV.

 3. Upload your files to Google Drive.

This is essential for you to work with your students in a 1:1 classroom. After the Google Educator modules, you should be able to easily upload folders to Google Drive. Or, you can watch this video about doing it with a Windows computer:

Or this one about doing it with a Mac:


4. Get to know Google Classroom.

First, watch this video introducing Google Classroom. Imagine the possibilities. Get excited!

Then, read up about Google Classroom and how to use it to do transformative things such as seamlessly include absent and home-bound students in your class.

5. Learn from the experts.

There is so much great content about integrating technology into the classroom. It can be overwhelming. Start small by following these eight experts on Twitter and reading their blogs regularly. If starting a Twitter account seems overwhelming, read Alice Keeler’s blog post about signing up for Twitter. Here are my favorite education technology experts. Their names hyperlink to their blogs.

6. Digitize your print documents.

Do this during the summer to save time during the school year. Once a print document is digitized, it can be altered and, hence, improved.

7. Convert your multiple choice assessments to paperless Google Forms your students can answer on their Chromebooks.

My visual tutorial will guide you through this process. Doing this during the summer will save you untold time at the photocopier and ScanTron machine during the school year. If you are curious about grading, read my grading tutorial, but it will not be necessary until you give your first multiple choice assessment.

Author’s Note (12/3/15): The visual tutorial linked above will work for you if you are working with the old Google Forms. If you are working with the new Google Forms, please read this post to get acquainted. 

8. Use TEDEd to change the way video is used in instruction.

Rather than have the whole class watch a projected video, you can add short-answer and multiple choice assessment questions, discussion prompts and links to further resources to any YouTube video. Make a list of your favorite YouTube videos used in instruction, and make them into powerful instructional tools with YouTube this summer. Students can work with videos at their own pace on their Chromebooks and you can use TEDEd’s tools to assess understanding.

Author’s Note (12/3/15): EdPuzzle is also a great tool for engaging students with video. Additionally, please read my Five Strategies for Using Video in the Classroom

9. Use PDFSplit to break up large curricular PDFs into smaller documents.

Instead of printing the pages of the PDF you want your students to read and scanning them, use PDFSplit to make original quality PDFs of the exact pages you want students to read. PDFSplit connects to your Google Drive to access your PDF. It makes a new file with only the pages you specify. Students then read beautiful PDFs on their Chromebooks, not scans of photocopies.

10. Join Google Plus education technology communities.

This will serve as another great source for education technology information. Just like with education technology experts on Twitter, start small. Here are four great communities to join:

Teaching in a 1:1 classroom with Chromebooks reignited my passion for education. I hope it does for you too! If you would like to talk more about successful technology integration in the 1:1 classroom, please comment below or send me a tweet at @edtechtom.

Google Classroom Experts Name My Absent Student Strategy a Best Practice

I am honored Google Classroom Experts named my strategy for including absent students a best practice:

#005 - GC Best Practices #2

Google Classroom Experts are posting a new best practice to their Google Plus page weekly. To read more about how I use Google Classroom to fully include absent and home-bound students, please have a look at my blog post about it.

If you would like to discuss ideas for using Google Classroom to include absent students, please comment below or send me a tweet.

Make Paperless Assessment with Google Forms – Part 2 of 2: Grading with Flubaroo

In part 1 of this post, I showed you how to create a Google Form, import questions from a Google Doc or Word Doc and collect answers. Now it is time to grade your Google Form and give students quick, helpful feedback.

Start by going to the Google Form assessment you shared with your students:

Screenshot 2015-05-13 at 9.19.58 AM

Then return to the Google Form’s answers spreadsheet:

Screenshot 2015-05-13 at 9.21.48 AM

Now it is time to install the Flubaroo add-on for Google Sheets. This is what makes grading the Google Form so easy:

Screenshot 2015-05-13 at 9.23.20 AM

Screenshot 2015-05-13 at 9.25.03 AM

Screenshot 2015-05-13 at 9.26.20 AM

Now that it is installed, use it to grade the answers by taking these steps:

Screenshot 2015-05-13 at 9.27.36 AM

Screenshot 2015-05-13 at 9.29.07 AM

Screenshot 2015-05-13 at 9.29.59 AM

Screenshot 2015-05-13 at 9.32.24 AM

Flubaroo is very valuable to teachers. It highlights students who struggled and questions many students answered incorrectly. It has one other great feature: the ability to quickly give students detailed feedback. To e-mail students their results:

Screenshot 2015-05-13 at 9.33.10 AM

Screenshot 2015-05-13 at 9.37.39 AM

Some teachers might not be comfortable e-mailing the answer key. I prefer total transparency when assessing students. The nice thing about Flubaroo is that it gives you options for how much you share with students.

If you would like to know more about creating assessments in Google Forms, take a loot at part 1 of this post. If you would like to ask me any questions about making paperless assessment in Google Forms, comment below or send me a tweet at @edtechtom.

Make Paperless Assessment with Google Forms – Part 1 of 2

Are you teaching in a school that recently went 1:1 or is about to go 1:1? Do you hate stacks of paper burying your desk after you give students a test? Do you want students to take tests on their devices? Do you hate it when your school’s photocopier jams? Do you want to reduce cheating on assessments?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above, read on. This is a visual tutorial for making an assessment with Google Forms. By the end of this post, you should be able to create an assessment and add questions from assessments you have in Microsoft Word and Google Doc formats. In part 2, I show you how to automatically grade paperless assessments in Google Forms.

To get started creating a Google Form, go to the Google Drive folder where you want to store the form and:

Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 12.25.33 PM

Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 12.26.49 PM

Checking “Shuffle question order” means the questions will appear in a different order for each student taking the test. This makes cheating during the test very difficult.

Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 12.29.43 PM

Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 12.30.38 PM

My students use HP Chromebooks. The touchpads are sensitive. This causes students to accidentally submit forms before they have answered all questions. Making each question required prevents forms from being submitted until all questions have been answered.

Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 1.16.55 PM

Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 1.18.30 PM

Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 1.20.26 PM

Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 1.21.07 PM

Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 1.22.04 PM

Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 1.22.55 PM

Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 1.23.57 PM

Now that you have started entering questions into your form, here’s a suggestion: get rid of all numbers for the questions and letters for the answer choices. Those are relics of the Scantron era. In part 2, I will show you how to automatically grade your assessment. You won’t need numbers or letters. The absence of letters and numbers makes cheating harder. Additionally, to tell another student an answer, a cheater would have to state the question and the answer. Instead of saying “2 is b,” a cheating student is re-teaching content!

Once you have entered your questions, get your form ready for students’ eyes:

Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 1.33.23 PM

Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 1.34.14 PM

Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 1.35.05 PM

Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 1.38.00 PM

Your form will open in a new tab.

Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 1.39.03 PM

After students have taken the assessment:

Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 1.40.42 PM

The answers, on a Google Sheet, appear in a new tab:

Screenshot 2015-05-08 at 1.42.54 PM

This is where I will end this post. Now you should be able to create a form and view answers. In the second post, I demonstrate how to use Flubaroo to easily grade the assessment and give students fast feedback. If you have any questions about Google Forms for assessment, please comment below or send me a tweet at @tmullaney23.

Making Lesson Recap Videos with Screencastify

Making video recaps of my lessons has revolutionized my teaching. I am so grateful to Chris Aviles for suggesting it at EdCamp New Jersey. A parent told me she wishes every teacher made video recaps. A learning support teacher uses them to help my students study in her instructional support classes. Students who need multiple opportunities to learn and absent students benefit the most from video lesson recaps.

I have documented how I use SnagIt to make recaps on my Chromebook. SnagIt met my needs until it had a problem with static in March 2015. I researched and found that Screencastify does essentially the same thing. Screencastify is an extension for the Google Chrome browser so it works an any computer with the browser.

Watch this video where I discuss how I use Screencastify:

After installing the extension…

Screenshot 2015-04-02 at 1.26.35 PM

Before starting the recording be sure “Desktop” is selected and “Embed webcam” is not.

Screenshot 2015-04-02 at 1.29.36 PM

“Desktop” makes sure Screencastify captures the entire screen. “Embed wecam” puts a small webcam in the lower right corner of the screen when you screencast. I prefer to open the computer’s webcam and size the window to my liking.

When you stop recording, Screencastify puts the video file in a Google Drive folder.

Screenshot 2015-04-02 at 1.33.33 PM

Screenshot 2015-04-02 at 1.40.34 PM

Screenshot 2015-04-02 at 1.42.35 PM

Overall, I have been thrilled with Screencastify. Its file sizes are roughly 10-20MB per minute. That is much lower than SnagIt-made video files. This saves me time when uploading videos to YouTube. If you do not want to be on YouTube, share the video in Google Drive with your students. The small file sizes mean less bandwith used when multiple students view it in your classroom.

Video lesson recaps have tremendously benefited my students. I am happy to share this strategy far and wide. Please be in touch if you want to discuss further!