How to Create and Edit Google Drawings

Google Drawings, part of the suite of Google Apps, is a versatile visual media editor. It is straightforward to use, and all Drawings are automatically saved to your Google Drive. Using drawings, you can:

  • Create infographics
  • Edit and annotate images
  • Create collages/ montages
  • Easily search for and insert copyright-free images
  • Insert your Drawing into Docs, Slides, or other Apps

The infographic below is a Google Drawing: text boxes and arrows were layered on top of screenshots to display the functions available in this app.

Google Drawings- A Guide


I’ve met the future, and her name is Alexa.

“Alexa, play John Coltrane.”Alexa

“Alexa, what is the weather like tomorrow?”

“Alexa, what’s today’s news?”

Two weeks ago, an Amazon Echo came into my possession. I had seen this device on the internet, and though I was somewhat interested in this voice-activated speaker and internet-connected device, $180 seemed a little steep. After all, voice activation technology is not new: I have been using Siri to play music from my phone and Google to search the web for at least a year.

However, after a couple of weeks with this device, I have to say that this black cylinder is offering a fresh and addictive experience. What’s more, both my own grade school children and my high school students just love it.

The big difference between “Alexa” (the name you use to ‘wake up’ the Amazon Echo) and other current voice activation technologies is that Alexa really is hands-free. The cylinder sits in your kitchen/ living room/ classroom, and when you want something, you just say “Alexa” and then speak your request. You don’t need to press any button, turn it on, or search for a remote control. However, my iPhone 6 with iOS 9 does now have this technology for Siri but only when the phone is charging.

For now, the cylinder sits in the kitchen, and when we arrive home, Alexa will play music on request, answer questions, and even turn on and off our WeMo connected lights. The sound from this device is at least as good as higher end Bluetooth speakers, and Alexa will answer probing questions to the amusement of my children. In fact, the fifty or so people whom I have seen interact with this device have all delighted in even asking Alexa to turn the music up.

This is a great device for right now in late October 2015 (game 3 of the World Series), but every other device is going to catch up really quickly. In fact, the iPhone 6s already has this technology, and according to this New York Times article, this “ambient computing” is the future and the defining feature of Apple’s newest phone.

So, the future’s name may not actually be “Alexa”, but for right now, this innovative device is paving the way to “a future in which robotic assistants are always on hand to answer questions, take notes, take orders or otherwise function as auxiliary brains to whom you might offload many of your chores” (Manjoo).

Work Cited

Manjoo, Farhad. “iPhone 6s’s Hands-Free Siri Is an Omen of the Future”. The New York Times. New York. Sept. 22, 2015. Web. October 30, 2015.

Apple Watch – Ten First Impressions

I am an early adopter; my long-suffering wife is a late adopter. And this works well, mostly. She prevents me from some very expensive impulse buys, and I have dragged her out of the world of flip phones and rabbit ears on the TV. I test out the new devices, and she can see whether she wants one or not. (Mostly, she eventually does).


The Apple Watch, however, is a very new kind of device, and while I very Watch 1much enjoyed my
first weekend with my “Aluminum” Lime Green 38mm watch, this device has perhaps elicited more eye rolling than previous purchases. When I say “I can do this on my Watch!” her expression communicates, “Why would you want to do that on your Watch?”


Anyway, here are ten first impressions of my watch.


1. Texting: on the first evening I had the Watch, the kids and I were sitting in the car waiting for my wife who had run into a store for some emergency supplies. She texted me to ask if I wanted Chimay Dubbel or Tripel. There was a small ‘ding’ and a little tap on the wrist to let me know the text had come in. When I hit reply, the first reply options the watch were “Dubbel” or “Tripel” (before more standard options like “OK”, “Thank you” Absolutely” and “Talk Later”). The Watch is able to understand the texts and suggest relevant replies. You cannot type on the Apple Watch, but you can dictate text. This has worked well for me so far, but unfamiliar words might be a little jumbled: “Affligem” became “Affleck him”. In short, I was able to text at least as quickly as on my phone without taking it out of my pocket which can be a pain to do when you are sitting in the driver’s seat.Watch 2


My wife has also notes that I am more polite when texting by dictation – I am more often use please and thank you than in ham fisted typed texts.


2. Internet of Things: Though my wife rolls her eyes quite a lot at this one, I can now turn the lights in the living room on and off with my watch. These lights are connected to a WeMo; a switch that is connected in to the house’s wifi. Using the “If this then that” DO app, I can connect to the WeMo switch from my watch. The kids like this one a lot, as does this big kid.


3. TV Remote: I’ve now figured how to control the Apple TV from the watch which I hope will be useful when we lose the very small Apple remote (which is twice a day). The kids and I all think that this is just fantastic: it is really easy to use, much quicker than using the Remote app on my iPhone, and the swipe feature is fun to use.


4. Running: Watch ActivityThis is one of the primary reasons I bought the watch. I am attempting to run 2015
miles for Parkinson’s disease this year, and I need to track my miles. I’ve been wearing my iPhone in a velcro case on my arm for the last 725 miles, and I’ve got some very dry skin there now. Today, I ran with just the watch, and it was a great improvement in this regard. However, I could not get the Nike+ app to work: wheel of death followed by crash, so I used the native Activity app which worked OK, though it overestimated my distance by 10%. I will need to keep fiddling with this. I initially though that the Watch had no step counter, but I found it today. This one was a worry because it would have been a feature that my wife’s FitBit had that the Watch didn’t have, and that would have led to laughing and pointing.


5. Listening to music: not everything has been intuitive on the watch. Listening to music using my Bluetooth headphones took a little fiddling, and then a little Googling. My Bluetooth headphones were already Watch Musicconnected, so they were picking up the music from this source. After forgetting this connection, I was able to connect the headphones to the watch, but when I pressed play, the music seemed very quiet until I realized that it was playing on
my iPhone in my pocket. Googling revealed that you need to use Force Touch on the Watch’s Music app to select the source of music as the Watch (and after syncing some music to the watch). Then it worked perfectly, but I had just three minutes to listen before picking the kids up from swimming).


6. Health: Although I’d read about this feature, I was a little
surprised on the first night when sitting in front of the tv to get a little tap on the wrist to stand up. It does this several times a day to move you to the goal of standing for 12 hours a day (doesn’t this seem like a lot?) I’ve managed the 12 hours on both weekend days, but this might be more of a struggle tomorrow at work. I’ve not used the heart rate monitor much yet, but I enjoyed the calorie and step counter on our hike tdau.


7. Presenting: The nerd factor here is high, but I am in my late forties, so what am I clinging to? I have a public presentation on Thursday and will use the Keynote remote control on the watch to control the slides
Watch Weather


8. Weather: The weather glances is very nicely developed: when checking it, I could quickly see that there were going to be thunderstorms at around 2pm. This is handy, because the watch is not waterproof.


9.Battery Life: despite the scorn I received from a student of mine who has a Pebble Watch, the battery has held up both days just fine despite heavy use. It also looks way better than his e-ink!


10. Time: Yes, it also does this. I like that the watch face only lights up when I tilt my wrist to view the watch. However, I’ve also used it for timing both the length of the kids’ piano lessons as well as cooking time when grilling steak. Again, it is both quicker than taking my iPhone out of my pocket and finding the timer app on the iPhone.


So, I’ve really enjoyed the Watch so far and I am finding that the more I get to know it that the more useful it will become. My wife is not yet convinced, but she has two years until she gets the Watch when I buy the Apple Watch 3.

How to Goobric – Attach a rubric to individual Doctopus Docs

So, you’ve created 20, 30, 40 individual copies of a template using Doctopus (see previous post) and you are wondering at the magnificence of Andrew Stillman’s automation tool that has distributed documents to all your students.

But, now the students have all completed the assignments, and you have to grade/ assess them…

You may choose to add narrative comments to their writingScreen Shot 2014-07-08 at 8.14.25 PM (whether in the form of comments or the new “suggestions” edits recently added to Docs).

You may also want to attach a rubric to the student’s assignment to provide standards/ skills-based feedback.  You could email a rubric to each student, or even copy and paste a rubric into each of the Docs.

However, Mr. Stillman and team have provided an extension that can attach individual rubrics to the individual Docs.  This extension has another ‘playful’ name: “Goobric.”

What is more, not only does Goobric attach rubrics to the Docs, but it also relays the scores and comments recorded in the rubric back to your Doctopus spreadsheet!

Follow the Presentation below for “How to Goobric”

How to Doctopus – Updated for Add-Ons

Next week, I will give a presentation at the Lausanne Learning Institute at the Lausanne Collegiate School in Memphis on “Digital Writing” (not my title!)

However, as I prepared for the presentation, I realized that my materials regarding the excellent template-sharing tool “Doctopus” are out of date ever since scripts for Google Spreadsheets became “Add-Ons”.

(If you do not know what Doctopus is, please read this post!  In short, it is a tool that allows you to create and share individualized copies of a document/ template with your students.)

Initially, it looked like Doctopus did not work with the new Spreadsheets, but then Doctopus creator Andrew Stillman came through again: the new Doctopus is even easier to use than before.  Many thanks to Mr. Stillman for Doctopus and all his other excellent free tools.


5 To-Do List Apps Head-to-Head

There nothing more satisfying than checking items of a to-do list.  Or perhaps there is: trying out a new to-do list app.

This week, I have had problems with my go-to to-do list app, Wunderlist, which has not been syncing across devices (thought there was a quick and easy fix).  Wunderlist is a beautiful and feature rich free app, and it’s been working very well.  However, the syncing problems are, apparently, the result of the company switching its syncing process, but sitting in car pool today provided me with the opportunity to try out some other to-do apps.  The five apps are now installed on as many devices/ platforms as the apps allow and I own: iPhone, iPad, desktop, Chrome, and Gmail plugin.  All accounts are the free versions.

WunderlistScreen Shot 2014-07-02 at 11.29.40 AM

  • Arguably, Wunderlist has the most attractive interface (there are a handful of simple backgrounds; I have chosen a stunning photo of Berlin – it is a German company);
  • You can add notes, photos, comments and files to list items in the free version.  (This is particularly helpful when shopping for an item and you need a visual reminder of what you are looking for);
  • You can add list item reminders: you will be sent an email when the item is due.


  • The company seems to have periodic syncing issues: this recent one dates from May of 2014, but they apparently had a similar issue last year.  Simple communication could fix this as the solution to the issue was merely logging out of all devices then back in again;
  • The Chrome extension only adds the current webpage to a list: it does not allow you to manage lists or add other items;
  • Similarly, the Gmail plugin only adds the email to a list.  Moreover, the plugin is slower than both and Todoist; its occasional (5 second?) pause to load is a deterrent to using this feature. Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 11.38.01 AM

  • The decent Gmail plugin allows you to add list items from emails as well as to see what is coming up.  It even automatically adds a bar at the end of emails asking “What’s next?”
  • List items can repeat for recurring tasks;
  • There are plenty of options for reminders;
  • It has a clean and simple interface.


  • Though you can add sub-tasks, there is no option to add photos or files to list items;
  • No iPad app (how is this possible?!)
  • The interface is a little too sparse;
  • There is apparently no sidebar for jumping quickly between various lists.


TodoistScreen Shot 2014-07-02 at 11.27.35 AM

  • Simple and clean interface;
  • Very nice welcome email which provided details of apps for every possible platform
  • This is the best Gmail plugin.  Not only does the pop up window appear immediately, and allows you to add a list item, but it also provides access to all your other list items in a pop-up similar to the Chrome extension.


  • Adding notes, photos, files, voice messages to list items is a premium feature ($28.99/ year)

Google KeepScreen Shot 2014-07-02 at 12.04.10 PM


      • Simple, colorful tiled interface;
      • Reminders can be set for all tasks


      • No native iPhone/ iPad app.  There are some third party apps, but they are slow.
      • These are just like Post-It notes: there is no sidebar to jump between lists.
      • No Gmail plugin.

Google Tasks (added through Gmail)Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 12.02.44 PM

      • Tasks is integrated automatically into Gmail and a small bar or window can be kept open at all times.
      • It is also integrated with Google calendar and can be kept open in the right sidebar at all times.
      • You can make any Gmail a task to-do item by clicking the “More” button


      • Again, there is no native iOS app.  The third party app GoTasks, however, works well, though it is not one of the most attractive interfaces.
      • You can add notes, but not photos to list items.
      • Jumping between lists is through a single button; the lack of sidebar sometimes leads me to forget about other list categories.
      • The interface is rather basic.


Clearly, personal preference, priorities, and the available platforms are important in choosing a to-do list.  Personally, while I really enjoy the simplicity  and ease-of-use of both Keep and Tasks, the lack of iOS apps rules both of them out.  The lack of an iPad app is one reason for ruling out, but I also find it a little too sparse, and the inability to add photos makes my time in Home Depot even more difficult.  So, it’s down to Todoist and Wunderlist, and while I love Todoist’s Gmail plugin, Wunderlist is the victor because of the ability to add photos and notes to the freemium version.  And since I resolved the synching issue, it has been working brilliantly.


Tour Art Galleries and Ancient Monuments with Google Cultural Institute

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 7.51.32 AMGoogle’s new “Cultural Institute” allows you to take virtual tours of art galleries, view curated collections of art, explore historic moments, and visit wonders of the world.

The site is highly interactive, and is a great resource for student-centered activities across the curriculum.  The collections have been curated by well-known museums, galleries, and national institutions, and the interface and user experience is very slick.

The site also allows you to create your own curated galleries of art works, historic documents and images, and interactive presentations.  It provides a terrific opportunity also for evidence-based learning through access to thousands of historic primary documents.

Some of my favorites in a brief tour of the site included: