Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Where I'd Like to Go - An Icebreaker With Google Drawings

As the new school year starts many you may find yourself looking for some new ideas to break the ice and get to know your new students while they also get to know each other. One thing that I've always asked my students is "where in the world would you go if you could go anywhere today?" Recently, I've started thinking about turning that question into the prompt for an activity in which students learn a bit about Google Drawings

The idea is to have students virtually place themselves anywhere in the world through the use of Google Drawings. To do this students first need to find a picture of themselves and remove the background from it. Photoscissors makes it quick and easy to remove the background then download a new background-free image. Once they have a picture of themselves then students open Google Drawings where they insert a picture of place that they want to visit or revisit. Finally, they then insert their profile picture over the background image in Google Drawings. Those steps might sound complicated, but they're not. In this short video I show the whole process. 

As I mention in the video above, you can modify this activity to be completed with Google Slides or Google Jamboard. And, as is also demonstrated in the video above, you can use Google Classroom to distribute a template for the assignment.

Image Search and Autodraw - My Favorite Book Creator Design Tools

Disclosure: Book Creator is currently an advertiser on This post was written by me, Richard Byrne. 

In yesterday's post about Book Creator's back-to-school resources I mentioned the integrated image search and the autodraw feature that students can use on every page of their books. Those are probably my favorite design tools incorporated into Book Creator because they enable anyone to add helpful storytelling imagery into their books. Autodraw is particularly helpful to people like me who are not good at drawing. The integrated image search is helpful because it only returns copyright-free images. 

Both of my favorite Book Creator design features, Autdraw and Integrated Image Search, are demonstrated in my latest Book Creator tutorial video

Zoom Tip - Screen Share Zoom Windows

If you have recently updated the desktop version of Zoom you may have noticed a new option in your "in meeting" settings. That option is "show Zoom windows during screen share." By enabling that option your screen shares will include the webcam or profile picture windows of the people who are in your meeting. See my screenshot below for directions on where to find this setting in your Zoom account. 

Unfortunately, during my testing of the setting I found that it doesn't screen share the Zoom control bar so you can't use it to show meeting participants where the mute button or other settings are during a meeting. 

Applications for Education
My first thought when seeing "show Zoom windows during screen share" option was that it might be useful to those who want to be able to include their students' video feeds in a screenshare. I can see potential for this to be useful when I want to have include a side-by-side view of a student's screen and my screen during Zoom meeting. For example, if a student asks for help on a coding problem and I want to explain the solution to the whole class I can have that student screen share right next to my screen share. Then I'm able to display my screen with the correct answer and my student's screen with the error and how to correct it.

How to Set Google Scholar Alerts - Two Options

I've published a few posts about Google Scholar lately because I think it's a valuable research tool that students often overlook or haven't been introduced to. It can be used to conduct research on court cases, inventions and inventors, and all kinds of academic topics. There's one more feature of Google Scholar that students should know how to use. That feature is setting alerts for new material that appears in Google Scholar and matches a predefined search term.

In this new video (embedded below) I demonstrate how to create a library of resources in Google Scholar as well as how to create Google Scholar Alerts that will notify you when new content related to your research appears in Google Scholar.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Great Book Creator Resources to Start the New School Year

Disclosure: Book Creator is an advertiser on This blog post was written by me, Richard Byrne.

Book Creator is a versatile digital publishing tool that I’ve been using and recommending for years. And every school year it seems to get better. This year is not an exception to that pattern as they’ve just launched a great collection of new resources for teachers and students. Let’s take a look at those resources and how you might use them as the new school year begins.

If you're reading this on August 10th, join Book Creator's free webinar at 3pm ET, Creative Digital Citizenship Activities With Book Creator.

Digital Citizenship
As I featured earlier this summer, Book Creator now offers a collection of digital citizenship resources designed to help teach good digital citizenship habits to elementary school students. The books, written by Common Sense Education, teach students to stop and think before clicking or typing, to think about their responsibilities as digital citizens, and how to handle online interactions with friends. All three of the digital citizenship ebooks include audio components as well as activities for students to complete in Book Creator. You can make copies of the books and distribute them to your students in your Book Creator account by following the steps that I outlined in this video.

Copyright Free Images
As part of the announcement about the digital citizenship ebooks, Book Creator reiterated the point that students should learn to respect copyright when it comes to using images in their books. To that end, Book Creator does include an integrated image search tool that returns only copyright-free images for students to use in their work.
Drawings for those who can’t draw
Continuing on the topic of images in Book Creator, autodraw is a cool feature that’s perfect for folks like me. Although I regularly create sketchnotes in my notebook, I will never be confused for an artist. That doesn’t mean I can’t include some good drawings in my Book Creator books. Book Creator’s autodraw will insert premade drawings/ clipart based on what I’m trying to draw. For example, if I’m trying to draw a bicycle and only do so much as a couple of circles connected by a straight line Book Creator’s autodraw will start to suggest some bicycle drawings for me to insert in place of my terrible drawing. Try it for yourself or watch my demo to see how autodraw works.

Digital Portfolios

Book Creator was started as a tool to make it easy for anyone to craft their own multimedia stories. It is still my go-to tool for that. But Book Creator is increasingly becoming a popular tool for creating digital portfolios. So much so that Book Creator now offers a digital portfolio template for students to use.

In their back-to-school announcement Book Creator mentions three ways to approach managing student portfolios. My preferred approach is to have each student maintain their own portfolio rather than have a section within a class portfolio. I prefer that arrangement for two reasons. First, it eliminates a chance of one student’s work being affected by another. Second, it’s easier to share with parents at the end of the semester or school year. Of course, there is never a one-size-fits-all recommendation so I’d encourage you to take a look at Book Creator’s blog post and decide which option is best for your situation.

Get to Know Each Other Through Book Creator
The final aspect of Book Creator’s recent back-to-school announcement that deserves attention are the back-to-school and Empower the Learner Profile templates. The back-to-school templates are designed to help you get to know each other through the creation of things like a personal coat of arms, a “hopes and dreams” page, and an “all about me” page. I’d use those templates just like my students so that they can learn about me and I can learn about them.

The Empower the Learner Profile template is a little different than the back-to-school template. This is a one-page profile that students complete. Before giving that template to your students, I recommend reading this short ebook that explains the components of the profile and how they impact students.

Free Webinars!

Book Creator is hosting three free webinars this month.