Friday, October 26, 2018

Create Custom Art with Google Drawings

Some people never truly understand how amazing Google Drawings is. From the get go, it seems kind of boring. You just get that blank checkboard background. The tools aren't conducive to drawing. It's sterile.

All of that is true. But that simplicity is always what makes Google Drawings sooooo amazing. One thing I use to teach students how to get familiar with design and the functions of creating drawings is to have them create their own derivative art using images in Google Drawings.

The secret sauce is this guy:

The Polyline Tool! (you should be imagining that with a big, deep, echoing voice because this thing will CHANGE YOUR LIFE.) Let me show the ways.

First we are going to open up Google Drawings and just drop in any ordinary picture from the internet.

Now we are going to use the Polyline tool to "mask" over the image. This will give us a rough version of the picture that we can then start to touch up with our own personalization.

For this car, I'll use some circles to complete the wheels. I'll also flip through the layers to get the window shapes and some of the trim. After working for a while you'll have a whole mess of shapes that will soon become your own pretty little creation.

The final step is to go in, color it up, adjust your shapes, and add any extra details. This car needs a sweet lightning bolt down the side. You'll also want to delete your original starting image from behind your new creation.

Finally you'll want to group these shapes together to create a cohesive whole. This will let you move, stretch, resize, copy, paste -- all sorts of other things like it was any other image.

So that's it! This is such an amazing hack -- I have used this for countless classroom applications -- creating characters for stories, objects for animations, original images for presentations, I use this at home to have my daughters design their own princesses and castles. I have even used this exact technique to help my wife design a shirt for the staff in her office. There are truly thousands of applications for this, in and out of the classroom. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


One of the best vocabulary lessons you'll ever get is the one where you teach yourself the difference between "lazy" and "unmotivated". When it comes to students, when they aren't getting things done or it seems like they don't care, we are quick to call them lazy. But is that really the case?

Laziness is physical. Most of our students are actually experiencing a psychological problem -- lack of motivation.

The vocabulary we use to explain this behavior is important. In our mind if a student is lazy, it ends the conversation. You can't get over that.

Unmotivated suggests there is a source to the lack of effort they give in your classroom.

One of these things has a solution. One doesn't. If our students are unmotivated, it simply becomes a case of finding the motivation. Looking for something that moves that student. Building the relationship that makes them care.

So, whether you are discussing student issues in the teachers lounge or are simply processing internally what a student's issue might be, remember to check your vocabulary.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

EdTech PodSquad Goes Back to School!

Hey, Podcast fans! The latest episode of the EdTech PodSquad is up! We have a great conversation about back to school and starting something new in your school district. Check it out below!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Stop Talking Tech, Start Talking Shop

I've been doing this tech coaching thing for a while now, and recently I have come to a profound understanding about what I do.

People don't care that much about technology.

At first I this kind of bothered me. I told myself, "I do big important things! People love me! The things I care about have a profound impact!" I mean, these things ARE TRUE. But the real point I'm making here isn't that people don't find value in what I do--It's that teachers don't necessary want to sit around and shoot the breeze about technology integration in their classroom.

They don't want to talk tech. They want to talk about learning experiences.

Sometimes technology is an important part of that. And that's where I come in. This year I have tried to fundamentally change the perception of my role from "That tech guy" to more of a pedagogical mentor. My angle is tech, but our conversations need to be about TEACHING. Here's how I try to structure my conversations:

1. Ask more Questions

When I walk into a classroom, I should not consider my job to be a technology expert. I need to be a master teacher and a learning partner. I need to ask questions to understand what we're trying to do in the classroom today. The technology could absolutely make what happens today better, but why are we starting there? Let's drill down to the objectives of the unit, lesson, or activity. What do we need to get done? Now let's talk tech.

2. Focus on Instructional Goals

Through conversation we need to get to a place where we have a specific learning activity to focus on. Rather than walking in with an agenda of "cool tech tools" we should look at the goals for students first, and then plan the experiences around that. Once the components of the lesson are decided upon, then we should start talking about how technology supports those experiences. Are we collaborating? Creating? Publishing to the world? All of those things present amazing opportunities for technology integration. But the learning must come first.

3. Respect Class Time

If we are jumping in feet first with a tech enhanced project, we should understand that changes the timeline. If a teacher wants a students to make a video, we must allow for the extra time that will take plus the time needed to simply gain comfort with the new tool. Yes, there is a profound impact in having students publish video versions of written assignments, but are we going to spend 80% of the time we have on the project learning how to trim clips and insert background music? If I am singularly focused on being the tech integrator, it would be easy to allow something like that to spoil the actually student learning. And sometimes teacher's have no idea what you're getting them into. Be transparent about the time you are asking them to sacrifice.

This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to instructional coaching, but in the long run shifting the ways you have these conversations can make a big differences in the quality of tech integration you get with teachers and students.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Oops, we Started a Podcast: The EdTech PodSquad

Sorry that I keep blogging about podcasts -- I'm kind of one dimensional with this topic lately, but gosh darn it, I just love me a good podcast!

I love them so much, in fact, that I have started a new podcast with a few other amazing tech coaches. And it's called The EdTech PodSquad. And IT'S AMAZING!!! You should listen to it!

I know that everyone and their dog has a podcast right now, so I understand when folks ask, "Why???? What do you have to offer to the podcasting world, Mr. Howard?" It's a fair question. Here's my answer -- podcasts are versatile tools for learning and inspiration. They are worth listening to and there's a ton of value in recording your own. That's right -- you should flap your gums about what you do more! Feed your passion! Connect with others! Talk critically about the things you care about! Podcasts are perfect for that!

Here's my history with podcasts: I have about a 30 minute commute to and from my office. Years I spent wasting nearly an hour of my day listening to old songs on the radio during this time! I mean, I like Lynyrd Skynyrd as much as the next guy, but you can only hear Freebird so many times before you've HEARD it. This became the perfect time to learn, explore, and be inspired. 

So I started listening to podcasts during my commute. It started with some basics --RadioLab, Freakonomics, 99% Invisible, How Stuff Works...some of the more popular podcasts out there that I still listen to this day. That translated to seeking out podcasts that more closely cover my professional passion. Now I'm listening to Ditch That Textbook, The Google Teacher Tribe, The Cult of Pedagogy, and Dads in Ed  among others-- I'm still passing the time, but I also get to learn and be inspired. And I REALLY look forward to my time in the car.

I never thought about creating my own until I was working on a project with some fellow tech coaches a few months ago. We were doing some video chatting while reviewing presentation submissions. The conversation was so natural and we were having tons of fun just shooting the breeze about using technology in classrooms. But it also felt like I do when I blog here, or when I jump into a Twitter chat, or attend at edcamp -- I'm reflecting, connecting, and hearing new ideas and perspectives -- I'm growing through a conversation. It was awesome!

It was suggested that we should start recording these things and share the fun with others. Hey! That's a podcast! I love those things! That's where the EdTech PodSquad came from.

So now, once a month we get together and discuss what's going in our schools, what's got our interest, what we are fired up about or struggling with. It's great fun, and I think, worth listening to!

The PodSquad as a killer lineup! You should totally connect with us.

Jonathon Lee - @jleeTechPercent
Erin Lawson - @Erin_Lawson3
JP Prezzavento - @JPPrezz
Samantha Hardesty Knoll @techknoll
Me - @joshchoward

And maybe even check out the latest episode here:

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Two Minute Tech - Scanning Images into Text w/ Google Keep

Ever have paper text you'd like to have a digital copy of? Well this week's Tech Tip will show you how to turn any text into a digital format in seconds! Check it out below: