As I was working on post production on a video project recently, I had an “A ha!” moment–call it an EdTech Epiphany. I realized that I could use Google Drawings to create an image that, when saved as a PNG file, could be used as an overlay graphic in video projects. In this case, the sports fan in me led me to create a fictional scoreboard graphic: Boston 2-Chicago 1. #homer

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This breakthrough led me to more scorecards and then to weather graphics and then to fictional station identification in the same project. The simple elegance of Google Drawings plus the flexibility of PNG files means that I can now spruce up any photo or video project. Add to this process the concept of “app smashing,” and Google Drawings can become a free design hub.

Excited by the discovery and energized on the brink of winter break, I did some thinking. How else could I use this workflow and how can serve students in both understanding of curricular content and application of transferable tech skills?

Excited by the discovery and energized on the brink of winter break, I did some thinking. How else could I use this workflow and how can serve students in both understanding of curricular content and application of transferable tech skills?

I’ve imagined five easy ways to use Google Drawings to create templates and/or frameworks for future greatness.

1. Overlays – I noticed just this morning that Facebook is pushing seasonal frames and stickers. Facebook is the biggest but certainly no the first to some up with the idea. Sticker packs are simultaneously pure silliness and big business. Callouts (speech bubbles) created in Google Drawings could be especially fun, involving everything from deep thoughts to “derps.” In the educational app sphere, Canva, Over, and Adobe Spark all provide ways to prepare high quality graphics. While Google Drawings is admittedly not as versatile as these other platforms, it could definitely do the trick in many cases; where it can’t, it can serve as a sketchbook.

2. Frames – Theme days, birthdays, special occasions: these are just three ways to use Drawings to create frames. There are two ways to play: either teachers can create s frame and set students off to respond to it, or else teachers can provide a photo and ask students to respond with their own original frame. Customized graphics from Google Drawings could spruce up certificates and commendations: imagine a student-sourced “Student of the Week” overlay that could be shared with the student/family and displayed on digital signage at school.

Imagine class pictures embellished with class-sourced images. Imagine personalized trading cards for each student. Imagine creating mock trading cards for historical figures, great leaders, local heroes or Wonders of the World.

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3. Geo filters – Students are obsessed with Snapchat. This is neither inherently good nor evil. It’s simple fact. Without feeding into the obsession, teachers can funnel some of the fun, creating geo filters at the classroom, building or school level. Create an image 1080px wide by 1920px tall. Canva provides templates to users that can then be exported to evaluation and potential in implementation on Snapchat. Google Drawing could be a testing ground or sketch book for Canva. Short of Snap, filters could be used by grade-levels groups, teams, clubs, etc. Whether filters are ever deployed or not, there are plenty of productive conversations they could inspire about design and digital citizenship.

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4. Vocabulary flashcards – As with Frames above, there are two ways to conceive of vocab flashcards: 1) send students out to crowdsource vocab words in the form of photos and then create overlays together or 2) send students out into the world with a visual prompt (overlay) and see how creatively they can interpret it. I approach this as a Spanish teacher so I can imagine hundreds of ways to personalize vocab related to family, food, house/home, backyard wonders, sports, likes/dislikes and more. I can also imagine that Frames could work equally well for critical vocabulary in ELA, science and social studies.

5. Design challenge – In a 2D design class or as part of s design unit in another class, students could build skills related to technology and interpersonal communication through images. What works? Why? How to certain design elements become captivating or cliché? How does design define experiences? I expect projects with design embedded could make students stronger communicators and more savvy consumers.

I just read that Snap has released Lens Studio AR developer, a striped down version of their own in-house AR engine. It’s conceivable to imagine a way for students to turn 2D drawings into AR elements to be used in scavenger hunts, Pokémon GO style games, interactive learning experiences…or just tools to start creating them and a framework to better understand.

There is lots to think about here and many paths to explore. Now, I understand that there are more dynamic design tools than Drawing; I’ve mentioned many: Canva, Over, Adobe Spark and, of course, Photoshop. I’ve most recently been playing with knockout overlays for really sharp graphics in images and videos. (By the way, will Google Drawings please introduce this function?) I also recognize that creating video necessarily means working outside the Google garden. I’ve had luck with WeVideo, Green Screen by Do Ink!, iMovie and, most recently, Final Cut Pro X.

The good news is that introducing overlay awesomeness and design challenges can excite students and help them simultaneously test their skills and the outer limits of a potential platform.

Have at it, creating outstanding overlays in 2018!