A new Canvas

When the Ministry of Education licensed Photoshop Elements, I really went to town with it. I was an owner and user of the full Adobe Photoshop suite of things and could hold my own, I think, when it came to working the program and doing some post picture taking editing.

If you’ve ever dabbled, you know that the original Photoshop has every feature that you could ever possibly dream of. Photoshop Elements was a nice collection of the features that most would use regularly and, in particular, in schools. Both are so feature-rich, that I could never remember them all and would often be poking around or looking for help just to finish off.

Those were the days when having a kick butt high end computer was the ultimate goal, next to having a specific application to do something really well. And, we ended up buying more and more and as much hard drive space as we could.

The Chromebook is forcing a change in thought. While there will be those who constantly push the envelope to do amazing things, most of us just want to get a job done and not necessarily have all different applications for this and that. Chromebooks have limited storage space so huge application collections is out of the question. Having things work well in a browser is all that’s necessary.

This week, Google announced a new product called Canvas. It’s run in your browser so no permanent installation is necessary; probably just best to put a shortcut in your browser for those times that you need a utility like this.

The palette of tools isn’t huge…

And yet, much can be accomplished with this.

There really isn’t any help and things are fairly intuitive. (It took me a bit of learning though to realize that you gave to click on the tip of the drawing tool rather than just anywhere on the tool to activate the flyout to adjust things.)

For example, colours

And so I gave it a run through to check out functionality. It doesn’t do everything but what it does do, it does well. There seems to be little or no latency as I worked with it. Input via the mouse doesn’t give the greatest results for me but my finger on the screen or my older Wacom tablet worked very nicely. As I write this, I’m using the Opera browser on Linux Mint.

Drawings are saved to your Google Drive and you can do an export into .png format. I think that it’s simple enough that doodlers or sketchnoters may find that it functions well for those tasks.

Give it a shot by clicking here and see if this doesn’t fulfil many of your needs, all through your browser.

This blog post was originally posted at:

If you find it anywhere else, it’s not original.


Here’s the course I failed

A couple of years ago when the concept of Sketchnoting was new, I was bound and determined to learn how to do them.

I started small; scribbling things on my iPad.  The results varied between childish and embarrassing with a severe tilt towards embarrassing.

I’m not sure what I would do with sketchnoting but I had a couple of ideas that I think would present well nicely using this artform.

I tried; I really did.  

I tried various applications; my daughter bought me a stylus for my birthday; I had a number of other styluses that I’d obtained from here and there but nothing seemed to improve when I was done.  I reverted to my finger.  I’m now convinced that I have a defective finger.

At a Bring IT, Together conference a couple of years ago, I had my chance to learn in the class of the master – Sylvia Duckworth.  I still remember it.  I sat in the front row, eager to learn.  My friend Colleen Rose sat next to me.  I should have known there that I was out of my league.  I’m convinced that when Colleen breathes out in the cold northern Ontario air, it is a beautiful piece of art.

So, I followed Sylvia’s instructions to the letter.

The results were still embarrassing.

The best, positive takeaway is now my Twitter avatar.  Colleen drew it as I tried my best to learn.

I guess that I need to keep on keeping on.

Fortunately, Sylvia has made her presentation available for us to enjoy in the form of a Google Slides presentation.

I’ll keep at it.

Maybe someday I’ll surprise myself.

In the meantime, we can all enjoy her lengthy slideshow here.

Sketchnotes for Educators

Hang around this blog long enough and you’ll see a reference or two to Sylvia Duckworth’s Sketchnoting efforts.

She was even kind enough to have been the focus of an interview here as well.

I really like her work and have followed her efforts since the beginning of her publishing them online.  I even created a Flipboard collection devoted to her works although it’s now sadly dated.  She’s either deleted the originals or moved them.  Where there once was some great imagery, there’s now just broken images.  But that’s OK.  It’s another example of life online.

There’s always her Flickr collection.

You see her work popping up in the middle of other’s blog posts every now again.  She has a pretty liberal license for her works.  If you find that it suits the topic of a post, she welcomes you to go ahead and use it.  Of course, you give her credit, right?

A couple of days ago, I got her new book “Sketchnotes for Educators“.

When I’d heard that she was going to publish her collection, I had my doubts.  What possible additional value could there be for a printed version of what we could see online?

I supposed that, if all that you wanted was her pictures, that would be enough.

However, the value added comes in the page next to the Sketchnote.  Here, Sylvia explains what was going through her mind as she drew the Sketchnote.  Or, if her Sketchnote is an interpretation of someone else’s work, often you’ll find the thoughts of the original author.  (See Page 174 <grin>)

The book is divided into sections:

  • Real LIfe
  • Real Education
  • For Our Students
  • For Teachers
  • Google!

Each Sketchnote includes a bit.ly link to a high quality original.

I knew that she had done many creations; it is impressive to see 100 of them in a book.

I could easily see this book fitting into any professional library and individual Sketchnotes used for discussion starters on any of the many topics that she addresses.

Sadly, “Between the Ferns” didn’t make the book so I’ll include it here!

Checklist and Citizenship

Saturday night, I was trying to get caught up on “Houdini and Doyle” and all of a sudden, my iPad started going crazy with notifications.

My first thought was “what have I done wrong now?”

Well, this time, it wasn’t me.

Sylvia Duckworth had released to the wild a new Sketchnote and was kind enough to tag me in the announcement.

At the time of this writing, it has been retweeted 145 times and faithful Sylvia followers have liked it goodness knows how many times.  Each one of these actions generated a notification to me.  Once I realized what was doing this, I hopped into Twitter and turned off notifications.  I’ll turn them back on again once her following get over it.

I figured that I’d help the cause and so retweeted it myself so that my followers don’t miss out on this wonderful offering, “A Checklist for Today’s Teachers”.

Then, Sunday afternoon, she strikes again!


Of course, I added them to my Flipboard collection of her Sketchnotes.  You can find them here.

Nicely done, Sylvia.

Extended even further

This past week, I had read and been inspired by the blog post “Why Starting a Blog Could Change Your Life“.  It included six really insightful suggestions commented on by the author, Carolanne Johnson.  My inspiration was to comment on the points in her post and, in the process, I added to her list bringing the total to ten.

Ten seemed to be the magic number for the Sketchnote Master, Sylvia Duckworth, and so I got this private message from her showing a partially completed Sketchnote wanting some feedback.  I provided some and the resulting masterpiece was done!


(Lest I take too much credit, my suggestion was the binoculars)

The result is a graphical representation of the points.  Needless to say, I like it.  Well done, Sylvia and thanks to Carolanne for the original inspiration.

This was added to my collection of Sylvianotes that you can find here.