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.

This Week in Ontario Edublogs

Happy New Year!

Let me be about the hundredth person to wish you all the best for 2016.  While we’re at it, all the best for a successful year of blogging for Ontario Edubloggers.

Here’s some of what I read recently.

Introducing Me…

Thanks to Donna Fry, I was alerted to Joe Caruso’s new blog.

He starts his first post with a couple of questions.

Is this really going to help me?  Do I really need to do this?  These are the questions that still resonate in my mind as I write my first blog post.

Given his position as a special assignment teacher for technology, the answer to both questions had better not be “no” or he’s in the wrong job.  In the digital field, you lead by example and there’s no better way that to document your learning by sharing and collaborating with others.  Without naming names, I can list many people who have this role within a district and the viewpoint from the schools is:

  • out of touch – how can you be an advocate for technology if you’re not using it effectively?
  • out of touch – how can you even have a conversation or support those who are trying to use technology if you don’t have the experience of failing and winning on your own?
  • confirming – for those who are reluctant to use technology, you can become that which fingers are pointed to when others are asked why they don’t use technology.  Why bother?  The guy at the board office doesn’t even use it
  • connections with the IT Department – if you’re not savvy, how can you even describe a system problem or project in a manner that these good folks understand?  Or, even worse, you listen to lame excuses for problems phrased in technological language that you don’t understand and so you are led to believe that all is good in Oz.

Yes, he’s definitely on the right track. I’m still surprised that building and maintaining a digital learning presence isn’t a requirement of the job.

Why not jump over to Joe’s blog and lend your support?  A couple have already.

On Solutions-Based Thinking & Why Education Needs It

I love this post by Rusul Alrubail.  It’s the type of thing that tags along nicely with Joe’s post and his questions.

She talks about the challenges of trying to get a system to change when you’re employing old tools and an old mindset.  Education is not the same as a business.  We admire the stability of successful businesses as they build on their past experience.  Even with this, the best businesses have sandboxes where they work with new ideas and concepts to grow their business.  If they rely on a reputation that hasn’t changed in five years, they need to experience difficulties in today’s market.  In education, the need for staying on top of things is more crucial.  Each year a child is held back is an entire learning year from their life.  And, it’s not just that one year.  The thinking compounds itself over an educational career.  We know that the best will succeed in spite of their schooling, but shouldn’t all students at least have the chance?  A principal or system leader needs to attack those whose response to change is “Yeah, but…”

I think, even sadder, Rusul is talking about the college level.  Here students are doing more than learning for the joy of learning; they’re being prepared to be industry leaders.  They absolutely need to be on the cutting edge.

Top sketchnotes for 2015

If you’re a regular here, you know that I’m a fan of Sylvia Duckworth’s sketchnotes.

In this post, she gives us a list of the most popular ones from the past year.

So, here are three titles from her list.

  • 15 Things Every Teacher Should Try This Year
  • 10 Things Teachers Want from Professional Development
  • 10 Growth Mindset Statements

Which of those do you think is the most popular?

Click through and see if you were correct.

Don’t Take Down the Coding Decorations

Can I get an amen for Enzo Ciardelli?

Yes, the Hour of Code got all kinds of notoriety this year and was more widely implemented than ever before.  The one hour tutorials were the best yet and there were so many that were just fun and exciting to do.

As he notes, they’re one hour.  One hour does not a curriculum make.  We don’t even go on field trips without some sort of pre-activity, a follow up activity, and a rationale for the principal for the trip, tying the activity to the curriculum.

If there’s no followup and inroads made into making coding and computational thinking part of the curriculum, you might as well just rent a movie and watch it in class.

(I can’t believe I just typed that…)

A Review: The Six Secrets of Change

Stacey Wallwin took the time, after reading Michael Fullan’s book, to share her take aways on the six secrets.

I’d bet good money that this book is on your superintendent’s or principal’s bookshelf.  Why not read Stacey’s post and ask whoever is holding the book if they’re read it and how the six secrets apply to your organization?  That leads next to the question – what are we as a system or you or me as a leader going to do about it?

Can we make our system the one we want it to be?

12 Gifts 4 Teachers

What a great idea from Peter Cameron!  In the spirit of Christmas, he shared gifts with teachers.

Even if you don’t use them all, you’ll find something in his list.  There are some really interesting resources and Peter takes the time to elaborate on each explaining how they apply to his classroom and his use.  I’d be willing to bet that he’s up for questions or ideas or additional sharing.

Just don’t look for 11 Pipers Piping.

My Updated One Word Goal

Nobody has ever accused Aviva Dunsiger of letting grass grow under her feet.  

Her one word goal was to “listen” and has enumerated opportunities.

That doesn’t seem to have satisfied her.  For 2016, she’s going to refine just what “listen” means and is moving to a different word.

Can you guess the word?  Check out her post.

You know by now that I’m not writing this on January 1.  It’s just about time to clean up and head out for a New Years’ Eve dinner.

Again, I wish everyone all the best for the new year and I look forward to continuing to read the great stuff that Ontario Edubloggers share.

The holidays

School districts have the last day of school before break at various times.  I think the most popular date was last Friday but I know of at least one friend who has today as the last day before kicking back.  Regardless of when it is, enjoy.

I always had a holiday tradition.  I got sick.

I could set my calendar by it.

According to my wife, it was the hours that I kept.  As a new teacher, I used to get to work shortly after 6am and would go home after football practice or a game or the computer club.  A quick meal and it was off to mark or do preparation.  I was the laughing stock of the office because I used to leave work with my briefcase and a banker’s box full of stuff daily.  I still remember my first Christmas Break as a new teacher.  I had just left the building and the vice-principal must have seen me out of the front window.  He came out and grabbed my banker’s box and told me I could claim it in the office in the new year.

Later, as a consultant, I always believed in the importance of continuing professional learning. I would offer 1-3 sessions a week in the highly desirable 4-6pm timeslot.  I still think it’s a high tribute to those in the profession that would show up over and over again during those hours when there were a million other things that they could be doing.

I survived because I had become used to eating microwaved leftovers!

Anyway, enough about me.  All this lead-in is to a wonderful sketchnote from my friend Sylvia Duckworth.  If you haven’t seen it yet, here it is in all its glory.

It’s great advice and I know that anyone who is reading this blog when they should be enjoying the holidays needs to pay attention to her advice. (unless you’re doing #10)

My dog is all over #2.

Make sure that you check out all of her wonderful offerings here.

And, to Sylvia, thanks so much for keeping up the production of your great things.  I’m still working on my skills from your presentation at the BIT Conference.  I hope someday to have something created that’s ready for public sharing!