Pixabay: An oasis of lovely, free images

So, something cool happened this weekend. A children’s book, Mother Goose and Her Goslings, was published on Amazon, and one of my images is in it! You can download it today, for free.

How did this happen?

my Pixabay images

In September 2014, I uploaded 14 photographs to Pixabay. Creating, rather than always consuming, is a value of mine. I shared some photos because I though that other people might want my images to create their own works. Through Pixabay, it is sharing in the truest sense of the word, because the images are copyright-free, using the Creative Commons license that allows for use without attribution. It was very kind (but unnecessary) of the author to ask permission to use my gosling photo, and mention me in the acknowledgements. I am so glad I was able to provide a useful image!

How can I use the site?

  • Download, modify, and use high-quality images
    • without worrying if you are violating copyright law
    • for personal, educational, and commercial purposes
  • You, and/or your students can upload and tag photos for others to find and use
    • Watch that download count go up. It’s so fun! I’m amazed that I have 1,722.
    • Try to predict which photos will be viewed or downloaded most
    • Adjust the tags to make your photos easier to find



Quote your students, Value them

Earlier this school year, I wrote about Educanon, an application you can use to add questions and pause points to videos. A new quarter recently started, and I used the same Video Bulb with the fresh group, but this time around, I took their best extended responses and put them into a slideshow.

The day after the vidoe viewing, I showed the presentation and we talked about each student’s insight. Kids were clearly proud and pleased (sitting up straighter, smiling widely, checking out their friends reactions, etc.) to see their brilliant quotes up on the big screen.  Making the presentation by re-reading their answers and copy/pasting the best of them took only about 15 minutes, and was so worth their positive response. You could use this idea in any class. It reviews your content and shows your students that you value their voices.

One tech issue I ran into was the text pasting into the slides with original (ugly) formatting from Educanon. Like this:

bad copy paste

But, if you use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+V, it pastes without formatting, and will automatically take on the style of the slide! It looks much better.

good copy paste

DIY Chromebook Cart

We don’t have much money in our district, so creativity is required. This week, I rigged this ridiculousness up with a regular tripod, gallon freezer bag with hole cut in it, an aluminum tray and a bunch of rubber bands scavenged from the teacher’s lounge.


It’s now an iPad mini tripod, that will be used on Friday to record the spelling bee. I’m pretty proud of myself. This DIY item hasn’t been tested yet, but our Chromebook carts have.


We’ve had carts for teachers to sign out for a couple of years now, and since buying one outright costs over $1000, we improvised and saved money. I wasn’t involved in the original setup or purchase of the carts we have so I can’t say for sure how much, but looking at the cost of the materials used, it must be substantial. Through trial and error, and collaboration with colleagues, we’ve improved on the original concept, and have a solid design. The high school sent over 2 Chromebook carts for us to borrow, so I got them into shape–middle school style–the past couple of days. I have no before picture, but this is how I feel about it:

Before: before


It may not look like much, but it makes me happy, because it works!


If you need a lower cost cart too, first buy a rolling file cart. Overstock sells the model we’re using for $180.99. Safco-Scoot-Mobile-File-with-Locking-Top-466e045c-9a5b-44d6-994e-23bcc6820cde_600

We have a APC Back UPS 550 ($57 on Amazon) on the bottom shelf, along with 4 basic power strips. 81Ap6jVpkTL._SL1500_wp-1452111215833.jpg

Each Chromebook cord is plugged in to the strip, and then velcroed and/or zip tied to the sides and front. wp-1452111199851.jpg

If I were you, I’d just get 2 zip ties per charger and forget about the velcro backing. (It is sticky, time consuming, and unnecessary). Place a zip tie through the bottom row of holes to secure and provide a base. Then add another tie on the 2nd or 3rd row to hold the charger tightly against the cart. Roll up and velcro most of the slack on the cord.

Next get some Smead Tuff hanging folders. It’s worth paying more for the extra tough ones, because the metal bars are stronger, and will last longer than the regular folders.wp-1452111210938.jpg

Take out the quantity you need, and tape them together at the top. Before the redesign, we didn’t tape the folders, and kids would put Chromebooks between folders instead of inside. Then they’d slip underneath all the folders or be more difficult to charge. Eliminate the option. Place the taped folders inside the cart.

Finally, get medium sized binder clips, and clip each charger between the cylinder and charger head as shown below.wp-1452111186869.jpg

By clipping in this way, there will be no slack to get tangled (and subsequently untangled)! Ahh, I love that fact best.wp-1452111206462.jpg


A Carnival of beautiful Slides

Not everyone is artistic. That’s fine. Jimena Catalina will help you! This generous visual designer has created SlidesCarnival to provide the world with beautiful slide templates. On this page on her site, she says:

Working in design for more than 15 years I’ve learnt that, when you try to communicate a message, good design may be as important as the content. Many times I’ve seen how people get frustrated trying to arrange a visually stunning presentation without design knowledge. So I decided to create SlidesCarnival to help people create meaningful content without worrying about the appearance of their slides.

I must admit that there is also a selfish reason behind all this: I suffer a lot when I see poorly designed presentations 😉

I feel a kinship with this woman whom I’ve just learned–or learnt 🙂 –about today, during my exploration of the resources from the WVIZ Tech and Learning Conference. We both believe that pretty presentations are better-received by the viewers than their plain counterparts. I tried out a couple of her templates on the Symbaloo Apps Warehouse, and finally landed on the one below. 

If your slides are a bit boring, start using SlidesCarnival tonight. It’s incredibly simple to start a brand new slideshow, and just a couple more steps to get the designs onto pre-existing slides. It also works with PowerPoint…in case you’re into that sort of thing.

To start a new slideshow

To apply a design to pre-existing slides

Beauty Standards

I like looking at pretty things, and so do you.

Whether it’s fair or not, being good-looking is advantageous. Loveliness garners longer-lasting and more positive attention than the less lovely. To be clear, I’m not talking about people, though sadly the same principles apply. I’m talking about beautifully presented information. I’m talking about design.

Although I am a certified “techie” (I actually got called that in an email today 🙂 ), I am also an artist. I enjoy learning how to make things look and feel “right”, and I think that part of my job as a teacher is to help students improve their digital design literacy. Now, and in the future, it’s not just the content that counts. The packaging of the content is an important component of how well the information will be received.

Canva provides free, cloud-based design tools. Personally, I’ve been using it for about a year, though I’ve just brought it into my classroom in the past week. Here are some things I’ve designed. Note: Wedding Invitation is very much a work in-progress.

My Canva Designs

My 8th grade students worked in Canva’s Design School tutorials for a few days. I had them focus on Choosing the Right Font, Font Pairing Basics, The Art of Alignment, and Working with White Space, along with a brief video on color choices. The tutorials are great because they show and explain an example on the left, and have them apply the principle on the right. My students used screenshots to show their tutorial progress so I could make sure they were getting it.

Here’s a before and after of a tutorial slide:

Canva tutorial before

Canva Tutorial Need a Hint

Every slide of every tutorial I’ve seen has this “Need a hint?”option on it. A video will pop up showing how to accomplish the task in case they’re having trouble.

Canva has preset sizes to design for lots of different types of media. There are SO many options for what you could have your students design. This is what they have out now:

Canva Design options

Once a type is chosen, you get into the editing view, which includes the following side tabs: Search, Layouts, Text, Background, and Uploads. Here’s what those side tabs look like:

Canva Search

Search gives you basic elements that you can use to build a design from scratch or add to an existing design.

Canva Layouts

The layouts they show you change depending on what type of media you have chosen to create. You can pick a free layout and just change the words, colors and pictures to your liking. This can be really helpful if you or some of your students don’t feel confident in your artistic abilities.

Canva Text

The Text tab shows you basic text at the top, and pre-designed text formatting below. I love to use the pre-designed options. You’ve probably noticed the FREE sign next to many of the elements. Everything I’ve designed has been free. You can do a lot with what’s given. The bits that cost money are clearly labeled and are usually listed after scrolling past free components.

Canva Backrounds

If all you want is a plain color or basic textural background, great! Those are all free. If you want something flashier, you’ll need to purchase it, use a pre-designed layout, or upload your own photo.

Canva Uploads

Uploads are drag and drop. You can also connect your Facebook account to use those pics.

Raise the bar on beauty standards for the products students design in your class. Or, just for yourself, take the time to make something look stunning and professional. Make Canva part of your information beautification routine.