The Data Center Mural Project

The Data Center Mural Project – where art, Google, and the cloud come together

When we say that something exists “in the cloud” what we are really saying is that the information exists somewhere else. For Google, this is the network of land-based data centers spread throughout the globe which process all of our requests to use Google apps and services. In order to “bring a bit of magic” to these data centers, Google is partnering with local artists to create The Data Mural Project.

Each project has its own story containing a variety of multimedia components that explore both the art and the technologies that can be found at these locations. Watch video interviews with the local artist(s) and their inspirations behind their murals. View photos from inside the data centers themselves and meet the people who maintain them and ensure that we always have access to our data. Finally, get up close and personal with the murals themselves as if you were actually there!

Currently there are two locations that you can visit: Mayes County, OK in the United States and St. Ghislain, Hainaut in Belgium, with two more data projects coming soon from Dublin, Ireland and Council Bluffs, Iowa. You can read the full debrief on The Data Mural Project by going to the Official Google Blog.


  • Have students investigate additional art forms in and around the area of these data centers.
  • Compare and contrast one of these data centers to your school/district computer system (besides scale, that is). Have students develop a list of qualifications and responsibilities that one would need in order to work at a Google data center.
  • Present students with the following scenario: If Google built a data center in your hometown, what would your mural proposal look like? How would it represent the community and surrounding art culture?

GDCM Project


How to Find Lost Files in Google Drive

A lost or “orphaned” file is when a file is no screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-4-26-07-pmlonger organized inside of a particular folder. In Google Drive, this happens most often when you create a file inside of a shared folder and the owner of the folder (not you) deletes the folder. Since you own the file, the other person can’t delete it, but because the folder it was organized in no longer exists the file doesn’t have a place to live. However, there is a way to search for these orphaned files so that you can find them a new home.

  • In Google Drive, go to the ‘Search Drive’ box and use the following keyword operators: is:unorganized owner:me. This will filter your search for any file or folder that match this criteria.


  • screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-4-37-27-pmIf you find an orphaned file or folder that you would like to relocate, right+click on the item and from the pop-up window choose ‘Add to My Drive’
  • Once the item has been re-added to your My Drive, you can then click on the ‘Organize’ link to move the item to a location of your choosing.



NOTE: Orphaned files will still show up in a standard search inside of Google Drive if they match one or more of your keywords.

My thanks to BetterCloud MONITOR for introducing me to this handy search tool.


Branches of Power (Gr. 4-12)

Branches of Power – Building humble issues into towering laws

Branches of Power is one of eight interactive modules available from Sunnylands Civics Games. In this module students take on roles in each of the three branches of the United States government: Congressional, Executive, and Judicial. Students float among the three branches as they follow an issue from its beginnings in a public forum to local governments, then to Congress and all the way to the desk of the President.

If this is their first time visiting the site, after reading through the directions have students start by going through the tutorial. This will pre-configure the players and allow them to focus more on the government processes themselves. There are many variables, values, and interest groups that students will need to consider at each step in the legislative process. Once students have a feel for the game, have them move to the main game module where they get to configure their own players within each government branch. Students will need to, for example, select what values their legislator will fight for and what issues will make up their Executive branch’s agenda. Winning occurs when students successfully turn all ten issues into laws, represented by towers on the game board.

This site requires Flash.

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  • If you don’t have access to a 1-to-1 environment for students to run their own governments, then project the site onto a whiteboard and divide them up into three groups  (the three branches) and have them make decisions by consensus.
  • After a game session is finished, have students reflect on the choices they made and places where they could have taken a different path.

Google Welcomes Columns to Docs

Google has added a small but “mighty” feature to Docs that will allow you to format text into two or even three columns. Even better, this option need not be applied to the entire document…yes, you heard me correctly. To access this feature, highlight the text you’d like to convert into columns, then go to the Docs menu bar and select Format -> Columns. From here you can then select from one, two, or three columns. If you select the “More options…” choice, then you access additional tools such as set the column spacing and add a divider line between the columns.

In addition to Columns, Google has updated Google Drive with some additional tools:

  • Natural Language Processing (NLP), which is the technical name for “search like you talk.” In other words, the “Did you mean…” feature that shows up at the top of some Google web search results pages is now running inside of Drive. It will also attempt to compensate for any spelling errors in your keywords. This feature will be rolled out in the next few weeks.
  • If you upload a file to Drive and then convert it to Google format (a Word document to Google Docs for example), then Google will make the original file format accessible to you from the Revision History tool in Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-5-16-42-pm    screen_shot_2016-09-21_at_5_16_17_pm

For more information on these enhancements, check out the post from the official Google Drive Blog.

Chart Integration Comes to Google Docs/Slides

Screen Shot 2016-06-13 at 10.13.58 AMUsers have asked for it and now they can have it. Yes, Google Drive now supports the integration of charts built from data within a Google Sheets file into Google Docs and Slides files.  Now, when you go to the Insert menu and highlight ‘Chart’ from the drop-down menu, a new option is available labeled “From Sheets…” Some additional options include:

  • Direct link to a Sheets file: Once you have inserted the chart onto your Doc or Slide, you can use it to jump directly to the Sheets file that contains the chart data.

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  • One-click updating: If the data in your Sheets file is edited, you can instruct your chart in the Doc/Slides file to reflect these changes with a single click.

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For more information and to see examples of the chart integration in action, check out this great post from The Techy Coach Blog by Shawn Beard.


AddText – Captions for your photos, quick and easy

Have you ever wanted to enhance a photo with some informative text or maybe a witty catchphrase?  Perhaps you realize that that selfie needs a bit of explaining before it gets posted? Now you can and without having to download an app. AddText makes it easy to add captions to any photo for free!

To start, select a photo from the web, your device, or from the site’s own photo gallery samples (if you are using a mobile device, then you can take a snapshot and upload it on the spot). Then, enter you text in the box provided. Additional tools include text style, color, size, and location on the photo. When your work is complete, click on the ‘Next’ button to download your photo or share it via URL or social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+).

NOTE: To remove the AddText watermark, you can purchase a premium membership.


  • Enhance photos for your bulletin boards or other displays with custom text.
  • Use as an icebreaker with students by having them upload photos that represent their interests and then adding text describing an event that relates to it.
  • Have students select an image from a historical event and add a relevant quote.
  • Take images used to help students find a creative writing topic and add text to provide additional information OR to create an added layer of mystery.

AddText screenshot


Annotating on Top of Google Slides From an Interactive Whiteboard

Screen-Shot-2014-10-22-at-4.16.43-PMHave you ever been in that situation where you want to combine the powers of two technology tools to enhance your lesson but, try as you might, they just won’t “play nice” with each other? One such situation is when trying to annotate over a Google Slides presentation from an interactive whiteboard interface, such as a SMART Board or Promethean Board. Ah, but fear not my friends because two teachers have discovered a way to get these two technologies to be team players.

In a recent post on the T.E.A.M. Togetherness blog by Angela Patterson & Kate Sommerville, they discovered that if you tweak the one of the settings in Google Slides then you can still run your slide deck in presentation mode and have access to the annotation tools on your interactive whiteboard. The key is to present so that your slides fill the entire browser window but not the entire screen on your device. You can toggle this setting from the Slides toolbar found in the bottom-left corner of your screen that becomes visible once you enter into presentation mode.


Check out the full article from T.E.A.M. Togetherness here for more information. Isn’t it great when we all can just get along.