Google Forms Update: Theme Options Expanded

Google works and reworks their apps on a regular basis as they try to stay within that gForms Customize theme iconsweet spot of having just the right amount of customization options without going overboard or getting too complex. Google Forms is one app that has gone through many versions with options coming and going. One option that has recently made a comeback is the expanded themes option.

How it works

gForms Customize theme sidebar panel toolsWhen you click on the color palette icon inside of a Google Form file a new sidebar will appear on the right. The first thing you’ll see is the the standard option to customize the forms HEADER with an image of your choosing, either from their library or you can upload one of your own.

Next you will see a selection of theme colors, where not only have the number of choices expanded but by clicking on the plus (+) sign you can select any color on the rainbow. In addition, the list of suggested colors can change based on the HEADER image selected. If you choose not to add an image to the header then your theme color will be reflected in the header background, as well as the section titles and action buttons (e.g. BACK, NEXT, SUBMIT).

When you select a THEME COLOR, the BACKGROUND COLOR options of your Google From will also change. The number of background color choices is limited and designed to compliment your theme color selection.

Finally, now you have the option to modify the FONT STYLE of your Google Form. Currently there are four font options to choose from: Basic, Decorative, Formal, and Playful.

Remember, if at any time you are not happen with your theme selections you can use the Undo option found under the three vertical dots icon (i.e. traffic light).

For more information about these and other updates to Google Forms, please check out this post on the G Suite Updates Blog.

Image Insert Tool Updated for Docs, Slides, & Drawings

Screenshot of new insert image menu optionAdding an image to a document, presentation, or drawing can do wonders to enhance the overall product. In a recent update, Google has redesigned the Insert > Image tool and integrated it into their right-hand sidebar interface, bringing it inline with other recently updated tools like Explore and Define. This new interface also better supports the drag-&-drop workflow.

Screenshot of insert > image by search the web option

image thumbnail with preview image option displayedWhen inserting an image using the “Search the web” option, at first look the side panel does not contain text explaining what kind of usage rights the results will be filtered under. As a teacher of digital citizenship and wanting students to realize the importance, especially with images, of respecting the rights of the original author, the loss of this filtering option is a disappointment. However, If you hover over an image in the side panel a magnifying glass icon will become visible in the bottom-right corner, which you can use to preview the image. It is in this preview pane that the usage rights filter text can be found, reminding us that the search results are indeed being filtered under the usage rights: labeled for commercial use with modification.

image preview with usage rights filter setting text

Another issue that has already cropped up on social media is the noticeable absence of the “Take a snapshot” option from the new Insert > Image menu. If you miss this option as much as I do, then I strongly encourage you to send Google feedback and let them know. In the meantime, check out this blog post for Eric Curts who has come up with an alternative to tide us over in the interim.

For more information about the new Insert > Image tool, please check out the G Suite Updates blog.



The Data Center Mural Project: Update

In a previous post I shared the story of how Google is bringing a little magic to their data centers around the world by partnering with local artists to create the The Data Center Mural Project. I talked about the story behind the project, the types of media that can be explored at the Mayes County, OK (in the U.S.) and St. Ghislain, Hainaut (in Belgium) sites, and teased about two additional sites in the works. This week Google has added new photos, videos, and interviews for their Dublin, Ireland and Council Bluffs, Iowa sites.


The Dublin, Ireland site was supervised by local artist Fuchsia MacAree, whose mural reminds me of the fun and excitement that comes with the spring and summer seasons, which cannot come soon enough for us here in the state of Maine, U.S.A. My favorite part of this project was learning about how they use the local climate to help cool the massive amounts of equipment inside, thereby saving energy and money on more traditional “mechanical” cooling systems.

The Council Bluffs, Iowa site was headed by local artist Gary Kelley, who used the building to tell the story of how important the area has been and continues to be in the sending and receiving of information. After listening to “A History of Connection” I could see this as a history project that I could really sink my teeth into. You can read the full debrief on The Data Center Mural Project by going to Google’s The Keyword 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?



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


Google Apps: Insert Images Into Google Forms

Google Forms – Assessments that now can include images

It has been over a year since my school district integrated Google Apps for Education into our system, and since then I’ve been working to see how I can apply their tools to help enhance my computer literacy curriculum. One aspect of Google Drive (also knows as Google Docs) that I really like is their Google Forms. In addition to basic data collection, I’ve used Google Forms to conduct project assessments, pre and post quizzes, and collect feedback from students on how an assignment or unit went. However, one component that was sorely missing from Google Forms was the ability to insert images into questions…until now.

Thanks to Richard Byrne over at, I learned that images are now an available component that can be inserted into a Google Form question. This new feature opens up so many possibilites for expanding the use of the Forms, such as map screenshots for students to identify geographic features or venn diagrams for students to analyze. Anything that you can take a screenshot of is fair game. If a screenshot will not do, perhaps because the component is interactive or is a video, you could try creating a QR code that links to the component for students to access from a mobile device. The point is, if you can get it in an image then you can integrate it into your Google Form.

If you’d like to learn more, head on over to for more information and a video tutorial that shows you how easy adding images to a Google Form is. You should also check out Brent Catlett‘s blog, Cat’s Chronicles, where he provides written directions with accompanying screenshots on how the process works.


Website of the Week: Pictolang (Gr. 5-12)

Pictolang – Language and cultural learning content through authentic imagery

Pictolang is a site dedicated to helping students with their language studies using real images from locations where the particular language is used. The site is broken down into four activity levels:

  • Visual Word Trainer – See the word, see the corresponding image
  • Picture Match Game – See the word, choose the correct matching image
  • Word Match Game – See the image, choose the correct matching word/phrase
  • Analyst Game – See the image, identify the language/culture it comes from

Once you choose a game type, you are asked to make a language selection, choosing from up to 15 possible choices including Arabic, French, Spanish, Japanese, and Ukrainian. You will also be asked to select a category topic such as clothing, food, nature, house & home, sports, and more. Your score in both number and percentage correct are kept track of at the bottom of the window.


  • This site is an obvious choice as a review tool for students to test their vocabulary acquisition while at the same time be exposed to authentic images from locations around the globe.
  • Have students create their own visual vocabulary guides from their own culture(s) using images from their communities.

screenshot-pic match game German

Website of the Week: The National Archives

The National Archives – America’s historical documents

Recently, Richard Byrne over at shared a Civil War resource (General Lee’s map of Gettysburg) from the historical documents section of the U.S. National Archives website. In addition to the Civil War, the site has additional documents around the Constitution, Emancipation, the Louisiana Purchase, and even the Apollo 11 flight plan. These documents can be viewed online as well as downloaded to your computer, often in hi-resolution format.

In addition to historical documents the site has sections devoted to ancestry research, World War II photography, and the recently released 1940 Census. There is also a section devoted specifically to teachers that contains lesson plans along with materials for school tours, getting started with primary resources research, and where to find related resources from their network of state and regional locations.

BONUS Website #3: Tag Galaxy

Tag Galaxy – A new way to search for Flickr images (Gr. 2-12)

The result of a graduation thesis project by Steven Wood, Tag Galaxy introduces an interactive “out-of-this-world” vehicle for searching images from Type a search term or “tag” into the search box and watch as the entry becomes the sun of a solar system with orbiting planets displaying related tags. Click on one of the planet “tags” to narrow your search parameters. Clicking on the sun takes  you to a zoomed in view where the surface begins to be covered by Flickr images tagged with your search term. Click on any image to see a detailed view and description of the image. You can even go directly to Flickr to see the full photo-stream and other information.


  • Use this site to teach students about keyword searching and the use of tags when uploading content to the Internet. Tags can be applied not just to images but YouTube videos  and blog posts.

Thanks to TeachersFirst for sharing this find.

Website of the Week: Historypin

Historypin – Pin your history to the world (Gr. 4-12)

Historypin is a beta project in collaboration with Google Maps to showcase the world as it once was. The idea is for students to make connections with older people in their communities and obtain photographs from times gone by. Students then scan these old photographs into the computer and pin them to a Google map representing the location that the picture was taken at. Anyone can then compare the images from the past to the images of the present using Google’s “street view” feature. NOTE: A Google account is required in order to upload photos to the site.


  • This can be a great community service opportunity for students to interact with and engage a whole other generation full of ideas, stories, and images. Students can not only learn about their communities as they once were, but the people who grew up in them as well.

Pin your history to the world