Take control of your camera roll with Google Photos!


The number one question I am asked is, how do you back up your photos? It’s an excellent question and dilemma, honestly,  and one that I have never had a perfect solution for until now.  There are so many ways to save photos and everyone seems to use a different workflow. I know that some still use an external hard drive with time machine, while others keep buying more iCloud space so that they don’t have to delete anything from their iPhone’s camera roll. In my opinion, however,  this does not treat the symptom of photo hoarding. :)

In the past I have uploaded photos to Shutterfly and Photobucket, only to grow frustrated with the inability to upload quality videos from my iPhone with this workflow. A few years ago I decided to store my photos on Google Drive, since all of my personal and professional files are backed up there.  Because my husband and I take a lot of photos and videos of our family, we pay for additional Google Drive storage, so I’m careful to upload only the photos and videos that we cherish versus holding on to every image we capture. Google offers the following storage plans, which I feel are extremely affordable:

Google Drive, Mail and Photos Storage Plan: 

Total storage Monthly rate
15 GB Free
100 GB $1.99
1 TB $9.99
10 TB $99.99
20 TB $199.99
30 TB $299.99

Before the Google Photos app came out, we used the Google Drive app, and logged into our joint account to upload photos and videos from our iPhones. Unfortunately, this process was extremely tedious because we had to decide which photos/videos we wanted to upload and then tap on each one in order to begin the upload to Drive process. Sometimes the upload failed and you had to look through each picture to see which ones didn’t make it. It was the biggest pain. So, I started connecting my iPhone to my Mac with the USB charging cable and used Image Capture to move the photos and videos to my Mac and into Google Drive. Again, this was way too much work and I kept putting it off each week, which fed into my photo hoarding problem.

There had to be a better way! Finally, this past May, Google released the Google Photos app and took the work (and workflow!) out of backing up photos.  If you plan to store a large amount of photos on Google Photos, like I do, you should pay for the additional space because you’ll run out of the free 15 GB pretty quickly. Then….run, don’t walk to your phone and do the following:

1. Download the Google Photos app from the App Store (or Google Play store if you are one of those Android people).

2. Log in using the account with the upgraded storage plan.


3. Make sure “back up & sync” is on. Your camera roll photos are automagically backed up in the background, as long as you are on Wifi! No more image capture, no more manual uploads in the Google Drive app!  Note: I don’t want to use up all of my cellular data, so I turn that feature off.


4. Since I use this app to back up my cherished family photos, I use the original upload size in case I ever want to have the photos printed and/or enlarged. This is why I pay for the 100 GB storage plan. It’s only $1.99 per month!


5. That’s it. You are done. Your pictures and videos will upload to Google Photos in the background while you are on Wifi. No need to remember to backup your photos. From time to time, I will go into the camera roll and delete photos I don’t want or need, so they don’t upload to Google Photos. If they have already uploaded, I just spend some time deleting photos I don’t want or need from the app. I can now clean out my camera roll, without worry, knowing that all my photos and videos are safe in Google Photos! No longer have access to your phone? Just go to http://photos.google.com to see all of your photos. There they are, safe and sound.

BONUS: Google Photos is wicked cool and has some pretty amazing features:

Your Photos Assistant

This cool tool does fancy stuff to your photos behind the scenes. Tap on assistant to see what it’s been up to:


1. Collage


2. New Story


3. Animation (Click on it to view) I was taking pics of fireworks and Assistant made an animated gif out of the cars driving by!


4. Stylized photo


And more!

This part is kind of creepy, but it’s still awesome. Tap on the magnifying glass in the bottom right and search photos that have been automatically grouped by specific faces, keywords and places. It categorized my photos 100% without my help. I did not enter keywords or tap to confirm certain faces or places. I love technology and I am in love with this app!

IMG_8213 IMG_8212


Example: If I tap on a picture of my son, I am taken to a scrollable list of photos that have my son in them. 

Create a Custom Apple TV Screensaver with YOUR Photos!


Classroom Use: If your students have Apple IDs, you can share an iCloud photo album with your entire class. They can take screenshots of work they are proud of and add it to the shared album. They will love seeing their work come up on the big screen as a screensaver!

You may remember my post on iCloud Photo Sharing. Well, I’m bringing back the discussion because I just discovered something pretty amazing that you can do with this feature and your Apple TV. Well, I kind of knew for awhile that this feature existed, but I never had time to try it out. I am a HUGE fan of Apple TV and almost as excited about the newest model as I was about the Apple Watch – almost. :)

Anyway, I have an Apple TV at home and there is one in every classroom in my school. We have a pretty sweet setup for AirPlaying our creations and I don’t know how we ever lived without it.

Every Apple TV’s screensaver defaults to beautiful National Geographic photos set to the “random” setting. While this is a great choice and can meet the needs of the majority of Apple TV users, I kept thinking how cool it would be to display my family photos on my home Apple TV and student photos from around the school on our classroom Apple TVs. Since this past year was spent rolling out one-to-one devices, I kept putting this project on the back burner until I had a real reason to make it work. Well, a couple of weeks ago I was challenged to make it work! The only option to get a whole bunch of photos onto the Apple TV was to use iTunes, but that didn’t seem like the best option for a wireless device that sits high above the classroom on our mounted projectors. It would be easy to set up a personal device like this, but I wanted to use iCloud and knew there had to be a way.

I was excited when I came across this article last week.: How to Use Your iCloud Photos as Your Apple TV’s Screen Saver

IMG_8098Since my husband and I share an iCloud photo library with each other, we can add photos we take with our iPhones to one central album. We call this album, “Family.” Now we can have these photos displayed on a digital photo wall formerly known as our Samsung TV. :) See my original post on iCloud Photo Sharing to learn how to set this up.

Once the shared album is set up, simply share it with people you’d like to contribute photos to this album.

Then you need to log in to the Apple TV with an Apple ID that has had the album shared with it. If you are in a school, you can simply create a generic, school Apple ID and then follow the directions in this article. 

Note that I do not turn on Photostream because I don’t want ALL photos to be used as a screensaver for classroom Apple TVs. I just want a specific iCloud Photo album. Here’s how I did it:


1. First, I made sure iCloud Photo sharing was on and Photo Stream was off.





2. Then I went to Apple TV settings – Screensaver






IMG_81023. I scrolled past National Geographic and chose iCloud Photos.





IMG_81044.Then I selected Family from my list of shared iCloud photo albums. Here I am able to see albums that I have shared with others and albums that others have shared with me.




IMG_81055. The kids voted on the “Snapshots” setting and that was it!






Now we just add photos to that shared album and they automatically show up on our Apple TV screensaver.  Just imagine the cool classroom photos you could display on your class Apple TV!


I can also Airplay Apple Music playlists directly from my Apple Watch while the screensaver is on, while having the ability to advance the song, increase or decrease the volume or change playlists. I’ll save that for my next post!


Apple Watch has arrived!


 Watch w/ Milanese loop

This is by no means a full blog post on the  Watch, but I’ve had this amazing gadget for about an hour now and I wanted to post two quick, but pretty cool features.

First, I can use the remote app on the   Watch to control my Apple TV!!  It is super easy and I didn’t even have to configure it because my iPhone’s Remote app was already configured to work with my Apple TV.

FullSizeRender 2

Apple TV Remote

Second, I can control my keynote slides on my iPhone or iPad with the Keynote app on my  Watch! I am not sure if it will control Keynote for Mac slides YET, but I will be investigating. If anyone knows how to do this already, please leave a message in the comments.More to come! :)


Controlling Keynote with my Apple Watch

LastPass Chrome Extension

LastPassLogoShadowAre you sick of forgetting your passwords? Are you worried about your super weak passwords and the possibility of getting hacked? Do you wish online forms would autofill your contact details and other info? You must try LastPass! I actually purchased the annual subscription (only $12 per year) using their iPhone app so that I can securely access all of my passwords from my iOS devices or through Google Chrome on my Mac.

If you haven’t tried LastPass, click here to try it. It is one of my favorite tools for managing and generating my passwords, autofilling frequently typed information and more!

P.S. A friend on Twitter recommended setting up multifactor authentication with LastPass for added security. Thanks for the tip, Armando!

iShare with Family

ipods2My 7 and 6 year olds received iPod Touches (Generation 5) for Christmas today! I was excited to use the new Family Sharing plan for app sharing and purchasing because a) I wanted to try it out and b) I wanted them to use their own Apple IDs to keep their photos, iMessages, etc. separate from my own.

Here are a couple of things you should know BEFORE you get started. First, make sure you have iOS 8 on your devices. This plan doesn’t work without it. Second, a “valid payment method is required.” I have been using PayPal as my payment method ever since I started buying apps and I guess PayPal recently did something to make Apple mad and this has made life difficult for Apple/PayPal lovers. The message below is what I received when I tried to set up Family Sharing for the first time.


Sadly I had to update my payment method with the old Mastercard and I had to do it – get this – in iTunes! On my computer! This part was super annoying, but once I did all of the hard work, I was able to add the kiddos to the plan. The Family Sharing plan is AWESOME and I am totally in love with how easy it is to use. If you’ve recently purchased an iOS device for a family member under the age of 13, I highly suggest that you read on. (I haven’t tried this with Mac family users, but I’m sure it works just as well).

  1. To set this up for your family, go to your own iOS device. You, the parent, are the “Organizer.” Tap on Settings – iCloud – Set up Family Sharing. If you don’t see “Set up Family Sharing,” you probably don’t have iOS 8. Remember, this is a must!
  2. Tap Get Started
  3. Tap Continue
  4. Confirm that you are logged in with YOUR Apple ID and Tap Continue
  5. Tap Add Family Member
  6. IMPORTANT: Scroll down under your payment method and tap on Create an Apple ID for a child
  7. Tap Next
  8. Select your child’s birthday
  9. Verify your credit card info
  10. Enter your child’s name and tap Next
  11. Create your child’s new Apple ID (email)
  12. Choose a password that you and your child can remember. It must have at least 8 characters and include an uppercase letter, a number and a lowercase letter. (P.S. my kids can’t remember theirs yet, so I saved their passwords in a special app I use)
  13. You have to choose three ridiculous security questions and answers. I also put these in my special password app so that I don’t forget.
  14. Make sure that you leave Ask to Buy ON. This will force your child to get permission whenever they want to purchase an app with your credit card info.
  15. Tap Share Location. Then you can stalk your kids…fun!
  16. Agree to the terms of use and privacy policies
  17. You’re Done!

IMG_0015Turn on your kids’ personal devices and have them log into iCloud, iMessage, FaceTime and the App Store with their new iCloud accounts.

I’ll share screenshots from my son’s iPod Touch for reference. If he wants an app that I’ve already purchased, he can go to App Store, purchased and search for the app he wants.   I wanted my son to have Explain Everything, a premium app, that I had installed on my iPhone. I went to the app store on my son’s iPad and searched for the app, but to my surprise the app was listed as $2.99. I tapped on it and tapped Buy and the app installed for free on his device. The $2.99 was misleading because the app was shared for free with my son, so I’m not sure if this is some sort of glitch or what. The app did install and I did not have to purchase it again.   Another install option is to tap on App Store – Updates – Purchased – Family Purchases – Jennifer (Family Organizer). Any of my past purchases are listed as free and available for download on my son’s iPod. I just tap on FREE – Install App on his device and the app installs. Notice how Superimpose is listed as free? That app is normally 99 cents, but it’s free for my son since I own it.

Now, if there is an app that he wants that is free or premium, that I have never downloaded, there is a different process entirely. He taps on Get – and is prompted to Ask permission before he can download. The Ask to Buy process occurs when my kids want to download a Free or Premium app that I have not personally installed on my device.

The next scenario is when you, the family organizer, has an iTunes gift card balance that you want to share with your family members. You need to access the App Store on your device and locate the app that your family member desires. Install the app using your gift card balance so that the app can be shared with your family members in the family sharing plan.

So far Family Sharing has worked seamlessly for me and I don’t have to worry about my kids downloading apps without my permission or sharing an Apple ID with everyone in my family. I highly recommend this method and I’m so glad Apple has made it easy for my little Apple users to set up their ecosystems correctly. Any apps that ones of us purchases can be shared across our devices – easy!

ISTE 2015

Excited to be selected as an ISTE presenter this summer in Philadelphia! Accepted sessions:


  • A 1:1 Deployment: Digital Boot Camps, Digital Citizenship and Devices (Accepted Poster)
  • Create & Innovate with iTunes U [Accepted BYOD]
  • Designing Digital-Age Learning Experiences with Apple and Google Tools (Accepted Panel)
  • Good Morning Twitter! How to Empower Your Day! [Accepted BYOD]

What the Font!

This blog post is dedicated to all of my creative design friends who have a slight addiction to fonts.

Have you heard of What the Font? If not, you might want to read on. Last week I was given the task of redesigning a flyer for an event at my school. The digital file had been lost and all that was left was one paper copy.

I was able to replicate the flyer with some enhancements, but when it came down to the font, I wanted the font in my design to match precisely….In comes What the Font!

What is What the Font? It is a free service on the myfonts.com site that allows you to upload an image to find the closest matches in their database. Yes, you read that right! Once you upload an image, What the Font will break apart the letters in the image and then ask you to identify them. The results are some font suggestions that look like the exact font in your image or is pretty darn close.

Here’s the process I took to figure out which font was used in the flyer that I had been tasked to redesign.

  1. Since I only had a paper copy of the flyer, I used my iPhone to take a picture of a portion of the text showing the font I was trying to match.  I texted the photo to myself on my Mac
  2. I went to https://www.myfonts.com/WhatTheFont/ and uploaded the image.
  3. In the next step I was asked to match the characters from the image
  4. I clicked on continue to view my 3 matches!


The first one was the exact font I was looking for, but it was $40 on MyFonts!  A simple Google search led me to a ton of other fonts sites that offered it as a free download!


I downloaded the file to my Mac and clicked Install Font to use it within Photoshop Elements, where I was creating a new version of the flyer.



A few things to note:

  1. If you can’t find the exact font you are looking for, you can post on the WhatTheFont Forum and a font enthusiast will help you identify it.
  2. I try not to upload images with a ton of text on them. Just make sure that there are enough letters for What the Font to scan and attempt to match.
  3. The maximum file size is 2 MB, which is very small, so you may need to use a photo editor to compress the image you want to use.
  4. Most of the fonts that are suggested on MyFonts are not FREE because they are trying to run a font business, but if I do a quick Google search on comparable free fonts, I often find one that is close to what I need.

I’ve used What the Font for nearly ten years now and it is my go-to site for font identification. However, there are other font identifier sites that you might like better, such as WhatFontIs (has a Chrome extension!) and Identifont. 

My new favorite font tool is the WhatFont Chrome extension. This extension allows you to inspect web fonts just by hovering over them. For example, if I see a font on a teacher’s website that I really like, but I don’t know the name, I could use WhatFont to identify it.


For example, I can see that Cathy uses a font in the logo of her blog that comes from the Georgia font family. I would have to do more sleuthing to find out which Georgia font has that white bevel on it, or I could just add a bevel to the Georgia font in Photoshop Elements to match it. I find that the difference between WhatFont and What the Font is that WhatFont is analyzing the code within the website to determine which font is being used, whereas What the Font is actually analyzing an image. Either way, I hope this saves you time when you find yourself in need of the perfect font!


iCloud Photo Sharing is the New Clip Art Gallery

photostream_edited-4Remember when we used Microsoft Office and we could insert – clip art and find an array of appropriate images to use in class book reports, presentations and posters from the ClipArt gallery? Well, those days are over if you use an iPad, but I have found a solution! At the Apple Distinguished Educators Conference back in July, we went on amazing excursions around the beautiful terrain of San Diego. We all took various pictures and were able to share them with one another through iCloud Photo Sharing. It was a great way to keep up with each other when many of us were experiencing the sights on different days.

I’m finding when I work with young students (K-2)  on iPad projects, they often need drawings, photos or clip art to adorn their creations. Many times students use their own photos, but there are times when stock photos or clip art are necessary. For example, if they are working in Explain Everything, they will often use photos to accompany their voiceovers and annotations. If we are working in Book Creator on letter sounds, they might need clip art to accompany their words. We can’t expect them to photograph every image they might need.


Today’s students, especially our younger ones, can’t just grab photos from Google photos and use them any way they want. Let’s face it, some of the results that come up within Google Image Search are just plain scary. Kids don’t need to see that. Adults don’t need to see that! There are also copyright rules that must be followed, and although I am thankful for Creative Commons, I still find that the “clip art” process on iPad is tedious for our K-2 students. The process involves accessing sites, such as Pics4Learning, MorgueFile, Pixabay and others from the Safari app. Students search for and find an image and then press and hold to save the image to their iPads camera roll. That is a lot of steps for a young student and just typing the keywords, alone, is a struggle.

I think I’ve finally found a solution that will work for our youngest iPad users – iCloud Photo Sharing!

Thanks to the new Apple ID for Students Under 13 Program, our K-12 students all have Apple IDs this year! It has truly transformed the way that we use iPads in the classroom, especially when it comes to iCloud sharing.

One great feature built into the iOS is iCloud Photo Sharing – Read more about it here. The best part:

  • Photos uploaded to Shared iCloud Photo Albums do not count against your iCloud storage.
  • A shared album can hold a maximum of 5000 photos.
  • If you delete a photo from the camera roll that was used in a Shared Album, it remains in the album until you delete it manually.
  • You can set up as many Shared Albums as you’d like, so you can have one for each project you are working on throughout the year.
  • Want to share a shared photo album publicly with parents or other classes? You can retrieve a Public Website Link and share your photo gallery with anyone! No Apple device needed!

If your students have their very own Apple ID, teachers can create a shared photo album, invite students and add as many photos to this shared gallery as needed!  The possibilities are endless! You can use iCloud Photo Sharing in the classroom in so many ways!

  • Imagine going on a nature walk with student iPads. You ask your students to take pictures of insects, plants, rocks and other items that are spotted along the way. When students get back to the classroom, they can choose their favorite photos and add them to the Shared Album to share with everyone.
  • A teacher wants Kindergarten students to create an alphabet book. She finds and loads a gallery of photos that begin with letters of the alphabet and adds them to the class Shared Album. Students will need a letter on each page accompanied by an image or drawing. They can now add an image from the Shared Album, avoiding the Find an Image – Save Image to Camera Roll process.
  • Students walk throughout the school looking for objects with different shapes, photographing them as they find them. When students return to the classroom, they add the photographed shapes to the Shared Album. The teacher uses AirPlay to go through each picture during a class discussion.

Worried about inappropriate pictures being added to a Shared Album where there are many eyes watching? Each photo added to the album is time stamped with the name of the person who added each photo.


Here’s how you set up a iCloud Photo Sharing on your iOS devices (teachers and students):

Go to Settings > iCloud > Photos > Turn on iCloud Photo Sharing

Open the Photos app and tap on Shared – Tap Create New Shared Album


Give your new Album a name.


Invite your students and other teachers to the Stream


They will need to accept the invitation that you send them:


Begin adding photos from your camera roll to the stream. Tap on the + sign.


Tap on the photos you want and then tap Done.


You may add a description to go along with your post.


The photos are added to the Shared Album and any subscribers will receive a notification (Notifications can be turned ON or OFF)

Only the creator of the Shared Album can add new subscribers. To do this, tap on People – Invite People and add new subscribers with their Apple ID – tap Add.


To share your Shared Album with the public, the creator of the Shared Album will tap on People – turn ON Public Website and Share the Link with families, other educators or classes. You could even post it on your class website!


What are some other ways iCloud Photo Sharing can be incorporated in your classroom?