Get Creative with Google Photos in Your Classroom

Over recent months, Google has added updates to Google Photos that have made it an increasingly useful tool for teachers (and just regular people) thanks to some great facial recognition options, sharing, and a powerful assistant. Here are some fun and easy ways to incorporate it in your daily classroom routine.

Searching for Photos

This just might be my favorite part of Google Photos and is really the backbone on which all of these other great features are built.

Google has always been pretty good with searching stuff, and I’ll never know how they got the artificial intelligence in Google Photos to be so awesome. But we’re going to reap the benefits.

Searching for images in Photos is as easy as typing in what you’re looking for. Typing in “dogs” will bring up all of the images of dogs, and typing in “text” will bring up all of your pictures with text in it. In the GIF below, you can see all of the options that come up when you put your cursor in the search bar. You can search for people who appear frequently in your pictures, image and video types, and locations. You can also type in dates or holidays to find pictures taken around those dates. It’s really an amazing tool, and all of the features that follow use the search AI in some fashion.


Instant Collages, Animations and Movies With the Assistant

Using the Photos Assistant couldn’t be easier. Simply click on the “Assistant” button on the Photos home page, and you’ll be taken to another screen full of suggested collages and albums, pictures from years past, and much more.

At the top of this screen, you’ll see the five Create New buttons: album, photo book, animation, movie, and collage. All of these are very easy to create and require no graphic design knowledge.

Often, the assistant will create these elements for you when it sees a number of images either taken in the same place. It will pull a bunch of similar images and/or videos together and create a video set to a soundtrack. It will also pull multiple images of the same thing together to create an animated GIF like the ones below:


You can edit the automatically created movies, albums, animations, photo books, and collages before they are saved to your albums. Once they are saved, they can’t be edited.

As mentioned earlier, you can also create all of these elements yourself. All editing options are very similar, but the video below will walk you through the creation of a movie from start to finish.

Classroom Uses: In the classroom, this is a great way to easily share classroom photos with parents. Collages, gifs and movies can be shared via email, on websites, and through any other means that you use to communicate with parents. Like all other G Suite products, a link is all you need to share the love!

Create and Post Albums

As mentioned above, the Assistant will often create an album of similar images or images taken at the same location and time (if you have location settings on). But sometimes you want to create your own albums with only selected images. The gif below will show you how to do that on a desktop. The mobile version is very similar.

Creating Photos Album

Now, once you have an album created, it’s easy to insert into the New Google Sites. Simply take the link that is created when you share the album and use the Embed URL option in sites. A nice and clean album is then added to your site, and when visitors click on it, they are taken to an external page where they can scroll through images, download them, and if you have the it open, they can comment or even add their own images. Here’s how:

Creating Photos Album

Classroom Use: In our district, all teachers are required to have a Google Site, and including an album of classroom pictures is definitely encouraged. This is a good way to post images, and continue to update the album throughout the year without having to go back to the website. Adding images to an album is as simple as clicking on the album, and clicking the plus sign in the top right corner. Then the site is automatically updated.

Remember, because these are shared through links, you can also share an album through Twitter, Instagram, email, Remind, Class Dojo and any other communication tool you use.

Shared Libraries

A new feature that was added to Google Photos at the end of the summer, was the ability for two people to share their libraries. This is ideal for a couple who wants to have easy access to each other’s images. This is been great for my wife and I as we have had to split time between our two sons’ sporting events. I’ve been able to take pictures and videos at baseball while she does the same at cross country meets, and we can see each other’s content as soon as it is uploaded to the Google Photos cloud.

I could explain it to you, but I’ll let the pros handle it. The video below from Google’s I/O 2017 conference explains how it works:

Classroom Use: If you have a personal Google account and you use Photos, this is a good way to share images with a spouse or a loved one. In school, you can share images with only one other teacher, so it is somewhat limiting. However, it could be possible to work out a system where two members of the group are in charge of taking pictures and can work as a team. Or if you coach or sponsor a club, you could share images with another coach or sponsor. Depending on your situation, it could be worth looking into.

Photo Books

People have been asking for photo books to be a part of Google Photos for quite some time, and we’re finally starting to see that come to fruition. But this feature is still in its infant stages and there is not much functionality beyond putting one image per page. I don’t believe we can even add text yet other than the book title. Still, combining the amazing AI used in creating these through the use of the Assistant is quite remarkable!

A 20-page softcover book is $9.99 with $.35 per extra page, and a 20-page hardcover book is $19.99 with $.65 per extra page. The reviews have been positive because of the simplicity and the high quality product, but the lack of features does leave me wondering if it’s going to see an upgrade. Only time will tell. In the meantime, here’s a quick rundown of how it works:


Classroom Use: This could be a nice fundraiser for your class. Creating a high-quality Memory Book full of your original images of students in your class for $10 and selling it to parents for $20 would be a great way to raise funds for supplies and activities. As a parent, I can tell you that I would probably purchase this along with the yearbook since the pictures in here will be specific to my kid’s class. More personal experience: A similar book sold for over $200 at an action at my children’s school a couple of years ago.

Want to make it really cool? Put each student’s image on the left page and scanned artwork of how they picture themselves in 20 years on the right. See how many parents order the book then!

Speaking of Scanning Photos…

This is another great addition that has dramatically improved thanks to an external app called PhotoScan by Google Photos. (This is only available on the mobile app, by the way.) When you click on the three lines in the top left corner (some call this the pancakes) you have access to account settings and about halfway down is the Scan Photos option. When you click on that, it sends you to your app store to download PhotoScan.

PhotoScan basically takes a video of the image you’re capturing and puts the videos together in one image removing glare. I tried this with a picture in a frame with the glass still on it, and it worked pretty well.


Classroom Use: As I mentioned in the previous section, this is a great way to effectively scan student work to include in movies, collages, and animations. I know parents will appreciate it!

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