Exploring with Google Arts & Culture

New Learning Tool

Recently a colleague of mine asked me to help him run an Elementary After School Activity (ASA). He would be introducing students to the website and app, Google Arts & Culture. I had never used this website or app before, but I love learning about new tech tools, so I agreed.

Since both my colleague and I were pretty new to this learning tool, our main goal for students was to explore the different ways Google Arts & Culture could be used. We met with our ASA group of 17 students once a week after school. Each week we introduced something new from the Google Arts & Culture site.  I’ll share what we did each week. Maybe you will get some ideas! Or let me know how you’ve used this tool with your students!

  • Week 1 Explore

During our first session together, we introduced the site and the various ways it could be used. We also spent some time talking about responsible use of the site since students may find some nudity in the art they come across. It is important; especially for young users, to know how to handle seeing nudity in art.

Photo by Cathy Mü on Unsplash

I found the website appropriate for the students we were working with (our students ranged from grades 3-5), but I can see how some of the content is for older students. Common Sense Media says the app is appropriate for ages 12+.  So when considering that students may see some nudity in art, you may want to take a look at this guide on Addressing Nudity in Art from The Museum of Art and Archaeology University of Missouri.

With Blob Opera, you can create your own opera-inspired song (with no musical skills needed). Before students explored this fun tool, my colleague and I offered students some background knowledge of opera music with a few short YouTube videos and this fun one on “Kids Meet an Opera Singer.”

We also gave students the option to explore Incredibox, another music-creating site (this was their favorite!).  Then we gave them time to play. As students created songs, they shared the links on our Google Arts & Culture Padlet. At the end of each 50-minute session, we took 5 minutes in the end to share. Here’s an example one.

  • Week 3 Art Filter/ Art Coloring Book

This session was all about using famous pieces of art to have fun! To start our third session off, we began by giving students some background information on the different types of paintings. Then we looked at the  12 Most Famous Paintings of All Time.  Then it was time to try all the fun tools out!

Art Filter & Art Transfer (on app)

These two features can only be used on the app, but they are fun to play around with. Art Filter allows you to try filters based on iconic artifacts. While Art Transfer, lets you transform your photos with inspiration from renowned artists. To find these features from the app, click on the camera button and the options will appear.

This student used the Art Filter feature to transform the “Girl with a Pearl Earring” by Vermeer.

Art Puzzle Party

If you enjoy puzzles, this is a fun tool! You can choose from a variety of art pieces, then the site turns it into a puzzle for you to reconstruct. An added bonus is that they give you the option to add friends so they can help you build the puzzle virtually!

You can even make this interactive by adding friends!

Art Coloring Book

The Art Coloring Book feature allows you to choose the colors for a famous piece of art. It’s basically a virtual coloring book. This tool might be useful when teaching contrasting colors too!

Students can “repaint” the famous Frida Kahlo painting.


This tool extracts colors from the pictures you take with your camera in real-time. Then it takes the color extracted from your photo and applies it to a famous painting.

I tried one using “The Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh.
  • Week 4 Virtual Tours/ 360 Tours

If you’ve ever used Google Expeditions, some of these tours may be familiar to you. Expeditions is moving all of their tours over to Google Arts & Culture, and Expeditions will no longer exist after this summer.

Students can tour a range of places such as famous sites and landmarks, Museums, and 360-degree videos. This is a great way to escape the classroom; especially, during COVID, when we can’t all go on field trips.

Because I am new to this learning tool, I haven’t had much time integrating its use into my classroom yet. It was fun having the chance to explore it with students as an After School Activity though. Plus, I got to see how it could be used and now I have some ideas of what I may do next.

Integration in the classroom

The first thing I tried out with my own class was using some of the images related to historical time periods. I am currently teaching a Historical Fiction Book Club Unit and one of the lessons asks students to use a primary source from a particular time period. Then the student has to connect that image or document to their text.

For example, this Star of David taken from a Jewish ghetto in Lodz will help my students connect to the Star of David in our read-aloud text, “Number the Stars.” By using the image provided by Google Arts & Culture students get to see what the real Star of David that was placed on Jewish people looked like in the concentration camps. They also get some background information about the person who it came from. This is a great way to get readers to connect to the story and the history behind the story.

I put together a list of resources on Google Classroom for students from Google Arts & Culture connected to the book club topics in my classroom.

I hope to find more useful ways to use this learning tool in my classroom. If you have used Google Arts & Culture in your classroom, please share some of your ideas! I’ve also included a few resources I came across. Hopefully, you find some meaningful ways to use this fun tool with your students. Or you can even check out the fun ways to get your family involved!


Tips for Teachers

3 Way Google Arts & Culture Can Enrich Your Lessons

15 History Lesson Ideas for Google Arts & Culture

Bringing it Back to Brené

Being Vulnerable

As I have mentioned in other posts, I generally try to go out of my way to avoid situations that make me feel vulnerable. I like to know the outcome of a situation, so I can prepare myself mentally. I do not like going into situations with uncertainty. But I’ve been working on being more vulnerable in my life, so when an Elementary S.T.E.M. teaching position became available at my school, I applied. I felt excited about the opportunity as I was encouraged by my peers and principal to go for it.

As I mentally prepared myself for uncertainty, I went back to Brené Brown’s keynote on Daring Classrooms. I reflected back to the time I wrote my persuasive essay as a mentor text for students on building my own self-confidence. These things were sources of motivation for me. I knew there was the possibility of not getting the job, but I knew I had to at least try. If I want my students to be vulnerable and do hard things, I must model this same behavior.

The Perfect Ending

Inside, I had a few doubts about my qualifications as I haven’t had too much experience with coding or robotics, but I am always up for the challenge of learning. Plus, going through the COETAIL program made me feel confident about my knowledge of meaningful educational technology integration.

Getting this opportunity also felt like the perfect ending to my COETAIL experience. I started to picture myself in one of those COETAIL success story posts on Twitter like Patrick Holt’s down below.  Additionally, I would be doing a podcast with Kim Cofino soon for the Coach Better Podcast. They’d ask questions like:

  • What was the key outcome of graduating from COETAIL for you? (could be learnings, mind shifts, next steps career-wise, etc)
  • How did COETAIL impact / change your career trajectory?

If I got the job, this would be the perfect news to share!

Maybe I’ll be the next success story!                                              (Photo taken from the COETAIL Twitter page)

A different Plan

After interviewing, I felt pretty confident. There were a few other strong candidates interviewing as well, but I still had a good feeling I would get it.

I was wrong. I interviewed on Wednesday and by Friday afternoon I got the email. They had chosen another candidate. I’m not going to lie, I had to read the email a few times to make sure I had read it correctly. However, I had read the email correctly; I hadn’t gotten the job.

“Vulnerability is not  winning or losing. It’s having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.” -Brene Brown

So the outcome was not what I had wanted, but I felt good about going for the opportunity. More importantly, the outcome made me reflect on a realization I had come to while preparing for my interview. 

Leaving my Mark

Before I had my interview, I practiced thinking of possible questions and answers with my husband. When my husband asked me why I wanted the job, I explained to him that I do not feel like I had left my mark on my current school yet. When I leave my school, I want to be remembered for making a difference. We aren’t planning on leaving anytime soon, but after three years, I felt like time was going by quickly and I had not yet made a lasting impression. I hadn’t left my mark, yet. Or had I?

Image by Jo Christian Oterhals on Flickr

At my previous school, I left feeling like I had contributed to making the school a better place. I helped develop a new curriculum aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards, led a fundraiser for Heifer International that raised more than $15,000, and spent weeks organizing years of boxed up science materials that could be used by teachers and students, and I turned an unused space into a Science Room for teachers to bring their students for lessons. When I prepared to move onto my current school, I could feel that I would be missed because of the work I had done there. I had started things that would be around for a while. I made a lasting impression. I could feel my value.

The night before my interview, I explained to my husband that I wasn’t confident that I would have that same feeling if I were to leave my current school at this moment. I felt that if I were given the  S.T.E.M. teaching position, this would be my opportunity to make my mark on the school. The program is new. There is room to grow and lots of work to be done. I shared these feelings during my interview.

I shared this sentiment with the Head of School and Elementary Vice-Principal during my interview when they asked me why I wanted the job. However, after hearing I had not gotten the job, I quickly came to the reality that my plan for making a mark wasn’t the plan they had for me. I would have to find a way to make my mark in a different way.


At this moment, I am not sure what my mark will be. What if I have already started making my mark? Maybe, I am just not aware of it yet. Or perhaps not getting the S.T.E.M position helped me realize that I have done more than I think I have.

As I thought about this some more,  I thought back to Brown’s keynote again. In addition to vulnerability, Brown speaks about The Four Pillars of Courage. Rising Skills, which is having the ability to get back up when we fall, is one of them.

The Four Pillars of Courage

  1. Vulnerability
  2. Clarity of Values
  3. Trust
  4. Rising Skills

After hearing I didn’t get the job, I was disappointed. But instead of being down and out about it, I looked at the bright side. I got back up! I reminded myself that I love being a classroom teacher with the ability to have a huge impact on the 20 or so students I teach each year. Leaving my mark doesn’t have to come through the opportunity to build a program. Maybe leaving my mark, had already begun right here in my very own classroom.

Beginnings of a Mark

I want my students to be change-makers. I want to foster students who care about others and the world around them. Being in the classroom gives me the power to spark a passion in children that leads them to do something that makes the world a better place. I want to nurture students who are good citizens of the world!

By being given the opportunity to teach grade 4 this year, I was able to ignite a passion for making the world a better place through my Social Justice Issues Unit (my Final COETAIL Project). Students not only learned about injustices using the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals as a start, but they saw first-hand how these goals impact the place we live right here in Vietnam. They got to speak with experts and explore solutions to complex issues. Throughout the unit, they developed empathy for others. They learned how the actions of one person can have a huge impact. They saw what it takes to make a change.

Maybe this unit was the start of something bigger. Maybe my mark will be the passion I spark in students to make the world a better place.  Since teaching my Social Justice Issues Unit, I notice students recognizing injustices around them. I’ve seen students paying closer attention to picking up trash they find lying on the playground. I’ve seen students reminding each other not to use single-use plastic.

Ultimately, I want to help foster students to become caring, citizens of the world. If I am able to inspire, even just one student, to make the world a better place, I am happy with that. This will be my mark on the school. My ability to leave a mark doesn’t have to come in the form of a new job opportunity.

If I can be vulnerable and do things that are hard for me, they can do hard things too! We all can! It’s how we model vulnerability for our students. It’s how we face those obstacles and get back up when we fail that matters. It’s how we treat people and care for the world that matters.

Future change-makers!

Instead of feeling sad about not getting the job, I will forge ahead and continue to make my mark.


Collaborating & Connecting


I have always enjoyed seeking out resources from current and former colleagues and my PLN both near and far.  I may not have all the answers or solutions, but I can use my resources to seek out answers and solutions. Having the ability to find and use available resources to achieve goals opens up new opportunities for myself as well as my students.

It’s not the lack of resources that cause failure, it’s the lack of resourcefullness that causes failure.

-Tony Robbins

During the past few months, I have utilized my resourcefulness to build a final unit project that would have a great impact on students as well as our community. Being resourceful was a major component of my final project. Let me take you on a “tour” of how resourcefulness played a major role in the success of my final project.

Former Colleagues

At my former school, the fourth-grade class did a Social Justice Issues Unit each year that ended with TED Talks. Seeing this unit play out at my former school, inspired me to start this project at my current school. Our fourth graders have done a Social Justice Issues Unit each year, and now that I was teaching fourth grade this year, I knew that this was the unit I wanted to revamp for my COETAIL final project.

Before I started planning out my unit, I first reached out to the fourth-grade teacher at my last school.  My former colleague gladly shared her insights and resources to get me started.  Not only were her resources helpful, but so was the advice she gave along the way. It was also a good feeling to be able to share all the new resources I had created with her as she begins to teach this unit to her students in Korea.

After finishing my unit, I was happy to share the new resources I had created!
Marie generously shared her resources to get my going.
Social media makes it easy to connect with former colleagues!

Blog Post Comments

Although I felt super busy throughout the teaching of my final project, I did my best to check in with what the other COETAILers were doing.  Reading the blog posts was a great source of inspiration, not only during Course 5 but throughout my COETAIL experience.

My husband kept telling me each week as I put off writing another blog post, “You overthink your blog posts. It doesn’t have to be something big or groundbreaking. Just write about what you are doing at school.” He was right and I was reminded of this each week as I read the cohort 12 blogs. Some posts were “big” like Luis’s post “Speak Up,” while others were about the great work being done in the classroom like Holly’s post, which was a great reminder of the resources I have available to assist students with writing.

Connecting with COETAILers

In addition to using the Cohort 12 blog posts as inspiration, I was able to lean on my cohort for advice, tips, and encouragement. Using a Twitter group chat, we were able to connect easily. This was a great place to go when I needed clarification about a deadline or just a boost of motivation.

Luis also organized a Google Meet session for all of us to meet “face to face.” This was a nice way to put a face to a name since we had all been reading each other’s blog posts and collaborating on group projects during each course.

Cohort 12 supporting each other along the way.

Sharing Resources & Learning on Twitter

Although I used Twitter before COETAIL, I have been more interactive on Twitter recently. Rather than only sharing something cool that I did with my students, I am trying to share resources I find useful more often. I even found some good resources from the new Cohort 13 group! I also utilized my PLN to find ideas and inspiration.

Local & Global Connections

During Course 5, I sought out deep learning opportunities that would support the 6 C’s for my students. One way that I was able to build citizenship and character was by connecting students with both global and local experts. By connecting students with experts on the social issues they were researching, students gained knowledge that deepened their empathy towards others. Their connections with these experts also gave them a first-hand account of real-world issues and how they might be solved.

The Marketing Director at my school helped me connect students researching gender equality with EuroCham in Vietnam’s co-chair of Human Resouces and Employment Rights. We were able to connect with Mrs. Galeski via Google Meet. This was an excellent way for my students to learn about what is being done right here in the country we live in to support gender equality.

Another group of students researching the long-lasting effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam was able to connect through Zoom with Vietnam War Veteran, Mr. Searcy. Mr. Searcy is living in Vietnam and works with Project Renew, a group dedicated to cleaning up Agent Orange and landmines left over from decades of war.

(Connecting with Mr. Searcy to arrange a Zoom time)

Additionally, I connected students with Dr. Plastic, a local Vietnamese man who runs a small recycling center dedicated to educating locals about the plastic issue in Vietnam and an environmental scientist living in Canada.

Students connected with Dr. Plastic via Zoom.
Making global connections through Skype a Scientist.

Building Character by Showing IT!

One of the things I wanted to do with my students is take them on a tour of several different social enterprises within our community. There are so many people doing great things right here in Hanoi, and this unit on Social Justice Issues was the perfect fit for connecting students with people who are actually doing something to make a difference.

I connected with KOTO Villa and Simple Coffee to arrange for a field trip during the teaching of my final project. We were all set to go on March 19, but then sadly there was a small COVID outbreak and we had to cancel our trip as we went to home learning.

Emails setting up a plan for our field tip.

Although we were unable to go on the field trip, I was able to share and watch this inspiring TV interview with the owners of Simple Coffee who also run Imago Work, a training facility for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Students were particularly inspired as one of the owners is a former teacher at our school. It was cool to hear that a few of my students even went to visit Simple Coffee on their own after watching the interview.

Utilizing School Community

I also found good opportunities to involve those within my school community. Our marketing department caught wind of our Social Justice Issues Unit and helped connect us with experts. They also interviewed my students and wrote a Facebook post on our school’s page.

I also reached out to a high school teacher after learning that our high school communications class would be preparing TED Talks. These students came to offer feedback to my students before giving their final presentations.

Upcoming Opportunities to Expand My PLN

Recently I was contacted by Kim Cofino asking if I would be interested in appearing on the Podcast Coach Better. I’ve never done a podcast before, but I thought this would be a great experience! I’ll be joining a group for their new series on Women Who Lead and The Coach on April 27.

Lastly, our cohort leader, Joel, Tweeted about a project his Grade 1 students were doing at ISP. I’ll be connecting my students in Vietnam with a class in Panama as we track patterns in the sky. We will hopefully be doing a virtual meetup over Google Meet soon as well!

Connecting and collaborating with others has taught me that people genuinely want to help, share, and support each other! I am surprised at how much I was able to use my PLN to create a deep learning experience for students. Even though my COETAIL journey is coming to an end, I will continue to be resourceful and utilize those both near and far!