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  • Writer's pictureAmy Burvall

The Royal Google: Making My Google Teacher Academy Video


I knew early on I wanted to make a parody music video echoing my work on the History for Music Lovers YouTube channel. I also knew it wouldn’t be as polished, since I didn’t have the fancy-schmancy software (Adobe After FX) and recording equipment we usually use, or the editing genius of Mr. Herb Mahelona, my creative partner.

That being said, I wanted to experiment in using solely my mobile devices (iPad and iPhone 5) and tapping into my recent passion for making original sketches with the Paper app by Fifty-Three.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, because I learned a lot!!) for me, I’d just updated my operating system and realized the entire iLife suite has changed drastically, forcing me to “re-learn” through trial and error, many of my go-to tools.



Before you write a parody, you have to be inspired. I’ve written about this before and I can tell you it just happens (usually when driving, and I have to hunt for a receipt to jot down my ideas).

The song that spoke to me was Lorde’s “Royals”. The tricky part was finding the perfect segment to fit into the 1 minute constraints. I ended up having to rework it a bit, taking out some of the repetition, but basically when I compose lyrics I place the original on the left side of the page and place mine at the right.

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 11.37.52 AM

Much like poetry (because, surprise! it is!), lyric composition can be tricky because you need to

1. find the perfect, succinct word choices,

2. not waste any syllables on filler words (though in this case, “Baby” doesn’t count!), and

3. match up the stresses and the syllables exactly.

This is where a lot of parodies go wrong. Not everything works. Sometimes when you sing, you have to cheat a bit with the stresses, or your lyrics might cheat about with the rhyme (singing gives you a little leeway for rhyme, since you can make things sound like they rhyme when they don’t perfectly match up).

Another device I use (besides mobile, haha), is assonance. Throwback to Middle School lit class – that’s when the sounds in the internal part of the words echo one another in sometimes subtle ways. For example: the long “e” sound in “evil” and “G-plus”, or “crowdsourcing” and “favourite thing’s”.  Alliteration (matching the beginning consonant sounds within the phrase) is also quite fun: like “calendar, MAPs, and MAIL”…

But what do the lyrics mean? In this case, it’s pretty straightforward (though I have been known to be more nuanced in some of the Historyteachers songs). I wanted to give a huge shout out to GAFE (Google Apps for Education) for really changing the way I teach, the way my students work, and the way I live my life. I’m serious. I would be “lost without Google”.

The constraints of the lyrics forced me to merely allude to things which, if I was doing a typical voiceover, might be easier to explain more thoroughly. Things like “nothing like crowdsourcing with spreadsheets” I could go on and on about – I use them for organizing student projects and presentation schedules, brainstorming, collecting data, and, more recently, gathering ideas from my PLN for a keynote.


For some of the lyrics you either have to “be in the know” or they might lead you to research more...namely “Innovation Time Off” (affectionately called “20% Time), or “Don’t Be Evil” (an early motto of the company).

What’s my favourite lyric, you ask? (ok, you didn’t but I will tell you). I’m rather happy with “And Drive’s a little like a home”, in reference to Google Drive, of course. I’m even more pleased with my iconography for that:


Which leads me to…


If you haven’t guessed by now, my trademark style is a mix of hotpinks and white on black background, with bold, free, strokes. As aforementioned, I use 53’s Paper app and either my fingers or their too-cool-for-school stylus, Pencil.  For this project I thought it would be fun to convert all the Google icons to my colour scheme (think pink!), and make some metaphorical ones like the Google Drive image above.

You can find all of the them on my Myconography Tumblr by searching the hashtag “Google”, but here is a screenshot of the archive.

Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 12.11.44 PM

I kept these in my iPad camera roll so I could use them for the next part, which was a weird mashup of tools (an “app-smash” as EdTechTeacher’s Greg Kulowiec would say).


1. iMovie with Ken Burns effect: I wanted to have my sketches move, so I threw them into iMovie on the iPad with some Ken Burns effect. The key was to make separate mini-movies  with only enough sketches for a stanza in the song.

2. Selfies with iPhone 5: After recording the song, I could play it and sing along silently to create the voiceover. I did this in my classroom late one evening, with a few different accessories (notice the Peter Pan collar theme?) to change it up and the ambient light of the Christmas tree that is still up in May. I emailed these clips to myself so I could have them on the iPad.

3. Mashup the clips with Video in Video app: You can find this video-in-video app here on iTunes. It was the first time I’ve used it, and I liked the way you can customize the frame of the smaller video and adjust what is shown in both (though the timing was quite tricky oftentimes). I exported each of these mashed clips to camera roll to splice together in iMovie.

4. Splicing the mashed clips: Sounds like cooking, right? In a way it was. I had to piece together all the ‘Video in Video” clips into iMovie on the iPad, which is do-able but not as refined as if I’d done it on my Mac. I suppose you could also do it on your iPhone if your fingers were really tiny.

app generation


This was so totally out of this world tricky I almost can’t even discuss it. I had a really difficult time matching my vocal track (which I had recorded in Garageband with a Snowball mic using “Live Audience” mode) with the clips, and it by no means came out perfectly, but one workaround was creating a black slide right before I sing “YouTube” – it made the word “YouTube” sort of pop and took care of the issue in that portion.



I admit I had a secret agenda with this project. I wanted to show that

1. you too can make something with ORIGINAL elements (sketches, lyrics)

2. you can make something with ubiquitous, MOBILE devices

3. you can MASHUP APPS for an innovative effect if not one will do

4. you can SHARE it effectively by cross-posting, and particularly effectively if you have built up a PLN based on previous creative work

5. you should SHOW YOUR WORK* (hence this blog post) by discussing your process, not just throw out the product * see references to Austin Kleon

As soon as I published the film to YouTube (public – always public), I shared on Twitter, Facebook, and G+ and in various ways. I made the decision to post to my History for Music Lovers channel because I knew the reach was better, and I haven’t made a music video since Digital Life (another self-produced, mobile-filmed piece), and people have been asking / pining.

After about a week, I had 2,500 views. I’m glad all those people were introduced to the benefits of GAFE, and to the possibilities of making a video using simple tools. Moreover, since I am friends with a lot of people who do PD and keynotes involving GAFE, I hope my video will be a fun intro they can use in presentations of their own.

So here it is (Lyrics in the Doobli-Doo).


-Saul Bass

#parody #musicvideo #gafe #gtaatl #Google #googleteacheracademy #showyourwork #gtamtv #mobile #gta

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