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In every classroom around the world, teachers spend time decorating their rooms by tacking up fun decorations and outstanding student work. Starting today, teachers can bring those same personal touches to Classroom by uploading their own images to use as themes. That’s just one of the little surprises we’ve sprinkled throughout Classroom to brighten your winter (or sweeten your summer, for our Southern Hemisphere friends).

If you have an image you’d like to use as your theme, Classroom will help you crop it to the perfect dimensions, and automatically pick a matching class color. And in case you don’t have a great photo to use, we’re adding 18 new images and 30 pattern themes to our gallery, so teachers have lots of options to make their classes look great. If you don’t have time to browse all the themes, Classroom will even try to automatically match a relevant theme to the class title — it works well for common topics, but it might not find a perfect theme for topics like History of the Peloponnesian War or Quantum Computing 401.
Today we’re also making updates to the mobile app for iOS and Android, which we launched a month ago:
  • Students and teachers can now view the About page in the mobile app for quick access to their class materials and resources 
  • On iOS, students can now add images, videos, and any other files to assignments from other apps 
  • Your favorite emoji are now available on the Android app [insert smiley face here] 
  • We’ve made overall changes that will increase the speed of the app’s performance, so you can get your work done even faster
You’ll notice a lot of other small updates that we hope will bring some delight and productivity to your February classes, and as always: please keep the feedback coming.

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(Cross-posted on the Official Google Blog.)

The 2015 Google Science Fair starts today! To learn more about entry details, prizes and more tune in to today’s Hangout at 2pm EST and follow along on Google+.

Science is about observing and experimenting. It’s about exploring unanswered questions, solving problems through curiosity, learning as you go and always trying again.

That’s the spirit behind the fifth annual Google Science Fair, kicking off today. Together with LEGO Education, National Geographic, Scientific American and Virgin Galactic, we’re calling on all young researchers, explorers, builders, technologists and inventors to try something ambitious. Something imaginative, or maybe even unimaginable. Something that might just change the world around us.
From now through May 18, students around the world ages 13-18 can submit projects online across all scientific fields, from biology to computer science to anthropology and everything in between. Prizes include $100,000 in scholarships and classroom grants from Scientific American and Google, a National Geographic Expedition to the Galapagos, an opportunity to visit LEGO designers at their Denmark headquarters, and the chance to tour Virgin Galactic’s new spaceship at their Mojave Air and Spaceport. This year we’re also introducing an award to recognize an Inspiring Educator, as well as a Community Impact Award honoring a project that addresses an environmental or health challenge.

It’s only through trying something that we can get somewhere. Flashlights required batteries, then Ann Makosinski tried the heat of her hand. His grandfather would wander out of bed at night, until Kenneth Shinozuka tried a wearable sensor. The power supply was constantly unstable in her Indian village, so Harine Ravichandran tried to build a different kind of regulator. Previous Science Fair winners have blown us away with their ideas. Now it’s your turn.

Big ideas that have the potential to make a big impact often start from something small. Something that makes you curious. Something you love, you’re good at, and want to try.

So...what will you try?

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(Cross-posted on the Google Docs Blog.)

Editor's note: Today's guest author is Zachary Elkins, Director of the Constitute Project. The Constitute Project was launched in 2013 as a way for constitution-makers, scholars, and everyday people to explore alternative ideas in constitutional design. Teachers, read on to learn how you can empower your students with constitution-making

Constitutional reform happens more often than you might think. On average, countries around the world replace their constitutions every 19 years and amend them every two years. It’s not an easy task, even if it’s common. Constitutions are often the result of deliberation, discussion and discovery—discovery that often comes from writing together.

But collaborative writing can be challenging. It’s hard to write something with other people and still make it cohesive, harmonic and readable. These pitfalls are particularly salient for constitutions—documents that are supposed to represent the aspirations and principles of a people.

That’s where Constitute comes in. A project of the Comparative Constitutions Project and seeded by Google Ideas, Constitute allows anyone to read, search and compare every constitution in the world, indexed by topic. Constitute is built for people to analyze text, but they can move from analysis to drafting by exporting constitutional excerpts directly to Google Docs—a shared space to create and debate a new “founding” document.



Today a new set of exhibits at the National Constitution Center helps bring this hands-on approach to the general public. Created in 1988, the NCC is an interactive museum in Philadelphia dedicated to the U.S. Constitution.

The Constitute exhibit has two components. The first is an installation of Constitute that invites visitors to view the U.S. Constitution (and other Constitutions) in comparative perspective.



In the second component, select visitors can use this analysis to work in a space we’re calling the “Drafting Lab.” There, people can use Constitute and Google Docs to participate with fellow drafters in each of the stages of Constitution-making—from research to deliberation to drafting.



The Lab might be the first of its kind in the world: a space for citizens and drafters of all kinds to imagine, rethink and rediscover constitutional ideas. We don’t really know what happens when drafters work simultaneously on the same piece of “parchment” (a Google Doc) and share the same workspace. So the sessions in the Drafting Lab may be illuminating for both scholars and for participants.

If you're unable to visit the NCC and do some drafting in person, you can always give it a try at home by visiting constituteproject.org.

May the constitution-making begin! 

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We’re thrilled to share the Google Bus Bangladesh project, an initiative to help equip and empower half a million college and university students across the country with the digital skills they need to take advantage of the Internet.

Bangladesh is a country that’s swiftly adopting technology at mass scale. In a population of 165 million, more than 116 million (70% of the population) use mobile phones. And although the number of Internet users is a comparatively low 10 million, Bangladesh has more Internet users than many other countries in the world. For Bangladeshi students who will help decide how Bangladesh thrives in a digitally-driven, global business climate, Internet access and wider information access are especially critical.
Over the course of 12 months, our digitally-equipped bus will visit 500 campuses in 35 locations, where instructors will conduct workshops. These workshops will introduce Bangladeshi undergraduates and the next generation of entrepreneurs to the technology tools that can empower them to start and grow their own passion projects and businesses. Students will learn the power and utility of the Internet, connect online with their peers, and learn how to most effectively use Google tools – including Google Search, Chrome, Apps, Maps, YouTube, Adwords and Google+ – to plan and collaborate in new ways. Each student will also have the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned on Android One devices and will have continued access to the the Google Bus Bangladesh Community to stay engaged and in touch with their peers.

The Google Bus Bangladesh project is already underway in Dhaka, and will soon make its way to academic institutions in and around major cities including Chittagong, Khulna, Sylhet, Rajshahi, Rangpur and Barisal. We encourage any and all Bangladeshi undergraduate students with interest in our workshops to hop on and join us.


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Once students have their first experience with computer science (CS), how do we keep them engaged so that they will continue to pursue CS, particularly at the undergraduate level? This year, 53 CS faculty and instructors from colleges and universities in 24 U.S. states will implement classroom-based programs and solutions to help them answer that question as part of the Google CS Engagement Small Awards program. Each award – an unrestricted gift of $5,000 to the award recipients’ institution – will be used by the faculty members and instructors teaching introductory (CS1 and CS2) courses to identify and implement solutions for increasing student engagement and reaching retention goals within their own classrooms.

At Google, we believe in the importance of preparing the next generation of computer scientists. We’ve created and supported the development and implementation of numerous CS education programs and resources on the basis of research that links persistence in CS studies with engaging and personally relevant learning experiences.

To help faculty and instructors identify engaging and relevant Open Educational Resources (OER) for their introductory undergraduate CS courses – and in partnership with the National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT) – we created EngageCSEdu. This collection of high-quality instructional materials contains 1,400+ assignments, labs, and projects that any faculty member can use to identify and implement activities containing pedagogical practices and strategies (Engagement Practices) that increase student engagement and retention.

EngageCSEdu is a great way for recipients of the Google CS Engagement Small Award program to identify, modify, and share the activities, projects, and labs they’ll create to engage their students. Google has selected the following faculty and instructors to receive a CS Engagement Small Award:

  • Jim Conrad – Boise State University 
  • Jadwiga Carlson – Bowling Green State University 
  • John Clements, Michael Haungs, Zachary Peterson, Zoe Wood – California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo 
  • Carl Kingsford – Carnegie Mellon University 
  • Chris Starr – College of Charleston 
  • Matthew Whitehead – Colorado College 
  • Lonnie Bowe – Concord University 
  • Kathleen Tamerlano – Cuyahoga Community College 
  • Keith Tookey – Eureka College 
  • Lee Spector – Hampshire College 
  • Sean Joyce – Heidelberg University 
  • Debra Duke – J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College 
  • Juan Jenny Li – Kean University 
  • Peter Drake – Lewis & Clark College 
  • Richard Enbody – Michigan State University 
  • Leo Ureel – Michigan Technological University 
  • Ben Coleman – Moravian College 
  • Heather Pon-Barry – Mount Holyoke College
  • Clif Kussmaul – Muhlenberg College 
  • Sarah Heckman – North Carolina State University 
  • Jennifer Parham-Mocello – Oregon State University 
  • Adam Groce, Jim Fix – Reed College 
  • Florence Appel – Saint Xavier 
  • Natalie Linnell – Santa Clara University 
  • Cheryl Calhoun – Santa Fe College 
  • Dominique Thiebaut – Smith College 
  • Ravi Gandham – South Seattle College 
  • Winnie Yu, Lisa Lancor – Southern Connecticut State University 
  • Barbara Anthony – Southwestern University 
  • Lindsay Jamieson – St. Mary's College of Maryland 
  • Sen Zhang – SUNY Oneonta 
  • Cynthia Marcello – SUNY Sullivan 
  • Thomas Gibbons, Jennifer Rosato – The College of St. Scholastica 
  • Martine Ceberio – The University of Texas at El Paso 
  • Anastasia Kurdia – Tulane University 
  • John Lusth – University of Alabama 
  • Michael Ball – University of California, Berkeley 
  • Adam Koehler – University of California, Riverside 
  • Mark Heinrich – University of Central Florida 
  • Victor Milenkovic – University of Miami 
  • Kate Lockwood – University of St. Thomas 
  • Rob Nash – University of Washington, Bothell 
  • William Turkett – Wake Forest University 
  • Richard Fry – Weber State University 
  • Zijiang Yang – Western Michigan University 
  • Helen Hu – Westminster College 
  • Mark D. LeBlanc – Wheaton College (Norton, MA) 

We’re proud to support the efforts of these innovative instructors as they strive to create an engaging and relevant learning experience for all students.

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Last November, Pope Francis interrupted his weekly Audience to embrace a man suffering from neurofibromatosis, a genetic disease that causes disfiguring tumors. The compassionate gesture touched the hearts of the thousands of people gathered at Saint Peter's Square and, within no time, images of the encounter had circled around the world. This week, the Pope will once again remind us that all it takes to connect with others is the will to reach out.

With the help of technology, Pope Francis will extend a virtual embrace to others around the world who have disabilities and special needs. He will host his second Google Hangout live from the Vatican, engaging in a conversation with children from Brazil, India, Spain and the U.S. The kids will share a glimpse into their lives and talk about their dreams with Pope Francis—and the world.

The dialogue will take place this Thursday, February 5 at 4:00 PM (CET) and can be followed live from Scholas G+ page. Scholas Ocurrentes is an independent organization that the Pope has entrusted with the mission of uniting schools worldwide, regardless of race, gender, class, religion or sexual orientation. Google has been working alongside Scholas, contributing tools and expertise to help Pope Francis' dream of a global network of schools for Peace come true.

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(Cross-posted on the Official Google Blog




When Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people need support, they turn to their daughters. No, really. In a culture whose history goes back 50,000 years, 70 young girls are using technology to give their families a new way to call for help in emergencies. Last year, Engineers Without Borders Australia taught a group of students to build an emergency response beacon using basic hardware and some code to transmit a user’s location and distress message via radio.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up less than 3 percent of Australia’s population, and they’ve historically faced discrimination in society, including in education. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, dropout rates exceed 60 percent in certain regions and Aboriginal students are, on average, 2.5 years behind their peers in scientific and mathematical literacy. The problem is often compounded for girls, who tend to be left out of educational opportunities.

So Engineers Without Borders Australia (EWBA) set out to close the educational and digital divide, developing a program which brings together Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal how to create emergency beacons from scratch by coding a Raspberry Pi to work with an LED, GPS module and FM transmitter. It will also work through issues of stereotyping and discrimination, and help the girls to better understand each other’s worlds.

This is just one example of an organization doing extraordinary work to make computer science (CS) education available to women and other underrepresented minorities. Computer science has tremendous potential to make a real difference in the world—but only when more people can access and harness it.

That’s the idea behind Google’s RISE Awards, through which we support organizations in their work to inspire students around the world with CS. Since 2010, more than 200 organizations have received an award, and this year, 37 organizations are receiving a cumulative $1.5 million to keep this vital effort humming along. Our partners facilitate programs and activities including teaching girls about the intersection of coding and music production in California, promoting computational thinking through game-design in Mexico, and inspiring children in Brazil to program alongside their parents.
This year, three nonprofits will receive a new “RISE Partnership Award”—a grant to work with one or two partner organizations to help grow their CS outreach to a wider scale. One of the three is Engineers Without Borders Australia, which plans to work with MEET—an organization with expertise on how coding skills can build relationships and break down stereotypes—to integrate their curriculum to reach up to 2,000 girls across Australia, including in Aboriginal communities.

With access to hands-on CS education, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander girls are preparing themselves for the digital economy, contributing to the diversity of our future’s technology, and taking concrete steps to rise above the inequities their community has faced for decades. They’re not alone. We hope that through the RISE Awards and our other efforts to support diversity in technology, these girls and others like them can have an even greater impact. We can’t wait to see it.