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(Cross-posted on the Google for Work Blog.)

On a frigid spring morning in Ontario, Canada, a classroom full of fifth-graders visited the Galapagos Islands, discovering and classifying animals for a lesson on Charles Darwin. Students at Mariano Azuela Elementary in Chicago toured the Great Wall of China in their math class, calculating how long it would take to walk from one tower to the next. And high school students in Accra, Ghana, explored Singapore to gather ideas for a paper on urban economic development.

These trips were all made possible by Expeditions, a new educational tool coming this fall that allows teachers to take their classes on field trips to anywhere. From the Expeditions app on their tablet, a teacher is able to send synchronized three-dimensional 360° panoramas to each student’s Cardboard viewer, pointing out areas of interest in real time and instantly pausing the trip when needed. Used in conjunction with existing lessons and curriculum, Expeditions immerses students in experiences that bring abstract concepts to life and provide a deeper understanding of the world beyond the classroom.
Expeditions will combine three things: software built with input from teachers and students, immersive virtual reality content and off-the-shelf devices.

The content
Expedition trips are collections of virtual reality panoramas — 360° photo spheres, 3D images and video, ambient sounds — annotated with details, points of interest, and questions that make them easy to integrate into curriculum already used in schools. Partners like the American Museum of Natural History, the Planetary Society, David Attenborough with production company Alchemy VR, and many of the museums and other partners of the Google Cultural Institute are helping us to create custom educational content for Expeditions.

The app
Expeditions trips are accessed and viewed through an app that allows a teacher to choose a trip and lead a group of students through a virtual field trip by choosing what content they’re viewing and by pointing out specific points of interest along the way. Teachers are able to pause trips to get the class’s attention, play ambient sounds to make the experience even more immersive and let students freely explore on their own.

The hardware
While Expeditions can be used on devices already in the classroom, they come alive with Google Cardboard. Our pilot kit is a collection of all the hardware needed to go on Expeditions in full virtual reality — a tablet for the guide, VR viewers for each student, a speaker to provide ambient sounds and a durable box to transport, charge, and store it all. We know many schools don’t have great Internet service (or any at all) so we built Expeditions to work without it. The kit includes a router that allows Expeditions to run over its own local Wi-Fi network so there’s no buffering, dropped connections or lengthy loading times.

“So many times, I've wished that I could take my students on a journey and tell them the kinds of stories that got me excited about social studies,” says Hector Camacho, who took his Economics class at St. Francis High School in Mountain View on an Expedition to Wall Street. “I never imagined that very trip could take place within the walls of our classroom. Expeditions helped create an experience I could never have created using just words, and it helped my students develop a fascination with economics.”

More than 1,000 students have already used Expeditions in their classes, and we’d like to thank the teachers and students in these schools who’ve helped us test and improve the product this spring.

Sign up to get more information about Expeditions as it becomes available this fall, and let us know where you’d like to take your students — we’re excited to hear your wish list.

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(Cross-posted on the Google for Work Blog.)

Editor's note: To understand the extent to which the skills taught in education systems around the world are changing, and whether they meet the needs of employers and society more widely, Google commissioned research from The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The EIU surveyed senior business executives, teachers and students. The key findings of the survey and the main issues raised by educators and students were discussed by a diverse panel at the opening session of Education on Air, the free online conference from Google on May 8th. Read the full report here.

With rapidly evolving business needs, technological advances and new work structures, the skills that will be needed in the future are shifting. In response to these changes, policymakers, educators and experts around the world are rethinking their education systems.

During Education on Air a panel of education experts participated in a discussion aimed at understanding how to best adapt education systems to the skills needs of the future:

  • Ken Shelton, Educator, Trainer & Google Certified Teacher, USA 
  • Jaime Casap, Global Education Evangelist, Google, USA 
  • Jouni Kangasniemi, Special Adviser to the Ministry of Education & Culture, Finland 
  • Nicole, a secondary student from Isle of Portland Aldridge Community Academy, UK 
  • Zoe Tabary, Editor, Economist Intelligence Unit, UK 

The panel considered how to best help students learn and adopt the skills and attitudes that employers in the increasingly digital and networked economy require.

According to the EIU's research report, sponsored by Google for Education and presented by EIU editor Zoe Tabary during Education on Air, problem-solving, teamwork and communication are the most needed skills in the workplace.                    This video provides a short summary of the report from the Economist Intelligence Unit.

But it seems that education systems have not yet responded to this demand; only a third of executives say they’re satisfied with the level of attainment of young people entering the workplace. Even more striking is that 51% of executives say a skills gap is hampering their organisation's performance. Students and educators paint a similar picture.

Panelists echoed the EIU research by suggesting that education systems often lack the capacity to teach a wider range of skills—namely problem-solving, digital literacy, leadership and creativity—that would complement more conventional skills, such as numeracy and literacy. Time constraints, lack of flexibility and a reluctance to innovate with the curriculum are a few of the causes mentioned. For Jouni Kangasniemi, senior advisor to Finland's Ministry of Education and Culture, the key question was how to really embed these skills throughout the curriculum rather than just add them to the mix of skills and subjects.

Progress is being made, however, and panelists shared examples of how the education system is adapting to changing demands. Examples from the Finnish education system, presented by Mr Kangasniemi, suggest that learning results in this area improve when teachers have a certain degree of freedom and trust to adjust the curriculum to the learning styles of the students. Teaching becomes more personalised and student-focused, and supports learning, with questions exchanged collaboratively between teachers and students rather than teachers simply presenting answers and facts.

Technology also plays a central role in skills development. According to the EIU research, 85% of teachers report that IT advances are changing the way they teach—but only 23% of 18-25-year-olds think their education system is very effective at making full use of the technologies now available. With the pace of technological change accelerating, education systems should respond by offering training and platforms for teachers that effectively use technology and better equip students for both today’s and tomorrow’s workplace.

Jaime Casap, global education specialist at Google, stressed the need to focus on teaching mindsets, rather than skills. "Skills can become obsolete—there is a finite timeline when they can be used or applied," Casap argues, whereas an inquisitive approach that seeks to solve problems will always be necessary, no matter what issues humanity will need to grapple with in the future. The question is how we can build a culture and environment—and education models—that prepare students to meet any challenge as future digital leaders.

Read the full report: “The skills agenda: Preparing students for the future.”

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(Cross-posted on the Google for Work Blog.)

What do a student in Florida, a special advisor to the Ministry of Education in Finland, a filmmaker, a veteran teacher, and a researcher for the Economist Intelligence Unit have in common? They’re all speakers — just a handful of the 130 — who shared their ideas during Education on Air.

We wanted to tackle the question of how to help students become digital leaders, and it turns out we weren’t the only ones. More than 53,000 people registered for Education on Air, the free online conference we held last week on May 8 and 9. Educators, parents, students, business people and citizens from 201 countries showed their passion for improving education. The posts on Google+ and the comments on Twitter showed that the messages of the speakers really hit home. For example they often quoted Michael Fullan’s "stop boring students" and Lisa Bodell's "change is a choice." Today we wanted to provide some highlights of the event.
You might imagine it would be difficult to recap the highlights from more than 60 hours of programming, but we noticed a handful of common themes. Speakers and participants seemed to broadly agree about the challenges we face in our education systems, the changes we want to see and the steps we need to take to get there. It feels as if people around the world are joining forces to tackle big issues and achieve their goals together.

Check out the highlight reel that includes the most prominent themes from the conference:

  • The skills and mindset that will prepare students for the future 
  • The need to let students and teachers learn from failure 
  • The importance of giving students choice and voice 
  • The power of technology to open doors 
If you missed Education on Air, don’t worry. All the sessions are available on demand, so you can check out any of the keynotes, panel discussions and workshops that you missed. Just like the live conference, you can tune in from anywhere.

Stay tuned to this blog to get more news from Education on Air, including the “Skills of the Future” research you heard highlighted by Zoe Tabary of the Economist Intelligence Unit. We also want to hear from you. Let us know what you’d like to hear about at our next event. Add your voice in the comments under this tweet and this Google+ post.

Go ahead, get involved. Anyone can do it — even Gus.





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(Cross-posted on the Google Docs Blog.)

From company meetings to school reports, pictures play an important part in telling your story. Today’s updates to Docs and Slides for Android and iOS help you work with images more easily, even when you’re on the go.

Insert images 

Now you can add pictures to your documents and presentations, directly from your phone or tablet. Choose an image from your camera roll, or take a new photo on the spot.

Picture perfect 

When you’re creating a presentation away from your desk, double tap any image in Slides to enter crop mode. From there, trim the sides of your image, or tap the mask icon to crop it into a specific shape.


No connection required 

Your work doesn’t stop when your data connection does. Today’s improvements to Docs and Slides will remain available when you’re offline. You’ll just need the updated mobile apps. Give these new tricks a try, and start adding images from just about anywhere—at work, in the air, or on the train ride home. The updated Docs and Slides apps are available now on Google Play and the App Store (Docs, Slides).

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Editor's note: Today’s guest author is Gloria Musto, Child Development and Economics teacher and Director of Student Activities at Fontbonne Hall Academy in Brooklyn, New York. She’s passionate about letting students guide their educational journey and think beyond the typical means of learning.

Students often read textbooks to learn about changemakers and historical events, but interactive experiences can often have a more profound impact on students’ learning. To celebrate Women’s History Month this year, the 19 students in my Intro to Child Development class created a project in which they worked in small teams and took on the persona of a prominent woman in the field of child development. The project had three goals: encourage students to work together in different ways, challenge them to solve problems creatively and inspire them to take initiative and drive their own learning through individual research and collaborative use of collective research.


Before they launched the project, the students needed to find a platform to host it. The students experimented and unanimously found that Google+ met the needs for the project for its interactivity and collaborative elements. But they needed to figure out how to get the pages to interact. Working together, the students resolved that they should create Gmail accounts for each “character.” Using Google+, the students created an interactive project that allowed them to respond to questions and react accordingly as a team to comments from other “characters.”

Once they created the pages, I posted questions on our group’s Google+ page, and students responded in the voice of the child development leader they chose. Students researched the background and theories of women like Maria Montessori, Melanie Klein, Mary Ainsworth, and Anna Freud to build the appropriate point of view. Each student group created a Google+ page for the woman they chose, then posted content that included photos, videos, facts, quotes and journal entries.


The project encouraged students to think creatively and expand their learning beyond the textbook — some of the women my students chose, such as Mary Ainsworth, weren’t even mentioned in the chapters we’re reading. The students also discovered a web of connections between different leaders in the child development world. Many of the personas strongly agreed or disagreed with the others’ perspectives, so students portrayed those interactions in their posts.

Students worked on the project both in small groups and individually. In order to clearly acknowledge the contributions individual students made, they used a hashtag system to take credit for the post, for example #byvictoria. This simple system held students accountable for their work while fostering teamwork.

Typically, students think of social media as a platform they use in their personal lives and not in the classroom. Now, my students see social media — specifically Google+ — as a learning agent as well. As Maria Montessori said, “the greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, the children are now working as if I did not exist.” This project would have made Maria Montessori proud. The students were simply given a framework (a well-prepared classroom in a Montessori mindset), and then independently created a unique and sophisticated social media experience.

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(Cross-posted on the Google for Work Blog.)

Editor's note: Jason Markey is the Principal of East Leyden High School and was one of the panel members discussing student empowerment as part of Education on Air last Friday. We received a lot of questions about this topic and the approach at Jason’s school so we asked him to write this blog post to share more.

At Education on Air I connected with amazing educators and leaders, and learned from sessions like Jennie Magiera’s “Power to the pupil,” Michael Fullan’s “Three ways to drive system-wide change,” and Laszlo Bock’s “Making work rule.” These sessions offered everything from system-wide ideas on implementing change to building a culture for our teachers resulting in more successful schools to the steps we can take to further empower our students. I enjoyed speaking on the student empowerment panel on Friday and wanted to share a bit more about our approach at East Leyden High School.

Over the past several years, Leyden has introduced a 1:1 program with one Chromebook per student and Tech Support Internship (TSI) to support our technology initiative and offer real-world learning experiences. Having a 1:1 program means that students now have a direct line to their teachers and administrators. They write emails and Tweets to share their opinions, preferences and questions. We’ve seen our students, with the support of school administration, unite through a hashtag.

I believe that student empowerment is about introducing more choice into the classroom and opening up more opportunities for students to share their voices. My experiences at Leyden have affirmed something I’ve always believed: education, at its core, is about relationship-building and community-building. Students, like everyone else, want to feel that they’re part of a community. They want to be active participants, choosing to learn and think about and discuss the things they find relevant.

Every TSI student pursues an independent learning pathway, with options including computer programming, app development, web design or a project of her choice. TSI students have made the course their own, and often come up with new programs, like a new student orientation to introduce first-year and transfer students to Chromebooks and Google Apps. In addition TSI students volunteer their time for tech support — they’re learning skills that range from troubleshooting to communicating professionally. Here’s a video to give you a flavor of what goes on in TSI.



They also use our school hashtag, #leydenpride, to share news about our school — from athletic successes to club events and academic achievements. Twitter has become a way for us to spread positivity, share and listen, and build community and student ownership. As an example, here’s a student perspective from East Leyden Senior Maja Bulka.

As teachers and administrators, we’ve made a concerted effort to empathize with our students and see through their eyes. We do this in informal ways — through #leydenpride, for instance — as well as through more formal programs. For instance, the assistant principal and I (along with all new teachers) shadow a student for one day each year so we can better understand what it’s like to go straight from gym to an AP calculus test. Aside from shadowing, I spend as much time as I can talking to students and sitting in on classes. If we don’t understand what students have to say, we won’t be able to build the environment to engage, support and empower them.

If you want to hear more ways that educators are empowering students you might want to check out some of the recorded sessions from Education on Air like Jennie Magiera’s session “Moving beyond Genius Hour: empowering students all day” or David Chan’s session “It’s all about students: student tech programs.”

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Editor's note: Leading up to Education on Air tomorrow, we asked what topics you’d like to discuss at the conference. The clear winner was “innovation in schools,” so here Laszlo Bock, head of People Operations (what others call HR) at Google shares his expertise on creating great workplaces. Laszlo will share findings from his new book, Work Rules!, in his Education on Air keynote Friday. Register for the free online conference today.

I’ve had the opportunity to study what makes a great place to work—including researching how people work and play together, what makes employees productive, efficient and happy, and what excites them about coming to work. Through working at Google and speaking with teams at other organizations, I’ve learned some really cool things about how we can make work better. We spend more time at work than anywhere else in our lives. So shouldn’t it be more positive and meaningful?
Laszlo Bock, SVP of Google People Operations, will share ideas from his new book "Work Rules" during Education on Air.
At Education on Air, I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned in the form of what I call “work rules.” Sure, people will debate which of these rules can apply to education, but in speaking with educators, I’ve learned that many of them do. Yes, schools face requirements and regulations, but that doesn’t mean they can’t innovate. For example, Eric Sheninger shares how digital tools can help educators lead 21st century schools. Ryan Bretag, the Chief Innovation Officer for Glenbrook High School District 225 in Illinois, has created space for innovation in his district. Ryan (along with hundreds of other educators) will share how they’ve implemented change in their schools throughout Education on Air. I’ll be sharing more “work rules” in my talk at Education on Air, but in the meantime here are some of my thoughts on building a strong culture.

Meaning is the foundation of your workplace

The first rule in my book is “Give your work meaning.” Everyone wants to find meaning in his or her work—no matter what it is—and strives to feel inspired by what he or she does. I’m awestruck by educators who spend their time finding ways to reach students with different needs, helping them learn, create, code and follow their passions. As an educator, you’re already doing some of the most important work that anyone can do, so you have a leg up on many other industries in finding meaning.

Mindset is so important here. Amy Wrzesniewski, a researcher at Yale University has shown that there are three ways for people to see their work: as a job (“a necessity that is not a major positive in their lives”), as a career (“something to ‘win’ or ‘advance’”) or as a calling (“a source of employment and fulfilment where you are doing socially useful work”). It’s not enough just to have an inherently meaningful profession, you are more likely to have higher well-being and performance if you have the mindset of your work as a calling. If you want to learn more about this research check out this talk from Amy.

If you give people freedom, they’ll amaze you

I strongly believe in giving people slightly more trust, freedom and authority than you’re comfortable giving. If you’re not nervous, you haven’t given them enough. Organizations that trust their employees build empowerment and success. Consider the regional supermarket chain Wegmans, which gives its employees full discretion to do the right thing and let no customer leave unhappy. Wegmans even encouraged an employee to start her own in-store bakery. It’s no wonder the company has lasted nearly a century — and has made Fortune’s list of the best places to work for the past 17 years, despite operating in the low-margin grocery business. You can learn more in this interview I did with Jack DePeters of Wegmans.

Educators can also benefit greatly from giving a little more trust to their staff and students. For example school technology director Kevin Brookhouser described how well students rise to the occasion when they are given 20Time (one day a week to work on a project of their choosing). Kevin and the many other teachers employing this technique have seen students become much more passionate and engaged in learning.

If you’re interested in learning more, you can tune in in for my Education on Air keynote tomorrow, May 8, and check out my book Work Rules. I’ll be sharing the lessons most relevant to building successful organizations which I hope give you some ideas whether you lead a system, district, school or classroom. But I’d also like to hear your stories. How has empowering educators or students led to great results in your school, organization or community? Head to Google+ and let us know.

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It’s teacher appreciation week here in the U.S., and for me, that means celebrating the teacher who has had absolutely the most impact on my life: Mike Zamansky. Mr Z, as he is affectionately known, has been making Computer Science cool at Stuyvesant High School for more than 20 years, and what I learned in his classes has put me on the path I’m still on today. So from me and everyone at Classroom to Mr. Z and every other teacher who inspires their students: Thank you for doing just that.

A year ago, we marked Teacher Appreciation Week in the U.S. by telling you that Google Classroom was on its way. This year, we’re excited to celebrate this milestone by adding some new Classroom treats in our mobile app that will make it even easier for you to keep track of your classes, no matter where you are or what device you’re on:
  • Grade assignments from your phone or tablet, and add private feedback to give students guidance, encouragement, constructive criticism or personalized feedback. 
  • You can create and edit assignments on the go, including the ability to make a copy for every student. 
  • Just take a photo to create a post or assignment, so you can easily share those whiteboard notes with the class or assign the math problem that you jotted down on that napkin. 

You’ll see these new features rolling out this week, and you can find more about how they work here.

We also wanted to take a moment to look back: since Classroom became available, students have turned in more than 70 million assignments and we’ve added more than 20 new features that you told us were important: 
  • The ability to have multiple teachers in a class, so that teaching teams can work together. 
  • Prep for classes ahead of time with draft assignments and posts
  • Autosaved grades allow you to grade in batches. 
  • A mobile app for Android and iOS lets you access your classes anywhere, even without cellular data or a WiFi connection. 
  • With the teacher assignments page, you can view all of your assignments and track student progress in one place. 
  • Stream settings give you control over class discussions; plus you can mute individual students and view deleted items. 
  • Archive your finished classes and save everything for next semester. 
  • Download grades as a batch, easily exporting them to any gradebook.
  • 48 new visual themes and the ability to upload your own so you can customize your class. 
  • +mentions let you instantly add students or other teachers into a conversation, making it easier to follow a comment thread. 
  • Students can mark assignments as “done” when they don’t need to submit anything online. 
  • And many more... 

 Look for more updates from us soon. Now we’re off to (virtually) hug a favorite teacher. Join us!

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(Cross-posted on the Official Google Blog)

When I was in 5th grade, I complained to my teacher, Mr. Tomazewski, that there must be more to mathematics than simple arithmetic. He concurred and gave me a 7th grade algebra book because he believed in me. I spent the summer working through every problem! With that simple act, Mr. Tomazewski had set me off on a career path that eventually led to the invention of the Internet.
Me at age 11 in 1954
As students, we have the potential to be or do anything—whether and how we fulfill that potential is largely determined by the guidance and encouragement of our teachers.

That’s one reason why Google is so committed to improving teaching and learning through the use of technology. One year ago this week, we announced Classroom, a tool that helps teachers manage assignments, communicate with students and parents, and stay organized. Since then, we’ve continued to add features that teachers and students tell us they need, and if you stay tuned to the Google for Education Blog this week, you’ll hear about a few of our newest additions.

In the spirit of listening to our teachers, we’re also continuing to improve our CS First materials—free online computer science content developed by educators and computer scientists—to help introduce the art of programming to students in grades 4-8 through after-school, in-school and summer programs.

We also realize the importance of what teachers can learn from one another. So with that in mind, this week we’re hosting Education on Air—a free online event with 100+ sessions led by educators from 12 countries and 29 U.S. states. We’ll cover themes that include empowering students, practical innovation, CS and STEM, and building community. Speakers include LeVar Burton and Google Science Fair 2012 winner Brittany Wenger. We hope you can virtually join us May 8-9 for this online education conference, and make sure to register so you can catch recorded videos of all the sessions.
Our lives would be profoundly different without the Mr. Tomazeskis of the world. Please join us in saying thank you to our teachers this week—in person, online, in a handwritten note, or even a meme—for all that they help us to achieve.