Posted:



  • Develop valid and reliable assessments aligned to the CSTA K–12 Computer Science Standards. 
  • Develop valid and reliable formative and summative assessments for programming languages beyond Java, such as Python, C#, etc. 
  • Develop an online repository of assessment items for K–12 computer science teachers.
  • Develop a community of practice surrounding the use of assessment in computer science classrooms. 
  • Design and deliver professional development to increase K–12 computer science teachers’ assessment literacy. 

Posted:


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

Editor’s Note: Today we hear from our Chief Education Evangelist, Jaime Casap, who spoke at First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2015 “Beating the Odds” Summit. The event welcomed more than 130 college-bound students from across the country and focused on sharing tools and strategies to help more students successfully transition to college and complete the next level of their education.

Last week I had the honor of sharing my story with over 130 college-bound students at First Lady Michelle Obama’s "Beating the Odds" Summit — part of her Reach Higher initiative. These students came from across the country and different backgrounds. They included urban, rural, foster, homeless, special needs and underrepresented youth, all of whom have overcome substantial barriers to make it to college.

In my daily job I get to work with a group of people focused on building technology and programs that can help support teachers, who help empower their students to be lifelong learners. I believe education has the power to rid poverty and change the destiny of a family in just one generation. Reach Higher has the same mission: to invest in our students and help them get the education they need to thrive.

This mission is also deeply personal for me. I was raised in Hell’s Kitchen, New York by a single mother who came to America from Argentina. On my first day of school, I didn’t speak English. I grew up fast and watched my elementary school friends turn into addicts and criminals. When I looked for a road out, I saw only dead ends, until I realized education was a road out. But it wasn’t easy: everything around me shrieked, “you won’t make it; you aren’t meant to succeed.”

I realize now that the negative voices are always there; you have to push them down. With the help of my teachers, I graduated from high school and committed to going to college. There were many times when I felt like I didn’t belong — at that time the college graduation rate for Latinos was around five percent — but I graduated with a double major, packed up my stuff and drove across the country to pursue a Master of Public Policy degree. The only way I did it was by convincing myself to prove the naysayers wrong.

Education didn’t just change my life, it changed my family, too. I now have three kids, and my eldest daughter graduated from college last month. I never had a conversation with her about college, she just assumed she was and should go to college. My 14-year-old wants to build a college curriculum for himself focused on game design. My kids don’t face the barriers I did; they see no obstacles in their way.

This is to say that I believe in what the First Lady is trying to accomplish with Reach Higher. Students must go beyond high school graduation — whether that’s a four-year college, community college or a technical/certification program. One reason this is essential is because today’s high-school-only graduates earn just 62 percent of what their college-graduate peers earn. We need to prepare all our students, especially our most vulnerable students, for their future and help them reach high.

Often we ask our students the wrong question: “What do you want to be when you grow up.” Instead, we should ask “What problem do you want to solve?” We should empower students to take ownership of their learning. As much as I want students to be college and career ready, I also want them to be curious lifelong learners ready to tackle the world’s problems.

For millions of students, “reaching higher” means beating the odds with a lot of hard work, a healthy disrespect for the impossible, and some luck. It means ignoring self-doubt and proving the haters wrong. It means being proud of the experiences that define you — they will be a competitive advantage some day. It means believing in education and believing in yourself, then sharing your story with the world.

See recorded coverage of the event.

Posted:


(Cross-posted on the Google Research Blog.)

There is a tremendous focus on computer science education in K-12. Educators, policy makers, the non-profit sector and industry are sharing a common message about the benefits of computer science knowledge and the opportunities it provides. In this wider effort to improve access to computer science education, one of the challenges we face is how to ensure that there is a pipeline of computer science teachers to meet the growing demand for this expertise in schools.

In 2013 the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) released Bugs in the System: Computer Science Teacher Certification in the U.S. Based on 18 months of intensive Google-funded research, this report characterized the current state of teacher certification as being rife with “bugs in the system” that prevent it from functioning as intended. Examples of current challenges included states where someone with no knowledge of computer science can teach it, states where the requirements for teacher certification are impossible to meet, and states where certification administrators are confused about what computer science is. The report also demonstrated that this is actually a circular problem - States are hesitant to require certification when they have no programs to train the teachers, and teacher training programs are hesitant to create programs for which there is no clear certification pathway.
Addressing the issues with the current teacher preparation and certification system is a complex challenge and it requires the commitment of the entire computer science community. Fortunately, some of this work is already underway. CSTA’s report provides a set of recommendations aimed at addressing these issues. Educators, advocates, and policymakers are also beginning to examine their systems and how to reform them.

Google is also exploring how we might help. We convened a group of teacher preparation faculty, researchers, and administrators from across the country to brainstorm how we might work with teacher preparation programs to support the inclusion of computational thinking into teacher preparation programs. As a result of this meeting, Dr. Aman Yadav, Professor of Educational Psychology and Educational Technology at Michigan State University, is now working on two research articles aimed at helping teacher preparation program leaders better understand what computational thinking is, and how it supports learning across multiple disciplines.

Google will also be launching a new online course called Computational Thinking for Educators. In this free course, educators working with students between the ages of 13 and 18 will learn how incorporating computational thinking can enhance and enrich learning in diverse academic disciplines and can help boost students’ confidence when dealing with ambiguous, complex or open-ended problems. The course will run from July 15 to September 30, 2015.

These kind of community partnerships are one way that Google can contribute to practitioner-centered solutions and help further the computer science education community’s efforts to help everyone understand that computer science is a deeply important academic discipline that deserves a place in the K-12 canon and well-prepared teachers to share this knowledge with students.

Posted:


(Cross-posted on the Google Research Blog.)

Over the last few years, successful marketing campaigns such as Hour of Code and Made with Code have helped K12 students become increasingly aware of the power and relevance of computer programming across all fields. In addition, there has been growth in developer bootcamps, online “learn to code” programs (code.org, CS First, Khan Academy, Codecademy, Blockly Games, etc.), and non-profits focused specifically on girls and underrepresented minorities (URMs) (Technovation, Girls who Code, Black Girls Code, #YesWeCode, etc.).

This is good news, as we need many more computing professionals than are currently graduating from Computer Science (CS) and Information Technology (IT) programs. There is evidence that students are starting to respond positively too, given undergraduate departments are experiencing capacity issues in accommodating all the students who want to study CS.

Most educators agree that basic application and internet skills (typing, word processing, spreadsheets, web literacy and safety, etc.) are fundamental, and thus, “digital literacy” is a part of K12 curriculum. But is coding now a fundamental literacy, like reading or writing, that all K12 students need to learn as well?

In order to gain a deeper understanding of the devices and applications they use everyday, it’s important for all students to try coding. In doing so, this also has the positive effect of inspiring more potential future programmers. Furthermore, there are a set of relevant skills, often consolidated as “computational thinking”, that are becoming more important for all students, given the growth in the use of computers, algorithms and data in many fields. These include:

  • Abstraction, which is the replacement of a complex real-world situation with a simple model within which we can solve problems. CS is the science of abstraction: creating the right model for a problem, representing it in a computer, and then devising appropriate automated techniques to solve the problem within the model. A spreadsheet is an abstraction of an accountant’s worksheet; a word processor is an abstraction of a typewriter; a game like Civilization is an abstraction of history.
  • An algorithm is a procedure for solving a problem in a finite number of steps that can involve repetition of operations, or branching to one set of operations or another based on a condition. Being able to represent a problem-solving process as an algorithm is becoming increasingly important in any field that uses computing as a primary tool (business, economics, statistics, medicine, engineering, etc.). Success in these fields requires algorithm design skills.
  • As computers become essential in a particular field, more domain-specific data is collected, analyzed and used to make decisions. Students need to understand how to find the data; how to collect it appropriately and with respect to privacy considerations; how much data is needed for a particular problem; how to remove noise from data; what techniques are most appropriate for analysis; how to use an analysis to make a decision; etc. Such data skills are already required in many fields.

These computational thinking skills are becoming more important as computers, algorithms and data become ubiquitous. Coding will also become more common, particularly with the growth in the use of visual programming languages, like Blockly, that remove the need to learn programming language syntax, and via custom blocks, can be used as an abstraction for many different applications.

One way to represent these different skill sets and the students who need them is as follows:
All students need digital literacy, many need computational thinking depending on their career choice, and some will actually do the software development in high-tech companies, IT departments, or other specialized areas. I don’t believe all kids should learn to code seriously, but all kids should try it via programs like code.org, CS First or Khan Academy. This gives students a good introduction to computational thinking and coding, and provides them with a basis for making an informed decision on whether CS or IT is something they wish to pursue as a career.

Posted:


(Cross-posted on the Official Google Blog.)

Editor's note: Today marks the start of Camp Google—an online summer camp built to spark and satisfy kids’ curiosities, with four weeks of live adventures for students ages 7-10. This post comes to us from Sylvia Earle, marine biologist and Explorer-in-Residence at National Geographic and the host of the first week of Camp Google. Tune in to Sylvia’s live event at 12 p.m. PT today.

The ocean first got my attention during a family visit to a New Jersey beach when I was three years old—a wave knocked me over! At age 12, a move to the Florida coast made the ocean my backyard, and I loved the abundance of life there—every day I encountered new creatures like starfish, sponges, horseshoe crabs, seaweed, and a wondrous array of small fish that I’d never seen before. I knew from then on that when I grew up I would be a scientist so I could keep exploring, no matter what.

Now I get to share my love for the ocean with a new generation of adventurers as part of Camp Google, a new online camp for curious kids, starting. During each of the four weeks of Camp Google, kids 7-10 can explore different subjects by joining live adventures—from the depths of the Atlantic to the top of one of the world’s most active volcanoes—and doing fun science projects. Today at 12 p.m. PT, National Geographic diver Erika Bergman and I will take kids on the first adventure—a live dive in the Atlantic Ocean. We’ll head to the northernmost part of Florida Reef Tract, the most extensive living coral reef system in North America. Whether it be the Hammerhead Reef or shipwrecks like the Jay Scutti, it will be exciting to see what we’ll find down there!

After the dive, kids can get hands-on with a range of activities to help them understand the science behind what they’ve seen underwater. The activities are designed by the Google engineers who map the oceans with Google Earth, and can be done with simple household supplies. For example, we’ll learn about buoyancy and how things float in the ocean in an experiment with eggs, water and salt, and we’ll explore how dolphins use sounds to see underwater by building a sonar system. As kids complete these projects, they’ll earn camp badges to celebrate the new skills they learned, like conquering echolocation (not bad for summer vacation!). The activities are designed for kids to do on their own, in groups with their friends, or with their families.

Following Ocean Week, kids can jump into Space Week with a NASA astronaut and VSauce where they will help cook up space food and learn how astronauts eat in space. After that, they’ll head to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park with a National Park Ranger and Derek Muller to learn more about how volcanoes form. And camp ends in style with Music Week, where kids can jam alongside Zendaya to learn about why music makes us want to bust a move. We hosts can't wait to explore with you this summer, wherever you might be!

The ocean is vast and a lot of it is unexplored—every time I dive into the ocean there’s the possibility of finding something new. I’m excited to share this spirit of discovery with kids everywhere this summer. I hope through our dive and the rest of Camp Google, we can inspire kids to continue asking questions... and get out there to find answers.

Update July 15: We heard that some of you weren't able to see the live stream—sorry about the rocky waters. But you can now catch the video at http://goo.gl/7pJJUv. After you've heard from Sylvia and Erika, you can learn a bit more about buoyancy and try to make things float yourself!

Posted:


(Cross-posted on the Google Research Blog.)

The disparity between the growing demand for computing professionals and the number of graduates in Computer Science (CS) and Information Technology (IT) has been highlighted in many recent publications. The tiny pipeline of diverse students (women and underrepresented minorities (URMs) is even more troubling. Some of the factors causing these issues are:
  • The historical lack of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) capabilities in our younger students; lack of proficiency has had a substantial impact on the overall number of students pursuing technical careers. (PCAST Stem Ed report, 2010)
  • On the lack of girls in computing, boys often come into computing knowing more than girls because they have been doing it longer. This can cause girls to lose confidence with the perception that computing is a man’s world. Lack of role models, encouragement and relevant curriculum are additional factors that discourage girls’ participation. (Margolis 2003)
  • On the lack of URMs in computing, the best and most enthusiastic minority students are effectively discouraged from pursuing technical careers because of systemic and structural issues in our high schools and communities, and because of unconscious bias of teachers and administrators. (Margolis, 2010)
Over the last 3-4 years, however, we have seen some significant positive signals in STEM education in general, and in CS/IT in particular.
  • Math1 and Science2 results as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have improved slightly since 2009, both in general and for female and minority students.
  • Over the last 10 years, there has been an increase in the number of students earning STEM degrees, but the news on women graduates is not as positive.
“Overall, 40 percent of bachelor's degrees earned by men and 29 percent earned by women are now in STEM fields. At the doctoral level, more than half of the degrees earned by men (58 percent) and one-third earned by women (33 percent) are in STEM fields. At the bachelor's degree level, though, women are losing ground. Between 2004 and 2014, the share of STEM-related bachelor's degrees earned by women decreased in all seven discipline areas: engineering; computer science; earth, atmospheric and ocean sciences; physical sciences; mathematics; biological and agricultural sciences; and social sciences and psychology. The biggest decrease was in computer science, where women now earn 18 percent of bachelor's degrees (18 percent). In 2004, women earned nearly a quarter of computer science bachelor's degrees, at 23 percent.” - (U.S. News, 2015)
  • There has been a steady growth in investment in education companies, particularly those focused on innovative uses of technology.
  • The number of publications in Google Scholar on STEM education that focus on gender issues or minority students has steadily increased over the last several years.
Results from Google Scholar, using “STEM education minority” and “STEM education gender” as search terms
Source: 2013 Taulbee Survey, Computing Research Association
So we are seeing small improvements in K-12 STEM proficiency and undergraduate STEM and CS degrees earned, a significant growth in investment in education innovation, more and more research on the issues of gender and ethnicity in STEM fields and increased opportunities for all students to learn coding skills online, through non-profit programs, through developer boot camps or in their schools. However, an interesting, and potentially threatening development resulting from this positive momentum is the lack of capacity and faculty in CS departments to handle the increased number of enrollments and majors in CS. Colleges and universities, as a whole, aren’t adequately prepared to handle the surge in CS education demand - Currently there just aren’t enough instructors to teach all the students who want to learn. This has happened in the past. In the 80’s, with the introduction of the PC, and again during the dot-com boom, interest in CS surged. CS departments managed the load by increasing class sizes as much as they possibly could, and/or they put enrollment caps in place and made CS classes harder. The effect of the former was some faculty left for industry while the effect of the latter was a decrease in the diversity pipeline.
These kinds of caps have two effects which limit access by women and under-represented minorities:

  •  First, the students who succeed the most in intro CS are the ones with prior experience.
  • Second, creating these kinds of caps creates a perception of CS as a highly competitive field, which is a deterrent to many students. Those students may not even try to get into CS.” -(Guzdial, 2014)
If we allow the past to repeat itself, we may again find CS faculty leaving for industry and less diversity students going into the field. In addition, unlike the dot-com boom where interest in CS plummeted with the bust, it’s unlikely we will see a decrease in enrollments, particularly in the introductory CS courses. “CS+X”, which represents the application of CS in other fields, is illustrated by the following sample list of interdisciplinary majors in various universities:
  • Yale: "Computer Science and Psychology is an interdepartmental major..."
  • USC: "B.S in Physics/Computer Science for students with dual interests..."
  • Stanford: "Mathematical and Computational Sciences for students interested in..."
  • Northeastern: "Computer Science/Music Technology dual major for students who want to explore connections between..."
  • Lehigh: "BS in Computer Science and Business integrates..."
  • Dartmouth: "The M.D.-Ph.D. Program in Computational Biology..."
The number of non-major students taking CS courses, particularly the introductory ones, is growing, which makes the capacity issues worse.

At Google, we recently funded a number of universities via our 3X3 award program (3 times the number of students in 3 years), which aims to facilitate innovative, inclusive, and sustainable approaches to address these scaling issues in university CS programs. Our hope is to disseminate and scale the most successful approaches that our university partners develop. A positive development, which was not present when this happened in the past, is the recent innovation in online education and technology. The increase in bandwidth, high-quality content and interactive learning opportunities may help us get ahead of this challenging capacity issue.


1Average mathematics scores for fourth- and eighth-graders in 2013 were 1 point higher than in 2011, and 28 and 22 points higher respectively in comparison to the first assessment year in 1990. Hispanic students made gains in mathematics from 2011 to 2013 at both grades 4 and 8. Fourth- and eighth-grade female students scored higher in mathematics in 2013 than in 2011, but the scores for fourth- and eighth-grade male students did not change significantly over the same period. (Nation’s Report Card) 2The average eighth-grade science score increased two points, from 150 in 2009 to 152 in 2011. Scores also rose among public school students in 16 of 47 states that participated in both 2009 and 2011, and no state showed a decline in science scores from 2009 to 2011. A five-point gain from 2009 to 2011 by Hispanic students was larger than the one-point gain for White students, an improvement that narrowed the score gap between those two groups. Black students scored three points higher in 2011 than in 2009, narrowing the achievement gap with White students. (Nation’s Report Card)

Posted:
Maggie Johnson, Director of Education and University Relations, Google

Cross-posted on the (Google Research Blog).

For many years, the Computer Science industry has struggled with a pipeline problem. Since 2009, when the number of undergraduate computer science (CS) graduates hit a low mark, there have been many efforts to increase the supply to meet an ever-increasing demand. Despite these efforts, the projected demand over the next seven years is significant.
Source: 2013 Taulbee Survey, Computing Research Association
Even if we are able to sustain a positive growth in graduation rates over the next 7 years, we will only fill 30-40% of the available jobs.

“By 2022, the computer and mathematical occupations group is expected to yield more than 1.3 million job openings. However, unlike in most occupational groups, more job openings will stem from growth than from the need to replace workers who change occupations or leave the labor force.” -Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Projection Report, 2012.

More than 3 in 4 of these 1.3M jobs will require at least a Bachelor’s degree in CS or an Information Technology (IT) area. With our current production of only 16,000 CS undergraduates per year, we are way off the mark. Furthermore, within this too-small pipeline of CS graduates, is an even smaller supply of diverse - women and underrepresented minority (URM) - students. In 2013, only 14% of graduates were women and 20% URM. Why is this lack of representation important?
  • The workforce that creates technology should be representative of the people who use it, or there will be an inherent bias in design and interfaces.
  • If we get women and URMs involved, we will fill more than 30-40% of the projected jobs over the next 7 years.
  • Getting more women and URMs to choose computing occupations will reduce social inequity, since computing occupations are among the fastest-growing and pay the most.
Why are so few students interested in pursuing computing as a career, particularly women and URMs? How did we get here?

One fundamental reason is the lack of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) capabilities in our younger students. Over the last several years, international comparisons of K12 students’ performance in science and mathematics place the U.S. in the middle of the ranking or lower. On the National Assessment of Educational Progress, less than one-third of U.S. eighth graders show proficiency in science and mathematics. Lack of proficiency has led to lack of engagement in technical degree programs, which include CS and IT.

“In the United States, about 4% of all bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2008 were in engineering. This compares with about 19% throughout Asia and 31% in China specifically. In computer sciences, the number of bachelor’s and master’s degrees awarded decreased sharply from 2004 to 2007.”  -NSF: Higher Education in Science and Engineering.

The lack of proficiency has had a substantial impact on the overall number of students pursuing technical careers, but there have also been shifts resulting from trends and events in the technology sector that compound the issue. For example, we saw an increase in CS graduates from 1997 to the early 2000’s which reflected the growth of the dot-com bubble. Students, seeing the financial opportunities, moved increasingly toward technical degree programs. This continued until the collapse, after which a steady decrease occurred, perhaps as a result of disillusionment or caution.

Importantly, there are additional factors that are minimizing the diversity of individuals, particularly women, pursuing these fields. It’s important to note that there are no biological or cognitive reasons that justify a gender disparity in individuals participating in computing (Hyde 2006). With similar training and experience, women perform just as well as men in computer-related activities (Margolis 2003). But there can be important differences in reinforced predilections and interests during childhood that affect the diversity of those choosing to pursue computer science.

In general, most young boys build and explore; play with blocks, trains, etc.; and engage in activity and movement. For a typical boy, a computer can be the ultimate toy that allows him to pursue his interests, and this can develop into an intense passion early on. Many girls like to build, play with blocks, etc. too. For the most part, however, girls tend to prefer social interaction. Most girls develop an interest in computing later through social media and YouTubers, girl-focused games, or through math, science and computing courses. They typically do not develop the intense interest in computing at an early age like some boys do – they may never experience that level of interest (Margolis 2003).

Thus, some boys come into computing knowing more than girls because they have been doing it longer. This can cause many girls to lose confidence and drive during adolescence with the perception that technology is a man’s world - Both girls and boys perceive computing to be a largely masculine field (Mercier 2006). Furthermore, there are few role models at home, school or in the media changing the perception that computing is just not for girls. This overall lack of support and encouragement keeps many girls from considering computing as a career. (Google white paper 2014).

In addition, many teachers are oblivious to or support the gender stereotypes by assigning problems and projects that are oriented more toward boys, or are not of interest to girls. This lack of relevant curriculum is important. Many women who have pursued technology as a career cite relevant courses as critical to their decision (Liston 2008).

While gender differences exist with URM groups as well, there are compelling additional factors that affect them. Jane Margolis, a senior researcher at UCLA, did a study in 2000 resulting in the book Stuck in the Shallow End. She and her research group studied three very different high schools in Los Angeles, with different student demographics. The results of the study show that across all three schools, minority students do not get the same opportunities. While all of the students have access to basic technology courses (word processor, spreadsheet skills, etc.), advanced CS courses are typically only made available to students who, because of opportunities they already have outside school, need it less. Additionally, the best and most enthusiastic minority students can be effectively discouraged because of systemic and structural issues, and belief systems of teachers and administrators. The result is a small, mostly homogeneous group of students have all the opportunities and are introduced to CS, while the rest are relegated to the “shallow end of computing skills”, which perpetuates inequities and keeps minority students from pursuing computing careers.

These are some of the reasons why the pipeline for technical talent is so small and why the diversity pipeline is even smaller. Over the last two years, however, we are starting to see some positive signs.
  • Many students are becoming more aware of the relevance and accessibility of coding through campaigns such as Hour of Code and Made with Code.
  • This increase in awareness has helped to produce a steady increase in CS and IT graduates, and there’s every indication this growth will continue.
  • More opportunities to participate in CS-related activities are becoming available for girls and URMs, such as CS First, Technovation, Girls who Code, Black Girls Code, #YesWeCode, etc.
There’s much more that can be done to reinforce these positive trends, and to get more students of all types to pursue computing as a career. This is important not only to high tech, but is critical for our nation to compete globally. In the next post of this series, we will explore some of the positive steps that have been taken in increasing the diversity of graduates in Computer Science (CS) and Information Technology (IT) fields. 

Posted:


Five months ago, we asked students ages 13-18 all over the globe to try something. Something ambitious. Something that might fail. Something that might lead to something else. This kicked off the fifth annual Google Science Fair with our partners—Scientific American, LEGO Education, National Geographic and Virgin Galactic.

Thousands of students submitted projects ranging from early cardiac disease detection to an automatic soil moisture system, and what they tried might just change the world.
Please join us on July 7 at 5pm BST as we announce this year’s top 90 regional finalists live from the Google shop at Currys PC World in London. Special guests include the 2014 Google Science Fair UK finalist, Samuel Burrow, Jo Johnson, Minister of State for Universities and Science (UK) and Maggie Philbin, CEO of Teen Tech.

These 90 young scientists will compete for a spot to become one of the 20 Global Finalists who will join us in Mountain View, California for the final awards event on September 21.

This announcement also kicks off the Summer of Science at the Google shops at Currys PC World — a family celebration of science across the summer holiday. From music-making to digital expeditions, we’re inviting kids and their parents to learn, explore and question the world around them. Check out what’s going on in a store near you in the UK.

We hope you’ll join us in a few short hours to find out who they are and see what they tried.

Posted:


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

Editor's note: We’re jumping into our Delorean to explore how some of our favorite historical figures might have worked with Google Apps. Today, on Independence Day, we imagine Benjamin Franklin’s research, discoveries and accomplishments if he had gone Google.

Ben Franklin is often called “The First American.” He was an inventor, entrepreneur, diplomat and scientist, as well as a revolutionary Renaissance man. As true history nerds, we decided to celebrate Independence Day by commemorating our most inventive Founding Father. We asked ourselves: what if Ben Franklin had done some of his prolific work, solving some of life’s greatest quandaries using Google Apps?

In drafting and editing the Declaration of Independence, we imagine he might have used the real-time editing features in Google Docs to collaborate with his fellow committee members, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Robert R. Livingston and Roger Sherman. Jefferson wrote most of the first draft and shared it with Franklin and Adams, who added their suggestions — an observer later described the draft as “scored and scratched like a school boy’s exercise.” Franklin could have kept the original intact by using suggested edits and adding comments about his concerns, particularly related to controversial passages that blamed the British people rather than King George III.

Some of the most recognizable lines in the Declaration of Independence were influenced by other documents, namely the Constitution of Virginia and Virginia’s Declaration of Rights. But if while reviewing the new content Franklin needed to verify historical information — for instance, the laws obstructed by the King of Great Britain— he could have used the Research tool to get quick search results without leaving Docs.
To collect all 56 signatures for the Declaration of Independence, Franklin and his peers might have used the DocuSign integration in Google Drive. Although most of the men signed on August 2, 1776, Elbridge Gerry, Oliver Wolcott, Lewis Morris, Thomas McKean and Matthew Thornton actually signed months later. With DocuSign, some of these men could have signed on the same day — Wolcott, for instance, was home in Connecticut due to poor health and missed the formal signing of the declaration. 


As Franklin was a frequent international traveler (he was the first United States Ambassador to France), Apps might have helped him stay in touch with friends and colleagues around the globe. For instance, before he became ambassador, Franklin was in Paris as Commissioner of Congress to the French Court. On the first anniversary of Independence Day in 1777, he hosted a party for expats — and imagine if he could have used Google Hangouts to bring his comrades in America to the celebration over video conference. He could've shared a virtual toast with George Washington, who gathered a group of patriots in New Jersey, and with revelers enjoying the first annual Fourth of July fireworks on the Philadelphia Commons. You might not know that Franklin also developed the concept of volunteer fire departments when he was living in Philadelphia. To make volunteering as convenient as possible, he could have asked volunteers to sign up with their home addresses in Google Forms, then used My Maps to lay out all those addresses and assign volunteers to their closest first department.
Franklin appreciated written works, whether others’ or his own. In fact, he developed a lending library to promote equal access to books — a model that later became the public library system. He was also a prolific writer and author of the famous Poor Richard’s Almanack and taught himself French, Italian, Spanish, Latin and German. But he may have used Google Translate within Docs to help translate the Almanack to Slovene. He could have shared library books and his many writings on Drive without worrying about file size, as he’d have access to unlimited storage. He could also have used advanced search within Drive to find files by their type and owner. 

Fascinated by storms and electrical currents, Franklin famously discovered that lightning is a form of electricity and invented the lightning rod to protect people and homes from electrocution. He could have recorded his observations about the conductivity of different lengths and shapes of lightning rods using Sheets on his mobile phone, even if he had no Wi-Fi or data signal during a storm. Using offline mode, he’d be able to make updates that would sync as soon as he signed back online.

To educate the public about his lightning rod invention, Franklin could have held town hall meetings and used Chromecast or Airplay to present with Google Slides. He might have used this platform to share his findings on electricity and help others understand his theories and new terms, including terms like “battery,” “charge” and “conductor” that we still use today.
Franklin often looked to the future and sometimes regretted being born too soon. From inventing bifocals to mapping the Gulf Stream, he was certainly ahead of his time. On this Independence Day, we’re proud to celebrate Ben Franklin — a problem-solver who advocated for freedom and equality, and a polymath who promoted the kind of universal knowledge-sharing that inspires us here at Google in the future he helped shape.

Posted:


Whether you’re planning your soccer schedule, learning about Lewis and Clark, or mapping your local park, Google My Maps makes it easy to put your world on a custom map. Starting today, you can access My Maps right from Google Drive on your Google Apps account, so it’s even easier to create, find and share your custom maps. Here are some examples:
Create a new custom map right from Google Drive
Samantha is teaching a lesson on the expedition of Lewis and Clark. She creates a map with the beginning of their journey, then shares the map with her class so that they can collaborate on building the rest. Each student took responsibility for researching a fort or historic encounter. By detailing these adventures on the map, the class is able to relate them back to the real world.
Coach Tom is planning the fall schedule for the varsity football team. To make sure that everyone can get to all the games, he puts all the dates and locations on a map, then posts the map online so that all the athletes and parents can find it. On game day, everyone can easily find the field because they can pull up Google Maps on their phone and open Tom's map while on the road.
Alice is planning to take her science class on a field trip to the tide pools. Some parents are coming to help, and she wants to make sure everyone gets to the right place at the right time. She makes a quick map with directions to the tide pools, then posts it on her class Google Site for everyone to find. On the morning of the trip, everyone can easily load the map using Google Maps on their phone, allowing them to navigate to the tide pools without any question of where they're supposed to go.
Whatever your needs, Google My Maps—now accessible in Google Drive—makes teaching, learning, and getting things done that much easier.

Posted:


How can you map the entire human DNA sequence? Is it really possible that William Shakespeare wrote all of the plays that bear his name? Can one design a computer program that creates novel music compositions?

Answering these questions requires Computational Thinking, a way of problem solving that educators around the world are using across disciplines. Whatever subject you teach— from computer science to the humanities—computational thinking can be a powerful addition to your classroom activities. By integrating these skills into all subject areas, you can help better prepare your students to contribute new solutions to seemingly impossible problems.

Our new online course, Computational Thinking for Educators, is free and is intended for educators working with students between the ages of 13 and 18 who are interested in enhancing their teaching with creative thinking and problem solving. We’ll demonstrate how incorporating computational thinking into your classroom simply enhances what you already do, enriching your lessons and student exploration, even without access to technology. Another benefit to computational thinking is that it may help boost students’ confidence and is especially useful when dealing with ambiguous, complex or open-ended problems.

Like all of our other Google Online Courses, participants will engage with course material through a combination of video and text-based lessons, learning from experts in computational thinking as well as collaborating with other participants. Educators will also have the opportunity to complete a final project applying the skills they’ve learned, to share with other educators, and to earn a course certificate.

We believe all students should learn computational thinking, regardless of subject, age or access to technology in the classroom. As computational thinkers and technology creators, our students will be better equipped to participate and position themselves professionally in a global society. They’ll have the creative thinking and problem solving skills to help find solutions for today and tomorrow’s biggest global challenges.

Sound interesting? Register now and join us and other educators around the world as we take on Computational Thinking for Educators. This course will run from July 15 - September 30, 2015.