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How online courses can help teach computational thinking and CS

Category: Google | Feb 15, 2017

Editor’s note: We’re highlighting education leaders across the world to share how they’re creating more collaborative, engaging classrooms. Today’s guest author is Rebecca Vivian, one of the keynote speakers from Education on Air, Google’s free online conference which took place in December 2016. Rebecca, a Research Fellow at the computer science education research group (CSER) at the University of Adelaide in Australia, shares professional development ideas for preparing teachers for a classroom focused on computational thinking and computer science.

These days, we need to prepare the next generation of students to be creators—not just consumers—of digital technology. As the demand for computer science and computational thinking skills increases, countries are integrating these skills into their K-12 curriculum. This year, Australia implemented a digital technologies curriculum, incorporating the teaching of computational thinking and CS into curricula from foundation level, and many other countries are rapidly following suit. But teachers need help to implement this type of digital focussed curriculum.

One of the ways we can support teachers in this area is via “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs. In Australia, the computer science education research group (CSER) at the University of Adelaide, is partnering with Google to develop online communities and free MOOCs, where K-12 teachers can share their creative ideas and suggest professional development lessons. With these resources, teachers are learning to integrate computational thinking and computer science into their curriculum.

Since launching the digital technologies MOOC in 2014, we’ve been able to scale professional learning across Australia and introduce new learning styles such as algorithmic thinking, which teaches students to develop step-by-step solutions for problems they encounter. More than 7,200 teachers are engaged in this professional learning program and have shared more than 4,500 resources as a result of these MOOCs. The program isn’t just working for experienced CS teachers: Ellie, a 56-year-old grandmother and primary school teacher with virtually no technology background, created a lesson on binary and data resources after taking our first course. In late 2016, the Australian government decided to invest nearly 7 million dollars over four years to scale our efforts further and support remote and low-income communities.

Connecting teachers to share creativity and insight

The success of Australia’s MOOCs and online teacher community has proven the value of peer-to-peer professional learning. Teachers have embraced our “professional learning in a box” kits—slide decks of instructor notes, videos, and in-person activity ideas that they can customize to deliver professional learning sessions in their school or community. Teachers also love user-generated content in our online communities because they can interact with teachers who created them, and apply concepts they’ve learned online to their classroom.

Education on Air, which I participated in last year, works much like a MOOC by providing a space for people with a shared interest to come together and learn from one another, no matter where they’re located. In my breakout session, “Making Computational Thinking Visible: Classroom Activities and Google Tools,” I explained algorithmic thinking, demonstrated the way it applies to other learning areas, and shared tips on how Google tools can assist in introducing this framework to students. Teachers left the session with ideas they could implement the next day, including tips for engaging lessons that integrate algorithmic thinking, and ideas for applying this framework to other learning areas, such as experiment design.

Students need more than coding skills—they need to understand how technology changes the way we live, work and solve problems. The success to date of the digital technologies MOOCs in Australia shows that online courses can be a scalable way to empower teachers to incorporate computational thinking and CS concepts into the classroom. And by introducing computational thinking as a method of problem-solving to students, teachers can shape the next generation of STEM leaders.


Expanding Fact Checking at Google

Category: Google | Feb 15, 2017

Over the years we’ve heard from Google News users that our efforts to label stories ranging from local to satire to user-generated have helped expand their view of what is happening in the world. Last October we added a new Fact Check tag to help people find news stories that have been fact checked, so they can understand the value of what they’re reading. Soon after, we introduced the tag in France and Germany.

Starting today, people in Brazil, Mexico and Argentina can see fact check tagged articles in the expanded story box on and in the Google News & Weather iOS and Android apps.


Fact Check in Brazil

We’re also launching the fact check tag in these countries on news mode in Search. That means if you do a regular search and click the news tab, fact check articles will be elevated and annotated with the same fact check label that you would see in stories on Google News.


Fact Check in news mode in Search

We’re able to do this work because the fact check industry itself has grown—there are now more than 120 organizations involved in tackling this issue—but our commitment to this area is not new. In Europe over the last couple of years we’ve been working with publishers on a number of efforts focused on fact checking. Last week, we announced CrossCheck, a joint project involving nearly 20 French newsrooms and the First Draft Coalition to debunk myths pertaining to the upcoming French elections.

In addition, as part of the Digital Initiative Fund, we’ve provided support for more than 10 projects looking at fact checking and authentication, adding six new initiatives at the end of last year:

  • U.K.-based Full Fact is building an automated fact-checker tailored for journalists.
  • Scotland’s the Ferret is using funding to build up a formal fact checking operation in their newsroom in the wake of the EU referendum.
  • Factmata, developed at University College London and University of Sheffield, will use machine learning to build tools to help readers better understand claims made in digital media content, such as news articles and political speech transcripts.
  • In Italy, Catchy’s team of scientists and media analysts, has created Compass, a fact checking platform to call out misleading stories, rebut bad facts and connect news events to reliable information.
  • In France, Le Monde’s 13-person fact checking unit called Les Décodeurs has received funding for their Hoaxbuster Decodex project.
  • Norway’s ambitious Leserkritikk (“Reader Critic”) project, currently running its prototype on, lets readers give specific and structured feedback on facts, language and mistakes in published content. 

These projects clearly illustrate a desire for more of this work, and we’re eager to bring the fact check tag to other countries around the world. In order to make this a reality, we need your help. Publishers who would like to see their work appear with the Fact Check tag should use the open ClaimReview schema from in their stories.  Adding this markup allows Google to find these stories and highlight the fact checking work that has gone into them.  For more information, head on over to our help center.


Did you know…Google Search now has easy-to-find fun facts?

Category: Google | Feb 15, 2017

Did you know a cat can’t chew big pieces of food because their jaw can’t move sideways? Or that hamsters got their name from the German word “hamstern” which means to hoard? And how do we know this? Starting today on Google Search, you can find fun facts about living creatures from around the world, making you the most interesting person at the dinner party or the reigning champ at trivia. Head to Google, ask for a fun fact about something (think plants, animals, fruits and veggies), and ta-da! A trivia tidbit is delivered right at the top of your search results.

For the animal lovers out there, fun facts might be man’s (new) best friend. It might surprise you to learn that dogs have three eyelids to help protect and keep their eyes from drying out. Or for the arachnophobes out there: The venom of the black widow spider is apparently 15 times more potent than a rattlesnake’s. The animal kingdom is chock full of wild facts and even wilder beasts!


For those of you still finding a reason to celebrate Valentine’s Day (or perhaps looking to make up for yesterday), stop and smell some fun facts about flowers. Did you know that light red carnations represent admiration, while dark red denotes deep love and affection? Or that the Ancient Greeks considered the violet to be a symbol of love and fertility and was an essential ingredient for love potions? A quick search may come in handy before you buy your blooms.

If you’re trying to convince the little ones in your life to eat healthy, fun facts about fruits and veggies are sure to please. After all, who knew that strawberries actually aren’t berries at all? Or that the inner temperature of a cucumber can be up to 20 degrees cooler than the outside air? That’s sure to put your brain in a pickle.

These are just a few of the fun facts out there for you to find on Google. And here’s a pro-tip for the trivia lovers out there: Some queries have multiple facts, one of which we randomly display when searched. So if you’re interested in learning more, just hit refresh and another fact may surface. Enjoy your fact finding!


By Washington’s teeth! U.S. presidential history, now on Google Arts & Culture

Category: Google | Feb 15, 2017

Did you know that the Bush Family has a favorite taco recipe, which First Lady Barbara Bush described as “loved by all who love Mexican food”? Or that George Washington’s dentures were not made of wood as is popularly thought, but actually from human and cow teeth as well as ivory? Or how about that, to celebrate his Inauguration, Theodore Roosevelt received a lock of president Lincoln’s hair as a gift?

No, we’re not presidential scholars; we’re just excited for Presidents’ Day! Today, as a follow-up to our American Democracy collection, Google Arts & Culture is partnering with more than 30 cultural institutions to bring you history from the United States presidency, available at

With over 2,000 new artifacts, photos, pictures and more, and 63 new exhibits (for 158 exhibits, total) this collection invites you to remember and celebrate the history, lives and legacies of the 44 U.S. presidents. Take an immersive tour of presidents’ iconic homes and get a sneak peek into their private lives—from childhood and family life, to favorite pastimes and chefs—in addition to their public accomplishments.


Explore the weird world of the presidential pets—other than dogs, there have been raccoons, sheep, horses, badgers, and even a pygmy hippopotamus and elephants.

You can view 25 presidential portraits captured using Google’s Art Camera. These gigapixel quality images allow you to zoom in and explore details of these portraits more thoroughly than you could with the naked eye.


Dwight D. Eisenhower, 35th president of the United States.

We’re making available 17 new 360-degree virtual tours that transport you to places full of presidential history. Using the Google Arts & Culture App (available on iOS and Android) and Google Cardboard, take a virtual tour of places like the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. And, in addition, educators can use Google Expeditions to take students on a guided tour of the White House, right from their desks! There are 14 Google Expeditions relating to the Office of the President, including Presidential Museums and work by the First Ladies, all great trips for students across grades and subjects.

White House Cardboard Screenshot.png

Take a virtual reality tour of the White House, right from wherever you are.

Ever wonder what it’s like to travel like POTUS? Take a look at Ronald Reagan’s Air Force One (now housed in his Presidential Library) and other ways presidents have traveled in safety and style.

Our Presidents’ Day collection covers the vast political and personal histories of our U.S. heads of state, full of intriguing and surprising stories that allow for anyone with an internet connection to turn into a presidential historian. We hope you enjoy!


Making it easier for developers to create spatialized sound with FMOD and Wwise

Category: Google | Feb 15, 2017

Recreating spatialized sound the way humans actually hear it can greatly improve the sense the immersion in any game or app experience. But for developers, battling with various unconnected spatial audio tools can be both confusing and time-consuming. We’ve worked closely with Firelight Technologies and Audiokinetic, creators of the popular audio engines FMOD and Wwise, on a suite of streamlined spatial audio plugins that make it possible to add high-quality, spatialized audio into your apps across desktop, mobile, and VR platforms—including Android, iOS, Windows, OSX and Linux.

Google VR spatialization engine

The new Google VR FMOD and Wwise plugin suite provides all the features developers need to create highly immersive spatial audio experiences:

  • Highly accurate rendering of large numbers of spatialized sound sources.

  • Distance, elevation and occlusion effects, all at minimal overhead.

  • Room acoustics that react in real-time to the listener’s location, smoothly transitioning between different environments.

  • Playback of immersive ambisonic sound fields, using the same technology that powers spatial audio on YouTube.

These plugins work seamlessly with the FMOD and Wwise integrations into Unity and Unreal Engine. The Unity integration provides an intuitive way to control room acoustics that react instantly to changes in your app or game environments. Changes to room sizes, material types and object positions are all reflected in real time through the Google VR spatialization engine to produce lifelike sound.

Up until today, our spatialization algorithms were primarily optimized for smartphones to have minimal impact on the primary CPU, where mobile apps do most of their work. Now running on desktop PCs, the new FMOD and Wwise spatial audio plugins offer faster performance, spatializing greater numbers of high-quality sound sources, while continuing to minimize impact to your CPU budget.

To get started, download the latest version of FMOD Studio, which now includes the GVR plugins, or download the plugins for Wwise on GitHub. For more details, check out our developer documentation for FMOD and Wwise.


Looking forward to Next ‘17: 8 G Suite sessions you don’t want to miss

Category: Google | Feb 14, 2017

We’re three weeks away from Google Cloud Next, one of the largest events Google has ever hosted. As we get ready to welcome you on March 8th, I’m reminded of how exciting it is to be in the cloud computing industry right now, helping shape how businesses will work together in the coming years.

About six months have passed since we announced G Suite, our set of intelligent apps for business. Since then, we’ve focused on bringing you new collaboration tools, like Team Drives and Jamboard, and have partnered with companies like Box and Slack to help businesses of all sizes unlock productivity across their organizations. At Next, we’ll get a chance to hear from businesses directly about these G Suite additions and collect feedback to shape what we build in the future.

I have the privilege to join some of Google’s top leaders on stage at Next, including Diane Greene, Sundar Pichai and Eric Schmidt. While I look forward to hearing my colleagues unpack the potential of cloud for businesses, I’m especially excited to hear from one of our newest Google Cloud leaders, Fei-Fei Li, about the value that machine learning will bring to the enterprise.

It’s one thing to talk about product innovations, it’s another to try them for yourself. This year’s Next will feature Cloud Showcase,  an area for interactive product experiences, allowing each attendee to see and feel the power of Google Cloud products firsthand. We’re opening up the doors for attendees to experience machine learning, application development, collaboration and productivity through interactive installations that are unique to Google Cloud.

Besides the keynotes and show floor, there are over 200 sessions at Next this year. If you need help narrowing down that list, here are some sessions I’m excited for:

If you’re interested in learning more about how Machine Learning can impact your business or how you can build more agile, productive teams, check out:

  • Introduction to Google Cloud Machine Learning
  • Machine learning powering the workforce: Assist Cards in Google Cloud search
  • Machine learning powering the workforce: Explore in Google Docs

To learn how to create custom apps with G Suite, or integrate your G Suite apps with existing workflows to accomplish more, there’s:

  • Automating internal processes using Apps Script and APIs for Docs editors
  • Citizen developers building low-code apps with AppMaker on G Suite
  • New Google Docs integrations to streamline your workflows

For insight into controlling business data, building custom dashboards and running custom queries, be sure to go to:

  • Gaining full control over your organization’s cloud resources
  • Getting the most out of Google Admin Reports and BigQuery

Register here to secure your spot at Next ‘17.


Google Cloud Next ‘17 daily programs announced – day passes now available

Category: Google | Feb 13, 2017

In early March, thousands of developers, IT decision makers and cloud industry leaders will descend on Moscone Center West in San Francisco for Next ‘17, Google Cloud’s premier annual conference. Today, we’re excited to share more information on the major themes for each day as well as more speakers and new ticketing options.

The first day (Wednesday, March 8) of Next ‘17 will feature keynotes from Diane Greene, SVP of Google Cloud; Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google; Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Alphabet and Fei-Fei Li, Chief Scientist for Google Cloud Machine Learning and AI and Professor of Computer Science at Stanford. Our lineup of executives will discuss what Google Cloud offers today and discuss Google Cloud’s vision for the future. Attendees will also hear how our customers and partners are embracing the cloud in new and innovative ways. We’re excited that Quentin Hardy (formerly of The New York Times and now with Google Cloud) will be interviewing Marc Andreessen and Vint Cerf on stage.  All these keynotes will be followed by a series of fantastic breakout sessions.

On Day 2 (Thursday, March 9), we’ll announce new products for Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and G Suite. Our product and engineering leaders, including Urs Hölzle, Prabhakar Raghavan, Brian Stevens and Chet Kapoor will share roadmaps of Google Cloud’s future product direction. We’ll also see exciting product demos and hear from customers about how Google Cloud is helping them compete and succeed.

The final day (Friday,  March 10) of Next ‘17 will be dedicated to Google’s commitment to open source and cloud-native architectures, with deep dives on Kubernetes and TensorFlow with talks from Jeff Dean, Senior Google Fellow and leader of the Google Brain team, along with Rajat Monga to expand on the progress Google is making with TensorFlow and Google Brain.

Start-ups and the venture capital community will come on stage to share how they’re leveraging the cloud to build the next wave of innovative products and services, born in the cloud.

In addition to the exciting speakers we announced in January, we’re delighted to announce that Jim Zemlin, Executive Director of the Linux Foundation;  Eric Brewer, creator of the CAP theorem and Vice President of Infrastructure at Google and Chris Wright, Vice President and Chief Technologist at Red Hat, who will share more about the Kubernetes project and discuss open source in the enterprise, will also speak at the event.

To make Google Cloud Next ‘17 even more accessible to the cloud community, we’re excited to launch new day passes that allow attendees to attend on their day of interest. One-day passes are available for Day 1 or Day 2 of Next ‘17 for $549 and include $300 in GCP credits.

Ready to register? It couldn’t be a more exciting time to take part of Next ‘17.  We look forward to welcoming you in March.


Keep track of your favorite places and share them with friends

Category: Google | Feb 13, 2017

Is your bucket list etched in your memory, or scribbled on a dozen post-it notes scattered around your home? Have you ever promised out-of-town guests an email full of your favorite spots, only to never get around to clicking send? Starting today, you can create lists of places, share your lists with others, and follow the lists your friends and family share with you—without ever leaving the Google Maps app (Android, iOS).

Getting started is easy. Simply open the Google Maps app and find that BBQ spot you’ve been wanting to try. Tapping on the place name and then the “Save” icon adds the place to one of several pre-set lists like “Want to Go” or “Favorites.” You can also add the restaurant to a new list that you name yourself, like “Finger Lickin’ BBQ.” To recall the lists you’ve created, go to Your Places (in the side menu) and then open the saved tab. Icons for the places you’ve saved to lists will appear on the map itself, so you’ll always know whether one of your must-try BBQ spots is nearby.

Because sharing is caring, we made it easy to share lists like “Best Views in SF” via text, email, social networks and popular messaging apps. Whenever friends and family come to town, tap the share button to get a link and start flexing your local knowledge muscles. Once you send a link to your out-of-towners, they can tap “Follow” to pull up the list from Your Places whenever they need it. Here’s how it all works in real life:

Lists on Google Maps

The lists you follow are with you wherever you take Google Maps and are viewable on mobile and desktop—and even offline. Next time you’re on a trip, download offline maps of the area in advance and you’ll be able to see all the places you’ve added to lists on the map itself.

With the millions of landmarks, businesses and other points of interest in Google Maps, there’s no shortage of places to try. Now that we’ve got the world mapped, it’s your turn to map your world with Lists—from local hotspots to bucket list destinations worlds away.


Woo your pango-love with Google’s latest Doodle game

Category: Google | Feb 13, 2017

Editor’s note: Pangolins are the most poached and trafficked mammal in the world. We hope that by playing this Doodle game, you can learn a bit more about these wonderful creatures. To get more information and see how you can help, check out this page on the World Wildlife Fund site.

This Valentine’s Day, we’re telling the tale of two long-distance loves who have been struck by Cupid’s arrow. Writing love letters to each other from far-off places, these pangolins know in their hearts that they’re scaly soulmates. What better day to meet for their first date than the most romantic day of the year?


To ensure this first date goes off without a hitch, one pangolin journeys around the world to learn how to best romance its partner. In today’s Doodle game, you’ll go on the same journey. Who knows? You might learn a thing or two as well.

First, the pangolin travels to Ghana to meet a friend, who teaches the fine art of making a chocolate cake. After all, everyone knows the way to pangolin’s heart is through its stomach!

cake couple

Next the pangolin ventures to India where its musical pal shows how to construct a lovely melody that’s sure to touch the heart of its beloved. To express its love, the pangolin writes a sweet tune that’s sure to make the heart sing!


In China, the pangolin learns to dance. By collecting colorful fans and following the rhythm of its heart, the pangolin lets its dance moves do the talking.


On its final quest, the pangolin journeys to the Philippines to learn how to build a beautiful bouquet. This flower arrangement is sure to warm the home and the heart of its pangolove.

Once our pangolin heroes have found their hearts’ desire, show your own Valentine they’re the king or queen of hearts by sharing your score when the game is complete. After all, Valentine’s festivities are always sweeter when they’re shared!


Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort engages guests with Chrome signage

Category: Google | Feb 10, 2017

Editor’s note: Today we hear from Chet Patel, director of Information Technology at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. Read how the resort uses Chrome digital signage to inform guests about events and staff about important news.

At the Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort, we’re constantly looking for creative ways to put our guests first. That ethos drives our day-to-day work at the resort, where we’re using Chrome-based digital signage as a new way to keep our visitors up to date on activities and events and to communicate with staff.

Disney Swan and Dolphin digital signage

We’re a big resort, with more than 2,200 guest rooms and facilities spread out over 87 acres of lakefront property in the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fl, which makes communications challenging. To solve the problem we chose NoviSign’s Chrome-based digital signage solution because it’s cost-effective, scalable and secure. 

We can easily customize it as our needs change. Because Chrome signage is simple to deploy, it had a minimal impact on our existing IT infrastructure. NoviSign made deployment easy by helping with training and hosting the platform.

Chrome digital signage helps our staff and guests get useful information throughout the day. At the front desk, our employees show incoming guests videos of rooms they might want to choose. And we use the signs to tell guests about activities at the resort and news such as the weather so they can grab a poncho if there’s a thunderstorm heading our way.

In our employee-dedicated areas, the human resources department alerts staff to important news, such as when it’s time to enroll in our health plan, and the security department plays safety-related videos.

Chrome digital signage is so easy to manage that IT staff doesn’t need to get involved with programming. Each department handles content on their own from the central console, which means our team can focus on IT-related work, such as resolving key encoding problems or point-of-sale workstation issues. We’ve also saved considerably on the devices. It costs less than $200 in set-up, configuration and licensing fees for a Chromebit to power a digital sign, compared to up to $600 for a PC. Maintenance is minimal because we don’t have to apply security patches or worry about continual updates; Chrome devices are automatically updated.

So far we’ve deployed a dozen Chromebits and two Chromeboxes, and we’re planning to use more in the coming months. It’s keeping with the way we’ve always operated at the Walt Disney Swan and Dolphin Resort, by using the newest technologies for the most time-honored purposes: entertaining people and making sure they have the best vacations possible.