(Cross-posted on the Google for Education 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.


(Cross-posted on the Google for Education 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 has 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.”


(Cross-posted on the Google for Education 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.


(Cross-posted on the Google for Education 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.”


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

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!


      Editor's note: Today’s guest post comes from Thomas Saueressig, Senior Vice President and Global Head of IT Services, Cloud Delivery & Services, SAP SE. At SAPPHIRE NOW, which takes place May 5 to 7, SAP executives will discuss how SAP introduced Android for Work to shift its mobile strategy and support a variety of devices while keeping data secure. SAP is a leader in enterprise application software with more than 291,000 customers in 190 countries. 

      Work and play no longer live separately — in fact, a recent Gartner survey showed that nearly half of employees surveyed spend more than an hour each day using their personal devices for work. Whether using the same device for everything or using separate smartphones for corporate and personal use, we all want tools that help us do more, in less time.

      My team is dedicated to introducing technology that meets our employees’ needs and adheres to strict data security regulations. Last year we had more than 74,500 employees and just as many devices. We supported multiple platforms as we have a device agnostic strategy, but supported just one Android vendor. Now with Android for Work, we support a variety of vendors and device types and give our employees the option to use their preferred device.

      I have peace of mind knowing that Android for Work isolates corporate and personal information, so our IT team can easily manage SAP-owned data while personal information stays private. In the past when an employee left the company, we had to wipe his device of all information, business or personal. Now, we can manage SAP data remotely without having any interference with employees’ personal information. Our employees feel at ease knowing that Android for Work stores data from their personal and corporate apps separately, so personal apps have no access to business data — and vice versa.

      Android for Work integrates with SAP Mobile Secure, our cloud-based enterprise mobility management solution that saves our IT team time and improves mobile experiences for employees. For instance, we’ve streamlined how we distribute apps to employee devices — no easy task given the 70+ SAP-owned apps our employees use on a regular basis, including SAP Fiori, Cloud for Customer, Concur and SuccessFactors.

      With our new mobile strategy, Android for Work complements our mobile strategy and bridges the gap between work and private life while keeping data secure. Our employees are empowered with consumer-focused tools that not only help them work smarter, save time and keep innovating, but also maintain their privacy and peace of mind.


      Editor's note: Through his work with Reading Rainbow, LeVar Burton continues to inspire generations of students to love reading. Getting an early start on celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week, we asked LeVar about educators that inspired him. He shares some stories from his childhood in today’s guest post, and he’ll share more during his keynote, “The power of storytelling to inspire students,” during our Education on Air conference. Register today and tune in for LeVar’s talk on May 8th at 11:15am ET.

      Teachers seem to run in my family. My elder sister, my son and two nieces are all educators, and my mother, Erma Gene Christian, was a high school English teacher before becoming my first teacher. I know firsthand how hard these unsung heroes work, and especially how important a teacher can be in a child’s life.

      One of the most indelible memories from my childhood happened one day when I was learning to read. My favorite aunt Hope, my mother’s youngest sister, was visiting from Kansas City. We were sitting together in a chair in the living room and I was reading aloud while my mother listened from the kitchen where she was preparing a family meal. Things were going fine until I got stuck on a word. I stopped cold in the middle of a sentence. The word was one I thought I knew, but I didn’t yet have the inner confidence to know that I could read it. I will never forget the infinite patience that Aunt Hope displayed and the gentle nudges of support she gave me. “Go on,” she’d whisper, “You know this word. I know you can sound it out.”

      I still remember the word —it was “pretty” — and when my aunt finally said the word to me it was a revelation. She gave me the confidence I needed to trust myself; to trust that I did know these words. I was a reader. This is what teachers do for their students every day.

      It’s from my mother, Erma Gene, that I learned the allure of storytelling. Throughout my childhood, mom always had several books going simultaneously, switching from one to the other seamlessly, deriving pleasure from each turn of the page, no matter what the genre. I learned from my mom—and eventually from my own experiences reading, and from exposing children to the joy of books through Reading Rainbow—that storytelling is an elemental part of the human experience, regardless of whether the medium is a print book or a digital book. We know that kids are reading more than 200,000 books a week on the Reading Rainbow App. They are using their devices not just for games or movies, but to read.
      Here's me with the first educator who inspired me, my mother.
      Children are drawn to stories, and with good storytelling we can teach kids anything. I have seen the light go on in a child’s eyes when he or she falls in love with a story. I’ve seen that light get brighter when they realize that they can read the stories for themselves. This light is the beginning of a lifelong love of reading, and from there a lifelong love of learning. For me, literacy means freedom, and literacy begins with storytelling. You get a child’s attention when you give them a good story. If we fail to take advantage of this, we are letting the opportunity of a lifetime—of our lifetime and theirs—pass us by.

      Hear more about the power of storytelling from LeVar Burton during his Education on Air keynote on May 8 at 11:15am ET or check out his Reading Rainbow website.