Google I/O, our annual developer conference, is wrapping up this afternoon. I always love this event because it’s our chance to shine the spotlight on our amazing global developer community – the creative coders who are building what’s next. As we think about developers, along with our own products and tools, we’re focused on the big opportunities of the future: provide the best-in-class mobile platform, help the next billion users by putting the power of the Internet in their hands and solving big problems to make people’s lives better through machine learning and access to great products. There were lots of exciting announcements this year, from Now on Tap to a completely new Photos experience. If you haven’t already, be sure to watch the keynote given by Sundar Pichai, SVP of Products and read the official blog post. For cool scenes and coverage from the floor, check out our Google for Work at I/O Collection on Google+.

I’m particularly excited that many of the announcements we made will impact the world of Google for Work and Google for Education. To highlight a few:

  • Android M. Android’s latest release packs hundreds of performance improvements, including better battery life, easier app linking and streamlined permissions. And with our recent launch of Android for Work, the momentum for Android in the workplace is growing.
  • Firebase. One of the key themes of this year’s I/O is empowering developers with the tools they need to thrive. To that end, Firebase makes building great mobile and web apps easier than ever. It manages the infrastructure on the backend on behalf of mobile developers so they can focus on the high-value stuff: delivering an awesome user experience on the front end. Firebase addresses key mobile use cases, including native support for offline usage when a network connection is unavailable, and automatic data synchronization in real time to the cloud and across diverse client devices. Nearly 200,000 developers rely on Firebase already, and I’m confident it will help accelerate development of mobile apps, including enterprise apps. Check out the team’s I/O Session to learn more.
  • Inbox. Back in October, we introduced a new kind of inbox—one that works for you. In March we announced the Inbox early adopter program, to bring Inbox by Gmail to Google Apps customers. And while we’re still in the early stages, at Google I/O we announced that we’re expanding the early adopter program so any Google Apps for Work customer who wants to use Inbox can. We also announced new ways Inbox can help save you time and stay organized, with Undo Send to take back emails you realize are a mistake, even from your mobile phone, and something many of you requested: custom signatures.
  • Places API for iOS. We launched the Places API for Android in April, along with an iOS beta. Now the Places API for iOS is officially available for all developers with all the same features as the Android version. This means you can integrate Google’s database of 100 million places worldwide into your app experience. Check out the announcement post to learn more and read customer experiences.
  • Google Expeditions. Expeditions is a new educational tool that lets teachers take their classes on virtual field trips to anywhere using Google Cardboard. It’s a great, inexpensive way for the next generation of creators to experience their world.

We know that technology works best when it gets out of the way and helps people get stuff done from anywhere. These announcements are a step in that direction: new approaches to managing email, powerful tools for developers to build great apps and an updated version of Android. The future of work is bright, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Editor's note: As we ramp up for Atmosphere15, an interactive event about innovation, we’re sharing a few sneak peeks from some of the disruptors joining us as speakers. Today, Google for Work President Amit Singh talks with Laszlo Bock, Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google and author of “Work Rules!” Register here for the June 2nd (in North and South America and Europe) and 3rd (in Asia Pacific) event, where leaders from Google, IDEO, Airbnb, PwC, Fossil and others will share insights around innovation. 

Amit Singh: In your new book, “Work Rules!” you share insights from your leadership experience and research. What inspired you to put these insights out to a more general audience?

Laszlo Bock: We spend more time working than we do anything else. More time even than we spend with our loved ones! And yet, for too many people, their job is just a means to an end. But work can and should be so much more.

We’ve learned a lot over the years about what makes work more meaningful and productive – we’ve studied this at Google, reviewed the academic research and listened to companies far away from Silicon Valley doing inspiring things on the people front. I wanted this book to provide insights from all these sources to help others bring more happiness to the workplace, and to help us all find more inspiration and meaning in the work we do.

Amit: Is there anything we can do from a leadership or management standpoint to make work more meaningful for our teams?

Laszlo: Absolutely. Here are a few:
  1. Be predictable and act in a consistent way. If your team can predict what you’re going to do nine times out of 10, and if your decisions are driven by a clear set of principles, they won’t have to come to you every single day on every single issue. This way, whether you give your team narrow guardrails or wide ones, they know that within that span they can do anything and can define their jobs. And that’s empowering.
  2. Serve your team. Our role as managers is to make our team more effective and excited about the work they do. If we focus only on our own achievements, we minimize the work of our team — and by extension, the work of the rest of the company as a whole.
  3. Delegate certain tasks rather than trying to do everything yourself. Management assignments that are time drains for you can actually be quite empowering for your employees — and they give them the chance to expand their scope and responsibility.
Amit: How do we motivate managers to lead better?

Laszlo: At Google, we use a manager feedback system that gives managers regular feedback from their teams, without tying that feedback directly to consequences (promotion, bonus, etc.) so managers don’t feel defensive and can go back to their team and ask “how do I get better?”

Amit: At one of my first internal Google events after joining the company, I saw Larry (Larry Page, CEO) speak, in what was also one of his first engagements since taking over as CEO. Someone from the audience said, “my Android phone is running out of battery,” and he responded with, “Why don’t you give it to me, and I’ll fix it for you.” He proceeded to take the phone and try to fix the battery problem. At that moment, I thought, “this is a company that I want to be a part of.” I saw a leadership style I could relate to. Do you have any favorite leadership tips from other executives here?

Laszlo: Urs Hoelzle, our SVP of Technical Infrastructure, has this great rule: if you get an answer you don’t understand, it’s ok to escalate it, because you deserve a clear answer that makes sense to you. As managers, we should be fine when someone from our team escalates to better understand a decision. It’s not a threat. It’s not going to make us look bad. We learn something while our team has a chance to feel empowered and motivated by the new knowledge.

Amit: What’s on the horizon in the world of making people happy when they work?

Laszlo: Right now we’re doing research around unconscious bias, with the hope that we can make a profound difference in how people treat each other. It’s hard to change a person’s fundamental beliefs, but you can manage outward expression of beliefs. We find that when people take a moment to reflect, they respond rationally, rather than impulsively. And when people do this, they make less biased, better decisions.

Amit: Any interesting work trivia or seeds of wisdom that I haven’t asked about yet?

Laszlo: I started writing “Work Rules!” in Google Docs — it was second nature to me. I could keep all my ideas and iterations and collect feedback from friends and colleagues in one central place, without worrying about dozens of drafts floating around. But the publishing industry works in Microsoft Word for the most part, and by the end of our editing process, we were down to handwritten notes in pencil and paper. When I introduced my editor to Docs, and showed her how we would collaborate, redline, suggest and track changes, she was blown away and said “this is amazing!”


(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!