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

Editor's note: Leading up to Education on Air, we asked you what topics you’d like to discuss at the conference. The clear winner was “innovation in schools,” so we asked Kevin Brookhouser, a Google Certified Teacher and director of technology at York School, to share his innovative practice of giving students freedom in what and how they learn. Kevin is the author of the new book The 20Time Project and will share his methods during an Education on Air session on May 9. Register here for the free online conference today.

The 20Time Project stemmed from the collision of several fortunate events: I met a number of inspirational teachers through the Google Teacher Academy, spent time at the Google campus, and read a book by Daniel Pink called Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us about how to encourage innovative thinking. Inspired by Pink and Google’s “20 percent time”— a practice that allows employees to take time out of their “day job” to work on a side passion project— I created my own version and applied it to the classroom.
Guest blogger Kevin Brookhouser speaks around the world about empowering students with time and choice. He'll lead a conference session at Education on Air on May 9th


20Time is a simple concept that anyone can execute, as long as you give students the choice to design their own learning experience and support them throughout. Give students one day a week to work on a project of their choosing — one that serves a real audience and solves a real-world problem. Help students discover great ideas, write a thoughtful proposal, blog about their progress, craft an elevator pitch, and demonstrate their work through a final presentation.

20Time affords students the opportunity to follow the three critical ingredients essential to innovation as described in Drive:
  1. Autonomy: freedom in what they learn and how they learn it 
  2. Mastery: the ability to track their learning growth 
  3. Purpose: meeting the needs of an audience outside the walls of the classroom
When given the freedom to control their own learning, it turns out that students can come up with incredible ideas. The experiences they created are bigger than any I could’ve imagined — like Maria’s YouTube channel, which inspires young people to love books, or Maddie’s Recycling Closets project, which spreads awareness about sustainable consumerism.

I’m fortunate to work at a future-oriented school that supported the experimental project from day one. But wherever they teach, I recommend that teachers who want to try 20Time give it a go — dive in and present the reasoning behind it. Transparent communication to parents, students and administrators can go a long way toward getting buy-in. For example, I send this letter to students and parents at the beginning of the year, and welcome other teachers to modify it to fit their needs.

I’ll be sharing more about what I’ve learned about innovating in schools during my session at Education on Air on May 9. Register here to get updates about the conference. You can find 20Time resources, including five steps to get started, at 20Time.org. The 20Time Project is now available on Amazon, and if you’re looking to purchase multiple copies for your school or would like me to speak about 20Time or Google for Education, I welcome you to contact me directly. See you on May 9!

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Editor's note: It’s been just over a year since we launched Chromebox for meetings, and to celebrate the milestone we’re sharing stories about our customers and their approaches to business, culture and productivity that are bringing them success. In today’s post, online accounting software provider Xero tells how it manages to keep its startup-like efficiency, innovation and feel while expanding globally. To learn more about Chromebox for meetings, join us online at Chrome Live on April 22 and see how companies scale face-to-face meetings across the globe.

Xero was started by several developers nine years ago in an apartment above a coffee shop in Wellington, New Zealand. Today, we have more than 1,000 employees in 15 cities across the U.S., U.K., Australia and New Zealand and provide online accounting software to more than 400,000 global customers. With more than 200 percent five-year average sales growth as of June 2014, our biggest challenge now is managing the fast-paced growth while maintaining our nimble, tech-forward startup culture.

We like to keep work in small groups and move quickly. Our teams work closely on projects even when they’re located in different offices around the world. And since we like to stay on the cutting edge of technology, we’re using Google Apps, which allows us to stay coordinated and productive.

Our pain point in IT was finding a way for teams in different cities and offices to meet and collaborate at the same time. We used a variety of video conferencing technologies, including PCs, HDMI/VGA and projectors. They were difficult to set up, meetings were delayed and productivity suffered. As we continued to grow, this struggle intensified, and we realized that we needed to find a solution fast. We needed to streamline our meeting room setups and get the most out of Hangouts. When we heard about Chromebox for meetings, we jumped at the chance to try it out.

We started with six Chromebox for meetings units. Today, we have nearly a hundred. They’re in every meeting room. We use them for room-to-room conferencing and all hands meetings. The global team uses them to connect every two weeks and the CEO addresses the entire company via Hangout on Air.

Chromebox for meetings allow us to keep things simple. There’s very little infrastructure or wireless connections needed on our side, so no cables necessary. Setup is fast and the integration with Gmail makes joining Hangouts as easy as clicking a button. It’s easy to share documents and work on them together. Then there’s the cost savings. Instead of spending between $40,000 and $60,000 on a video conferencing system, we spent one-tenth of that on a Chromebox and a display.

We may be a larger company now, but we still want to move and act quickly. No matter how large we become, our values align with those of fresh innovative companies that respond rapidly to market demand, customer needs and competition. Thanks to Chromebox for meetings, we can keep the startup feel and agility while growing at breakneck speed.

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Editor's note: Today’s guest blogger is Daniel Scrivano, former lead developer for the UC Davis EV Explorer. See how EV Explorer and other developers rely on Google Maps APIs to bring unique location experiences to their users.

Most people know they can help the environment by driving an electric vehicle, but they often don’t realize they can save money, too. As a student at UC Davis, I started a research project to make these savings clearer. The EV Explorer website, launched last summer, lets drivers compare fuel costs for electric and gas-powered vehicles.

EV Explorer uses the Google Maps APIs and a database called fueleconomy.gov to give drivers information about the fuel economy of 34,000 different vehicles. EV Explorer visitors enter their commuting starting points and destinations, along with how often they commute. Based on that data, the site calculates the annual energy costs for up to four vehicles.


We built EV Explorer using several of Google’s mapping APIs: JavaScript, Directions, Places and Geocoding. EV Explorer downloads the appropriate map and helps people visualize the data they’re inputting. If people don’t know their work address, they can type in the name of their business and Places API geolocates it. The Geocoding API converts any address into latitude and longitude. We query the Directions API when we’ve got the specific points for home and work. The app then draws the route using polylines between the two locations.

We chose Google Maps APIs because we knew we could rely on Google’s mapping database to be comprehensive and up to date. The database is also incredibly user-friendly. With Google Maps, a user can type in “Safeway” and “San Francisco” to see all the Safeway locations in the city and choose among them. If they mistype something or include incomplete information, auto-correcting tools offer suggestions and corrections.

In building the site, I kept one thing in mind: You won’t make it until you break it. That means you need to experiment, try new things, get your hands dirty, and make random stuff. You’ve got to push the APIs to their limits. And by doing just that, we delivered what we set out to do: Help people understand the wider benefits of electric vehicles and show them how much they could save by switching to electric.

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A year ago, we partnered with loads of great developers to showcase their add-ons for Google Docs. Add-ons have opened up a world of extra features for our users, from a student needing a powerful tool for diagrams to a project manager looking for a handy way to keep their team on track.

Today we’re releasing a couple of updates to help developers share their add-ons with an even wider audience and give Google Apps IT admins more consistent control over which add-ons are used in their organizations.

Developers can now choose to make their add-ons for Docs, Sheets and Forms available for installation across entire domains, which automatically creates a Google Apps Marketplace listing that's easy for customers to find. It also means that admins can install these handy add-ons for their whole organization using just a couple of clicks.


And speaking of admins, we want to make sure they have the control they need when it comes to deciding which add-ons are best suited for their organizations and teams. For example, in particular cases — like in education — it might not be desirable to let all end-users install their own add-ons. With this update, admins will continue to have a “disable add-ons” option for their users, but they can also whitelist add-ons via the Google Apps Marketplace for their entire domain or a specific team.

With these updates, customers can now get all the add-ons they want with all the control they need. Learn more about managing Google add-ons for your organization.

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Today at Enterprise Connect in Orlando, Avaya announced their new OnAvaya™ cloud-based contact center solution, built exclusively on Google Cloud Platform. Avaya provides solutions that help companies increase their engagement within a contact center across multiple channels and devices. Their new product – Customer Engagement OnAvaya™ Powered by Google Cloud Platform – provides a low-cost solution that allows customer service agents to work from anywhere, right in the browser. Aiming to meet the specific demands of a communications platform, Avaya chose Google Cloud Platform for its reliability, performance and scalability – and our simple pricing structure. OnAvaya™ runs on Google Compute Engine and utilizes Google's advanced networking capabilities to provide Unified Communications services running in the public cloud. The Chrome device based agent endpoints communicate using WebRTC with their cloud infrastructure.
“Google is one of the world leaders in cloud environments,” says Tony Pereira, director of business development at Avaya. “They have built an impressive architecture with security features that they are constantly evolving to make the most of cloud efficiencies.”

OnAvaya™ takes advantage of the unique capabilities of Chrome devices. You simply provision a Chromebook and headset and your customer service agents can work from home or wherever there's an Internet connection and have full Avaya contact center functionality. In the event of a snowstorm or network interruption, you can shift your support operations to any site that has Wi-Fi. Since employees no longer need a physical phone, you'll save costs on additional hardware.

With Customer Engagement OnAvaya™ Powered by Google Cloud Platform, customers will be able to support growth in their business and seasonal spikes without huge capital investments. And since we manage the technology on our end, implementation time for OnAvaya™ customers should drop from months to weeks – or even days.

The solution will be available to certified Avaya business partners as well as Google for Work service partners starting in the spring of 2015. Learn more about the OnAvaya™ solution on their blog.

We’re thrilled to welcome Avaya to the Cloud Platform family!

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(Cross-posted on the Official Google Blog.)

When you visited Google today, we’re pretty sure you didn’t type 173.194.113.18 into your browser. This string of numbers separated by periods—an IP address—isn’t nearly as easy or memorable as typing google.com. Domain names ending in things like .COM, .NET and .EDU make browsing the web and telling people where to find you online easier. Since this month marks the 30-year anniversary of .COM and several other domain endings, we’re taking a minute to celebrate these often-overlooked suffixes that have changed the way we use the web.
Though they were introduced in 1985, domain names didn’t gain much awareness and use amongst the public until the World Wide Web became available to all during the ‘90s and it became clear they were an important part in unlocking its power. Using these online addresses, people began to spread messages, start businesses and access information that otherwise would have been nearly impossible to find. Popularity and demand for these names grew so much that people were soon willing to pay millions of dollars for the perfect one.
Today there are 270+ million registered domain names; in fact, about 17 million were added just last year. To create more naming options for people online, hundreds of new top-level domains are being added, and many, like .TODAY, .NINJA and .BIKE are already available. We wrote about this back in 2012, and since then we’ve launched three of our own: .HOW, .SOY and .みんな.
As .COM turns 30, we’re looking back on the history of domain endings and all they’ve made possible. Today there are more choices than ever before for people to find the perfect name for their businesses, projects and ideas on the web. If you’re interested in learning more about this history, or you’d like to register your own piece of the web, head over to Google Domains to claim your .DOMAINS from a .COM to a .GURU.
Here’s to .COM’s 30th, and all that’s yet to come in how we name destinations on the Internet.

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Editor's note: We sat down with Anthony Casalena, Founder and CEO of Squarespace, to talk about how they get work done with the help of simple and modern tools, including Google Apps for Work and Chromebox for meetings.

In 2003, Anthony Casalena had the idea to simplify the process of creating a website and started building Squarespace out of his dorm room at the University of Maryland. Today, millions of people use Squarespace to share their stories online. Here, Anthony shares how the company creates simple, powerful products and continues to grow their global team with the help of Google Apps and Chromebox for meetings.
How does Squarespace work and create?
As a company, we’re committed to respecting the intricacies of the creative process at work. It means waiting to release software until we’re happy with it, having respect for delicate ideas before they reach maturity, and tightly integrating small, multi-disciplinary teams on projects from the outset. As a company that believes in the benefits that technology can bring, we’re also highly reliant on modern tools and development processes. We integrated Google Apps with Squarespace 7, as we already use it to run so much of our own company.

When did you start using Apps at Squarespace? Why?
We started using Apps seven years ago, when the company was around four people. Before that, we used a mix of things I set up myself – such as a tiny mail server run off a box in our office and very basic shared file storage. We were overwhelmed with spam, concerned about security, and constantly had to upgrade our software. I used Gmail for my personal mail and knew it was fast and had great spam filtering. When Google Apps became available, it was a very natural move for us.

How do you continue to share information as the company scales?
Information sharing at scale is something we’re constantly iterating on as an organization. By integrating lightweight solutions such as Google Docs and Sheets for many processes, we’re able to seamlessly share information throughout the org without worrying about something getting out of date. Everyone can see live updates. If someone goes on vacation or transitions to a different role, it’s easy to transfer information and pick up loose ends.

Open communication seems really important to your culture. How do you maintain it?
Right now, we have more than 450 employees spread out across three offices. To keep connected to our remote offices, we use Hangouts. After being frustrated by endless IT issues and wait times when setting up basic conferencing across our offices, we started using Chromebox for meetings a few months ago. Now I can walk into a room, press a button and have a meeting right away. This works for us because we’re minimalists when it comes to the tools we want in our ecosystem. We want to use tools that are modern and simple — and we want to use as few of them as possible.