As we roll through the final months of 2021, Google continues to put out fresh updates that can help your classroom hit the ground running next semester. That includes recently announced upgrades to Google Classroom and YouTube, as well as security and accessibility improvements that can help your students engage with their digital learning tools with a greater level of stability and ease.
Here are just a few of the most important Google updates announced this past summer and fall. For more information on Google updates announced in the first half of the year, check out our previous Google update digests from March 2021 and July 2021. We also have Google update digest from early November, covering updates to Docs, Sheets, Drive, and more.
Keep Everything Safe and Up-to-Date with Classroom
Since the onset of widespread remote learning last year, Google has been continuously upgrading Classroom to help it meet the needs of today’s remote and hybrid learners.
This has included making necessary security updates to their core video meeting system. In particular, students will now be directed into a waiting room before joining a video call and those not appearing on the class roster will now need to be admitted by the class teacher before being allowed to participate in the video call.
On the teacher side, Google has made a couple noteworthy upgrades that are sure to save educators time while facilitating remote and hybrid learning.
The most noteworthy of these upgrades is the ability to automatically sync classroom rosters with an existing student information system (SIS) via Clever. In practice, this much-requested feature mitigates the need for manually creating new classes in Classroom, so long as information in the school’s SIS is kept up to date (Note: this feature is only available to Google Workspace for Education Plus users at this time).
Reach More Students with Improved Accessibility Features
In addition to larger, app-based upgrades, Google has also rolled out several smaller (though no less impactful) improvements geared towards helping all students more fruitfully engage with their digital learning.
The first of these upgrades is available now in Google Meet. In that app, users can now utilize the app’s live captioning system in five new languages: Spanish (Spain and Latin America), French, Portuguese, and German. While this feature remains in beta at this time, its core functionality can presently help improve information sharing, learning, and collaboration in multilingual classrooms and districts.
Meanwhile, over in Google Docs, Google has improved the way the platform delivers suggestions while in braille mode. To that end, users utilizing assistive technology, including screen readers and refreshable braille displays, can now receive detailed suggestion information in line with the rest of the text.
Finally, Google has rolled out a new font across all of Workspace that was developed with vision impaired users in mind. This font, Atkinson Hyperlegible, is now available across all of Google’s core apps, including Docs, Slides, and Sheets.
Enhanced Privacy and Control Options
As part of a larger initiative to improve privacy and security for all users, Google is currently rolling out a number of upgrades to Google Workspace for Education designed to keep students in particular from accessing unsafe or unsuitable content while working through their school’s domain.
Several of these changes have already rolled out, including the introduction of new age-based settings on September 1, 2021. These settings require primary and secondary institutions to indicate the age for all users, including if those users are under 18. Those who are under 18 will receive a different user experience when utilizing Google apps and services going forward.
The most notable of these UX changes can be seen over on YouTube, where K-12 users marked as under 18 will no longer be able to post videos, comment, or live stream using their school Google account. These students will still be able to view videos sent to them by their teacher, however.
You can read more about these privacy and security upgrades – including the new default K-12 Chrome user experience – over on the Google for Education blog.
Stay Up-to-Date on the Latest from Google
No matter which Google apps or services your classroom or district uses, the LTC is here to help you make the most of your digital teaching capabilities. That’s why we offer a variety of Google-focused professional development opportunities, as well as free, online courses designed to help you grow your Google knowledge on your own time.
As a Google Cloud Partner, we can also help you find the resources you need to make full utilization of Google’s latest updates a reality in your district. A great place to start is over on the LTC Community, where you can problem-solve and share resources with other educators in our topical Google Network.