Month after month, Google continues to roll out updates and improvements designed to enhance their users’ experience – including those of students and teachers in the education sphere. In fact, several tools in the Google Workspace for Education suite have received noteworthy updates since our previous update digest in July.
The LTC is committed to keeping schools, districts, and classroom educators updated on the powerful learning tools at their disposal. That’s why we’ve taken the time to highlight some of the most important updates that you can utilize in your classroom as soon as tomorrow.
Do More in Docs and Sheets
Across the board, Google has begun implementing new functionality known as “smart canvas” into many of its most popular apps. For example, in Google Docs, users can now type in an “@” sign to pull up a specialized drop-down menu that suggests content relevant to their current project. This can include recent documents, contact cards, and other media that a user can then select and insert into the document with a single click.
In addition to universal insertion, Google Docs users will soon be able to more easily create and insert qualified citations into their work. Specifically, users will be able to select and automatically fill several key citation fields based on a new database of archived sources. This function is presently rolling out and should be accessible to all users by November 29, 2021.
Starting soon, Docs users will also be able to easily and succinctly submit their documents for review and approval without needing to leave the app. Teachers, in turn, will receive notifications when their students request a review, which also locks the document in question and prevents further editing until approval is given.
Meanwhile, over in Google Sheets, users can now more easily navigate between a series of comments using a set of inline arrow keys. Users are also now able to execute several basic operations (including moving, deleting, duplicating, and copying) on multiple tabs at once.
Also, if you’re looking for commonly-used functions in Sheets, you may have noticed some recent changes. That’s because Google has updated the Sheets interface to provide more user-friendly menus. This reorganization was designed to make Sheets more broadly intuitive, especially on devices with smaller screens.
Collaborate More Efficiently with Drive
Google Drive remains at the beating heart of Google’s collection of business and educational apps. As a result, they’re currently making efforts to make this core app more accessible in more situations, including when internet access is weak or unavailable. Users (including those on ChromeOS) can now select certain types of important files in their Drive and access them offline without needing to pre-download said files.
Finding any files, online or offline, is getting easier in Drive as well. Using the existing search bar at the top of the Drive interface, desktop and mobile users can now search for files within a specific folder.
On the back end of Drive, several other important upgrades have been announced in recent months. First, new trust rules have been rolled out, allowing system admins to better control and manage who has access to which files on a more individualized and categorical basis.
Also, via updates implemented at the end of July 2021, users can now more efficiently stamp out bad actors in their domain by blocking them from sharing with them on Drive. This can be particularly useful on a case-by-case basis to negate the effects of spamming and abusive behavior on individual users.
Utilize Templates in Sites
Over the past year, more schools have begun using Google Sites as a teaching tool, providing students an opportunity to develop webpages in a succinct, user-friendly environment.
Now, students can fine tune their Sites to meet their personal style thanks to a new set of customization options. In particular, these new options allow users to customize their website’s font, colors, imagery, navigation components, button styles, and more.
These customizations can also be incorporated into another Sites update, namely the ability to make and distribute templates within an individual Google domain. Through this, schools and educators can easily distribute pre-made templates to students without needing to spend time formatting and structuring new projects.
Along the way, students may find the need to revert one of their Site pages to a previous version. Previously, this function was only available to an entire Site at once. After an update rolled out in September, users can now roll back individual pages on their Site and restore previously deleted or modified content with relative ease.
Here to Meet your Google Needs
Through updates large and small, you can count on the LTC to provide you with timely information that can help your classroom or institution make the most of their Google tools. Keep an eye on the LTC blog for another upcoming digest covering recent improvements made to privacy and accessibility in Google Classroom, YouTube, and more.
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.
For more information on LTC-facilitated Google professional development (including our popular “Hey Google! What’s New?” training), contact the Regional Educational Technology Coordinator (RETC) for your area. You can also grow your Gmail, Drive, and Classroom knowledge on your own schedule by taking part in one of our free, self-paced online courses.
For more information on Google updates announced in the first half of the year, check out some of our previous update digests from March 2021 and July 2021.