Supporting SEL with Google Workspace Tools

There are a couple powerful SEL tools that you’re missing out on. And as it turns out, you already have access to them if your school uses Google Workspace for Education.

Join us for this 1-hour webinar where we’ll explore using Google Forms and Slides to assemble a powerful communication pathway between you and your learners. We’ll start by demonstrating how students can use these tools to self-assess and regulate their emotional readiness for daily classroom engagement and participation. Then, we’ll discuss and practice using Google Slides and Sites to create virtual calm spaces that provide self-regulation options to both you and your students.

Tune in to discover how a few simple Google apps can help lower the barrier to SEL success in your classroom!

Illinois educators who attend live can earn 1.0 PD credit.

Embrace Enhanced Security & Accessibility with New Google Classroom & YouTube Updates

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.

Collaborate Efficiently with Updates for Google Docs, Sheets, and Drive

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.

All Things Google Workspace for Education for School Support Staff!

Are you a school support staffer (school nurse, counselor, social worker, or administrative assistant) looking for an introductory level edtech workshop created with your role in mind? This one’s for you!

Google Workspace (formerly known as G Suite for Education) is a collection of free Google tools and services that are tailored to schools utilizing asynchronous or synchronous learning in hybrid, in-person, or remote environments. In this workshop, participants will explore the most used Google Workspace apps, including Google Docs, Google Sheets, Google Forms, Google Slides, Google Calendar, and Gmail. Google Jamboard and Google Meets will also be explored, depending on time. Participants will also learn how these apps are used in an educational setting as well as how they can be utilized to further their own role-specific goals.

This session is part one of a two-part series. Part two will take place on 10/28/21. Participants must sign up for both sessions to learn about all of the content listed above.

Learn Safer and Easier with Updates for Google Classroom, Workspace & Chrome OS

Google Updates Summer 2021 Blog

Back on June 22, Google revealed a roadmap of its upcoming product and software updates during its The Anywhere School online event. That roadmap featured a cornucopia of exciting developments, including useful enhancements for Google Classroom, Google Workspace for Education, Chrome OS, and more.

Taken together, these updates are geared toward helping educators and school leaders continue their efforts toward making virtual learning easy, accessible, and adaptable to the changing needs of today’s classrooms.

Chances are, your school or classroom can take advantage of these updates starting as soon as the fall 2021 semester. Take a look and see what Google has in store when it comes to making their already-popular apps and tools even more productive and safe.

Greater Ease and Adaptability with Google Classroom

Over the past year and a half, Google Classroom has become a mainstay in schools large and small across the world. Millions of teachers and student participated in remote learning through the platform, with many schools utilizing Google Classroom as their primary learning management system (LMS).

Now, Google is positioning Classroom to meet the education community’s evolving needs, starting with small, quality-of-life improvements like streamlined roster import. This update for Google for Education Plus users will allow teachers to automatically set up class rosters and sync them with their student information system (SIS) using Clever (which requires a separate subscription).

Another small update coming later this year will allow teachers to schedule assignments across multiple classes. This will make it easier to uniformly assign projects and tests across multiple sections of the same course without spending extra time initiating assignment each individually.

Google Meet will also see some upgrades in the near future, including the ability to add co-presenters to any video conference. At the same time, those moderators will have more breakout room options, including the ability to force call participants into and out of said breakout rooms.

On the larger side, teachers in districts with the Teaching and Learning Upgrade or Education Plus can look forward to add-ons directly within their Classroom interface. These add-ons will provide immediate access to an assortment of popular digital education tools and apps – all without needing to navigate to a separate third-party website or app.

Google plans to launch the add-on beta with modules from nine popular providers, including Edpuzzle, Kahoot!, Nearpod, Newsela, Adobe Spark for Education, BookWidgets, and more. Admins will be able to pre-install these add-ons for teachers and students, too, making it easy to get up and running with new integrated add-ons.

For more on new Google Classroom features coming this year, check out Google’s blog post on the topic.

Quicker Collaboration with Google Workspace for Education

Google Workspace for Education (formerly known as G Suite for Education) is also receiving a bevy of upgrades in the coming months, many of which will make its core apps and tools even more interconnected and practical for collaborative digital learning.

One such feature involves the introduction of so-called “smart chips” into Docs, Sheets, and Slides. These “chips” are able to detect certain types of inputs and intelligently connect them to other resources within the user’s Drive or contact book. For example, a user who types in the name of a document in their Drive or an individual in their contact book will be given the option to immediately link that resource using an interactive, inline tile.

Google Docs, meanwhile, will soon receive an upgrade to its existing grammar suggestion engine. Education Plus customers will notice this upgrade as their documents automatically scan for and highlight offensive or stylistically tricky words and phrases. The engine will then offer suggestions to the user, though both elements can be easily turned off by admins.

At the same time, Google Workspace for Education is introducing a handy way to quickly jump from a doc or slide presentation into a Google Meet video conference. With just a click of the Google Meet icon up in the right-hand corner of an open resource, teachers will be able to join a call and open their current resource at the same time, saving valuable classroom time along the way.

Finally, Google is doubling down on its commitment to keeping Workspace a safe space for students and teachers to interact and participate in the learning process. To do that, they’ll soon launch new admin-level security options that make it easier to detect and address potential internal threats, including accidental malware sharing. New Drive trust rules will also roll out in beta for Education Standard and Education Plus customers in the coming months, allowing those admins to more precisely determine how files are shared within their institution.

For more information on upcoming Google Workspace for Education features, check out Google’s blog post on the topic.

Manage a Safer Chromebook Fleet

As the number one device in K-12 classrooms around the world, it’s no wonder that Google is keeping their Chromebooks front of mind in their next round of updates. That means that users can expect optional software upgrades for Chrome OS in the near future, as well as new options for admin-level access and management.

Following in line with updates announced earlier this year, network administrators will soon find new options for managing an institution’s Chromebook fleet within the Google Admin Console. This includes a devoted page for the new Chrome Insights Reports, which list which devices in the fleet are reaching their AUE and how admins should plan for new hardware purchases, accordingly.

Google is also taking cues from smart phones when it comes to another new Chromebook feature. At an administrator’s discretion, teachers and students (especially young learners) will soon be able to log into their device using a six-digit PIN. New users will be prompted to set up these PINs on their own, and future devices will come standard with this feature enabled.

Inclusivity and accessibility have also been notable imperatives for the Chromebook development team lately. That’s why, in the coming months, users will be able to utilize Google’s new Live Caption system on their Chromebooks, as well as a full-panning mode in the operating system’s existing full-screen magnifier. Switch Access will also receive an upgrade in August, making it easier for users to utilize alternative USB and Bluetooth devices to control their cursor.

To see what else Google has in store for new Chromebook and Chrome OS software, check out Google’s blog post on the topic.

Keeping You in the Loop about the Latest Google Updates

All in all, educators have a lot to look forward to this summer and throughout the rest of 2021 when it comes to Google app and tool upgrades. The Learning Technology Center (LTC) is here to help you understand all of these updates and plan for their immediate implementation into your current digital learning environments.

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 for your district.

If you have questions about any of Google’s newly announced improvements, contact the Regional Educational Technology Coordinator (RETC) for your area. You can also learn more about using Google’s current education apps over in our free online courses collection or about Google Workspace for Education updates announced during spring 2021 on our blog.

Google Announces Updates for Classroom, Meet, and More

Google Workspace for Education Feb. 2021 Updates Blog Ben (1)

Recently, Google announced a variety of updates for its suite of education-centered apps and services, including new features for Google Classroom, Google Meet, and more. Many of these updates have been designed with educators and admins in mind, making it easier for them to create a robust and accessible digital learning environment in the near-term.

In total, Google has promised that over 50 new features will go live in the coming months. That includes a major rebrand of G Suite for Education and its current pricing structure. With many of these updates arriving as soon as early April, now’s the time to read up on these impending changes and make plans to fully utilize their productive potential.

G Suite for Education is Now Google Workspace for Education

First and foremost, Google’s suite of education-centered apps – including Classroom, Meet, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, and more – is being rebranded with immediate effect. Going forward, G Suite for Education will be known as Google Workspace for Education, bringing this product’s naming convention in line with changes made to Google’s enterprise suite last fall.

In terms of its content, Google Workspace for Education will be just like G Suite for Education. Specifically, all of the apps and tools that millions of educators and students worldwide rely on will remain a part of the package.

However, going forward, Google Workspace for Education will be made available in four distinct editions. Each of these editions build upon one another and offer institutional leaders more robust options for facilitating a safe, productive digital learning environment.

Education Fundamentals

G Suite for Education’s free edition is getting a new coat of paint along with a new moniker – Google Workspace for Education Fundamentals. This package remains mostly unchanged from its previous iteration, with qualifying institutions still receiving access to Classroom, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and more at no cost.

Many of Google’s most popular communication tools are also included in this suite, including Google Meet, Chat, and Gmail. Google has also re-emphasized safety and base-level security in the Education Fundamentals package, with all included apps and tools presently complying with federal COPPA and FERPA regulations.

Education Standard

Previously, G Suite for Education included a single paid edition. However, Google Workspace for Education’s paid edition will be broken into three tiers, offering educational institutions the opportunity to control their per-user and per-license costs based upon the types of apps, tools, and security features they need most.

The first of these paid editions is known as “Google Workspace for Education Standard.” This edition includes all of the apps featured in the Education Fundamentals package as well as a renewed emphasis on security and accountability. This can be seen in this package’s Security Center, which can be customized to offer administrators real-time updates for identifying, preventing, and remediating digital threats to their network.

Education Standard also makes device management much more streamlined from an institutional level. Through this package’s tools, administrators and IT staff will be able to perform audits and enforce system-wide rules – often remotely and without the need to interact physically with a networked device.

Teaching and Learning Upgrade

As its name implies, the “Teaching and Learning Upgrade” is designed for institutions who are looking to take their digital teaching capabilities to the next level. This can be seen in the upgrade’s enhanced video communication capabilities, which include the capacity for 250 participants in a Google Meet call and built-in allowances for call recording, attendance tracking, and break out rooms.

The Teaching and Learning Upgrade also places a useful emphasis on academic integrity within the digital learning environment. For example, teachers with this Upgrade are able to run originality reports within Google Classroom, which check for plagiarism and proper citation against a private repository of previous student submissions.

Education Plus

Google’s top-level offering for education-centered apps and tools is also getting a face lift. Going forward, the package previously known as “G Suite Enterprise for Education” will be known as “Google Workspace for Education Plus.”

In addition to all of the features included in both the Education Standard and Teaching and Learning editions, Education Plus will offer institutions top level access to Google’s best digital teaching and learning tools. This includes the ability to sync classroom rosters directly from many student information systems (SIS) as well as the ability to customize cloud searching within an institution’s private domain network.

Management and support are also at their best in the Education Plus package. To that end, Education Plus users receive advanced mobile device management capabilities and priority treatment when seeking support from Google’s team of product specialists.

Pricing Changes for Google Workspace for Education

Along with its change in structure, Google Workspace for Education will also premier a new pricing system for its paid editions. Through it, educational institutions will be better able to manage their licensing costs without overpaying for apps, tools, or services they don’t plan on utilizing.

The LTC’s edtech purchasing cooperative, the Illinois Learning Technology Purchasing Program (ILTPP), will offer discounted rates on all of the new Google Workspace for Education paid tiers. You can learn more about each edition’s pricing differences over on the ILTPP blog.

More Robust Features for Google Classroom and Google Meet

Over the past year of remote and hybrid learning, many educators worldwide embraced Google Classroom as a primary channel for engaging students in safe day-to-day learning. Google Classroom wasn’t originally designed to act as a learning management system (LMS), however, which has led Google to announce several upgrades to bring Classroom in line with educators’ functionality expectations.

Some of these new features are small changes with outsized potential impacts, such as the introduction of rich text formatting options. Other improvements will make it easier for educators to monitor student progress, such as through Google Classroom’s new student tracking dashboard.

At the same time, Google Meet is receiving several upgrades to bring it more in line with other virtual conferencing tools on the market today. For example, any Meet that is not started from Google Classroom will soon allow for multiple concurrent hosts. New integration between Google Classroom and Google Meet will also allow teachers to limit who can enter a call based upon a pre-synced roster of students and support personnel.

New Storage Standards

Along with its upgrades to Google Workspace for Education and a few of its most popular apps, Google has also announced a change to its storage standards. In particular, Google is no longer offering educational institutions unlimited storage space by default.

Instead, districts will be offered a baseline storage solution of 100TB, which will be pooled and shared across the district’s entire domain. This pool can be increased through several means, with per-diem increases provided for each new Teaching and Learning Upgrade and Fundamentals Plus license, respectively.

Generally speaking, these new limits will not impact the vast majority of school districts. Those that will need to adjust their storage management limits will receive notice accordingly. In any case, these new storage standards will not go into effect until July 2022. So, districts still have plenty of time to run audits on their current cloud storage regimen and make changes to in-district policy as necessary.

Enhanced Accessibility Features

As part of its upcoming collection of upgrades, Google has again increased its efforts to make digital learning structurally accessible to all learners. With that in mind, they’ll soon roll out a full slate of accessibility upgrades designed to help learners with individualized learning needs participate fully and confidently in their digital learning environment.

Several such upgrades relate to Google Meet’s live captioning feature, which will now be available in Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese (in addition to English). These captions will also be more customizable in terms of placement and size, making them more adaptable to different video conferencing set-ups.

Google Workspace’s text-to-speech capabilities are also getting a boost. In particular, improvements are being implemented that allow students with reading or verbal impairments (such as dyslexia) to highlight any section of text and hear it read back to them verbally. Google’s ChromeVox system will also become more adaptable for visually impaired students, with the inclusion of smooth voice switching, Smart Sticky Mode, and more.

Finally, students using Chromebooks will soon be able to select customized cursor colors from up to seven options (in addition to the original black). When paired with other size customization options, these new settings can help improve interface usability by increasing visibility in low vision or low contrast situations.

Keep Up with the Latest from Google

All in all, these are just a few of Google’s planned upgrades to Workspace for Education. The Learning Technology Center (LTC) is here to help you understand all of these updates and plan for immediate implementation into your current digital learning environments. 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.

If you have questions about any of Google’s newly announced changes, contact the Regional Educational Technology Coordinator (RETC) for your area. You can also learn more about using Google’s current education apps over in our free online courses collection or even about the process of becoming a Google Certified Educator in a recent blog post.

Further Reading on Google Workspace for Education Updates

To help educators and their districts understand the full scope of their impending updates, Google has produced a variety of publicly accessible resources ranging from one-pagers to product-by-product change logs. Check them out below if you want to learn more about everything Google has in store for educators this spring:

February 2021 Google Workspace for Education Announcements

Google Workspace for Education Tier Comparisons

What’s New with Google for Education (All App and Tool Updates)

Google Workspace for Education One-Pager