USA Tour – Day 8 – Google HQ

Google HQ- Here we come!!! . The architectural structure of the building was very different to what we saw Microsoft however my initial impression of the site was Marketing, Marketing, Marketing with Google bicycles outside and in. On entering the premises, we were greeted with a large spacious area containing a Google beach volleyball court, an open kitchen with, of course, you guessed it, Google employees (Googlers) arriving for breakfast (must be served on campus), Google Pool table and an assortment of Google entertainment furniture. The room we were housed in for the day had two large TV displays and Google Chrome notebooks for our own use.

Our hosts for the day are from CUE (Computer Using Educators) together with Google Certified Teachers and a Google education specialist. What is refreshing about our hosts is their obvious passion and energy. This is not something I have noticed to be prevalent in other companies I have visited so far.

The first exercise was to define Innovation and Learning, and for individuals to represent what it means to them.  I found it somewhat perplexing to define innovation, particularly when trying to lace it with learning because, for me, it is individualistic and personal.

Google – Organising the worlds information  and make it universally accessible and useful…

Google per se, is about learning.  Google employees keep learning. Google expects this of their employees.  From my impressions, Google employees want to consume learning, naturally, or they wouldn’t be Googlers!  Programs are never finished… or done… it’s always the user who puts the polish and finish on topics.

A Google a Day

This is a tool to train students how to search. – It works by training students to search proactively and efficiently using defining terms and tools to unpack a question.



Google search Education

Google Search Education has a wealth of tools which can be used for finding just about anything.  They make sense, although most users only know a small fraction

of its capabilities.   Students tend to be ‘visually’ literate but not necessarily ‘computer’ literate.

Using the tools in Search the group was introduced to a new tool called ‘what do you love’ What do you love is a curated website which allows you to search a topic and Google will apply all its tools to give you a curated graphical interface.

Digital divide:  What an interesting phrase! People who know how to search, versus those who don’t know how to search.

Standard Search

Cool Tool – Reading Level

By using search tools, you can set reading levels. The reading level takes into account three standard levels basic, intermediate and advance.   Students searching for results can customise these results to ensure they can read the information at their particular level.

The reading levels are defined by a Google algorithm… it is a ‘generate by word’ search, validated through user trials. Mainly US English and UK English

Advanced Search

Advanced search is a more visual way of using search operators.  Remembering copyright information is important when defining, imagine what can be used as already set creative commons. By using advanced search, students and teachers move through defining a topic and reducing the results to obtain a smaller sample, which gives maximum attention to specific information requests.


Google Stories

Google Stories is a tool allowing you to create a video story of search results from Google. The tool is easy to use but has some minor issues. It is not robust enough to work as a stand-alone creation point but does give you the ability to create and publish.  Be aware too, it does shows a little too many of the sponsored links.  This can be little bit irritating.

Google Maps

Google Maps is a great tool for mapping cities and tours. Often students are taken on excursions and don’t have an ability to map and track the distance.  Using Google maps, students can expend a small amount of energy and time to track and see locations, distances and maps and then share with others. This search tool pulls in landmarks and many additional features. The maps can be edited and collaborated.  Don’t forget to check out the Google Maps Labs link at the absolute bottom of the mapmaker. This video represents the ability to use images taken from all over the world and how you can explore other people’s photos.

Using Images to have a photo tour

An example of how this is used comes from educator, Patrick Green who lives in Prague. Great work

As an experiment, we mixed a combustive concoction of eight groups of motivated students working on IB Group IV Science projects, eight adult supervisors, one large nature reserve (Divoka Sarka in Prague) two days of incredible weather, numerous science and technology tools, Google maps, and generous portions of communication, collaboration, and creativity opportunities that resulted in a learning that exceeded our expectations. .

Google Docs

Google Docs has been around for some time, however it has not gained traction in many schools for reasons I suspect relating to expertise.  I also suspect the idea of creating documents not directly opened in Word or having to rely on an internet connection being stable, has also contributed to the lack of infiltration.

At a basic level all you need to do is create a Google account (email address) then simply log onto the website, and create a word processing doc etc… This then can be shared, it can be presented, it can be collaborated on and more. I could go wax lyrical but I cannot do justice to all of the videos created… just go look for yourself!

Of particular interest, and something I found particularly fun was Gadgets.  Gadgets are like widgets for doing special ‘things’ with information. It takes data and transforms it into information which is sent to others not using Google docs. When collaborating on a document the tool Chat box allows students and groups to chat to each other while they collaborate in text to compliment group work outside of class time. Comments are exactly like Review in Word.  It allows for collaboration within a document without directly editing the text on the page. It also archives and allows for greater review and process driven interaction.  When sharing your docs it is important to remember specific technical details.  Presentations can be shared by 50 people and collaborated with a maximum of up to 10. Documents can be shared with 200 people with 50 maximum collaborating. It is also important to note it is the first 10 or 50 who are awarded this privilege.

I have never really explored Google Docs however; the time has come, as they say in the classics!

Google Sites

A friend of mine uses Google Sites as the project management tool for his Final Projects at University.  The collaboration, built-in tools and gadgets allow multiple users with different laptops and OS’s to integrate seamlessly. All documents  created on Google Docs and Google Sites, also allowed for version management… That’s only one example from one type of Google site.  The tools and potential this site has could eclipse many of our schools internal digital portfolio software and deserves more investigation as I feel there is massive potential here.


Google +

Google plus has been around for some time, but again like many things Google has not gained traction. The largest competitor is Facebook.  If we treat and think about Google + differently this too, could be a sensational tool to connect and discuss with professional networks. The first of these is represented in what Google call Circles. Circles separate your friends into groups allowing for a dissection of your work friends from your school friends from your interest groups etc.  Of equal importance is the ability to publish to a particular circle and that circle only. This has great potential for having the ability to have one place with your profile and deal with all your social networks in one.

Google also has a tool called Hangouts, which are essentially video calls. You can have multiple friends invited to video calls and then chat. It is another alternative for video collaboration, but like all video steaming the quality will only be as good as the equipment purchased.

Other little notes –

  • Immersion
  • A fun culture
  • Teams working together against and in synergy
  • ADOSS – Attention Deficit Oh Something Shinny
  • Use the colour icon at the bottom to source certain colours.
  • Digital divide is about people that can search and those that cannot search
  • Google Alerts – Great at tracking

Leading us today 

Brian Van Dyck                           Wendy Gorton, MA
Google Certified Teacher     Google Certified Teacher
Twitter: @bvandyck                Twitter:@WendyGorton