Sunday, December 27, 2015

2016 Google Predictions

Over the course of 2015 we saw hundreds of updates roll out for users of Google products and services, giving us new tools and features to improve teaching and learning in our schools.

With 2016 just a few days away it is now time to predict what changes we hope to see in the new year. Below are my eight predictions for Google in 2016.

(Note: You can also see the video of these predictions in the recorded session of our December Google User Meeting here - You can skip ahead to the 1 hour 22 minute mark to jump straight to the predictions section.)

Mobile - Recently we have seen the new version of Google Forms, and many of us have taken it for a test drive. It looks like there is still work to be done on the new Forms as several features are missing (Add-ons especially). However, the new look and feel of Forms is quite nice, and reminds me of what you might see in a mobile app. My prediction is that the face lift for Forms is in part to also create a mobile version for Android and iOS. We already have mobile app versions of Docs, Sheets, and Slides, but no Forms. The new version of Forms, when completed, should launch with a much needed mobile version.

Photos - Google’s photo services have seen quite a few changes over the last few years, going from Picasa Web Albums to Google Photos as part of Google+ to finally Google Photos as a stand alone service. I love using Google Photos, especially the auto upload feature for any picture I take with my phone. However, in all of the changes over the year, Google Photos has lost several features. We just got back collaborative albums, which is great, but one big item we have lost is a full featured Photo Editor. When Google Photos was part of Google+ it had a nice image editing service built in (it was actually the Picnic photo editor that Google purchased). However when Google Photos got decoupled from Google+ we lost the photo editor. This year I predict we will get that editor (or maybe even an improved editor) back in Google Photos, so you can take any image you have in Photos and quickly and easily edit and improve the image without the need for a third party service.

Classroom - Out of all the Google services, we have seen some of the greatest growth in Classroom. Loads of new features released this year including co-teaching, whitelisting domains, gradable forum questions, and more. Undoubtedly we will see many new features in Classroom in 2016 as Google continues to respond to user requests. One that I would like to see is a way in Classroom to organize and structure resources for course content. Right now you can add items to the About page, post things to the stream, or link to a different tool like Sites to share resources. But there is no easy way in Classroom to organize content by chapter or unit. This would go a long way to letting Classroom function more like an LMS and a one-stop location for course content.

Web Extensions - This year we saw a pretty nifty Chrome web extension that allowed a teacher to automatically open a webpage on their Classroom students’ Chromebooks or computers. For details see “Share to Classroom” in the Chrome Web Store. Branching off of that idea, I predict we will see a Chrome web extension that allows teachers to monitor what is on the screen of their Classroom students. This would be very similar to the commercial product Hapara Interact, and would provide teachers in 1:1 settings with additional options for monitoring and assisting students.

Google Docs - Google Docs continues to close the gaps in features with Microsoft Word, as well as provide many powerful features unique to Docs. However, one area that is still lacking is advanced image placement and manipulation. As it is now you can add an image to your Doc and can turn text wrapping on and off, but that is about it. Now compare that to Google Slides and Drawings. In those programs you can change the order of images, group images, put images behind or in front of text, crop images to special shapes, and more. My prediction (and hope) is that Google Docs will get the full range of Google Drawings tools built in, along with advanced image placement and manipulation. This will allow for watermarked images behind text, the ability to use the Scribble tool to draw on top of a Doc for annotations, more flexible text wrapping options like tight wrapping, and more.

Certifications - Google made major updates to their certification programs this year. They launched two new options: Educator Level 1 and 2, and then they did a big update to the Certified Teacher program which is now Google Certified Innovator. These were all great improvement for educators, but what about students? I predict that Google will develop and release some sort of certification options for students. It might be a traditional certification course and test, or perhaps a badging system for specific programs or skills. Either way, this would be great for students to develop and demonstrate their skills, and for school to incorporate into their technology curriculum.

Google Communities - Over the last year Google has removed the Google+ requirement for many services. You no longer need a Google+ account to start a Hangout or to use Google Photos. However, one service that still requires Google+ is Communities. I love Communities (see my webinar on the topic here ) and use them most every day to connect with and learn from educators around the world. Google is also pushing Communities with the Google Educator Groups all around the world that use Google Communities. Unfortunately people cannot join a GEG group unless they have activated Google+ on their account. Although I personally love G+, I do not see a reason to put this requirement on Communities. Many schools do not turn on the G+ service, and many users do not want to activate one more social media tool. My prediction is that Google Communities will no longer require the use of a Google+ account. This will make it much easier for people to join GEG’s and other beneficial Google Communities.

Expeditions - Google has been taking the show on the road this year to demo Expeditions at schools around the world ( Expeditions allow students to take a guided virtual field trip using mobile devices inside of Google Cardboard, while the teacher controls the experience from a tablet. Google has created over 100 virtual field trips for students to explore and learn. My final prediction is that Expeditions will move out of the demo stage to be available to anyone, using their own devices. Rather than having to bring in a special set of mobile devices, Cardboard units, and teacher tablet, a school can supply their own devices and purchase Cardboard themselves. Then they will be able to download and run for free any of the Expeditions Google has created. Going a step more, users will be able to create, upload, and share their own Expeditions with a free creation app. Virtual field trips are about to take off!

Well we will have to check back a year from now to see how well I did with my predictions. In the meantime be sure to stay up to date with everything new from Google here on this site as well as in our monthly online Google User Meetings here

If you have any Google predictions for 2016 feel free to add them in the comments below.


  1. I'm praying the Google Drive will allow users to search within folders. I've long complained about their search being wonky, and I've had a hundred people agree with me. All my teachers are frustrated about how hard it is to search in Drive.

    As the premier cloud drive, Google Drive needs to step up their search. They are THE search leaders, after all....


  2. I agree with your Classroom prediction...I would also hope (and I know this is a little thing) they will allow you to organize the classrooms on your home page...right now you have to start with the last class you teach and then add the one before it.....LET US ORGANIZE our own order! A simple drag and drop to reorder!

  3. We heard at a recent conference that having parent access accounts to Google Classroom is most likely on the horizon as well. They also mentioned better integration with school SIS systems.

    I would love a feature to be able to annotate on a drawing with a chromebook and stylus. Currently you have to use some sort of app or extension to do any annotating with a touchscreen chrome book.