Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hipster Google - Google Tools You Probably Never Heard Of

Google is well know for certain tools and services - Search, Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Slides, Sheets, Maps, Chrome, and such. These are all powerful and useful tools that are transforming teaching and learning in schools around the world.

However, in addition to those tools, Google has also created a wide range of services, apps, extensions, features, and other tools that are not as well known. Even though these tools may not be as popular or as widely known, they are still very useful in school settings.

These are the "Hipster Google" tools.

In our culture, one of the defining characteristics of the hipster movement is to appreciate things that are not mainstream, to use services that are not well known, or to embrace something before it becomes popular among the masses. With that thought in mind, I have collected a list of tools from Google that the average person may not know about yet.

Of course with any such list, there will be some tools that you do know, but hopefully you will pick up a few new ideas and resources from the bunch. And of course simply by sharing this blog post I am potentially making these tools more well known.

Below you will find my 1-hour recorded webinar covering each of the tools, as well as the session slideshow, and a write-up for each tool with a description and related links. So, jump on them now while it is still cool to say you used these before they were popular!

Session Resources
  • "Hipster Google" - Google Docs link - Full list of all Hipster Google tools
  • "Hipster Google" - Google Slides link - Presentation with full list of tools
  • "Hipster Google Part 2" - Blog post link - Post with second collection of tools

Video Training (1 hour)

Session Slideshow

Ngram Viewer

Ngram Viewer is a Google search tool that lets you search for words and phrases in over 5 million books from the 500 years. The results are then displayed as line graphs to show the relative change in usage over time for the different terms.

This can be a powerful search tool for students to explore the popularity of different ideas and topics over time, as well as to see how our perceptions have changed. Students can cross reference changes in word usage with historical events, wars, politics, and more.

To use the tool, do the following:
  • Go to the Ngram Viewer site at books.google.com/ngrams
  • Type in the words and phrases you wish to search, separated by commas.
  • Set the beginning and ending years for the search if you wish to limit it to a certain period in history.
  • Click the search button.
  • You will now get a graph showing the change in usage of those words over time.

Google Scholar

Sometimes it is necessary to find scholarly peer-reviewed articles. This can be for a high school student writing a research paper, or for an educator completing graduate work. The content of scholarly articles can be challenging enough on its own, so thankfully Google makes the process a little easier with a tool called Google Scholar.

Google Scholar is a search tool that lets you look specifically for scholarly articles. Here;s how:

  • Go to scholar.google.com
  • Type in the terms you are searching for.
  • You will now get a list of matching scholarly articles.
  • If you need to narrow down the results, click on the little down arrow in the search box to open the advanced search options.
  • If you find an article you like, you can also click the "Related articles" link to find more that are similar.
  • If you want to keep a list of the articles you have found, click the "Save" link.
  • Finally, if you want the proper citation format for an article, click the "Cite" link and then pick the format you want (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.)

Instant Search Cards

We all know Google is a powerful search engine. However, in addition to simply providing search results for our queries, over time Google has been adding interactive "Search Cards" that give us much more than just links to websites.

For example, if you need a timer for a class activity, simply run a Google search for "Timer" or "10 second timer" or "stopwatch". This will give you a live, interactive countdown timer to use in class.

Or if you need to graph an equation, you can simply search for that equation, such as "y=2x-3" or "graph for x^2" and you will get an live, interactive graph of that equation.

There are way more instant search cards available through Google search. See my earlier blog post "20 Instant Google Searches your Students Need to Know" for many more examples that you and your students can us.

Reverse Image Search

Google's Image Search at images.google.com is a powerful tool to find pictures, including many helpful tools such as searching by color, size, usage rights, and much more. However, one of the lesser known special features is the ability to do a reverse image search.

Instead of looking for an image, what if you already have a picture and you are trying to find out information about it? Here's how you do it:
  • Go to Google Images as normal at images.google.com
  • Drag and drop an image onto the search box.
  • Or click the "Search by image" button to upload an image.
  • Google will now compare the image you provided to every image on the internet to try to find a match and provide you with more details.

This can be useful in many ways:
  • Learning more about a historical image.
  • Finding the location of where a photo was taken.
  • Determining what an unknown object is.
  • Fact checking a questionable image.

Google Trends

Google processes billions of searches every day. As valuable as the results are, there is also a lot we can learn from the searches themselves. Google Trends at trends.google.com is a tool that lets you see what people are searching for. You can even limit the data to certain categories (Business, Entertainment, Health, etc.) or by country.

One of the best parts of the Google Trends service is the Visualization page. This page gives you a grid with real-time top search terms. You can adjust the size of the grid as well as which country the searches come from. For example you can access a 5x5 grid of search topics from the United States at this link:

This can be a great tool for students to see what topics are currently trending in the news in their country, or in other countries around the world. Students can click on any of the search topics to open a Google search for that term to learn more about that topic and why it is in the news.

Google Alerts

Although Google's search engine is a powerful tool for finding information, what if you need that information more than just once? To help with that, Google provides a service called Google Alerts that will periodically run your search for you and email you any new results.

This can be useful for a student doing a research project to get the latest updates each day on any new articles or posts related to their topic. This can also be valuable for school administrators to see anytime their school district or school building gets mentioned in the news, so they can stay on top of public interest and concerns.

To create a Google Alert, do the following:
  • Go to the site at www.google.com/alerts
  • Type your search term or phrase in the search box just like you are making a normal Google search.
  • Note: Be sure to put quotes around your search phrase as usual if you want to make sure those words appear in that specific order, such as "Canton City Schools".
  • Click the "Show options" link if you want to tweak how often you get updates and which sources to search.
  • You will see a preview below showing you representative results.
  • When done, click "Create Alert".

You will now begin receiving emails with matching search results based on the settings you chose. You can always return to Google Alerts to edit or delete an alert.

Power Searching with Google

A simple Google search can get you millions of results. But what if you aren't looking for that many? How can you find just the best matches possible?

One way is to learn how to become a power searcher! Google offers two free video courses to teach you all of the tips, tricks, and tools for making the most out of the Google search engine. The courses are:

  • Power Searching
  • Advanced Power Searching

You and your students can work through these self-paced video classes at: http://www.powersearchingwithgoogle.com/

Be Internet Awesome

As awesome as the Internet is, we need to make sure our students are educated on how to use it properly. To help with this Google created "Be Internet Awesome" which "teaches kids the fundamentals of digital citizenship and safety so they can explore the online world with confidence."

This amazing resource can be found at https://beinternetawesome.withgoogle.com/ and includes:

  • Interland - A free online game students can play and explore to learn about privacy and security, what's real and fake, guidelines for sharing, and appropriate online behavior.
  • Be Internet Awesome Curriculum - Free downloadable lesson plans covering digital citizenship and safety.

Google Dictionary

As more and more great content is available on the web, our students will be turning to web pages, rather than turning physical pages, to learn new content. But what happens when a student comes across vocabulary they are not familiar with? Do they get stuck and stop there? Do they skip over the word without understanding? Do they need to find an adult for help?

One other option for students is to use the Google Dictionary extension for Chrome.

With the Google Dictionary extension installed, students can simply double-click on any word they are not sure of when reading a web page. The extension will open a pop-up window with a definition of the word. For many words, it will also include a speaker icon to pronounce the word aloud. This can help students to learn about a word they are stuck on.

Additionally, students can click on the extension and type in any word they would like a definition for.

Google Dictionary can be installed from the Chrome Web Store here: Google Dictionary extension link

Google Earth Online

In the past Google Earth was a downloadable program that you could only run on a PC or a Mac. Now Google Earth is available online in your web browser. This means you can use it on any device including Chromebooks, PC's, Macs, Android phones, iPhones, and iPads.

Google Earth provides you and your students with a full 3D model of the entire world. You can explore any location on the planet, learn about each location, and even take pre-made tours through the Voyager feature.

Google Earth can be accessed online at: https://earth.google.com


Mapping tools can apply to any subject area, including math. One great connection between maps and math is shapes. Maps can be a great way to find or demonstrate different types of angles, polygons, and more.

A fun Google tool to try this out is Landlines. This is an interactive site that lets you draw a shape, and then Google searches through loads of map images to find a feature in the real world that matches the shape you drew.

This can be a neat way to explore geometry, but also to see how shapes show up in both the natural world and in man-made constructions.

You can play with Landlines at: https://lines.chromeexperiments.com

Google Earth Engine Timelapse

Not only can maps help us find where we are going, they can also help show us where we have been. Google has been collecting satellite imagery of the world for decades. With their amazing Timelapse site from Google Earth Engine, you can see how our world has changed from 1984 to the present.

  • Simply go to the Timelapse site at: https://earthengine.google.com/timelapse
  • Search for a location, or choose one of the suggested locations at the bottom of the screen.
  • You will now see an animation showing the changing satellite images from 1984 through the present.

This is a powerful way to see the impact people have on our world, the development of cities, changes to rivers, glaciers, and other natural formations, and more.

Google Maps Planets and Moons

Google Maps is not just limited to Earth. Using imagery from NASA and the European Space Agency, Google has also created digital versions of many of our solar system's planets and moons, including Mercury, Venus, Mars, Pluto, and more. You can zoom in and out, spin the planets and moons around, and explore many marked features.

To access the planets and moons you can start at the regular Google Maps and simply zoom back and back until you go into space. Or you can go directly there by using the link below:


Access Mars

To get an even closer view of the 4th planet from our sun, you can go to Google's Access Mars site. Using images taken my the Curiosity rover, a 3D model of Mars has been created. You can explore all of the places Curiosity has traveled just like you are using Street View here on Earth.

While moving around the 3D terrain of Mars you can click on points of interest to learn more about each location. This tool was built using WebVR so you can experience it on your laptop, phone, or virtual reality headset.

To start exploring head to: https://accessmars.withgoogle.com/

Google Fonts

The font you choose for your text can add a lot to the feel of your words, whether that is professional, funny, adventurous, or spooky. Thankfully when using Google tools you have over 800 fonts to choose from to find the perfect match for your message. Also, since these are web fonts, your text will look that same no matter who views it or in what format.

You can access Google's Fonts in two main ways...

First, you can go to the Google Fonts website
  • Go to: https://fonts.google.com/
  • Here you can browse and filter through over 800 font families to find what you need.
  • You can even type in your own sample text to see better what the end result will look like.
  • The Google Font site also lets you download the fonts to your local computer if you with to use them in non-Google projects.

Second, you can access all of the fonts from inside of Google tools such as Docs, Slides, Drawings, and more.
  • From inside of a Google Doc, click the font choice menu in the top tool bar.
  • Choose "More fonts" from the drop down menu.
  • This will open up a "Fonts" window where you can browse, search, sort, and filter over 800 available fonts.
  • When you find a font you wish to use, click on it to add it to your "My fonts" list.
  • You will now be able to use that font in Docs, Slides, Drawings, Sheets, and such.

Quick Draw

Another fun game from Google is Quick Draw, This is an artificial intelligence game where you are given 20 seconds to  draw a simple item on the computer. While you are drawing, Google's artificial intelligence is trying to guess what you are drawing.

Each game lasts for six pictures. At the end of the game you can click on what you drew to learn more about how Google made its guesses, as well as how other people drew that item.

You can access and play the game at: quickdraw.withgoogle.com

Although the game can be played just for fun, it can open up some good discussions in different content areas:
  1. Art - What are the essential elements of design? What makes a thing a thing?
  2. Language - How do we communicate with others? How do our preconceived ideas and past experiences influence our communication.
  3. STEM - What is artificial intelligence? How is Google using this game to "teach" the AI? What applications could this have in our future?


AutoDraw is a very simple and easy to use drawing tool, with most of the normal features such as drawing, filling colors, resizing, adding text, and more. However, there is one big twist. AutoDraw includes Google's artificial intelligence to help you draw by taking your squiggles and doodles, and offering to replace them with professional images.

Some possible uses might include:

  • Sketch notes
  • Infographics
  • Illustrating a story
  • Creating a scene
  • Desktop publishing (flyer, poster)
  • Creative drawing

You can access AutoDraw at: http://autodraw.com/ (and for more details see my blog post here).


Toontastic is a fun 3D storytelling app for kids, This Google app runs on mobile devices so you can use it on Android or iOS phones and tablets, as well as Chromebooks that support Android apps.

With the Toontastic app you can:
  • Create 3D animated stories, reports, and more.
  • Choose from lots of pre-made characters.
  • Draw and insert your own characters.
  • Choose from several themed environments.
  • Add your own narration.
  • Save and export your final creation.
You can learn more about the program at toontastic.withgoogle.com and you can download the app for free for Android (and some Chromebooks) and for iOS.

Meme Buddy

This tool uses Google's artificial intelligence engine to help you create a meme just by talking to it.

Meme Buddy can be accessed two ways:

Here's how it works:

  • If you are on the Meme Buddy website, click the "Preview it here" button.
  • If you are using the Google Assistant app, say "Talk to Meme Buddy".
  • Now you can say something like "Make a meme of George Washington that says founding fathers know best."
  • If it does not turn out the way you want, you can just talk to Meme Buddy with natural language to tell it what you want such as "Change to a different picture of George Washington."
  • When done you can save your image by right-clicking on the picture on a computer, or by tapping "Save Image" on a mobile device.

Canned Responses

This tool is a Gmail lab, which means it is something you have to choose to enable in your Gmail settings. The Canned Responses tool allows you to save commonly used blurbs of text, and then insert them easily into Gmail messages when composing or replying to an email.

I use this tool to save time whenever someone is traveling to my work office to meet with me. I have a Canned Response saved that gives them my address, where to park, which door to enter, and how to locate me in the building. Rather than type this use every time it is needed, I simply insert the pre-written text through Canned Responses.

To install this Google tool, do the following:
  • Go to your Gmail as normal.
  • Click the gear icon in the top right corner and choose "Settings".
  • On the "Settings" screen, choose the "Labs" tab.
  • Scroll down to locate the lab titled "Canned Responses".
  • Click the "Enable" option to turn it on.
  • Finally click "Save Changes".

Once installed, you can save and insert canned responses from the down arrow menu in the bottom right corner of your "New Message" window.

Google Translate Mobile App

Google offers translation options in many of its tools. You can translate a Google Doc into other languages. You can use the Google Search translate tool for quick translation of words or phrases. You can use the Google Translate website at translate.google.com to work on large portions of text or entire web pages.

However one of the most powerful tools is Google's Translate mobile app. It adds many additional features that aide in live, on-the-spot translation. Here's how it works:

  • First, download the Google Translate app for Android or iOS.
  • Next choose the language you speak and the language you wish to translate to and from.
  • You can now use the microphone icon to speak in your language and the app will then speak the translation.
  • Or you can use the doodle icon to hand write in your language and the app will translate and speak in the other language.
  • Or you can use the camera icon to point your device at any printed text (such as a sign) in one language and it will translate it live into your other chosen language.

Google Keep

Keep has been around for several years, but still is not widely used by many people. Basically Keep is an online note-taking, list-making, organization tool. Besides keeping your grocery list in order (which is a good thing) Keep provides many awesome features for educators and students.

Here are some tips for making the most out of Keep:
  • You can access Keep on its website at: keep.google.com
  • You should also get the mobile Keep app for Android or iOS.
  • On the website or mobile apps you can can add notes, lists, images, or hand-made drawings.
  • On the mobile app you can also record voice notes which Keep will also translate into text for you.
  • If you add an image that has text, Keep can pull the text from the image so you have an editable copy of the text.
  • You can share any of your Keep notes with others for collaboration.

Google Keep also integrates with Google Docs. Anything you save in Keep, you can pull up and insert into Docs. This can be a fantastic ways to save banks of frequently used comments for grading, feedback, lesson plans, standards, or more. To use these notes in Docs:
  • Click "Tools" in the top menu bar.
  • Choose "Keep notepad" from the drop-down menu.
  • This will open a panel on the right side of the screen with all of your Google Keep notes.
For more details, see my blog post "Using Google Keep for Grading Comments in Docs".

Google Arts & Culture

Google Arts & Culture is a website from the Google Cultural Institute dedicated to collecting and sharing art, photographs, and primary source documents from all over the world and throughout history. Items are organized by themes, artists, mediums, movements, historical events, historical people, places around the world, stories of the day, and more.

With Google Arts & Culture students can get closer to works of art and historical artifacts than they ever could in a museum. The digital items were scanned or photographed by Google using an ultra-high resolution camera so you can see every brush stroke, letter, or detail. Some of the collections even feature 360-degree videos and photos to immerse you in the experience.

This is a fantastic site for students studying art, culture, history, geography, and more. The site can be accessed at: www.google.com/culturalinstitute

Mystery Animal

This fun, online game from Google allows you to play 20 questions with a computer. Google randomly picks an animal, and you have to ask it "Yes" and "No" questions by speaking into your microphone. Google will then answer you back as you try to narrow down the mystery animal.

On one hand this is a fun game for students to test their knowledge of animals, as well as develop their critical thinking skills when formulating the best questions and processing the clues. At the same time, this is an awesome demonstration of artificial intelligence as Google machine learning engine parses your questions to determine how to answer you.

You can play online at https://mysteryanimal.withgoogle.com/ or with any Google Home device.


Although you may have known of some of these Google tools, hopefully a few will have been new to you, or you have been encouraged to dig a little deeper into some less used tools. If you have suggestions for other Google tools that I left of my list, please take a moment to share them in the comments below.

Post by Eric Curts. Bring me to your school, organization, or conference with over 50 PD sessions to choose from. Connect with me on Twitter at twitter.com/ericcurts 


  1. Love this list! I always forget about a few of these, and of course, learned some new ones. Tour Builder is one of my absolute favorites.

    1. Glad you found it useful Katie. I agree, Tour Builder is awesome!

  2. Amazing and incredibly useful list Eric! You rock as always.

  3. Great post! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Great list. There were plenty I'd never before heard of.

  5. Thank you for taking the time to compile this! I always look forward to learning from your blog entries. By far my favorite tech. blog!

    1. Thanks Kelly! So glad you find the blog valuable!

  6. Awesome stuff! played with quick draw for a bit and it was fun!

  7. This is so helpful, I definitely didn't know about a lot of these. Thank you!

  8. Eric... I have a few more for you if you'd like to add them to your list! ;-) Let me know! Great stuff as usual buddy!

    1. Yes, please! I would love to see what tools you would add to the list.

  9. Bingo, Eric...another out-of-the-park homerun! I was surprised when Toontastic came over to Google, but it certainly makes it more "mainstream." Thanks for your enticing summary!

  10. I'm not a teacher but I'll be using several of these. This is an amazing post - thank you so much!

  11. Thanks for compiling this wonderful resource! I appreciate all of your efforts to pull together these hipster resources!

  12. Thank you! This list is awesome!

  13. This is a fantastic list and has helped so much. Thanks for producing it and informing us of it

  14. Thank you so much. I can't wait to share some of these with the instructors at my school. I publish a Weekly Tech Tip and will definitely use some of these.

  15. This is AWESOME Eric! Thank you as always for assembling such amazing and practical resources.

  16. Spell Up doesn't appear to be working...