Tuesday, March 28, 2023

15 Updates to Make Google BETTer

This week Google is in London at BETT, the world’s biggest educational technology exhibition. At the event, companies from all around the world show off their latest and greatest innovations for educational technology.

Google is using this opportunity to showcase new updates for Google Workspace for Education. These updates include new features for Google Classroom, Docs, Slides, Meet, Chromebooks, Security, and more!

Although I have never been to BETT yet (definitely a goal for the future!) I wanted to share all of these new updates with you. See below for my rundown of everything new that Google is announcing. For each item I give the gist of what is new as well as how these updates can make teaching and learning BETTer.

๐ŸŽ Google Classroom Updates

The following three updates are coming to Google Classroom.

▶️ YouTube Interactive Questions
  • I am super excited about this new feature which will allow teachers to add interactive questions to YouTube videos and assign them to students in Classroom.
  • Questions can include both multiple choice and open-ended formats.
  • As the students watch the video, your questions will pop up, allowing them to answer them and get immediate feedback.
  • Teachers will also be able to see details on all their students' progress on the questions.
  • You can express an interest in joining the beta by filling out this Google Form.
  • Edition availability: For Teaching and Learning Upgrade and Education Plus users
  • Launch Timing: Coming Soon

✅ Practice Sets Updates
  • Introduced originally about a year ago, Practice Sets is finally moving out of beta status and rolling out in the coming weeks.
  • With Practice Sets teachers can create interactive assignments by creating their own questions or capturing problems from PDF's.
  • The built-in AI will then find support materials for those concepts to help students as they work through the questions.
  • And a new update will now let teachers share their Practice Sets with other educators in their school district.
  • For more details on Practice Sets see my earlier blog post and overview video.
  • Edition availability: For Teaching and Learning Upgrade and Education Plus users
  • Launch Timing: Coming Soon

๐Ÿ“… Grading Periods in Classroom
  • Classroom is also getting the option to create quarters, semesters, or terms.
  • Assignments and grades will be able to be organized and viewed by these grading periods.
  • Edition availability: For Teaching and Learning Upgrade and Education Plus users
  • Launch Timing: Coming Soon

๐Ÿ“„ Google Docs Updates

The following three updates are coming to Google Docs.

๐Ÿงฑ Custom Building Blocks in Docs
  • We have had the option to insert premade building blocks in Docs for a while, including meeting notes, email drafts, and more.
  • Now you will be able to create, save, and reuse your own custom building blocks.
  • Your custom templates can be inserted into a Doc whenever you need for common tasks such as lesson plans, lab activities, study guides, and other frequent uses.
  • Edition availability: For Education Plus users
  • Launch Timing: Coming Soon

⏱️ Timer and Stopwatch Chips in Docs
  • Educators and students will now be able to add interactive timers and stopwatches to any document.
  • The timer chip will count down from a set time.
  • The stopwatch chip will count up from zero.
  • These can be used to measure how long an assignment takes, or signify the end of a class activity, or more.
  • Edition availability: Education Plus users
  • Launch Timing: Rolling out now

๐Ÿ—ณ️ Voting Chips in Docs
  • Another interactive feature for Docs is the new voting chips tool.
  • Voting chips can be added to a Doc by typing @voting 
  • Users can then click on the chips to cast their votes and see the running totals.
  • This can be a great way for voting, taking surveys, answering quick formative questions, and more.
  • Edition availability: For Education Plus users
  • Launch Timing: Coming Soon

๐Ÿ“ท Google Meet and Slides Updates

The following five updates are coming to Google Meet and Slides.

๐Ÿ“‘ See Speaker Notes in Meet
  • When someone is presenting a Google Slideshow in Meet, they will now have the option to simultaneously view their speaker notes as well.
  • No one else in the Meet will see the speaker notes. This will just be for the presenter to be able to follow along with the notes more easily.
  • Edition availability: For Teaching and Learning Upgrade and Education Plus users
  • Launch Timing: Available now

๐Ÿค Co-presenting Slides in Meet
  • It can be challenging enough to give a spoken presentation without having to also worry about controlling and advancing the slideshow.
  • Now you will be able to have a co-presenter for your Slides in Meet.
  • All co-presenters will be able to advance slides, play videos, and more, to make it easier for whoever is presenting.
  • Edition availability: For Teaching and Learning Upgrade and Education Plus users
  • Launch Timing: Coming Soon

๐Ÿ– AI-powered hand raising in Meet
  • Getting attention in a Meet will soon be easier than ever.
  • When you raise your physical hand, the AI in Meet will see that and automatically raise your Hand Raise icon and move you to the main grid.
  • Edition availability: For all Google Workspace for Education users
  • Launch Timing: Coming Soon

๐Ÿ’ฌ Closed Captions in Meet Recordings
  • We have had closed captioning in Meet since the very beginning, but now you can choose to include those captions in your Meet recordings.
  • This will help support all users who watch the video at a later time.
  • Supported languages include English, French, German, Portuguese (Brazil) and Spanish, with more coming later this year. 
  • Edition availability: For Teaching and Learning Upgrade and Education Plus users
  • Launch Timing: Available now

๐Ÿ–ผ️ Custom Backgrounds in Meet
  • Another existing feature that has gotten an upgrade is background replacement in Google Meet.
  • For a while we have been able to blur the background, or replace it with an image.
  • Now your Google admins can add custom backgrounds for educators and students to use.
  • This can help provide clear identification and consistency across your school when in a Meet.
  • Edition availability: For Education Plus users
  • Launch Timing: Available now

๐Ÿ’ป Chromebook Updates

The following four updates are coming to Chromebooks.

๐ŸŽž️ Screencast Updates

Last summer Google rolled out Screencast for Chromebooks. This is a fantastic tool that lets you and your students record your screen, webcam, and voice, annotate on the screen, generate a transcript, translate the transcript, and edit the recording. I have been showing off this tool since then, and am thrilled to see the new updates!
  • First, Google is releasing a web player for Screencasts, so that anyone can watch a recording on any device. In the past you could only watch a Screencast on a Chromebook. Now you will be able to easily share your recording with everyone, such as parents, students, or other teachers who are not using a Chromebook.
  • Second, Google is expanding the recording and transcription support in Screencast to 12 new languages, including Spanish, Japanese, Swedish, and Italian.
  • Finally, Screencast is getting the option to record and display your mouse clicks, touchpad taps, and keystrokes during a recording, so that viewers can see them and follow along better when watching the Screencast later.
  • For more details on Screencast see my earlier blog post and overview video.
  • Launch Timing: Coming in ChromeOS M112

๐Ÿ“– Reading Mode in Chrome

For years I have shared about tools to help support readers in the session I do on "Google Tools to Support all Learners". Often this will include extensions such as Postlight Reader which will remove distractions from a webpage, making it easier for students to focus and read.
  • Google is now building a similar feature directly into the Chrome browser!
  • Users can open the panel on the right side of Chrome and choose "Reading Mode".
  • Here they will see a clean version of just the text from the web page, with images, videos, and other elements removed.
  • As needed, the reader can change the font, the size of the text, the spacing between the lines, the color for the text and background, and the width of the reading panel.
  • This will be a helpful option to be able to still see the original content, but have an easier-to-read version on the side.
  • Launch Timing: Coming in ChromeOS M114

๐Ÿ–ฅ️ Cast Moderator Updates

Cast moderator is a tool that makes it easy and secure for students and teachers to wirelessly display their screens to a projector or large display in the classroom. This gives the teacher greater mobility, and gives every student the opportunity to share their work and ideas with the class. Cast Moderator is now getting several new updates.
  • First, presenters will be able to pause the screen they’re casting, and then keep working on their laptop without showing anything new. This can be helpful if they need to take notes, or prepare something else to share.
  • Teachers will also be able to switch which tab is being shown without having to end the cast session. This will make it much easier to jump around between tabs to show different content.
  • Finally, Cast Moderator will soon support more than 10 languages, including Dutch, Spanish and Japanese.
  • Launch Timing: Available now

⚙️ More Admin Tools

One of the best features of Chromebooks is how easy they are for school technology staff to manage. The Google Admin Console has loads of settings for a school to finetune the options for their fleet of devices. Google is now rolling out even more settings including:
  • Group-based policies to make it easier to apply settings to users. Instead of having to move users into specific organizational units, they can simply be added to a new Google Group and have the needed settings applied.
  • More data security controls including options for clipboard, printing, screen capture, and more.
  • App badges to give easy access to app usage, developer information, and user reviews.
  • Context-aware access improvements to set rules for apps.
  • And additional log event data for Google Classroom.
  • Availability varies based on update.

๐Ÿ Conclusion

Any that's it! It is great to see these new features and options coming to Google Workspace for Education. Personally I am most excited about the interactive questions for YouTube, the web player for Screencast, and the Reading Mode in Chrome. What updates are you most looking forward to?

For more details, see Google's blog posts about these announcements:

Post by Eric Curts
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