Google on Monday announced a series of new tools that will further its presence in classrooms around the globe. The company is launching Quizzes, a set of features in Google Forms, as well as Google Cast for Education, an app that effectively functions as a classroom projector. Additionally, the internet giant announced that it's making its virtual reality application Google Expeditions widely available after a few years in beta.
The new tools are all free, though Google has certainly seen benefits from its focus on providing educational resources: More than 10 million students and teachers now use Chromebooks, helping to keep its sales robust even in a rough PC market.
Google says it has worked closely with educators to develop its new tools. It's rolling out Google Cast for Education in beta after hearing from teachers that projectors are a key part of their classrooms but remain disconnected from their lesson plans.
"In talking to teachers about what they want for their projectors, what they told us is they don't need another device," said Chrome product manager Max Kirsch. In response, it build the Cast for Education app, enabling teachers to share their screens wirelessly. It works with Google Classroom, making it easy for students to use it to share their own screens as well. And because all sharing with the app is account based, it doesn't matter what network is being used, which is helpful for classrooms with multiple networks.
Meanwhile, Quizzes in Google Forms will allow teachers to auto-grade multiple choice and checkbox questions. It gives students real-time feedback on whether they understood the material, and it can present students with supplemental information to help them better grasp the concepts. For instance, it could direct a student to a Youtube video that explains a concept related to a certain question. Teachers can get fast insight into which students are struggling and what concepts need more focus.
Google built Quizzes after learning that many teachers were using a Google Sheets add-on called Flubaroo, said product manager Molly Mackinlay. While it's useful for teachers that want to create quizzes, the tool is available to all Google Forms users and could be used for other purposes like conducting corporate trainings or building individual study guides.
Google Expeditions, meanwhile, has already been used by 1 million students in 11 countries since the beta version was launched in September. With its wide release on Monday, Google is making more than 200 "virtual field trips" available, some of which were produced with partners including Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Pearson. The app is available Monday for Android and will be available for iPhones and iPads soon.
Google also announced Monday that it's making a collection of creative apps for Chromebooks available as a package at a special price for schools, including Explain Everything, Soundtrap, and WeVideo.
Separate from its Google for Education announcements, Google on Monday also unveiled Project Bloks, a research collaboration between Google, Paulo Blikstein of Stanford University and IDEO. The project is an open hardware platform that lets developers create hands-on programming experiences for kids.
"Making code physical - known as tangible programming - offers a unique way to combine the way children innately play and learn with computational thinking," Google said in a blog post.
There are three components to the system: brain boards, base boards and pucks. The brain board is the processing unit, built on a Raspberry Pi Zero, which provides the other boards with power and contains an API to send and receive data from the base boards. The base boards are modular and can create different programming flows, while the pucks can be programmed with different instructions like "move left" or "turn on or off."
When connected together, the system can send instructions to connected devices like toys or tables over wifi or Bluetooth.