Making technology accessible for everyoneMaking technology accessible for everyone

GoogleBlog - Fri, 10/11/2019 - 12:20

To mark National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we’re sharing more about our efforts to make technology, and the world around us, more accessible.

Categories: Technology

How Google made me proud to be out at workHow Google made me proud to be out at work

GoogleBlog - Fri, 10/11/2019 - 11:00

Until I started working at Google in 2014, I had never been out at work.  

Now, less than five years later, everything is different: I’m an active volunteer leader in Google’s LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group—a Googler-run, company-supported organization that works to provide an inclusive workplace for LGBTQ+ employees, and partners closely with our Trans Employee Resource Group, which represents our transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary colleagues. As part of my role, I’ve had the chance to engage LGBTQ+ Googlers across our global offices, speak publicly about being LGBTQ+ in the workplace and have even been able to share my perspectives and experiences directly with Google leadership. 

At this point, I can barely remember what it felt like to not be a visible, openly LGBTQ+ person at work. So it’s hard to imagine that before joining Google, I felt I couldn’t come out at the office at all. 

As we celebrate National Coming Out Day and reflect on all of the progress we’ve made as a community, I am determined to remember this simple but crucial reality: Openness matters. Community matters. Being able to be out at work matters. 

Googlers create signs supporting the LGBTQ+ community for the 2017 New York City Pride March.

Prior to joining Google, I’d spent time in a variety of industries, always under the careful, polite policy of evasion when it came to questions about my personal life. Perhaps I didn’t need to be so secretive. I worked with wonderful, kind people, and though there were no explicit shows of support for LGBTQ+ issues from my workplace, I’m sure most of my colleagues and managers wouldn’t have taken issue with my identity. 

Still, for many LGBTQ+ folks, the fear of prejudice can nag at you, and cause you to hesitate even around the most well-meaning of coworkers. Some assume that with the ushering in of marriage equality here in the U.S., other kinds of inequality have disappeared and the movement is complete. But as many LGBTQ+-identifying people will tell you, critical challenges still remain, and it takes a conscious and dedicated effort to counteract their effects. 

Growing up in New Mexico, I got an early introduction to some of the challenges that LGBTQ+ people still so often face: harassment, discrimination, violence. The understanding that being LGBTQ+ was unsafe was imprinted on me almost immediately, and that fear left a lasting mark.  

In each new city, from college to a job to graduate school to another job, I was reminded (often in not-so-subtle ways) that no matter what might change in the law or in popular culture, I should always be wary, always be careful.  

So I never took the chance.  

In so many important ways, restraining from bringing my full self to work hurt my ability to be a good employee. Constantly worrying about slipping up and revealing that I had a girlfriend rather than a boyfriend prevented me from feeling fully integrated. It became an obstacle to forming the kinds of professional relationships that help company culture feel cohesive and supportive.  

Now, I realize how much I was missing.  Today, I’m part of a workplace with visible LGBTQ+ leaders, explicit shows of support for LGBTQ+ cultural moments and celebrations and broad encouragement to use what makes me different to create an environment of inclusion for my fellow Googlers. This journey has made me realize how much all workplaces can benefit from supporting their employees’ differences, just as much as they celebrate their collective unity.  

I’m proud. I hope you are, too. 

To mark National Coming Out Day, one Googler describes how coming to the company made her feel comfortable coming out.
Categories: Technology

TerraTalk is changing how Japan's students learn EnglishTerraTalk is changing how Japan's students learn English

GoogleBlog - Fri, 10/11/2019 - 11:00

With increasing classroom sizes, more paperwork than ever and new mandates from the ministry of education, Japanese teachers face an uphill battle in their mission to teach their students. 

Yoshiyuki Kakihara wanted to use technology to figure out a solution, with an emphasis on English language education. He created TerraTalk, an AI-powered app that allows students to have audio conversations. TerraTalk’s artificial intelligence can hear and process what the students say and give feedback, removing this burden from teachers, and reinvigorating the classroom by creating an atmosphere filled with conversation and English learning games. TerraTalk was recently part of Google Developers Launchpad Accelerator, a program that provides mentorship and support to early-stage startups.

With nine acceleration programs and 341 startup alumni, we at Launchpadhave seen firsthand how  entrepreneurs around the world are using technology and startup innovation to solve the world’s biggest problems. In the third installment of our series, “Ideas to Reality,” we talked to Yoshiyuki about why he started TerraTalk, and where he hopes it will be in the next few years. 

A look at the TerraTalk English learning app.

When did you realize you wanted to make an impact on the education field? 

I grew up on the outskirts of Tokyo as a science-savvy kid and became super interested in foreign culture. I ended up leaving my high school to study in the United Kingdom. I did well academically back home, so it was quite a shock how my English fell short of being comprehensible at all abroad. It turns out that I wasn’t alone; in Japan, very few people reach conversational level at the end of secondary or university curriculum.

I feel that this is the result of an outdated methodology where too much emphasis is placed on explaining the grammar and little to no attention on putting the language into use. To make matters worse,  80 percent of teachers in Japan are putting 100 hours of overtime per month. They don’t have time to investigate, experiment with and transform the way they teach. When I learned this, I realized that I could help by creating a new technology to ease the burden on teachers, and make learning English more engaging for students.  

Who are your customers? How is your company positively affecting them?  

We do business directly with education institutions and local education councils. With our TerraTalk app, students can engage in role-playing style conversation lessons with their mobile devices. This enables teachers to ensure their students get enough speaking time, which is difficult to achieve with conventional classroom methodologies.

We are seeing students teach each other on how to tackle the exercises, sometimes creating their own competition out of it. In some ways, the technology we are bringing is humanizing classrooms, as it frees teachers from the standard lecture format.

How did you use Google products to make TerraTalk? 

BigQuery has helped us crunch massive user data to discover how people are using our app. Google Analytics is our go-to tool for marketing and search engine analysis. We use the TensorFlow family of machine learning tools and other numerous open source projects maintained by Google. We also use G Suite as a primary business tool, because of its reliability, security and ease of use.

Why did you choose to participate in Google Launchpad?

Google is a leading company in machine learning and cloud technology applications, which we heavily rely on. The prospect of receiving support in these areas was extremely appealing, especially when you are running a startup and saving time is everything.

What was the most memorable moment from Launchpad? 

We attended Launchpad Tokyo, which had seven startups in total. In a session called Founders Circle, founders from the startups got together and shared their biggest failures to date in a fireside-chat style. It was the moment where we became a true community, and many of us are still in touch after the program.

What advice do you have for future entrepreneurs? 

Don’t quit. Find a business or market where you have a natural advantage over other people. Whether your competition is other startups or established companies, it is the people you work with who make the difference.
TerraTalk is a new app that is reinvigorating Japanese classrooms and empowering teachers to help their students excel.
Categories: Technology

Using AI to give people who are blind the “full picture”Using AI to give people who are blind the “full picture”Software Engineer, Chrome Accessibility

GoogleBlog - Fri, 10/11/2019 - 11:00

Everything that makes up the web—text, images, video and audio—can be easily discovered. Many people who are blind or have low vision rely on screen readers to make the content of web pages accessible through spoken feedback or braille. 

For images and graphics, screen readers rely on descriptions created by developers and web authors, which are usually referred to as “alt text” or “alt attributes” in the code. However, there are millions of online images without any description, leading screen readers to say “image,” “unlabeled graphic,” or a lengthy, unhelpful reading of the image’s file name. When a page contains images without descriptions, people who are blind may not get all of the information conveyed, or even worse, it may make the site totally unusable for them. To improve that experience, we’ve built an automatic image description feature called Get Image Descriptions from Google. When a screen reader encounters an image or graphic without a description, Chrome will create one. 

Image descriptions automatically generated by a computer aren't as good as those written by a human who can include additional context, but they can be accurate and helpful. An image description might help a blind person read a restaurant menu, or better understand what their friends are posting on social media.

If someone using a screen reader chooses to opt in through Settings, an unlabeled image on Chrome is sent securely to a Google server running machine learning software. The technology aggregates data from multiple machine-learning models. Some models look for text in the image, including signs, labels, and handwritten words. Other models look for objects they've been trained to recognize—like a pencil, a tree, a person wearing a business suit, or a helicopter. The most sophisticated model can describe the main idea of an image using a complete sentence.

The description is evaluated for accuracy and valuable information: Does the annotation describe the image well? Is the description useful? Based on whether the annotation meets that criteria, the machine learning model determines what should be shown to the person, if anything. We’ll only provide a description if we have reasonable confidence it's correct. If any of our models indicate the results may be inaccurate or misleading, we err on the side of giving a simpler answer, or nothing at all. 

Here are a couple of examples of the actual descriptions generated by Chrome when used with a screen reader.

Machine-generated description for this image: "Appears to be: Fruits and vegetables at the market."

Machine-generated description for this image: "Appears to be: Person playing guitar on the sofa." 

Over the past few months of testing, we’ve created more than 10 million descriptions with hundreds of thousands being added every day. The feature is available in English, but we plan to add more languages soon. Image descriptions in Chrome are not meant to replace diligent and responsible web authoring; we always encourage developers and web authors to follow best practices and provide image descriptions on their sites. But we hope that this feature is a step toward making the web more accessible to everyone. 

Categories: Technology

Voice guidance in Maps, built for people with impaired visionVoice guidance in Maps, built for people with impaired vision

GoogleBlog - Thu, 10/10/2019 - 11:00

Think about the last time you walked to a new place. How many streets did you cross to get there? Which intersections were the most complex? How did you prepare before making a turn? And how did you know you weren’t lost?

Now think about making that same trip if you were one of the 36 million people who are blind worldwide, or one of the 217 million people more who have moderate-to-severe vision impairments.

As a legally blind woman living in Tokyo, I know that getting around unfamiliar environments can be a challenge. I can easily commute from my front door to my desk at work; it’s a trip I take regularly and know well. But going some place new and unfamiliar can be an intimidating experience without sight to guide you. In some cases, I’ll have a friend to join me on a trip, but in others I may decide not to take the journey at all.

Detailed voice guidance in Google Maps helps people with visual impairments

Starting today, World Sight Day, Google Maps is rolling out a new feature that gives people the ability to receive more detailed voice guidance and new types of verbal announcements for walking trips. This feature is the first in Google Maps to be built from the ground up by, and for, people with vision impairments. I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work closely with the Maps team on this project as an early advisor and tester—outside of my day job as a business analyst in the Tokyo office.

With this feature, I can navigate the streets of Tokyo with more comfort and confidence. As I take my journey, Google Maps proactively lets me know that I’m on the correct route, the distance until my next turn and the direction I’m walking in. As I approach large intersections, I get a heads-up to cross with added caution. And if I accidentally leave my route, I’ll get a spoken notification that I'm being re-routed. 

Frequent updates like these not only help a visually impaired person get from A to B, they can also give us more confidence and reassurance when we travel alone. With detailed voice guidance in Google Maps, my journey fades into the background and I can focus more on what I’ll do at my final destination. This may not sound extraordinary to those with sight, but for people who are blind or have low vision, this can help us explore new and unfamiliar places.

(Versions of this video with full audio descriptions for people with vision impairments are also available in English and Japanese.)

Building a more helpful Google Maps for everyone

I hope this new technology will give more people added confidence when navigating unfamiliar routes--after all, building for everyone is core to our work at Google. 

While this new feature can be enormously helpful to people with visual impairments, it can also help someone who wants a more screen-free experience on their next walking trip. Similar to the announcements you might hear at crosswalks or on a bus, everyone can benefit from it. Not everyone will need this level of assistance, but it’s great to know it’s available and only a tap away.

Detailed voice guidance for walking navigation starts rolling out today on Android and iOS. Right now, it’s available in English in the United States and Japanese in Japan, with support for additional languages and countries on the way.

To turn the feature on, go to your Google Maps settings and select “Navigation.” At the bottom of the list you'll find the option to enable "Detailed voice guidance," beneath the “Walking options” heading.

Built for and by people with vision impairments, detailed voice guidance in Google Maps helps everyone navigate with ease.
Categories: Technology

Google Ad Grants help a U.K. nonprofit save livesGoogle Ad Grants help a U.K. nonprofit save lives

GoogleBlog - Thu, 10/10/2019 - 10:00

Editor’s note: Today is World Mental Health Day, a day run by the World Health Organization with the aim of breaking down the stigma of mental health and draw attention to resources and organizations available to help people cope. One of those organizations is Samaritans, which is a recipient of Google Ad Grants

Every six seconds, someone contacts Samaritans in need of support. And for the more than half a million people we reach each year, our more than 20,000 volunteers are here.

Founded in 1953, Samaritans is a U.K.-based organization dedicated to making sure fewer people die by suicide. We provide more than 20,000 volunteers over the phone, by email and face to face. My team manages the digital side, including search, social media, video and email outreach to raise awareness and connect with people who need our services. 

For over 13 years, my team has been a recipient of Google Ad Grants, which provides eligible nonprofits with free Search ads to connect people to causes. We use Ad Grants uniquely to help two types of people: Those struggling to cope with mental health issues, and those trying to help loved ones who are struggling.

People struggling to cope often turn to Google for several reasons: to better understand their symptoms, to find resources or—at worst—with the intent of harming themselves. For some searches with intent to self-harm, Google has a feature that surfaces our help line at the top of results to provide people with resources in their time of need. 

But beyond that, there’s more we can do with ads. Our Ad Grants ads ensure that the many different ways we provide help is front and center for people in need of support. For example, when someone comes to Google struggling to cope themselves, our ads proactively offer resources to get them help and shift the focus toward ways to get better.

The Google Ad Grants program helps us save lives.

Uniquely, Search ads from the Ad Grant also allow us to provide resources to people who want to help others. We run ads targeting people who are looking for information on how to start difficult conversations or how to support friends and family who might need it.

Overall, Google Ad Grants has been a critical tool in supporting our organization’s mission and connecting people to life-saving mental health resources in real time. Our free Search ads have incredible reach and help us drive measurable results in the real world, such as raising awareness of our helpline, driving donations and increasing volunteer signups. All of these results from Ad Grants enable us to serve more people in need.

Last year, our Ad Grants ads were seen 2.6 million times. More than 320,000 people, seeking either support services or expressing interest in volunteering, clicked on our ads. A key part of our success is using free Google tracking tools (such as Analytics and Conversion Tracking) to measure the impact of our ads, learn what support offerings are most desired and see firsthand in our reports how many lives we are touching. Samaritans relies on Google to help us reach hundreds of people a day who are in need and might not otherwise know our services exist. The Google Ad Grants program helps us save lives.

For World Mental Health Day, a suicide-prevention nonprofit highlights how Ad Grants drove donations and volunteers for their crisis hotline.
Categories: Technology

Five tips to unwind with Android TVFive tips to unwind with Android TV

GoogleBlog - Thu, 10/10/2019 - 09:00

It’s getting chilly outside (for those of us in the northern hemisphere) and now’s the perfect time to fire up this season’s premieres, scary Halloween flicks and classic holiday movies. Ahead of all that fall TV and movie-watching, we worked with YouGov to survey people on how they’re viewing TV at home. 

Between cable and satellite TV, streaming media and services, and casting and voice assistance, watching TV looks different now than it did a few years ago. And with more advanced TVs, many are looking to simplify their TV experience.

To make your time in front of the TV enjoyable, Android TV devices come with the Google Assistant, the Google Play Store and Chromecast built in for easy access to entertainment. Here are a few things we heard about TV-watching habits, and five tips to help unwind with Android TV:

Find something to watch that works for the whole family

Most people watch their shows and movies alongside an average of two other people. Featuring over 500,000 movies and shows, Android TV always has the perfect entertainment for your crew to cozy up to when it’s cold outside. All your favorite apps including YouTube, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu are available on the big screen. Plus, the Google Play Store on Android TV has access to over 5,000 more apps and games to prevent any wrestling over the remote. 

Spend less time searching, and more time enjoying

With all the endless entertainment that is available, viewers are spending an average of 11 minutes trying to find something to watch. It’s no wonder a third of participants were frustrated by the amount of time they spend searching. With the Google Assistant built into Android TV devices, you can quickly search for shows and movies across your apps, whether it’s “Find scary TV shows” or “Show me popular holiday movies.” 62 percent of people found it quicker to use their voice to find what they want to watch.

Tailor the TV to your taste and stay on top of all your shows

Survey participants reported having two streaming apps on average, and 41 percent showed a desire to play music and 35 percent expressed interest in getting their news on the big screen too. To keep it all organized in one place and never miss a new episode, Android TV lets you easily customize your home screen to display your apps, shows and movies for quick access to your favorites.

Flex your smart home superpowers

79 percent of survey participants want to connect their smart home with their TV so they could control their home from the big screen. Coming soon, you’ll be able to set up a routine with the Google Assistant. Just say “showtime,” to dim the lights, draw the curtains and start a thriller all from the comfort of your couch. And if trick-or-treaters ring your doorbell, you can say “show me the front door camera” to pull up your Nest app on the TV and check for any tricksters.

Prep for holiday guests without leaving the sofa

For many, TV time means being entertained while also being productive. Participants reported doing an average of four activities while in front of the TV. Of those activities, 68 percent involve eating and drinking and 39 percent involve completing chores. Next time it’s your turn to host guests, ask for a little help from the big screen with the Google Assistant and run the robot vacuum, add apple pie to the shopping list or start the pressure cooker all with just your voice. 

TV should be simple and stress-free, and Android TV is always working to bring a smarter way to watch to your big screen. From smart TVs like the Sony A9G Series, Hisense H8F Series and Philips 24” Kitchen Android TV to new ways to watch like the JBL Link Bar and Xiaomi Mi Laser Projector, Android TV is available on the device that fits best in your home.As the weather gets chilly, use these five tips to unwind with Android TV.
Categories: Technology

Get your business holiday-ready with help from GoogleGet your business holiday-ready with help from Google

GoogleBlog - Thu, 10/10/2019 - 07:00

The holidays may feel far away, but businesses are already preparing for the shoppers that will show up in the next couple months. Here are a few ways to make sure you’re ready for the holiday rush:  

Stand out to local shoppers 

If you’re a local business, keep your Business Profile on Google updated using Google My Business

Show up when people are searching for what you have to offer  

Most people will start their holiday shopping by searching, and Google Ads will help your product or business show up. To take advantage of a specific holiday, create a seasonal campaign and consider adjusting your budgets to match search growth for holiday peaks so your ads don’t go dark mid-season. After the holidays, review your past account performance to improve future campaigns.  

Get a free personalized plan to help you reach your business goals 

Answer a few questions about your business and the Google for Small Business site will create a personalized plan with Google tools to help you stand out online, reach more customers and work more efficiently during the holidays and throughout the year. 

Dive deeper into your holiday marketing plan 

If you want to learn more about how to spruce up your holiday marketing plan, watch this free holiday livestream

Google has products and tools to help small businesses to connect with shoppers during the holiday season.
Categories: Technology

Hey Google, talk like IssaHey Google, talk like Issa

GoogleBlog - Thu, 10/10/2019 - 05:00

Here's a trivia question for you. Which actress is also a writer and producer, started a web series on YouTube, translated common insecurities into a hit show, gives a great pep talk and makes a cameo as a voice on the Google Assistant? It's Issa Rae! 

Starting today, Issa Rae’s voice is available as a cameo on the Google Assistant, in English for a limited time in the U.S. To switch to Issa’s voice, simply say “Hey Google, talk like Issa," or go to your “Assistant voice” in Assistant Settings. You’ll then hear Issa’s voice when you ask the Assistant for things like the weather forecast or for answers to questions like, “When is the first day of winter?” You’ll also hear Issa’s voice when you’re in the mood for a joke or when you’re seeking motivation. Here's a few ideas to get you started—try asking your Assistant, “Hey Google…” 

  • “Do I need an umbrella today?”

  • “Tell me a secret.”

  • “What do you think of me?”

  • “Give me a quote from Issa Rae.”

  • “Sing a song.”

  • “Tell me a joke.”

  • Or ask, “Mirror talk” or “How do I look?” for confidence-boosting affirmations.

You can even hear a few surprises—like Issa’s take when you ask, “Hey Google, do you love Daniel or Lawrence?” or “Hey Google, tell me something awkward.” Responses to all other questions will continue to be in one of the original Assistant voices. And if you want yet another surprise, keep an eye out on the @Google Instagram channel today for a few exclusive sneak peeks into Issa’s life on set!

This is the Google Assistant’s second celebrity voice, following the melodic vocals of John Legend, made possible by the state-of-the-art speech synthesis model, WaveNet. You can get Issa’s cameo voice on any device that has the Google Assistant, including Google Home smart speakers and all Smart Displays—including the new Nest Hub Max—and on mobile for Android and iOS

Issa Rae’s voice is now available as a cameo on your Google Assistant.
Categories: Technology

Why Mahoning Matters is putting local readers firstWhy Mahoning Matters is putting local readers first

GoogleBlog - Wed, 10/09/2019 - 23:10

Today marks the launch of Mahoning Matters, The Compass Experiment’s first digital-only news outlet, which will serve readers in Youngstown, Ohio and the surrounding Mahoning Valley. We chose our name because it reflects what we believe: The people and happenings of the Mahoning Valley matter. And, when properly informed and engaged, the people have the power to affect change. 

Our mission statement is simple: We seek to tell the stories that matter in Mahoning County and empower citizens to engage in their community with a focus on solutions. We will tell the local stories that aren't being told anywhere else in the Mahoning Valley, focusing on the “how” and “why” behind the news.

The Compass Experiment was founded in partnership between McClatchy and the Google News Initiative’s Local Experiments Project to experiment with a variety of revenue models with the goal of creating local news operations that are financially self-sustaining. After we announced our first site would open in Youngstown, we got to work on building a news outlet with the community in mind. 

The first part of the puzzle was hiring a team with deep local ties to the area. The entire Mahoning Matters team joined us from The Vindicator, Youngstown’s daily newspaper that closed in August 2019 after 150 years in business. Our staff lives and works out in the community every day, often holding team meetings in cafes and libraries where they can best interact with readers.

The second way we put the readers first in building Mahoning Matters was by getting out and talking to them. In August, we held a series of community forums in partnership with the Youngstown and Mahoning County Public Library to find out what readers needed and wanted from a local news site. We also had one-on-one discussions with community leaders and other local media.

Community member suggestions about local news. (Photo by Abby Reimer.)

Attendees at our forums said they wanted a clear-eyed look at their community, highlighting its successes as well as problems to be solved. Above all, they were concerned that Mahoning County was going to lose access to the watchdog reporting that The Vindicator had provided for so many years. 

With a small team, we know we can’t afford to do everything. So we are focusing on topics of utmost importance to those living in the region, which includes coverage of government, healthcare, housing and the local economy as well as community-centric features like obituaries, local events and high school sports. 

Mahoning Matters’ revenue model is centered on content sponsorship, digital advertising and a membership component to be added later. Borrowing from our partners at Village Media, we offer local businesses an in-depth and customizable home within our directory, sponsorships of appealing content categories and locally-focused, brand safe display advertising.

We hope to learn quite a bit about how to sustain original local news from the work of Mahoning Matters, lessons which we will continue to share with the broader media community. In fact, we’ve already learned so much from creating this site that will be helpful as we turn our focus to identifying and creating the next Compass site in the months to come. 

McClatchy launches Mahoning Matters in Ohio, the first site as part of their Compass Experiment and the GNI’s Local Experiments Project.
Categories: Technology

Discover India through its craftsDiscover India through its crafts

GoogleBlog - Wed, 10/09/2019 - 23:00

Crafts are an essential part of India’s rural economy and also play an important role in India’s history and communities across the country today. Expanding our partnership with India’s Ministry of Tourism, we’re launching “Crafted in India” on Google Arts & Culture, so more people from around the world can discover the beauty and heritage of crafts from all 29 states of India. We spoke to Jaya Jaitly, the President of our partner institution Dastkari Haat Samiti, who traveled around the country for two years to document and preserve the items in the exhibition.

Tell us a bit more about yourself and your work in India.
I spent some years of my childhood in Japan, where I became a lover of art, crafts and textiles. I also have a passion for social activism, so it was a natural fit to explore the traditions of my home country India through these guiding principles—showcasing not just the crafts themselves, but how they lift up the economic and social status of the craft-makers. By documenting their work I strive to promote their culture and show how their designs and skills suit a contemporary and ever-changing world.

Why a project about crafts from India?
I was very excited when we got an opportunity to use the platform that Google Arts & Culture has created to show the world our craft creators. They have amazing skills, great resilience and work closely with their communities and environment. There is so much to discover, like how you can craft paper from the most unexpected materials, like pineapple fibres, old currency, or animal dung.

What aspect of Indian crafts did you capture and discover?
I hope we have captured the fantastic diversity of India’s crafts. Our stories show many different lifestyles, languages, communities, identities, styles of dress and traditions that India has nurtured over centuries. I am especially proud of the stories in the exhibition that show the strong role of women.

Working on the project, is there anything in particular that surprised you?
Living in urban India and familiar with many kinds of lifestyles all over the world, I was fascinated to discover how many of our craftspeople hold on to old practices and techniques despite the laborious processes involved. Their versatility in adapting to new materials, audiences and customers showed their sense of pride in their heritage.

How do crafts define the people and the culture of India? What can you learn about India through its crafts?
India is now prominent on all sorts of platforms across the world. And craft, in all its varieties, is one of the strongest crucibles of India’s culture. It can be at the center of developing our rural economy, sustaining our planet and promoting our diverse people and livelihoods. I also hope it will encourage people who enjoy the exhibition to come to India and engage with it more closely—this is just a small peek at the vast treasure chest on offer.

Explore the diverse world of Indian crafts captured through the lens of Jaya Jaitly, in collaboration with India’s Ministry of Tourism
Categories: Technology

Fighting climate change with new dataFighting climate change with new data

GoogleBlog - Wed, 10/09/2019 - 19:00

This week, leaders from cities and environmental organizations—as well as representatives from Google—are gathering at the C40 World Mayors Summit in Copenhagen to raise awareness around new data sources and methodologies that play a critical role in reaching a zero-carbon future.

More than 10,000 cities around the world have committed to taking action on climate change over the next decade. But without the right data, it can be hard to know where to start. Our Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE) is a free online tool that makes it easier for cities to measure, plan and reduce overall carbon emissions and pollution across their cities. Designed in collaboration with the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate & Energy (GCoM), EIE analyzes Google’s comprehensive global mapping data to estimate building and transportation carbon emissions and renewable energy potential. This data can then help build policies, guide solutions and measure progress.

Today EIE will be available for the first time in Europe, starting with Dublin, Birmingham, and the greater metropolitan area of Manchester, with Wolverhampton and Coventry to follow soon. We’re also making available new hyperlocal, street-level air quality data, starting in Copenhagen. This is part of a new section called EIE Labs, which will pilot climate-focused datasets as a critical indicator for prioritizing and tracking climate action.

In Dublin, city leaders have already been testing the tool, and are using EIE insights to inform smart transit programs with the goal of reducing emissions and increasing the use of cleaner modes of travel. Owen Keegan, Chief Executive, Dublin City Council, says, “Now we can bring Environmental Insights Explorer data analytics to conversations about transportation greenhouse gas emissions and show people the impact of supporting such programs to help start reducing emissions for our entire city which can help inform the debate." 

Dublin EIE data showing autos as the largest contributing source of CHG transportation emissions.

We’re creating Copenhagen’s new air quality map in partnership with the City of Copenhagen and scientists at Utrecht University, bringing in data from Project Air View, which equips Google Street View vehicles with scientific instruments to measure air quality at street level. The preliminary map shows the block-by-block concentration of black carbon and ultrafine particle pollution, which Copenhagen is already using to work with architects and designers to rethink the city for the future.

“Measuring ultrafine particles and black carbon at street level are important steps for the City of Copenhagen to understand how we can prioritise actions to secure a clean and healthy city for our citizens. This new data displays the dynamic levels of ultrafine particles and black carbon with a strong overall relation to traffic patterns, but also hotspots like the narrow streets in our old city centre,” says Rasmus Reeh, senior developer at the Copenhagen Solutions Lab, City of Copenhagen.

Copenhagen’s hyperlocal air quality maps are being used to redesign parts of the city to be healthier and more sustainable.

We’re staying focused on hyperlocal air quality, enabling 50 more Street View cars to capture air quality measurements on roads around the globe. We hope these insights will inspire cities to transform their own transport vehicle fleets into environmental sensing platforms—the Environmental Defense Fund’s Clean Air Guide provides some tips on getting started—and contribute to the Air Quality Data Commons platform, which supports new insights, deeper research and more effective climate action.

We are encouraged by the positive response of cities and city partners, including GCOM, whose Executive Director, Amanda Eichel, says “we believe EIE can serve as a critical first step for city sustainability teams to better assess their current situation and more efficiently track and monitor their progress in meeting their climate protection goals.”

We’re already working hard to bringing EIE to many more cities around the world, and we’re excited about helping more mayors create a healthier, cleaner future for their citizens and for the planet. If you’d like to nominate your city as the next candidate for EIE, let us know.

Today we’re launching the Environmental Insights Explorer in European cities to help cities fight climate change locally.
Categories: Technology

ExploreCSR grants get more women into computer science researchExploreCSR grants get more women into computer science research

GoogleBlog - Wed, 10/09/2019 - 11:00

Since 2000, women have earned only one in five computer science doctoral degrees, one of the lowest in all science and engineering disciplines. As part of our efforts to get more women involved in computer science research careers and make them more accessible to everyone, we’re giving our latest round of exploreCSR grants to 24 universities. With these grants, universities will design workshops to encourage and support more women to pursue research careers in CS.

Princess Sampson, a sophomore at Spelman College studying CS, went to one of last year’s workshops, made possible by an exploreCSR grant. We recently checked in with her about her experience and how it helped her CS research career path.

What inspired your interest in computer science research?
I have always been relentlessly curious. I was raised in Atlanta's Black tech ecosystem, and as a child, I turned one of the bathrooms in my house into a science lab. CS research directly impacts tech product innovations, and it is important that Black women contribute to this knowledge-making.

What motivated you to participate in an exploreCSR supported workshop?
I met Dr. Ayanna Howard, a pioneer for women of color in computing, at South by Southwest. She inspired me to immerse myself in an environment of ambitious women with goals similar to my own.

What did you learn from the exploreCSR workshop?
Advice on how to enter and navigate STEM-focused academic spaces as a woman of color. We were provided with timelines for applying to graduate schools and advice on selecting research experiences or industry work during the summer. Speakers and mentors constantly reiterated the importance of taking self-care as seriously as our academic work. Additionally, even though I entered the program having already decided to attend graduate school and pursue a doctorate in CS, hearing the stories of women who have had careers in industry in addition to academia made it clear that I don't have to pick one over the other.

What advice do you have for others starting their journeys to becoming computer science researchers?
Discover how CS intersects with other fields that you're passionate about. Every field needs people who understand computer science. Research isn't some far off career; students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels are integral to the day to day functioning of almost every lab or initiative. Find out what's going on at your institution and see how you can become involved.

And what are you looking forward to most about the start of a new school year?
In my sophomore year of college, I will be cross-registered at Georgia Tech in addition to my CS coursework at Spelman, taking electives for my philosophy minor, conducting research, as well as continuing my work with the Spelbots (Spelman's robotics and CS outreach organization). I am excited to continue growing as both a human being and an academic.

We are proud to partner with this year’s exploreCSR universities working to increase awareness and participation of women in CS research careers and look forward to hearing from more students like Princess.

Google is providing 24 exploreCSR grants to universities to cultivate and retain a “critical mass” of women in computing research.
Categories: Technology

Boys & Girls Clubs help teens build new digital skillsBoys & Girls Clubs help teens build new digital skills

GoogleBlog - Wed, 10/09/2019 - 11:00

When I was a kid growing up in Wilmington, North Carolina, I spent almost every afternoon at the Brigade Boys & Girls Club. Each day, I’d head to the Club to get homework help, hang out with my friends and participate in tons of programming. Club leaders even pushed me to try basketball, a sport I went on to play through college. And as I got older, I turned to the Club for help making meaningful decisions about college and life beyond high school. 

So much has changed since I attended the Boys & Girls Club. Now more than ever, young people need guidance to gain life skills that can help them become thriving adults. And in today’s job market, digital skills are especially crucial life skills. For more than 600,000 teens across the country, it’s the talented staff at the Boys & Girls Clubs who provide this support.

One of those outstanding staff members is Basha Terry. “Ms. Basha,” as Club kids call her, is a youth development professional for Boys & Girls Clubs of the Mississippi Delta in Grenada, Mississippi–one of more than 4,600 locations in the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s network. It’s part of Basha’s job to help teens build digital skills critical to success later in life, but it can be difficult to find resources that are both effective and engaging. So she was intrigued when she learned about Applied Digital Skills through a pilot program between Grow with Google and Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

As a youth development professional for Boys & Girls Clubs of the Mississippi Delta in Grenada, Mississippi, Basha Terry helps the teens in her Club get the most out of Applied Digital Skills.

Applied Digital Skills is an online curriculum that uses video-based lessons to teach young people the digital skills they’ll need for college and the workforce. These lessons guide Club members through subjects like online safety, sending professional emails, creating a budget and more. Through the program, more than 1,200 teens in six Clubs across the U.S. are using the curriculum.

Jadon is one of the many Club teens using Applied Digital Skills to learn valuable computer skills.

In Basha's Club, teens are devouring the Applied Digital Skills lessons. Recently, 14-year-old Z’Quan took a lesson on tracking his monthly expenses and mastered spreadsheets in the process. And Jadon, also 14,  used his newfound skills to research and design a presentation on engineering—his dream career.

Basha’s investment in teaching teens digital skills is part of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s commitment to helping youth across the country prepare for jobs. Harnessing what we’ve learned from the six Clubs in our pilot program, we’re now expanding the opportunity to activate Applied Digital Skills in the 4,600 Boys & Girls Clubs nationwide. We’ll provide support to help them integrate these lessons into their existing programs to help teens get ready for the workforce. A group of these Clubs will also receive Made by Google devices to help Club teens take full advantage of digital tools.

Today, we’re in my home state of North Carolina at the Boys & Girls Club serving Wake County in Raleigh and we’ll visit Clubs from the pilot program to host live Applied Digital Skills workshops, where Club teens will learn to write resumes, search for jobs online and practice interviewing. They’ll also meet with a few of my fellow Club alumni from here at Google.

I know firsthand that Clubs will do whatever it takes to ensure teens have every opportunity to build the skills they need. It’s a goal we share–through Grow with Google, our initiative to create economic opportunity for all Americans, we offer free training to help people grow their skills, careers or businesses. The need for this kind of training is on the rise: A recent analysis found that digital skills are the second-fastest growing category of workforce skills people will need by 2030. We stand with organizations like Boys & Girls Clubs to inspire and enable young people with resources to prepare for jobs, and get ahead.

Grow with Google and Boys & Girls Clubs of America are bringing training to teens through Applied Digital Skills.
Categories: Technology

How an underdog Fresno startup finds local talentHow an underdog Fresno startup finds local talent

GoogleBlog - Tue, 10/08/2019 - 11:00

One thing about building a business that no one ever tells you: your company’s culture is set in stone by the time you hire your tenth employee. Who you hire largely determines your ability to succeed; a recent study found 65 percent of startups fail due to people-related reasons. No pressure, right? 

We're Bitwise Industries, a Central California startup driving economic growth despite being far from the streets of Los Angeles and the high-tech workspaces of the Bay Area. Bitwise taps into the “human potential” of our hometown of Fresno in three key ways: teaching digital skills at our coding school, renovating buildings to provide physical spaces for more than 200 startups and hiring local tech talent at our custom software development firm. 

After five years and more than 125 hires, we have a 90 percent retention rate and a team that is as diverse as Fresno itself: 40 percent women, 50 percent people of color and 20 percent first-generation Americans. We’ve trained more than 4000 local people to code and created more than 1000 jobs, yet the question we get asked most during this period of very fast growth is: "How do you find talent to hire?"

We built our company largely by using free tools (like Google Analytics), by borrowing resources (transforming abandoned buildings into coworking spaces) and by tapping into a nontraditional talent pool (30 percent of the population of Fresno lives below the poverty level). To say we are underdogs is an understatement. So getting things like hiring right doesn’t just fit nicely on a bumper sticker; it’s crucial to the survival of our business. 

If you’re an underdog like us, here’s my advice for how to find great talent in unexpected places.

Take a little extra time. 

The world would have you believe that all the most talented people are already locked up in great jobs. This is categorically false. The more people we teach, the more talent grows. When you look for nontraditional people from nontraditional places and you take an honest bet on them, the idea of any “talent war” goes away.

Have their back, and make sure they know it. 

Your employees have to know you have their backs. Most of them could work anywhere, and they choose to work for you, so treat that like the gift it is. Do that right, and they’ll have your back, too.

When you hire, make sure you’d be willing to stand up for this person in a fight. At the end of a grueling and disappointing period of time, or when mistakes get made, you have to be willing to go to bat for your people. 

Understand that diversity is great for business. Inclusion isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s also a smart business move. The wide-ranging points of view that employees of diverse backgrounds contribute allows a business to attack complex, fast-moving problems from a variety of angles. Cultivate a team that’s up for the challenge.Partner up.

While founders wear many hats, you simply can’t do everything yourself. Collaborate with like-minded people and organizations to amplify the efforts—like training diverse talent—that really matter to you and reach the people you may want to hire. 

Bitwise Industries is excited to work with Google to create even more opportunities in and beyond Central California. We’re partnering with Grow with Google to provide workshops, resources and trainings related to online marketing, data science, design and more. We’re also teaming up with Google for Startups to offer scholarships for our new six-month founders’ development program, intended to help aspiring entrepreneurs of all backgrounds create product-driven, revenue-generating companies. It’s great to know that Google is as invested in us as founders, like we at Bitwise are invested in the people of “underdog” cities like Fresno. Great talent can—and does—come from anywhere.

The founder of Bitwise Industries shares heartfelt hiring advice for fellow founders—including how she finds talent in unexpected places.
Categories: Technology

Move your music between rooms with stream transferMove your music between rooms with stream transfer

GoogleBlog - Tue, 10/08/2019 - 11:00

Since 2013, we’ve been working to make it easier for people to play music and watch their favorite shows and videos at home.  It started when we first launched Chromecast, which lets people get content from their phones to their TVs through a simple dongle. It continued with Google Home in 2016, which let people stream music effortlessly with a simple command — “OK Google, play music.” And with the newest member of our family, Nest Hub Max, users now have the ultimate smart display for streaming their favorite shows and videos.

Now that millions of users have multiple TVs, smart speakers and smart displays (some in every room!) we wanted to make it easy for people to control their media as they moved from room to room.

Stream transfer is a new feature that lets you easily move music, videos, podcasts and more between compatible devices in your home using your voice, the Google Home app or the touchscreen on your Nest smart display.

Here’s how you can give it a try: 

  • Move your music with the Google Assistant: Start playing music on the Google Home Mini in your kitchen, and keep the vibe going in the living room. Just say, “Hey Google, move the music to the living room speaker.”
  • Control your entertainment with the Google Home app: Tap the cast button to see all the devices in your home, then choose which device or group you’d like to move your podcast or music to. 
  • Move YouTube videos between your Nest smart display and Chromecast-enabled TV: Browse for your favorite YouTube videos on Nest Hub Max, and tap the cast control on the screen to move it to your Chromecast-connected TV. Or, say “Hey Google, play it on living room TV.”
  • Fill your home with music: If you have more than one Google Home and Nest smart speaker or display, you can set up a speaker group in the Home App. Transfer music from a single speaker to the speaker group to fill your whole home with music. 

Stream transfer is compatible with your favorite audio apps, including YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, and more. For video, you can enjoy the millions of videos available on YouTube. Stream transfer starts rolling out across all Chromecasts and Google Home and Nest smart speakers and displays today. 

Move your music with you throughout your house using Chromecast, Nest smart speakers and smart displays.
Categories: Technology

Learn to code with Grasshopper, now on desktopLearn to code with Grasshopper, now on desktop

GoogleBlog - Tue, 10/08/2019 - 10:00

We created Grasshopper to increase access to coding education and to help prepare people for career opportunities in tech. As part of our Grow with Google initiative to create economic opportunity for everyone, today we’re announcing that Grasshopper is now available on desktop, with additional courses to help you build new coding skills. 

Learn in a whole new way

Millions of people have used their phones to access Grasshopper's coding lessons from wherever they're located. To support people who prefer to learn on larger screens, starting today, the same Grasshopper beginner-centered learning environment will be accessible on desktop or laptop computers.

We’ve also introduced two new classes specifically designed for your laptop or desktop: Using a Code Editor and Intro to Webpages.

Our Intro to Webpages course includes a new project-based curriculum focused on building and designing a website from the ground up. We teach beginner coders the Javascript fundamentals necessary to build a website, as well as new HTML and CSS-based coursework. After just four courses, beginner coders will understand how to build a simple webpage.

Follow your own path

Since the launch of our app in April 2018, more than two million people have used Grasshopper to grow their coding skills. Grasshopper students include stay-at-home parents, construction workers and factory machinists–people who don’t necessarily have programming experience, but who are interested in exploring coding as a career option. 

For instance, Sheila Eichenberger was looking for her next move when she found Grasshopper. As a mother who had stepped away from a successful career to raise her kids, she was ready to return to the workplace. But, she wanted to try something new. So Sheila started using Grasshopper to explore coding as a career path. 

Now Sheila’s taking the next steps in her journey towards becoming a developer. “Completing the Grasshopper curriculum gave me the confidence to move forward with the pursuit of a coding career," she says.

As we celebrate Ada Lovelace Day and the achievements of women in science, technology and engineering, we will continue working to help everyone learn to code and to pursue their career dreams. If you’re ready to start learning to code, Grasshopper is available on Android, iOS, and on desktop in English.

Grasshopper is launching a desktop version of its free learn-to-code app to further help adult learners pursue coding careers.
Categories: Technology

A privacy-safe approach to managing ad frequencyA privacy-safe approach to managing ad frequencyProduct Manager, Ads Privacy

GoogleBlog - Tue, 10/08/2019 - 09:00

At Google, we believe it's possible to improve user privacy while preserving access to the ad-supported web. Back in August, we shared an update on the progress we’re making toward this vision. Chrome put forward a series of proposals inviting the web standards community to start a discussion on how to advance user privacy while meeting the needs of publishers and advertisers. We also shared an initial proposal for practices that we believe would give people more visibility into and control over the data used for advertising.

Since then, we’ve engaged with product and engineering experts from across the digital ads ecosystem—including at the IAB Tech Lab’s Innovation Day on Data Responsibility, heard from brand and agency leaders during Advertising Week in New York, and met with our publishing and ad technology partners at the Google Ad Manager Partner Summit. This week, we’ll be holding discussions with our advertising and publishing partners in Europe at a series of events in London.

In all of these forums, the conversations have centered on how to reshape marketing and measurement solutions to be more privacy-forward for users, while ensuring they remain effective for the publishers and marketers that fund and sustain access to ad-supported content on the web.

One example is how advertisers manage the number of times someone sees an ad, a critical step to delivering a better user experience. When third-party cookies are blocked or restricted, advertisers lose the ability to limit the number of times someone sees their ads. This means that users may be bothered with the same ad repeatedly, advertisers may waste spend or decide to exclude certain media altogether, and publishers may earn less revenue as a result.

Using machine learning to manage ad frequency while respecting user privacy

That’s why, in the coming weeks, we’ll be rolling out a feature in Display & Video 360 that uses machine learning to help advertisers manage ad frequency in a way that respects user privacy when third-party cookies are missing. And in the future, we plan to bring this capability to our display offerings in Google Ads.

Using traffic patterns where a third-party cookie is available, and analyzing them at an aggregated level across Google Ad Manager publishers, we can create models to predict traffic patterns when a third-party cookie isn’t present. This allows us to estimate how likely it is for users to visit different publishers who are serving the same ads through Google Ad Manager. Then, when there is no third-party cookie present, we’re able to optimize how often those ads should be shown to users.

Since we aggregate all user data before applying our machine learning models, no user-level information is shared across websites. Instead, this feature relies on a publisher’s first-party data to inform the ad experience for its own site visitors. It’s an approach to managing ad frequency that’s more privacy safe than workarounds such as fingerprinting, which rely on user-level signals like IP address, because it respects a user’s choice to opt out of third-party tracking.

This is a step in the right direction as we work across Google to raise the bar for how our products deliver better user experiences while also respecting user privacy. And this approach to ad frequency management can be a model for how the use case might one day be solved industry wide at the browser level. It’s consistent with Chrome’s explorations of new technology that would advance user privacy, while ensuring that publishers and advertisers can continue to sustain access to content on the open web.

As we continue engaging with users and key industry stakeholder groups, we look forward to sharing more of what we learn. Stay tuned for more updates on our blogs.

We believe it's possible to improve user privacy while preserving access to the ad-supported web. Back in August, we shared an update on the progress we’re making toward this vision.
Categories: Technology

Creepy clowns and cute couples: 2019's top Halloween costumesCreepy clowns and cute couples: 2019's top Halloween costumes

GoogleBlog - Tue, 10/08/2019 - 04:00

It’s October, which means it’s officially the spookiest time of the year. We don’t want to wait until the 31st to start having some fun, so we’re back with this year’s Frightgeist, Google Trends’ collection of Halloween’s most-searched costumes. 

People looking to (trick or) treat themselves to the perfect Halloween look started the costume hunt last month. Here’s what people in the United States were searching for in September 2019.

Most-searched Halloween costumes in September 2019

Fortnite returned as one of the most searched Halloween costumes, but “IT” is scaring ITs way up to the top of the most searched Halloween costumes in the U.S. last month. Several Halloween favorites also return to the most searched list, like Spider-Man, clowns and unicorns. Check out the rest of your top 10.

  1. IT

  2. Witch

  3. Spider-Man

  4. Dinosaur

  5. Descendants

  6. Clown 

  7. Fortnite

  8. Chucky

  9. 1980s

  10. Unicorn

Halloween costume searches in the U.S. 

While many states are searching for Halloween go-tos like witches or dinosaurs, people in Casper, Wyoming, are stepping into Wonderland with “The Mad Hatter” attire and those in Idaho are testing out tails with mermaid costumes. Explore the costume map on Frightgeist to find out what other costumes are being searched for in your state.

Most searched costumes for couples 

Couples that costume together, stay together. And it looks like they are keeping things classic with “couple costume” searches like Bonnie and Clyde and Adam and Eve. Disney favorite, Lilo and Stitch, also top the most searched couples costumes last month.  

  1. Lilo and Stitch

  2. Bonnie and Clyde

  3. Cosmo and Wanda

  4. Adam and Eve

  5. Cheech and Chong

  6. Mario and Luigi

  7. Chucky and Tiffany

  8. Sonny and Cher

  9. Rick and Morty

  10. Phineas and Ferb

Most-searched “good-for-groups” costume searches 

Grab your group, dress up as your favorite characters and take first prize at your local costume contest. The Descendants' group of teens take the award for most-searched “good for groups” award, but the 1980s are making a comeback and may be the perfect fit for your groovy group.

If you’re a “Toy Story” fan looking to step out in a group or family costume, the biggest breakout costume search of this year is Forky. “Bo Peep costume” is also up by 300 percent.

  1. Descendants

  2. Fortnite

  3. Stranger Things

  4. 1980s

  5. Toy Story

  6. Power Rangers

  7. Star Wars

  8. The Wizard of Oz

  9. Minecraft

  10. The Powerpuff Girls

Most-searched pet costumes 

Dogs really are a ghoul’s best friend! People across the U.S. have been searching for the paw-fect costume for their furry friends. We can expect to see some strangely adorable pets this Halloween, with the “Stranger Things” monster Demogorgon making the most searched dog costume list. And with “Demogorgon costume” searches overall up 300 percent this year, expect to see some truly terrifying (and cute) costumes on Halloween night.

  1. Chucky dog costume

  2. Ewok dog costume

  3. Spider dog costume

  4. Pennywise dog costume

  5. Dinosaur dog costume

  6. UPS dog costume

  7. Demogorgon dog costume

  8. Shark dog costume

  9. Batman dog costume

  10. Ghost dog costume

Currently trending costumes for babies

We took a look at currently trending “baby costumes” from the past month and they are way too cute to spook, even if they are dressed up as Pennywise! For your baby with a sweet side, there are plenty of delicious treats, like concha and Starbucks, also trending. 

  1. Banana

  2. Dalmatian

  3. Grinch

  4. Pennywise

  5. Stay Puft

  6. Starbucks

  7. Concha

  8. Pumpkin

  9. Deer

  10. Olaf

Halloween costumes may be a little (candy) corny, but there is no shortage of scary good ideas on our most searched lists. To find even more costume inspiration, take a look behind the mask with Frightgeist. Witching you a very haunted Halloween!

Google Trends’ Frightgeist 2019 is back with Halloween’s most searched costumes in the U.S.
Categories: Technology

How classroom tech brings accessibility with dignityHow classroom tech brings accessibility with dignity

GoogleBlog - Mon, 10/07/2019 - 12:00

For Lisa Berghoff, Director of Instructional Technology at Highland Park High School in Highland Park, Illinois, one of her big assistive technology “aha” moments came while working with a student with autism. The student, often disruptive in class because she wanted immediate answers to questions, needed a teaching aide at her side—an accommodation that set her apart from her peers. “There’s nothing less cool than having an adult next to you in a high school class,” Berghoff says. 

Berghoff decided to open up a Google Doc on the student’s Chromebook, with the teaching aide accessing the same Doc on her own Chromebook from across the room and responding to the student’s questions in real time. “That document, with all the questions and answers captured by the student, actually became a resource for other students—it was a huge win for everyone,” Berghoff says. “That’s something we couldn't have done years ago.” 

In Berghoff’s 25 years in education, she’s seen the many changes that technology has brought to every student—but particularly those with learning challenges. In honor of Disability Awareness Month, we asked Berghoff about the impact of assistive technology and accessibility up close. Just getting started with G Suite and Chromebooks, and want to learn more about accessibility? Head to to learn more. 

How’d you get started in special education?

I did my undergrad degree in psychology with grand plans to be a psychologist, but when I applied to some Ph.D programs they told me to get some experience in the real world. My first job was working at a crisis shelter for teenage girls. Because of my work with the girls who struggled so much to learn, I took some courses in special education—and realized that was where I wanted to be.

How’d you make the switch from special education to instructional technology?

I’d spent the last several years working with high school students with an array of significant disabilities. I would try anything if I thought it could help my kids learn, so the technology office started throwing all the tech my way—everything from Chromebooks to iPads to Promethean boards—because they knew I’d give it all an honest try. 

I saw that when used with integrity, technology could really be a game changer in helping kids learn. I distinctly recall a reading lesson where I recorded myself reading and shared a YouTube link, so students could pause and replay the video at their own pace.

Timing was on my side, and when the instructional technology director position opened up at Highland Park, the thought of having a wider influence appealed to me. At the time, I was fascinated by all kinds of kids with learning challenges—not just the students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). No matter what challenges kids have, many often need some kind of special support and could benefit from the right technology. 

So you’re seeing the value of the “accessibility for all” movement up close.

I do a lot of training in universal design, which is about making everything more accessible. When you design things for people at the edges, everyone benefits—like how ramps help people in wheelchairs, but if you’re pushing a baby stroller, you’ll benefit too. 

What’s changed in special education and EdTech over your time in the field?

It’s the attitude of the kids, and that’s because of the better tools we have. In the past we had to give struggling students big, bulky laptops with accessibility tools—and they hated them, because the laptops made the students look different than everyone else. Now laptops like Chromebooks are so ubiquitous; everyone has one. I love that students with disabilities can access the tools they need in a way that gives them dignity, and that doesn’t separate them from the rest of the class. Having a device in each student's hand has completely changed teaching and learning.

What’s the next new thing in assistive technology?

I think there’s a lot coming with augmented reality and virtual reality, especially for students with physical disabilities who don’t have access to the wider world. There’s also the possibility to use technology for global connections. We see kids who have a rare disease or disorder, and feel like they’re the only ones out there. If they can connect to other students just like them out in the world, it makes a big difference for them psychologically. 

I have a student who doesn’t speak, and hasn’t physically been to school for a long time. Even simply using Gmail helps her make friends at school—and her friends feel like they are her ally. Her lack of speech is no longer a barrier.

In honor of Disability Awareness Month, we talked with Lisa Berghoff, veteran Special Education teacher, about how technology has impacted and improved the lives of students she’s worked with.
Categories: Technology

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