Author Archives: Jennifer Shen

You’re cordially invited to use my hybrid holiday party tips

Eight cousins. Six aunts and uncles. A couple of toddlers (both mine). Two (adorable) felines. Some of us will be together, while others will be staying home for the holidays this year.

Sound familiar? Thankfully, many of us have learned a thing or two about “hybrid” gatherings over the past two years. I figured if it could work for…well, work, why not for the holidays?

I’ll be using Google tools to help me host with ease no matter where my friends and family are this year, and I’ve come up with a list of tips so you can, too.

Ready to soirée? Follow these four steps to fête across technical devices and state lines.

Step 1: Draft up a pun-heavy holiday invitation in Gmail. Tailor it for your party and include a Google Calendar invite and link to the Google Meet in the invite. And if you want to keep things extra organized as responses come in, you can make a group and label it “Holiday Party 2021.” Pro tip: Set up an automated reminder to go out to your guests 24 hours before the party.

Step 2: Ahead of party time, send a note to guests attending via Google Meet about the itinerary and let them know what they’ll need to participate. For instance, if you’re hosting a cookie-making party, send the recipe ahead of time. Or if you’re going to vote on ugly sweaters, let them know about Meet’s hand raise feature and polling features so they can be sure to get their vote in (available with Google Workspace Individual).

Step 3: Make everyone feel like they’re together. Whether you host the Google Meet call from your laptop, Pixel or Google Nest Hub Max, you can cast the party to your TV using Chromecast so everyone who’s there IRL can get a good view. Ahead of party time, scope out a good spot for the device that’s hosting the meeting so those on the other end of the call can see and hear everyone. (And so your virtual guests feel present, include the instructions for casting a call to a TV in the note you send before the big day, too.)

Animated GIF showing a Google Meet call with the cursor selecting the captions option and turning it on. Then, the words "Yep, I took it last night. It all seemed pretty clear but I did have one or two questions." Then the cursor selects to translate this into Spanish, which the screen does.

Adding captions to your hybrid get-together is an inclusive, and easy, step.

Step 4: Welcome your guests and make room for all. With Google Workspace Individual, you can show off the hand raise feature so everyone gets a turn to tell a story or joke, enable live captions so all guests can follow the conversation flow easily, and cut out background sounds (like noisy pets!) to reduce distractions. Kindly point out where the mute button is at the start of the party, too. Distracted by the mirror image of yourself on the video call screen? Turn it off with a few clicks! Use the Layout feature so everyone is on the screen at once — no matter where they are.

Step 5: Make it fun! Tap your much cooler niece to create a party playlist on YouTube, and then screen share the tab open to your YouTube playlist for the party. (You can let your guests know they can unpin the shared tile so it doesn’t take up the whole screen.) You and your guests can also use a virtual background (you could even upload a festive backdrop like your favorite photo memories!) You can use Google Jamboard — a free-to-use, virtual whiteboard —and play an IRL-meets-online edition of Pictionary.

Step 6: Give thanks. Send a thank you email after the party wraps. If you have a Google Workspace Individual account, you can record the party for your loved ones who couldn't attend live — just make sure to let attendees know ahead of time.

Hope you enjoyed this crash course in hybrid holiday hosting.

New safety and engagement features in Google Meet

Over the past year, video conferencing became an essential tool for teaching, learning and staying connected. As part of our commitment to building products and programs to expand learning for everyone, we're bringing new features to Meet to help educators keep virtual classes secure and students engaged. 

Helping teachers keep virtual classes safe 

Our first priority with Google Meet is to make sure meetings are safe and secure. Last year we launched a number of tools to help with this, including security controls so only intended participants are let into meetings and advanced safety locks to block anonymous users and let teachers control who can chat and present within a meeting. In the coming months, we’ll be adding to that list.

Teachers will soon have the option to end meetings for everyone on the call, preventing students from staying on after the teacher has left — including in breakout rooms. 

End meeting for all in Google Meet

Getting everyone’s attention when class is deep in discussion can be tough, so we're also giving teachers an easy way to mute all participants at once. Rolling out over the next few weeks, “mute all” will help educators keep class on track. And since sometimes it's important to teach without interruption, launching in the coming months, meeting hosts will be able to control when students can unmute themselves.

Gif of muting all in Google Meet

In the coming months, educators using tablets or mobile phones to teach will also have access to key moderation controls, like who can join their meetings or use the chat or share their screen, directly from their iOS or Android devices. 

Moderator controls on mobile with Google Meet

For many teachers, Google Classroom is an essential tool for managing class. Later this year, Classroom and Meet will work together even better, so every meeting created from Classroom is even safer by default. When meetings are generated from Classroom, students won’t be able to join before the teacher. Meet will also know who’s on the Classroom roster, so only students and teachers in the class will be able to join. And every teacher in Classroom will be a meeting host by default, so if there are multiple teachers, they’ll be able to share the load of managing the class. And later this year, meetings that aren’t started from Classroom will also support multiple hosts, making it easier to partner with others helping facilitate the class.

Classroom integrations with Google Meet

Greater visibility and control for admins 

In the coming months, we’ll be launching new settings in the Admin console so school leaders can set policies for who can join their school’s video calls, and whether people from their school can join video calls from other schools. This will make it easier to facilitate things like student-to-student connections across districts, professional development opportunities for educators and external speakers visiting a class. 

Admin controls in Google Meet

The Google Meet audit log is also now available in the Admin console. In the coming months, we’ll be adding more information to these logs — like an external participant's email address — so admins can better understand how people are using Meet at their school. For educators with  Education Standard or Education Plus licenses, we’re also making improvements to the investigation tool. Admins can now access Meet logs in the investigation tool, so they can identify, triage and take action on security and privacy issues. And later this year, admins will be able to end any meeting within their school from the investigation tool as well. 

Engagement and inclusivity in Meet

Over the past six months, we've launched features like breakout rooms, hand raising, digital whiteboards and customized backgrounds. Later this year, students will be able to more easily engage and express themselves with emoji reactions in Meet. They’ll be able to pick emoji skin tones to best represent them, and react in class in a lightweight, non-disruptive way. Teachers and admins will have full control over when reactions can be used.

Emoji reactions in Google Meet

Because unreliable internet connections can make remote teaching and learning more challenging, we're also improving Meet to work better if you have low bandwidth. Rolling out in the coming months, this can help keep class on track when internet connections are weaker. 

We’ve also made significant improvements to the performance of Meet on Chromebooks. These include audio, video and reliability optimizations, better performance while multitasking and more. 

Gif of Google Meet on a Chromebook

We’re also making additional improvements for educators with Teaching and Learning Upgrade or Education Plus licenses. Rolling out over the next few months, educators will be able to set up breakout rooms ahead of time in Google Calendar. This will make it easier for teachers to prepare for differentiated learning, be thoughtful about group dynamics and avoid losing valuable time setting up breakout rooms during class. 

Breakout rooms in Google Meet

And to help students who weren’t able to attend class stay up to date, later this year educators will be able to receive meeting transcripts. They’ll be able to easily share transcripts with students, review what was discussed during class or maintain a record for future reference. 

Meeting transcripts in Google Meet

Whether by expanding professional development opportunities, livestreaming events or facilitating live-translated parent-teacher conferences, Meet can help your community stay connected. And while many recent improvements to Meet are focused on making distance learning possible, we're also dedicated to making it the best tool for school communities — now, and into the future.