Category Archives: Official Google Blog

Insights from Googlers into our topics, technology, and the Google culture

The shift to distance learning in Asia Pacific

When I was growing up in Serbia, there was only one small school in my village, and we often shared a classroom with the grade above us. The teacher would focus on my classmates and me for a couple of minutes, before turning his attention to the older students on the other side of the room. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been—but somehow, he made it work, kept our classes fun and engaging, and gave us all the best possible education.


I’ve thought about that experience a lot over the past few months, seeing how teachers and students around the world have struggled to keep learning going during the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Technology has made it easier to teach online—but not all communities have the same access to digital tools, or the same ability to use them. It’s one of the main reasons we launched Google.org’s $10 million Distance Learning Fund: an initiative to help educators and students get the resources they need, especially in underserved communities. 


In Asia Pacific, we’ve made a $1 million grant to INCO, a nonprofit that’s supporting local education organizations in Indonesia, Hong Kong, China and the Philippines. I recently spoke to some of the teachers and students these organizations have helped as they adapt to a new way of learning.  

Arnold Chan, politics teacher at Maximo Estrella Senior High School, Philippines 

I've been a public school teacher for four years now, and I've always found joy in teaching, especially when I interact with my students in class. When the pandemic hit the Philippines and classes migrated online, I was worried about whether I could efficiently and effectively deliver quality education remotely. I found myself becoming a student again, learning how to use online tools and design engaging learning materials through the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication. Since attending a few training sessions, I'm now confident that I can provide the same quality of education online as I could in face-to-face classes.

Arnold Chan

Asih Nurani, English teacher at Regina Pacis Bogor Junior High School, Indonesia

I may have been a teacher for the last nine years, but I never once imagined running an online class. I knew I had to find new ways to engage my students. I also felt responsible for helping other teachers, especially the senior ones who weren't familiar with distance teaching tools. Thanks to the support and materials from INCO’s partner, Semua Murid Semua Guru, I was able to team up with some of my colleagues to develop additional training materials and teaching techniques to help other teachers cope with this transition!

Asih Nurani

Ka Ka (12 years old), student in Hong Kong 

During the class suspension period, I was really affected by the prolonged schooling disruption and I fell behind in English and Mathematics. Through the Changing Young Lives Foundation (CYLF)'s digital learning platform, I was able to catch up with classes I missed since March and received extra learning opportunities for different subjects by attending online classes daily. I am now feeling more confident about entering my secondary schooling in the new school year, and looking forward to joining more online tutorial classes!

Ka Ka

Mirah (18 years old), student in Kintamani-Bali, Indonesia 

Distance learning was new to me, and I was also worried I could not study online as it required me to buy an internet package regularly, which my parents are unable to afford. But I am grateful to have received support from Putera Sampoerna Foundation-School Development Outreach, which covered my internet costs and provided me with my very own laptop. When I started attending my online classes, I realized how fun it was! We are currently doing project-based learning online, which allows us to do hands-on prototyping with our projects and collaborate with our classmates.

Mirah

I’m humbled and inspired by these educators and students—their adaptability, their positive attitude, and their determination to keep teaching and learning no matter what. I’m looking forward to continuing Google.org’s support of nonprofits like INCO, as they and their partners make learning more accessible in communities throughout Asia Pacific.  

Why is the sky orange? How Google gave people the right info

On the morning of September 10, millions of people in Northern California woke up to an orange sky after wildfire smoke spread like a thick layer across the West Coast. It persisted for days, and it was the first time lots of people had ever seen something like this. 

To understand what was happening, many people turned to Search. According to Google Trends, searches for “why is the sky orange” hit an all-time high this month in the United States. As you can see in the graph below, this wasn't a totally new query. There are many pages on the web with general scientific explanations of what can cause the sky to turn orange. But people wanted to know why, in that moment, where they were, the sky was tangerine tinted.

Google Trends Data.png

Search interest for “why is the sky orange” since 2004, US (Google Trends)


So how does Google respond to a query spike like this? Well,language understanding is at the core of Search, but it’s not just about the words. Critical context, like time and place, also helps us understand what you’re really looking for. This is particularly true for featured snippets, a feature in Search that highlights pages that our systems determine are likely a great match for your search. We’ve made improvements to better understand when fresh or local information -- or both -- is key to delivering relevant results to your search. 

In the case of the orange sky phenomenon, for people in Northern California, the time and location was really important to understanding what these searches were looking for. Our freshness indicators identified a rush of new content was being produced on this topic that was both locally relevant and different from the more evergreen content that existed. This signaled to our systems to ignore most of the specifics that they previously understood about the topic of “orange sky”--like the relation to a sunset--but to retain broad associations like “air” and “ocean” that were still relevant. In a matter of minutes, our systems learned this new pattern and provided fresh featured snippet results for people looking for this locally relevant information in the Bay Area.
Why is the sky orange.png

Put simply, instead of surfacing general information on what causes a sunset, when people searched for “why is the sky orange” during this time period, our systems automatically pulled in current, location-based information to help people find the timely results they were searching for. 

Over the course of the week, we saw even more examples of these systems at work. As a residual effect of the wildfires, New York City and Massachusetts started experiencing a hazy sky. But that wasn’t the case in all states. So for a query like “why is it hazy?” local context was similarly important for providing a relevant result.

NYC Search Results.png

For this query, people in New York found an explanation of how the wildfire smoke was caught in a jet stream, which caused the haze to move east. People in Boston would have found a similar feature snippet, but specific to the conditions in that city. And those in Alaska, who were not impacted, would not see these same results. 

These are just two of billions of queries we get each day, and as new searches arise and information in the world changes, we’ll continue to provide fresh, relevant results in these moments.

Stay connected with Google Meet

For many of us, it’s difficult to see each other in person these days. Video is now playing a crucial role in helping us connect—whether it’s across time zones or just across the street. For me, it’s provided a space to collaborate with my team, and a way for friends and family from around the world to see my newborn daughter Sophia smile for the first time. It doesn’t matter what kind of meeting you are having: We believe that people should be able to use the best possible services to connect, anytime and anywhere. 

That’s why we made Google Meet, our premium video conferencing product, free for everyone back in April. 

When we re-engineered the service we built for secure business meetings and made it available to all, we also made calls unlimited (well, the limit is really 24 hours, but I’ve yet to hit the limit) through September 30, so that people could enjoy the same benefits as our business users with their existing Google Account. From book clubs, band practices and dance parties–millions of you have turned to Meet to connect safely over video.  

As we look ahead to a holiday season with less travel and important milestones like family reunions, PTA meetings and weddings hosted over video, we want to continue helping those who rely on Meet to stay in touch over the coming months. As a sign of our commitment, today we’re continuing unlimited Meet calls (up to 24 hours) in the free version through March 31, 2021 for Gmail accounts. 

We’ve also added a ton of experiences to Meet to make connecting more fun and more productive, too. You can now see your family on the big screen when you cast your calls to your TV, or join hands-free on your Nest Hub Max. Jump on the call without worrying about the holiday wrapping paper mess behind you with background blur, or take trivia night to the next level by seeing  49 of your competitors (and yourself) at the same time. You can even keep score using our collaborative digital whiteboard.

Trivia night on Meet

Bring the digital whiteboarding experience to your next call.

We hope these updates will help you do more at home, at work and everywhere you choose. If you haven’t tried Meet yet, you can access it right from Gmail, get the app or head to meet.google.com from your browser to start a call. 

How we’re giving everyone, everywhere an address

We’ve gone behind the scenes to look at how we map the world, use imagery to capture the meaningful details around us, and all the ways contributed content and AI make Google Maps a more helpful tool—from planning your trip to deciding where to go.

Today, we’ll dive into how we are working to make sure everyone in the world has access to an address using our free, open-source digital address-making system called Plus Codes.

Addresses help us find people and places, and they help people and things find us. An address is also necessary to secure official documents and do things like open a bank account. However, several billion people either don’t have an address at all or they have one that doesn’t accurately identify the location of their home or business. Plus Codes offer a simple but powerful solution. Already, Google Maps provides millions of directions each month to people looking up a place with a Plus Code and this volume is rapidly growing.

Plus Codes help ensure that everyone, everywhere can exist on a digital map, with digital addresses, no matter where they live.

So what are Plus Codes? 

Plus Codes use latitude and longitude to produce a short, easy-to-share digital address that can represent any location on the planet. For example, the Plus Code “W2GJ+JQ, Johannesburg” represents the main entrance to the Google office in Johannesburg, South Africa. Put this code into Google Maps or Google Search and you’ll be brought right to our front door in Johannesburg.

Google's office Plus Codes address in Johannesburg

The Plus Code address for Google's Johannesburg office is W2GJ+JQ, Johannesburg

Helping people get on the map

A Plus Code can easily be used where no addresses, street names or even streets exist today.  Someone in an area without addresses no longer needs to give out complicated instructions to find a home or workplace—like “drive to the community center, turn left and look for the blue house with the red roof.”  Now, they can simply share a short Plus Code and it immediately works.

Businesses and services that rely on navigating to peoples’ homes can simply enter the Plus Code into Google Maps and get directions instantly. Emergency services and humanitarian groups can more easily find people who need aid, locate people for vaccine programs and easily track health programs all with Plus Codes. 


Generating Plus Codes

In the absence of street names and accurate addresses, how are Plus Codes created? 

First, we divide the world along latitude and longitude lines to form a simple grid. The grid is labelled along the X and Y axis using a specific set of 20 alphanumeric characters  {2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,C,F,G,H,J,M,P,Q,R,V,W,X}. You’ll never see a vowel or characters like “1”, “L” and “l” in a Plus Code as we want to avoid confusion over the characters when writing them down and prevent any accidental word formations. And by using a carefully selected set of alphanumeric characters, Plus Codes can be used by anyone no matter what language you speak.

Each grid cell on the digital globe is then further divided, the X and Y-axes again labelled with the 20 characters above and the process repeated to build out a full Plus Code. In the case of the Google Johannesburg office this would result in a full Plus Code of “5G5CW2GJ+JQ”. 

Since a full Plus Code might not be easy to recall, you can conveniently drop the first four characters of the code if you know the area you are in,  just as we drop area codes on telephone numbers when already in the area. In this case, if I know I am in Johannesburg the Plus Code for the Google office can be shortened to “W2GJ+JQ, Johannesburg.”

Depending on the number of characters included in the code after the ‘+’ sign, the code can be even more specific. For example a Plus Code with two characters after the ‘+’ sign represents an area of approximately 13m x 13m, about the size of a half a basketball court. Adding an additional character reduces this size to approximately 3m x 3m, providing an exact address for a sidewalk vendor who may not even have a storefront. 

And this might go without saying, but Plus Codes are named after the ‘+’ sign that is one of their key characteristics. This sign is used to help people and our digital applications recognize the code as a Plus Code. 

Plus Codes in Sao Paolo, Brazil

Plus Codes in Sao Paolo, Brazil

Community addressing

Providing conventional (non-digital) addresses to communities at scale can be complicated and expensive for local and national governments, often taking years to set up and become useful. With Plus Codes, a village, town, city or even country can quickly and efficiently set up an addressing system. And unlike conventional addressing projects, once a Plus Code address is created it is immediately usable on platforms such as Google Maps and anywhere else that recognizes Plus Codes both online and offline. This means that new services (both digital and non-digital) are more readily available to traditionally underserved communities that lack proper addresses. 

The power of Plus Code addresses

While there are other digital address-making solutions, they’re often proprietary or must be commercially licensed, which can mean unnecessary costs, complications and longer term uncertainty for businesses and governments. These solutions also have challenges with universal recognition and adoption, as they are generally not open source or freely available.  

Here’s a taste of the positive impact we’ve seen Plus Codes deliver.


We recently introduced a refreshed Plus Codes icon to make it more recognizable. If you’d like to learn more about Plus Codes, how to use them and how they’re being used, visit maps.google.com/pluscodes.

Web Creator Spotlight | Stuart Schuffman

Stuart Schuffman, a.k.a. Broke-Ass Stuart, is a globetrotting superblogger who has built his brand around the idea that you don’t actually need tons of money to enjoy yourself. Since the early 2000s he’s made it his mission to uncover hidden gems in his hometown of San Francisco and in cities like New York, San Diego, Detroit, Austin, and all over Europe as a longtime stringer for the backpacker’s bible, “Lonely Planet.” 

Over the years Stuart has published a handful of top-selling urban adventure guides dedicated to “busboys, poets, social workers, students, artists, musicians, magicians, mathematicians, maniacs, yodelers, and everyone else out there who wants to enjoy life not as a rich person, but as a real person.”

But to call Stuart a travel writer is to sell him short. He’s a web creator—a TV show host, marketer, social media manager, editor, writer, and publisher all wrapped into one. 

Launched in 2009, his website Brokeassstuart.com has grown from a local’s guide to metropolitan hotspots into a cultural force with an editorial staff covering politics, news, music, arts, and culture in the Bay Area and beyond. Even more impressive is the fact that Stuart still serves as the “Editor In Cheap” of his website while simultaneously writing and producing comedy shorts, live shows, and independent series that follow up where his show “Young, Broke, and Beautiful,” which aired on IFC in the early 2010s, left off.

“Life is an art project for me,” he says. But it’s also a job. And that’s where things get interesting.

We talked with Stuart to hear how he learned to navigate the ever-evolving landscape web creators face today.

So tell us ... what makes a web creator? What does your average day look like, etc?

It’s anyone dumb enough to plug away, day in and day out, over something they love and that they want to share with other people. I say “dumb” because it’s a terrible way to make a living, but if that’s not your main concern, it’s incredibly fulfilling on pretty much all other levels. 

As for my average day: things have been really topsy-turvy since COVID hit. Over 50 percent of our income dried up overnight so lately it’s been a lot of trying to figure out creative ways to fund this thing. I mean, I guess that’s how I spent much of my time before but, now it’s even more dire. 

Otherwise though, a typical day sees me: editing and publishing other people’s work, writing articles, doing social media for the content we create, doing sales, marketing, and business development, and answering a titanic amount of email. The thing about running your own independent media company is that my partner and I have to do about 30 different jobs. But at least I don't have some jerk boss I gotta deal with so it’s mostly worth it. 

Can you tell us a bit about your schedule? How do you get into the flow? What inspires you on a day to day basis and gets your creative energy flowing?

I give myself like an hour or so in the morning to watch Netflix while I slowly wake up. That way I’m ready to work without feeling rushed when I get down to it. As for inspiration, I’m always floored and inspired by the awesome content being created by our writers and editors. They make me so proud that I get to publish their voices. In fact, that’s one of the things I like best about what I do, I get to amplify voices that don’t always get heard.

Otherwise though, I get most excited when I’m creating new things. Life is an art project for me. Just in the past five years or so, I created and hosted seven episodes of a live late night show, put out a web series, won “best local website” a couple times, put out a zine, and ran for Mayor of SF. I’m working on some cool new projects right now that are still under wraps.
young-broke-and-beautiful (1).jpg

You’re super prolific! Can you describe your journey a bit? 

I’ve been doing this whole Broke-Ass Stuart thing for like 16 years now, so it’s a LONG story. But I’ll give you the short-ish version. 

Shortly after I finished college at UCSC, I was working in a candy store in North Beach. One day a guy I knew from the neighborhood I grew up in in San Diego came in with the woman that’s now his wife. As they were walking out she gave me her card and it said she was a travel writer. I thought, “I wanna be a travel writer” so I decided to become one. 

I put out my first zine, Broke-Ass Stuart’s Guide to Living Cheaply in San Francisco that summer (it was 2004). That was popular so I did an expanded version the following year. That ended up winning me “Best of the Bay” and I got a little notoriety. I got the zine in the hands of someone at Lonely Planet, and they liked it, and I ended up getting to go to Ireland to write about it for them.

I wanted to keep doing Broke-Ass Stuart but I also wanted to step it up and I actually found a book deal on craigslist. So I ended up doing three books. A Broke-Ass Stuart in SF book, an NYC book, and a book that was applicable everywhere in the U.S. 

Then in 2011 I had a travel TV show on IFC called Young, Broke & Beautiful. It was amazing. All the while though I was building up the website to be an arts & culture destination, so as my popularity grew, so did the site. Then running for Mayor obviously helped as well.

At this point we’re one of the most influential sites in the Bay Area for arts, culture, nightlife, and activism. It’s been a hell of a ride.

What are the best/worst parts of your job?

Getting to amplify voices that don’t always get heard while informing and entertaining hundreds of thousands of people a month is the best part for sure.

And then the hardest part, as you can imagine, trying to keep this thing afloat. I started this whole thing to be an art dude, but somehow ended up being a business dude out of necessity. I’m much better at creating funny and beautiful things than I am at making money. But I end up having to spend more time being a business dude than getting to create stuff. I’m at my happiest when I’m creating.

Keyword2.jpg

At the end of the day what is the ultimate goal of your blog/website? 

I used to care more about being famous, but as I get older, it doesn’t matter that much. I just want to create things that hopefully make the world a better place. Activism is a huge part of what we do at BrokeAssStuart.com. Over the years we’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for various charities and causes. We’ve turned out tens of thousands of people to protest the many injustices that plague our world. Our Voter guides sometimes get like 30k views. And we’ve also made a lot of fart jokes. Gotta keep things balanced.  

Any words of advice for someone just getting started?

It's important to ask yourself if you really want to make a living doing something that you love. I know your immediate response is "Duh! Of course!" but really think about it. You're taking something that gives you joy and release, and turning it into a job. There will be many days where it is simply a job and that's something you need to be ok with.  

Another quick piece of advice is: build your audience before you try to monetize it. Get people to love what you do and believe in you before you start asking them for money.   

I could talk about this all day long. I've actually given a talk about how to "turn your side hustle into your main hustle" a number of times including at General Assembly and at Patreon's yearly conference, so if anyone reading this is interested in me giving the talk to you and your friends/coworkers reach out and we can figure out a price. 

And finally a quick #PayItForward. Name five other websites doing awesome stuff in your field.

SF Funcheap

48Hills

TableHopper

The Hard Times

Berkeleyside


Follow Broke-Ass Stuart on social media: Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | Patreon

Tribal schools embrace distance learning with Google tools

In the United States, there are 574 federally recognized tribal nations. Collectively they are referred to as “Indian Country,” but there is tremendous diversity among the tribes. Each has its own unique history, geography, culture and economy, as well as its own opportunities and challenges. 

Far too often, we only hear about challenges facing these tribal nations and rarely hear about the solutions tribes create. In response, the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development founded Honoring Nations, a national awards program that spotlights success in tribal governance. Since 1998, Honoring Nations has awarded 136 tribal governance programs from over 100 tribal nations, highlighting key lessons that other governments, both Native and non-Native, can adapt for themselves. By sharing these lessons, we are changing the conversation from what isn’t working to what is. We also facilitate the sharing of practical tools to improve the strength and vitality of Indian Country.

In 2013, our team was introduced to the Google American Indian Network, an employee resource group made up of Google employees. We began working with and using a variety of Google tools to enhance our ability to share stories of success with tribal leaders and policymakers, from Google Cultural Institutes to Google Maps and Google Voyager. In December 2018, our efforts culminated in the launch of the Nation Building Toolboxes, based on Google Sites. So far we have released four toolboxes: Business Enterprises, Constitutional Reform, Justice Systems and a special COVID-19 toolbox, dedicated to sharing multimedia resources in public and health policy, which was created in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University Center for American Indian Health.

Launched in April 2020 and updated daily, the COVID-19 nation-building toolbox responds to the complex challenges facing Indian Country due to the pandemic. The coronavirus is revealing the cracks in all societies, including tribal nations. However, in Indian Country, these crises are magnified by decades of underfunding of infrastructure, from facilities to water systems to broadband. In fact, an estimated 34% of American Indian households lack high-speed internet access. This impacts critical communications, including how students access distance learning. Without the ability—or tools—to connect remotely, American Indian students are at a significant disadvantage. 

The Native American Advancement Foundation (NAAF), in partnership with the Tohono O'odham GuVo District, initiated a system of support to ensure the youth in their community didn’t fall behind during the pandemic. They integrated lessons from an Indigenous language learning resource, posted to our COVID-19 toolbox, from the Yurok Tribe in northern California. They also paired online resources with offline support through the distribution of educational learning packets, food, and supplies to households throughout the District. In addition, college students who returned home were recruited to provide remote tutoring to younger students. 

After learning about their extraordinary efforts to meet the needs of their citizens, we shared the strategies used in Tohono O'odham through the COVID-19 toolbox, so other nations facing similar challenges could draw inspiration from their solutions. This knowledge sharing and exchange not only highlights the innovation in Indian Country, but is an incredible example of Indigenous reciprocity.

We live in a digital age, and what's key in Indian Country is that we embrace technology on our own terms. That’s why digital tools which enable communication are so important. Google understands the need for these tools, especially now, which is why they've committed $10 million in grants to support communities through Google.org's Distance Learning Fund.

It is our hope that the stories we share through Honoring Nations and the Nation Building Toolboxes arm leaders and policymakers with practical tools that help to strengthen their nations, on their own terms—and as Wet’suet’en Hereditary Chief, Satsan, says, “put a new memory in the minds of our children.”

Computer science education still has diversity gaps

Jobs in the computing field are expected to grow by 13 percent between 2016 and 2026, a rate that's faster than the average growth rate for all occupations. But the latest research shows that not all K-12 students have the same access to, or perceptions of, computer science (CS) education—especially girls and Black students. COVID-19 has only exacerbated existing gaps, underscoring the need for more creative solutions to ensure all students receive the education they deserve today to succeed tomorrow, according to additional research.

To better understand these gaps and where we can focus on finding solutions, we’re continuing our funding support of Gallup’s comprehensive, multi-year research on the K-12 computer science education landscape. Today, we’re releasing Gallup’s latest findings, “Current Perspectives and Continuing Challenges in Computer Science Education in US K-12 Schools.” This report represents Gallup’s analysis of over 7,000 interviews with U.S. educators, parents, administrators and students. It is accompanied by four supplemental reports highlighting equity gaps among different segments of the population, including Black, female, Hispanic and rural students.

The research uncovered four key themes:

1. There are still gaps in access to computer science education between Black, Hispanic and white students. 

Consistent with the 2016 study, in 2020, Gallup found only 46 percent of Black students and 46 percent of Hispanic students indicate that they have classes dedicated to computer science at their high school, compared to 52 percent of white students.

An infographic showing the percentages of students by race who say their schools offer a computer science class

2.  There’s still a significant gender gap, too.  

Seventy-three percent of boys say they are confident they can learn computer science, compared with 60 percent of girls, a gender gap similar to the one observed in 2016.

A graphic that shows how many students say they are confident about learning computer science

3. Computer science is a top priority for superintendents, but that same prioritization hasn’t made it to the classroom yet.

In 2020’s report, nearly six in 10 superintendents (58 percent) agree that computer science is currently a top priority in their districts. However, there appears to be a disconnect between administrators and teachers and principals, because just 18 percent of public school teachers and 28 percent of principals say computer science education is treated as a top priority at their schools.

A graphic that shows how many superintendents say computer science is a priority.

4.  Students are generally unconvinced that computer science is important for them to learn.

Female students are particularly skeptical about the importance of learning computer science education, with just 31 percent of them saying CS is important for them to learn, compared with 49 percent of male students.

A graphic that shows more boys than girls think computer science is important to learn

Interventions from parents, educators, community leaders, policymakers, nonprofits and the technology industry are needed to encourage girls, Black students and Hispanic students to take computer science courses and ensure that when that interest exists, it’s matched with high quality learning opportunities. These students also need to be shown how CS knowledge can help them meet their goals in a variety of fields including the humanities, medicine and the arts. 

With over $80 million in funding from Google.org, and a variety of programs as part of Code with Google, we are committed to closing equity gaps in CS education. For example, Code Next is a free computer science education program that meets Black and Latino high school students in their own communities, and Grasshopper is an app-based program for coding beginners to learn Javascript skills directly from their mobile phones and browsers. As part of our Google.org funding, we also gave a $3 million grant to The Kapor Center to establish the Equitable Computer Science Curriculum initiative. This effort brings together leaders in education equity, inclusive teaching practices and CS education, along with teachers and students to improve CS curricula and resources to increase racial and gender equity in CS classrooms.

No organization can increase access or improve perceptions of computer science education alone. We’re enthusiastic about all the work from nonprofits who have developed and share culturally-relevant learning resources, educators who support all of their students with skills they need to succeed, technology companies who have dedicated resources and governments who have created new policies to address CS learning gaps over the past five years. But we at Google believe there’s more work to be done in this complex field, and we hope publishing these reports helps the entire education community continue to advocate for and support underserved students. All of this research is fully accessible and for use in presentations.

Join us for a virtual panel discussionon September 30, 12 p.m. Pacific/ 3 p.m. Eastern as we discuss the report’s key takeaways with Stephanie Marken, Gallup’s Executive Director of Education Research, and Dr. Alexis Martin, the Director of Research Partnerships at Kapor Center.

Painter and pioneer: Artemisia at The National Gallery

Artemisia Gentileschi didn’t fit the mold of the typical 17th-century Italian gentlewoman. At a time when women had limited opportunities to pursue artistic training, Artemisia forged a career for herself and established an international reputation. 

Thanks to a collaboration with The National Gallery, which is hosting the first major retrospective of Artemisia in the U.K., Google Arts & Culture is bringing Artemisia’s story to life online. The exclusive digital retrospective unites 14 of her incredible works, including The National Gallery’s new acquisition “Self Portrait as Saint Catherine of Alexandria” and the recently rediscovered “Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy.”
With me your Illustrious Lordship will not lose and you will find the spirit of Caesar in the soul of a woman Artemisia Gentileschi

Artemisia’s incredible skill was not just in her paintwork—it was also in her deeply emotive storytelling. In her hands, the canon of saints and biblical figures became formidable women in charge of their own destinies. 

As a result of new ultra-high resolution photography, the painted ceiling of Marlborough House in London is now available to view in all its minute glory. The grand artwork, “An Allegory of Peace and the Arts,” is thought to have been a joint effort between Artemisia and her father Orazio, also a renowned painter, during their time in London, and is now part of the Royal Collection. The work is not usually accessible to the public, but now you can zoom into the finest brushstrokes and get the same perspective Artemisia had from up on her scaffolding.

Musician FKA twigs lent her voice to a series of Art Zoom films that take you on a guided journey through three iconic Artemisia paintings, highlighting Artemisia’s relevance to women of today and how her legacy informed the art canon. “Mary Magdalene was a major inspiration for my last album and when I learned about the history of the female painter Artemisia Gentileschi, it impacted me,” said FKA twigs. “Artists like her have fought so hard to be recognized that it’s amazing I could help shine a light on her beautiful work.”

The collection of artworks has been brought together from eleven partner museums in six countries. There are more than 30 immersive stories that translate the hidden details of Artemisia's self-portraits, recount her life in Rome and Florence, and investigate her troubled relationship with her father.  

Visit g.co/Artemisia to immerse yourself in Artemisia’s incredible legacy and be inspired by her story.

Our GNI Fellows are defying the newsroom status quo

In March, just as I was finalizing the webpage for the Google News Initiative Fellowship program, much of the United States—and the world—went into lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Offices, including my own, closed and employees began working from home. Businesses shut their doors. Colleges sent students home to continue their studies virtually.

For students and recent graduates, a summer that was supposed to be spent taking classes, studying abroad or starting their first post-grad job turned into one of uncertainty. Many summer internships were deferred or altogether canceled due to the virus. Every industry has been impacted by the coronavirus, including the news media, which is vital in spreading important information about not only the pandemic, but also the upcoming election. 

For me, delaying the program was not an option, especially because a lack of newsroom diversity can negatively impact coverage of the pandemic and racial unrest. Though nothing can necessarily replace an in-person experience, we decided to add a remote option for the program, giving fellows the flexibility to work from home or the host newsroom if it is safe to do so. 

We received 476 applications for nine fellowship slots, which speaks to the unprecedented demand for these opportunities for aspiring journalists of color. 

“There can be no excellence without diversity — in local news especially, there's a responsibility to speak to the issues and experiences of the (diverse) community you serve,” Ana Ta, who will be working at the Houston Press, told me. “My time working in local journalism has taught me to value my perspective as an Vietnamese Houstonian, and I'm excited and grateful for this opportunity with the GNI to tell the stories of my city.”

For Luis Méndez, who will be joining La Noticia, the fellowship is not just an opportunity for himself. “I want to be an example for boys and girls and show them that it doesn't matter if you are from a small island called Puerto Rico, opportunities like these are possible with perseverance, passion and commitment,” he says.

Our selected Fellows all have different backgrounds and experiences, but two things they all have in common is the desire to help make American newsrooms look more like the audiences they cover and to tell the stories of communities that have been ignored for far too long.

“Ever since I was young, I've been passionate about pursuing journalism because I knew that it might grant me an opportunity to serve as a representative voice for communities and people who feel as if they don't have one,” said Isthmusfellow Tamia Fowlkes. “I  feel so honored and excited to participate in this program and I hope it will work to amplify and encourage diversity both in the news and writing it."

To learn more about all of our 2020 Google News Initiative Fellows and follow their work, visit our Fellowship website.


How choosing flexible tools fuels collaboration

During a recent early morning jog, I had a minor epiphany about a project. I slowed down, pulled out my phone, tapped the microphone and left myself a voice reminder in the margins of my document. Later in the day—after dishes, diapers and sweeping the radius around the highchair—I used that note to build out a better presentation. From the folding table in my 7-year-old’s bedroom, I shared the update with my team just before our working session. 

As a UX researcher at Google for the past six years, working on teams across four time zones in the U.S. and Europe has given me a front row seat for the increasingly fluid ways that customers and colleagues work remotely. Despite all that experience, I'm impressed at how rapidly we’ve adapted to change this year. Here are a few things I’ve learned about flexible ways of working and why it's likely to become even more important for many organizations in the future. 

The trend toward choice

First, it’s important to understand just how much remote work increased before the pandemic. Regularly working from home grew 173 percent between 2005 and 2018. Today, 40 percent more U.S. employers offer flexible options than five years ago. In the wake of COVID-19, that number increased even faster.

Having choices about when and where to work was seen as increasingly important to attract and retain talent even before it became essential to keep businesses running. More employee autonomy may even mean higher job satisfaction and performance, another reason why flexible working is likely to outlast COVID.

Demand for app diversity has also grown dramatically, giving professionals an “à la carte” mix of apps to choose from. Companies now use an average of 88 apps, a 21 percent increase from three years ago. If anything, the new challenge may be managing these choices effectively. It's something we think about a lot, and it's a big part of the way we've designed G Suite.

How flexibility helps my team

Today, tools like G Suite make remote teamwork accessible with video calling and content collaboration.

But what flexibility do these trends and tools actually enable? Here’s a typical collaborative workflow on my team: A few days before a meeting, I circulate a doc or slides. Everyone starts to review, raising questions, adding comments to specific snippets of content and tagging teammates who can add relevant context.

Tagging saves time in a few ways. First, it keeps the meeting smaller. Instead of meeting with 20-something people, we collect input before the discussion—getting everyone’s  latest thinking in one place without cluttering calendars (and saving everyone from yet another video call).  

Second, the asynchronous conversation before the meeting gives us a streamlined agenda for our live discussion. Instead of a lengthy meeting to reach consensus on every detail, we prep for 20 minutes and spend 30 minutes talking through a shorter list of topics to clarify. 

Smaller meetings have the added benefit of allowing for more dynamic discussion—a big deal because conversation dynamics are a significant factor in how well groups solve problems and make decisions.

As we get down to business, I send my doc out to everyone on the call chat thread. That way, no one has to hunt for the document and we can dive in quicker. Instead of presenting my whole screen, I show a single Chrome tab. This gives me the flexibility to show the content that helps us get on the same page, while taking messy notes in another document.

This review process emerged organically and allows the whole team to contribute regardless of where they sit. It shows respect for time and attention. It uses our flexible tools for virtual conversation to streamline conversations and speed up decision-making. Attention matters more working from home. Time crunched, my well-intentioned efforts to stay present are tested hourly. I don’t want to be the harried parent at work that you can’t rely on, but I don’t want to reply to emails during toddler bath time either. Teams, and the tools they choose, can help protect attention when you need to focus on work or on home.  

The future is the choices we make today

The pandemic put meetings and remote collaboration under a microscope and gave us an inspiring and instructive silver lining to learn from. Working from home has raised awareness of persistent problems like information overload, reminding us that we can make choices that enable flexible ways of working, protect our attention and streamline collaboration. 

As we look into the future, we can all make deliberate choices that bridge the virtual distance, no matter where your team members are working from.