Tag Archives: COVID-19 response

Supporting Educators as they teach from home

Editor’s note: This guest post is authored by Michelle Armstrong, Director of EdTechTeam Canada.

“Post your questions in the Chat. We’re here to help.” This is a phrase we’ve gotten used to saying several times a day as our team supports teachers across the country through virtual learning.

A few months ago, schools, universities and colleges across Canada closed down because of concerns over the transmission of COVID-19. The entire Canadian education system had to quickly address the logistical challenges brought about by not being together in a physical classroom. Our facilitators at EdTechTeam Canada geared up immediately, and worked with Google to help parents, teachers and students make the most out of the digital resources available to them.

Since then, we’ve had the opportunity to connect with teachers from all across the country through our live virtual training sessions. With significant funding from our friends at Google Canada, these interactive workshops cover the basics around fundamental learning tools including Google Classroom, Google Meet, Docs and student engagement. By offering up to ten sessions a day along with personal follow-ups, we’ve now hosted hundreds of live workshops and impacted tens of thousands of educators across the country, representing over 350 Divisions, Districts and School Boards. We’ve always prided ourselves in delivering engaging, interactive Professional Development. Thankfully we are still able to achieve that, we just happen to be joining face-to-face from our own living rooms.

Through these interactive discussions with educators, we've seen incredible resilience and tenacity, and a desire to accommodate the needs of learners during this unprecedented time. Here are a few of our key takeaways for educators to consider when it comes to virtual learning.

Learn now, thrive long-term

While some may be scrambling now, being thrust into virtual teaching has created an opportunity for educators to learn new digital skills that will help both inside and outside the classroom. We’ve seen teachers sign up for introductory sessions, as well as the more advanced sessions like using Jamboard, creating quizzes and more. Teachers can check the EdTechTeam Canada website to sign up for live workshops, or review recorded sessions.

Explore new ways to engage students

When you aren’t physically in the classroom with students, it can be challenging to measure student engagement. Simple tricks like using comments within Google Docs and Classroom are great to have a two-way dialogue with students as you share feedback. Using Google Sites can also help keep students and parents up-to-date with important reminders. You can take a look at more resources, tools and tips here.

Supporting learners is more important than ever

With parents now wearing multiple hats from parent to teacher and everything in between, we understand how important it is to support families that are learning at home. Share resources with parents and students who need a bit of practice with digital learning. Some helpful workshops include Get Started with Google Meet, and Google Classroom for Parents.

Our team has been inspired by the remarkable work of Canadian educators and school leaders who continue to adapt and innovate their processes through remote learning. To our educators - we thank you.

For any educators looking to join one of our live workshops, sign up here. We’ll continue to offer these workshops for the next few weeks, as the 2020 school year comes to an end. For more ideas to support educators during this time, try Teach from Home, a central hub of Google for Education tips and tools to help educators keep teaching, even when they aren’t in the classroom.

How to foster inclusion while working from home

People are searching for new ways to connect with their communities while being physically distant. I’ve focused my career on building initiatives and resources for minority groups within large companies. To ensure Google is a workplace where everyone can do their best work, we've spent the last several years understanding how employees from different backgrounds experience Google and building internal programs that foster an inclusive work environment.

As we navigate the impact of COVID-19 in our own workplace, it’s vital to continue building a culture of belonging. With much of our workforce working remotely, we’re focused on helping our employees connect and finding new ways to prioritize inclusion. Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned.

Help boost virtual connections 

We know current events are impacting our employees in different ways. Some are balancing expanded childcare responsibilities, while others who live alone may be experiencing feelings of isolation. Based on early research, we see that people in underrepresented groups are likely being impacted disproportionately more, in general. To help, we’ve explored a variety of virtual formats for connecting people across Google and many of our Employee Resource Groups have extended their efforts to help underrepresented Googlers build community during this time. Our Black Googler Network hosts recurring virtual Yoga sessions, and our Women@Google chapters across the globe have been hosting virtual sessions for connection and career development. Our Asian Google Network has aggregated resources for their community and created office hours for members to connect online. 

Manage equitably 

Managers have a unique role in caring for teams, and we’ve asked our managers to work with their teams to create flexible work schedules. Having regular conversations with employees about how their attention might be divided and which projects should be prioritized is one way to see how they’re doing and help everyone remain connected. It’s also important to find solutions that work for both our roles and needs at home. We temporarily expanded our existing Carer's Leave policy to support employees who need to take time off to look after their children. And beyond formal policies, managers play a critical role in ensuring employees feel supported and included.  

Help people speak up

Remote meetings keep us connected, but video conversations can make it tougher for some participants to speak up. We want everyone to feel comfortable, empowered and heard, because it makes them—and all of us—more successful. To ensure everyone’s voices are recognized, use multi-sensory cues to indicate who’s speaking and who’s listening. We encourage employees to avoid relying only on visual cues like hand gestures because people with visual impairments, or who are temporarily distracted or have bad internet connection, may not be able to see them. We also recommend appointing a moderator separate from the speaker, if possible, to help participants ask questions in real time. A moderator lessens the onus on the speaker to pay attention to participants’ body language or their unmuting, as well as on participants to figure out when they can chime in. It’s also a good idea to leave space in the meeting for those who’ve been quiet to contribute by saving time and opening up for input, but don’t feel like you have to “go around the room”—equal time doesn’t always mean equal contribution. Some people formulate and communicate questions better by writing, so consider an accessible, shared channel or document for participants to type their questions and have the speaker or a moderator go through them. Bonus: The act of writing forces people to be more succinct and clear.

Make sure meetings and presentations are accessible

Accessibility is a core value at Google and it’s critical to our inclusion work. Real-time closed captions (CC) can help participants who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, aren’t fluent in the language being used or are unable to adequately use audio. Provide a phone dial-in option for those without strong internet access. Participants can also turn off their cameras to improve the connection or adjust the video quality. For presentations, using a large font size and high contrast (here’s how in Google Docs and Slides) helps people easily see images and read text. Slides are a useful tool, but not everyone may be able to see them, so we also recommend providing alternatives to purely visual information, like giving a verbal summary of a photo, chart or graph. If you’re going to share your slides, documents and other materials, remember to add alt text, or text description of the visual, to your images, graphs and charts so people who use screen readers know what visuals are being shown. Finally, when it comes to images, find ways to show diversity in race, skin tone, size, cultural background, name, hair type, ability, gender, age, geography and beyond. The people you use in your images should represent diverse backgrounds.

We’re committed to making Google a place where people of different views, backgrounds, and experiences can do their best work and show up for one another.  These tips aren’t exhaustive by any means, but they are a useful start to empowering people to meaningfully join in and contribute.

Helping you avoid COVID-19 online security risks

As people around the world are staying at home due to COVID-19, many are turning to new apps and communications tools to work, learn, access information, and stay connected with loved ones. 

While these digital platforms are helpful in our daily lives, they can also introduce new online security risks. Our Threat Analysis Group continually monitors for sophisticated, government-backed hacking activity and is seeing new COVID-19 messaging used in attacks, and our security systems have detected a range of new scams such as phishing emails posing as messages from charities and NGOs battling COVID-19, directions from “administrators” to employees working from home, and even notices spoofing healthcare providers. Our systems have also spotted malware-laden sites that pose as sign-in pages for popular social media accounts, health organizations, and even official coronavirus maps. During the past couple of weeks, our advanced, machine-learning classifiers have seen 18 million daily malware and phishing attempts related to COVID-19, in addition to more than 240 million COVID-related spam messages. 

To protect you from these risks, we've built advanced security protections into Google products to automatically identify and stop threats before they ever reach you. Our machine learning models in Gmail already detect and block more than 99.9 percent of spam, phishing and malware. Our built-in security also protects you by alerting you before you enter fraudulent websites, scanning apps in Google Play before you download, and more. But we want to help you stay secure everywhere online, not just on our products, so we’re providing these simple tips, tools and resources.

Know how to spot and avoid COVID-19 scams

With many of the COVID-19 related scams coming in the form of phishing emails, it’s important to pause and evaluate any COVID-19 email before clicking any links or taking other action. Be wary of requests for personal information such as your home address or bank details. Fake links often imitate established websites by adding extra words or letters to them—check the URL’s validity by hovering over it (on desktop) or with a long press (on mobile). Keep these tips handy and learn more at g.co/covidsecuritytips.
Helping you avoid COVID-19 online security risks

Use your company’s enterprise email account for anything work-related

Working with our enterprise customers, we see how employees can put their company’s business at risk when using their personal accounts or devices. Even when working from home, it’s important to keep your work and personal email separate. Enterprise accounts offer additional security features that keep your company’s private information private. If you’re unsure about your company’s online security safeguards, check with your IT professionals to ensure the right security features are enabled, like two-factor authentication.

Secure your video calls on video conferencing apps

The security controls built into Google Meet are turned on by default, so that in most cases, organizations and users are automatically protected. But there are steps you can take on any video conferencing app to make your call more secure:

  • If your meetings use short, numeric codes, turn on the password or PIN feature. The extra layer of verification will help ensure only the invited attendees gain access to the meeting.

  • When sharing a meeting invite publicly, be sure to enable the “knocking” feature so that the meeting organizer can personally vet and accept new attendees before they enter the meeting.

  • If you receive a meeting invite that requires installing a new video-conferencing app, always be sure to verify the invitation—paying special attention to potential imposters—before installing.

Install security updates when notified

When working from home, your work computer may not automatically update your security technology as it would when in the office and connected to your corporate network. It’s important to take immediate action on any security update prompts. These updates solve for known security vulnerabilities, which attackers are actively seeking out and exploiting.

Use a password manager to create and store strong passwords

With all the new applications and services you might be using for work and school purposes, it can be tempting to use just one password for all. In fact, 66 percent of Americans admit to using the same password across multiple accounts. To keep your private information private, always use unique, hard-to-guess passwords. A password manager, like the one built into Android, Chrome, and your Google Account can help make this easier.

Protect your Google Account

If you use a Google Account, you can easily review any recent security issues and get personalized recommendations to help protect your data and devices with the Security Checkup. Within this tool, you can also run a Password Checkup to learn if any of your saved passwords for third party sites or accounts  have been compromised and then easily change them if needed.

You should also consider adding two-step verification (also known as two-factor authentication), which you likely already have in place for online banking and other similar services to provide an extra layer of security. This helps keep out anyone who shouldn’t have access to your accounts by requiring a secondary factor on top of your username and password to sign in. To set this up for your Google Account, go to g.co/2SV. And if you’re someone who is at risk of a targeted attack—like a journalist, activist, politician or a high profile healthcare professional—enroll in the Advanced Protection Program, our strongest security offering, at g.co/advancedprotection.

Help your kids stay safe online

With schools closed around the world, kids are online more than ever before. You can help your kids learn how to spot scams with the educational material at Be Internet Awesome and within the interactive learning game, Interland. You can also use Family Link to create age-appropriate accounts, control your kids’ app downloads, and monitor their activity.

Our teams continue to monitor the evolving online security threats connected to COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed and protected. For more tips to help you improve your online security, visit our Safety Center.

Findings on COVID-19 and online security threats

Google’s Threat Analysis Group (TAG) is a specialized team of security experts that works to identify, report, and stop government-backed phishing and hacking against Google and the people who use our products. We work across Google products to identify new vulnerabilities and threats. Today we’re sharing our latest findings and the threats we’re seeing in relation to COVID-19.

COVID-19 as general bait

Hackers frequently look at crises as an opportunity, and COVID-19 is no different. Across Google products, we’re seeing bad actors use COVID-related themes to create urgency so that people respond to phishing attacks and scams. Our security systems have detected examples ranging from fake solicitations for charities and NGOs, to messages that try to mimic employer communications to employees working from home, to websites posing as official government pages and public health agencies. Recently, our systems have detected 18 million malware and phishing Gmail messages per day related to COVID-19, in addition to more than 240 million COVID-related daily spam messages. Our machine learning models have evolved to understand and filter these threats, and we continue to block more than 99.9 percent of spam, phishing and malware from reaching our users.

How government-backed attackers are using COVID-19

TAG has specifically identified over a dozen government-backed attacker groups using COVID-19 themes as lure for phishing and malware attempts—trying to get their targets to click malicious links and download files.
Location of users targeted by government-backed COVID-19 related attacks

Location of users targeted by government-backed COVID-19 related attacks

One notable campaign attempted to target personal accounts of U.S. government employees with phishing lures using American fast food franchises and COVID-19 messaging. Some messages offered free meals and coupons in response to COVID-19, others suggested recipients visit sites disguised as online ordering and delivery options. Once people clicked on the emails, they were presented with phishing pages designed to trick them into providing their Google account credentials. The vast majority of these messages were sent to spam without any user ever seeing them, and we were able to preemptively block the domains using Safe Browsing. We’re not aware of any user having their account compromised by this campaign, but as usual, we notify all targeted users with a “government-backed attacker” warning.

We’ve also seen attackers try to trick people into downloading malware by impersonating health organizations:

attackers impersonating health organizations

International and national health organizations are becoming targets 

Our team also found new, COVID-19-specific targeting of international health organizations, including activity that corroborates reporting in Reuters earlier this month and is consistent with the threat actor group often referred to as Charming Kitten. The team has seen similar activity from a South American actor, known externally as Packrat, with emails that linked to a domain spoofing the World Health Organization’s login page. These findings show that health organizations, public health agencies, and the individuals who work there are becoming new targets as a result of COVID-19. We're proactively adding extra security protections, such as higher thresholds for Google Account sign in and recovery, to more than 50,000 of such high-risk accounts.
Contact message from Charming Kitten and packrat phishing page

Left: Contact message from Charming Kitten. Right: Packrat phishing page

Generally, we’re not seeing an overall rise in phishing attacks by government-backed groups; this is just a change in tactics. In fact, we saw a slight decrease in overall volumes in March compared to January and February. While it’s not unusual to see some fluctuations in these numbers, it could be that attackers, just like many other organizations, are experiencing productivity lags and issues due to global lockdowns and quarantine efforts.

Accounts that received a “government-backed attacker” warning in 2020

Accounts that received a “government-backed attacker” warning each month of 2020

When working to identify and prevent threats, we use a combination of internal investigative tools, information sharing with industry partners and law enforcement, as well as leads and intelligence from third-party researchers. To help support this broader security researcher community, Google is providing more than $200,000 in grants as part of a new Vulnerability Research Grant COVID-19 fund for Google VRP researchers who help  identify various vulnerabilities.

As the world continues to respond to COVID-19, we expect to see new lures and schemes. Our teams continue to track these and stop them before they reach people—and we’ll continue to share new and interesting findings.

Stay entertained and informed from home

While spending more time at home, you might find yourself re-watching your favorite classics, doing game nights with the family and catching up on the TV shows you've been missing. From staying informed on the latest news to tuning in to weekly podcasts or finding what to watch, here are a few ideas to keep your whole family entertained while at home:

A faster way to news and entertainment

Many of us are turning to our TVs to stay up to date and entertained while we stay in. To access fresh news and fun entertainment quickly, you’ll now find three new rows from YouTube right on your Android TV home screen:

  • COVID-19 Newsgives you the latest from authoritative publishers and local health authorities to help you stay informed.
  • Stay Home #WithMe features videos that invite you to cook, listen to live music and work out, so you can stay connected, even if you’re home alone.
  • Free movies from YouTube highlights movies you can watch for free with ads, so that you can find something new.

Stay informed and entertained with three new rows from YouTube on the Android TV home screen.

Create your own Watchlist in Search

When you’re deciding on a TV show or movie to watch, there are a lot of options out there. And figuring out what content is available across all your subscriptions can be time consuming and overwhelming. You can already find TV and movie recommendations in Search and today we’re adding a new Watchlist tab on mobile, so that you can keep track of what to watch next.

Browse through personalized recommendations by searching “what to watch.” Then, simply tap “Watchlist” in the preview window for any show or movie to add it to your list. You can navigate between your recommendations and the “Watchlist” tab so you won’t lose track of what’s already been saved. You can also add content to your Watchlist whenever you search for a show or movie. To quickly access your full watchlist, search for “my watchlist” or tap on Collections in the Google app.


Keep track of what to watch next with the new Watchlist in Search.

Entertainment deals you won’t want to miss

Google Play also has a collection of special deals including offers on apps for movies, TV and comics and fun ways to learn something new. If you’re looking to game with friends, you can #PlayApartTogether and explore these multiplayer games. For a throwback option, we’ve compiled a few retro arcade games to bring back childhood memories. In the U.S., we’ve also extended the free trial for Google Play Pass to 30 days to give you and your family more time to enjoy games and apps without ads or in-app purchases.
Group 3.png

Browse games to #PlayApartTogether with family and friends.

If you’re looking for apps on your big screen, Google Play is adding more collections to Android TV. Your favorite streaming apps are now organized in one row under “Stream the shows and movies you love.” You can also pick up a new hobby or skill with TV apps under “Learn new things.” If gaming on the TV is more your style, you can now find games to “Play with your remote” and “Play with your gamepad.”

Play-Games-Collections (1).png

Find games and apps in Google Play’s collections on Android TV.

We’re offering gamers in 14 countries free access to Stadia Pro for two months, which includes instant access to nine games, including GRID, Destiny 2: The Collection and Thumper. If you’re already a paid Stadia Pro subscriber, you won’t be charged for the next two months.

Get a little help using just your voice

And whether you want to catch up on your favorite podcast or you want to spend some quality time with family or roommates, Google Assistant and Nest have got you covered. 

  • Game night:If you’re looking for trivia or quiz games to play, just say, “Hey Google, let’s play a game.” Or if you already know what you want to play, say, “Hey Google, play Are You Feeling Lucky.”

  • Kick back with a podcast:Search interest in “podcasts” hit an all-time high, worldwide. Ask Google Assistant for a particular podcast by saying, “Hey Google, play [podcast name]” or it will pick one for you if you say “Hey Google, find me a podcast about cooking.” If you have a Nest Mini, Nest Hub or Nest Hub Max, the Ambient IQ feature will adjust the volume for you.

  • View your home movies easily:Watch videos and slideshows you’ve made in Google Photos using Chromecast. From the Google Photos app you can send videos and pictures to your TV by tapping the cast icon. With a Google Nest speaker you can simply ask, “Hey Google, show my 2018 summer vacation video on my TV.”


Ask Google Assistant to cast your family photos and videos to your TV.

These updates and features are already available or coming this week. Check them out to keep the whole family entertained at home.

A new Optimize feature to keep your website updated through COVID-19

As communities around the world respond to COVID-19, we know this time presents unique challenges to your business. We’d like to share a few ways Google Optimize can help you keep your website updated with the latest information.

Last week we introduceda new way for you to quickly post an informational banner at the top of your website. This means you can easily let your customers know if your business hours or services have changed – or even just reinforce that you are still open to serve them – and where they can find more information.

And of course you can still use Optimize to help you update any page of your site, so we’ve included some tips and best practices below to get you started.

Quickly add a message on your website

Once you log into your Optimize account you can add a message to the top of your site by clicking “Add a banner.” You can use our templated banner or customize it by editing the color, size, and text. We recommend you use a color that stands out from the other content on the page. You can also select on which pages of your site the banner should be shown, for example only the homepage or on every page of your site.

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Use our template to quickly post a banner at the top of your website with an important message.

You can also tailor your message by location. Let’s say you’re a clothing retailer based in San Francisco and are offering expedited shipping to customers located within the city. Optimize can help you display a customized banner that highlights faster shipping just to users located in San Francisco.

Temporarily update your site

You may have updated store hours or services available at this time. Use Optimize to create a personalization to temporarily display a different version of your site to people when they visit. You can end the personalization whenever you like and your site will go back to displaying its original version.

This is helpful if you want to let your customers know about new ways they can purchase from your business. For example, if you’re a restaurant that is now accepting to-go orders over the phone, you can add your phone number to your home page or make it more visible on your site. Or, if you’re a clothing retailer that is now only accepting online orders, you can update your FAQs page to include your new shipping and return policy.

Consider website best practices

We’ve also put together some additional recommendations to consider while updating your website during this time:

  • Reduce distraction on your site. Avoid automatic product carousels or animation on your site. If you have information about how customers can order from you on the same page, the carousel or animation could draw attention away from that message.

  • Adjust your FAQs page. Your frequently asked questions might be different than what they were last year. Make sure this page highlights what is currently top of mind for your customers. If you need to reduce your customer support load, place your contact information below all other sections to allow users to read your FAQs first.

  • Change your message for mobile devices. Adding longer messages to your customers may display fine on desktop but they probably will be too long on mobile devices. Limit your messages on your mobile site to less than 50 characters. And allow users to close the message if they wish.

Normally Optimize users would only be able to run 10 personalizations on their site at the same time. We have temporarily removed this restriction for the next 90 days so that you can make as many updates to your site as you need until July 31, 2020. If you don’t already have an Optimize account, you can create one for free here.

Check in on emotional well-being during distance learning

Without the consistent routine of the school day, reliable Wi-Fi or even a quiet place to work, students may be struggling to adjust to learning outside the classroom. While nothing can replace teachers’ in-person interactions with their students, the same digital tools used for teaching can be used to check in on a student’s well-being. Educators have shared creative ideas to check in on students through video calls, phone calls, or drive-by visits, which inspired these four ways to use technology to emotionally support your students.

Create emotional check-in opportunities

Even though distance learning tools allow teachers to see and talk to students, they can miss out on observing body language and behavior that indicate when a student needs help. Use Google Forms to reach out to students with an emotional-health questionnaire. Keep the question list short with a few high-level questions: How do you feel today? Why do you feel this way? What is your goal for today?

Provide a space for students to write longer responses. The responses, which are collected in a Google Sheet, can guide teachers in identifying which students need more support. Encouraging students to write out their emotions is a good tool for allowing students to become self-aware about what they’re feeling and why.

Organization is key to emotional well-being for students 

Teachers are always helping students to keep classwork organized, follow schedules, and complete tasks. These self-management skills are even more critical to students’ emotional well-being now that they’re studying from home. Encourage students to create to-do lists in Google Docs, checklists in Google Keep or to schedule deadlines and meetings in Google Calendar. Teachers can use Google Classroom to send wellness reminders to students—everything from a quick message like “Take a quick movement break!” to sharing a mindfulness activity from YouTube.

Inspire students to express themselves

Teachers can often get a sense of a student’s emotional well-being from a quick conversation after the bell rings or checking in at the end of a challenging week. With distance learning, it’s just as important to create a comfortable and safe space for students to express emotions. Using Blogger, teachers can ask students to create a “reflection journal,” and write about their distance learning experiences. They can also invite students to record vlogs—or video blog posts-- and insert into a shared deck in Google Slides. This way students can not only share their thoughts, but also see one another, hear each other’s voices, and comment on messages. It’s important to note that YouTube and Blogger are both not core services of G Suite for Education, and are additional services that can be enabled by your administrator. 

Additional tools on Chromebooks

There are many apps that work well on Chromebooks and are integrated with Google for Education tools that were specifically developed to support social emotional learning. With ClassDojo, students can share their daily learning on a digital portfolio, teachers can give students feedback aligned with school or classroom values, and families are brought into the classroom experience through teacher posted photos and videos. Classcraft blends students’ physical and virtual learning and reframes their progress in school as a game they play together throughout the year. And Wisdom - Kingdom of Anger empowers pre-K to 2nd grade students to practice social emotional learning through weekly lessons and hands-on activities. Students learn to identify, label, and communicate emotions to develop effective coping tools to healthily manage emotions.

More ideas for social emotional learning

If you’re looking for more ideas for improving student SEL, visit the website forCASEL (Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning), which offers resources such as webinars. You can watch our webinar on SEL, and visitTeach from Home, Google’s new hub of information and tools to help teachers during COVID-19.

Two weeks of Doodles to thank essential workers

Essential workers keeping our world safe and running during this global pandemic deserve a standing ovation. To show our appreciation, we created a two week Google Doodle series to honor and recognize all who have stepped up in unprecedented ways— including putting their own lives at risk—to provide services that keep our society moving forward.

Google Doodles usually take months (sometimes years!) of planning and development. This one came together in a matter of days. Though in the past we’ve moved quickly to create a Doodle in response to a major world—or even outer world—event, this is our first real-time Doodle series focusing on one theme. 

In this series of animated GIF Doodles, the big "G" represents communities around the world sending our love to the other letters, which represent the essential workers. Fun fact: we purposely used the first and last letters of our logo to ensure characters in every Doodle were practicing social distancing.

Beyond the efforts of essential workers, “help” has become more than a concept, a desire or an unusual action. Help has become part of our day-to-day lives. We notice it in small actions—like going to the supermarket for your elderly neighbor, or donating homemade face masks to healthcare workers—and in what people are searching for around the world. One thing has become clear: people want to help.

Where There's Help, There's Hope

As with all of our Doodles, we hope the series allows for helpers everywhere to feel seen, heard, and valued and for everyone to remember there will be a light at the end of what could feel like a long tunnel. Because where there’s help, there’s hope.

Fee relief to support our news partners during COVID-19

During times of global crisis, people rely on quality journalism to stay informed and safe. And the ads that appear alongside news coverage help fund the journalists who write breaking news stories, and keep news sites and apps running. 

Many news publishers around the world use Google Ad Manager to support their digital businesses with advertising. As the coronavirus pandemic takes a toll on our global economy, theGoogle News Initiative is working to identify ways to provide immediate financial support to those news organizations around the world producing original journalism. 

That’s why we’ve decided to waive ad serving fees for news publishers globally on Ad Manager for five months. Over the coming days, we’ll notify our news partners that meet the requirements about the details of the program, and what they can expect to see in their account statements. 

This builds on the GNI’s Journalism Emergency Relief Fund, which is delivering aid to thousands of small and local news publishers globally, and other programs to support the industry. With these efforts, we aim to help news organizations reduce some of the cost of managing their businesses and funding important journalism during this time.

A little help getting through the day

Like many families, my husband and I have been staying-at-home for over a month, while looking after our two young kids who are out of school. Balancing two full-time jobs—running the team that builds features for Google Assistant and homeschooling my 6- and 3-year-old children—is an unexpected challenge that I know I’m not alone in navigating. In fact, search interest for “how to work from home with kids” tripled over the past month in the U.S., while search interest in “how to keep kids busy during quarantine” spiked more than 350 percent in the past day, worldwide. 

My husband and I are figuring out a schedule that minimizes the chaos, enabling us to work while also cherishing time with our kids. Here are some of the things we’ve learned and how Google Assistant is helping us get through the day.


With the four of us sharing the same space all day every day, It can be especially important to carve out “me time.” Most mornings before my kids get up, I ask my Nest Hub Max, “Hey Google, show me workout videos” and I exercise along to a YouTube tutorial (here’s one I love). This solo time energizes me and sets the right tone so I can tackle the day.

I’m also restructuring my day to meet the needs of both work and family. While it might not be the case for everyone, I’m fortunate to have some flexibility in my work schedule. So instead of working a typical 9 to 5, I’ve established shifts with my husband so one of us gets uninterrupted time to focus on work, while the other helps our kids. I take the afternoon shift with my kids, so I schedule all of my work meetings in the morning. I typically hop back online after the kids are in bed so I can follow up on any urgent items and give my team guidance for the following day.

I also use ready-made Routines to trigger several actions with one single command. They’re super easy to set up and they’re the ultimate multitasking partner. For example, when I say “Hey Google, good morning,” Google Assistant turns on my kitchen lights, starts the coffee maker, reads out my calendar and plays the news. And when I want a quick update on specific topics, I ask things like, “Hey Google, what’s the latest news on coronavirus?” so I’m informed before the kids are up.

And with the lines between work and home completely blurred, I’ve realized I need to be much more intentional about my time. I ask Assistant to set reminders so I can keep track of upcoming online classes for my kids or remind my husband about our schedule. 

I also make sure my kids’ homeschooling classes and activities are added as calendar appointments, so I have a clear overview of what's going on for the family that day.


When I’m with the kids in the afternoon, I make sure to over-communicate with my colleagues about my whereabouts. For example, I block off my calendar in the afternoon and even put an “out of office” message in my email to set expectations about my availability. 

My daughter is starting to read, so one of her daily lessons is going over the alphabet. I ask Google Assistant to sing the ABCs on our Nest Mini when we review her alphabet book, so she starts understanding each letter.

As part of my son’s school assignments, he writes at least one or two pages a day. We've gotten into the habit of writing out jokes which we print and tape on our sidewalk so our neighbors can enjoy. Since he’s still learning how to spell, he’ll often ask Google Assistant for help spelling difficult words.

And is it just me, or are kids hungry all day long? To manage my (seemingly endless) grocery list, I ask my phone, “Hey Google, add pasta and cream to my shopping list.” And when I’m at the grocery store, I can quickly pull up my list without touching my phone by asking, “Hey Google, what’s on my shopping list?”


To create some separation between the workday and family time, we started a new evening ritual: dance parties. I scheduled a Custom Routine that automatically dims our living room lights and turns on a party playlist at 5:30pm each day. This also helps my kids shake out some energy, so it’s a win-win.

A few times a week before dinner, we video call the kids’ grandmas using Google Duo on our Nest Hub Max. If they don’t happen to be by their own Smart Displays to answer the call, they can easily pick up on their phones. Their grandmas live in Washington and Canada, so it’s special to connect with them regularly since we can’t see each other in person.

Around dinnertime, I try to get inventive with what I have so I can minimize grocery store trips. One of my favorite Google Assistant features is getting recipe inspiration based on what’s left in my fridge or pantry. Try asking, "Hey Google, what can I make with broccoli and cheese”—or whatever ingredients you need to use up!

Once dinner is ready, I simply say, “Hey Google, broadcast it’s dinner time” and my message is sent to all Assistant enabled speakers around our home, no need to shout.

And when it’s time to wind down for the night, we ask Assistant to tell us a story or play soothing sounds. Try it out by saying, “Hey Google, read me a bedtime story” or “Hey Google, play ocean sounds.” 

Whether you need help making mundane tasks more magical (“Hey Google, help me wash my hands”) or need assistance getting a meal on the table, I hope what I’ve learned in my own home can help make your day just a bit easier.