Reflecting on Google’s GNI Engagement

 As the year comes to a close, we’re reflecting on Google’s Global Network Initiative (GNI) assessment and some of this year’s important developments in our work to protect the free expression and privacy interests of our users.

Last week, in our continued effort to increase transparency around government demands for user data, we made available to the public the National Security Letters (NSLs) Google has received where, either through litigation or legislation, we have been freed of nondisclosure obligations. Our goal in doing so is to shed more light on the nature and scope of these requests. We’ve also supported policy efforts to ensure that the privacy interests of non-U.S. persons are addressed as U.S. policymakers consider government surveillance issues.

Earlier this month, we highlighted our efforts to comply with the right to be forgotten in Europe. For much of the last year, we’ve worked to defend the idea that each country should be able to balance freedom of expression and privacy in the way that country sees fit, and not according to another country’s interpretation. One Data Protection Authority, the French Commission Nationale de l’Informatique et des Libertés (the CNIL), ordered Google to delist French right to be forgotten removals for users everywhere. We agree with the CNIL that privacy is a fundamental right — but so, too, is the right to free expression. Any balance struck between those two rights must be accompanied by territorial limits, consistent with the basic principles of international law.

These are some examples of Google’s public policy work that illustrate our commitment to the freedom of expression and privacy rights of our users. We know that pressing global issues are best addressed in partnership with with key stakeholders — and the GNI is critical to Google’s efforts.

The GNI is at the core of our multi-stakeholder engagement on free expression and privacy issues. Google is proud to be a founding member of the GNI, an initiative that brings together ICT companies with civil society organizations, investors, and academics to define a shared approach to freedom of expression and privacy online. The GNI provides a framework for company operations, rooted in international standards; promotes accountability of ICT sector companies through independent assessment; enables multi-stakeholder policy engagement; and creates shared learning opportunities across stakeholder boundaries.

Earlier this year, GNI released the second round of assessments, and announced the board’s determination that Google is compliant with the GNI framework. The assessment is an important tool for companies, NGOs, academics, and others working together to review how companies address risks to privacy and free expression.

The assessment process includes a review of relevant internal systems, policies and procedures for implementing the GNI Principles (“the process review”), and an examination of specific cases or examples that show how the company is implementing them in practice (the “case review”).

Our cases were selected for their salience to our approach to implementing the GNI Principles, taking into consideration Google’s products and services, geographical footprint, operating environments, and human rights risk profile. In addition, to the Google-specific cases discussed in GNI’s public assessment report, we wanted to provide additional examples to illustrate the types of non-U.S. cases reviewed.

Request for user data
A request was made for Gmail user information by a federal police department. A key part of our process is making sure that the requests we receive are appropriately supported by legal process. In this case, we found that the initial request was inadequate due to failure to have a judicial stamp or signature, and we therefore pushed back, as we would not comply unless the request was judicially authorized. Once these items were obtained and, we determined that it was a valid legal request (including that it was not overbroad), we complied with the request.

Request for removal
A request for Blogger content removal was made by a regulatory agency. The requestor claimed that content was subject to removal under the country’s statute prohibiting appeals to mass riots, extremist activities, and mass actions against established order. In reviewing the request, we determined that the content did not violate our terms of service.  We then responded by requesting a copy of the decision citing specific URLs that are illegal. This would be evidence of an authoritative interpretation of the local law as applied to the content.  As there was no response from the requestor, and the content did not violate our company policies, the request was denied and we did not remove the material.

RTBF: Push for Judicial Review; Careful Development and Implementation of Rigorous Removal Process for Requests
This example describes how we responded to requests subsequent to the Google Spain v AEPD and Mario Costeja ruling, which presented risks to freedom of expression. In the Costeja case, we appealed through the court process, but were unsuccessful.  We pushed back on this ruling because we considered the requirement for Google to take down this information to be in conflict with freedom of expression. On appeal, the Court of Justice of the European Union found that people have the right to ask for information to be removed from search results that include their names if it is “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant, or excessive.” In deciding what to remove, search engines must also have regard to the public interest, without additional guidance regarding what information constitutes “public interest.” The court also decided that search engines don’t qualify for a “journalistic exception.” We continue to fight court cases seeking to expand this requirement for takedowns globally.

We also convened the Advisory Council to Google on the Right to be Forgotten to review input from dozens of experts in meetings across Europe, as well as from thousands of submissions via the Web. The Council included Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. The Council advised us on performing the balancing act between an individual’s right to privacy and the public’s interest in access to information.

In response to the Costeja ruling, Google established a dedicated team to develop and implement a system to remove valid RtbF requests. We evaluate each request appropriately, complying with the law, but making sure that, if there is a legal basis for the content to remain available, we will assess how that applies. To address the ruling, we assembled a team to address the new category of requests arising from the rights articulated in Costeja. Our web removals site was updated to include information about and a portal for RtbF requests. Requests are reviewed by the legal removals team; after review, the requester is notified of the determination. Since implementing this system, we have delisted approximately 780,000 URLs. Our process responds to individual requests and carefully evaluates  each request against the criteria for removal. We also notify websites when one of their pages has been removed pursuant to a RtbF claim. In addition to removing URLs, we include information about RtbF requests and removals in our Transparency Report.

Our assessors also provided us with recommendations for enhancing our implementation of the GNI Principles. These recommendations, combined with feedback and ongoing engagement with GNI stakeholders, will inform our policies and practices and strengthen our advocacy in 2017.

CSEdWeek 2016: Giving every student access to computer science skills

Editor’s Note: Every year during Computer Science Education Week, partners and educators come together to help encourage millions of students to try computer science (CS). This year, Google is focusing on improving perceptions of CS while making it more accessible for underrepresented students. Follow along here throughout this week (Dec 5 – 11) to find out what we’ve learned from the latest research about CS education, what we’re doing for CSEdWeek and how each of us can help champion #CSForAll.

In January, we announced our continued $23.5 million investment for 2016 on behalf of CS education, with the aim of reaching an additional 5 million students through our programs. We’re committed to making #CSForAll a reality by making tools and programs that work for every student.

Computer science (CS) isn’t just an optional subject — it’s a life skill that’s become as critical to student success as reading and math. These skills can be applied in fields as diverse as music and medicine (Careers with Code). The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2022 there will be more than 1.3 million computer- and math-related jobs available, and 67 percent of these careers will be in industries outside of the tech sector.

Every student should have access to the technical skills that will help them thrive and tackle future challenges, but research indicates that some students are less likely to receive this opportunity — especially girls and minorities. That’s why we’re excited to be part of #CSforall: the White House’s national pledge to give every U.S. student an opportunity to learn CS.

Empowering more educators to teach computer science

As the need increases for students to explore and create with computer science, so does the need for qualified CS educators to teach them. We’re committed to increasing the CS teacher pipeline through CS4HS — an annual, application-based funding program for research institutions and education nonprofits to provide CS professional development and support to teachers in their local communities. These teachers apply what they’ve learned in the CS4HS workshops to their classrooms — inspiring the next generation of technologists.

Applications for professional development practitioners are open now until March 19. Funding is available in the United States, Canada, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China, Australia and New Zealand. Learn more on our website.

Empowering organizations around the world to provide equitable CS education

image02.jpg
Genesis and Gerard learn about microcontrollers to make this panda move at the South End Technology Center.

CSforAll means everyone — worldwide. So our annual RISE program supports organizations around the world to make CS education more equitable.

Today we’re announcing the latest round of RISE recipients: 28 nonprofits in 16 countries who will receive support to continue their important work. From reaching youth in rural parts of the U.S. to encouraging young entrepreneurs in India, these organizations will join a community of past winners that are making measurable difference in the world. For example, South End Technology Center, which won a RISE award earlier this year, was started in Boston by social activist and community organizer Dr. Mel King. The Tech Center provides training for teens to become creators of technology by combining computer science with social justice and community service. We’re honored to support the program, which not only provides resources, but also mentoring skills so older students can pass on their tech and problem-solving skills to the younger students.

Empowering kids to code through fun new projects

Computer science isn’t just about complicated programming. It’s a chance for everyone to get creative and have fun coming up with new ways to do things. Since only 41 percent of U.S. schools actually teach programming or coding, we’d love your help  to introduce more kids to computer science (while having fun!) during this year’s CS Education week. Here are a few activities anyone can try at home or in school:

Hour of Code: Create a scene for “Gumball’s Coding Adventure”

image01.jpg

Code.org is a non-profit that offers free one-hour CS tutorials designed for all ages. Google’s CS First and Cartoon Network have teamed up to create a new one-hour activity that encourages students ages 10-13 to create their own scene for “The Amazing World of Gumball,” using the Scratch programming language. During a “glitch” in the show, students get to imagine how Gumball and his friends would react, all while learning computational thinking concepts such as abstraction, sequencing, looping and parallelism. In addition, students can express their creativity and build their confidence. Check it out!

Millions of young people around the world use Scratch, a free programming platform, to create and share their own projects, games and animations. Together with the MIT Scratch team, we’re also making the Scratch programming blocks available as an open platform, called Scratch Blocks, so that developers of other kids’ products can add Scratch-style programming to their own products. Stay tuned for updates on the Google Developer Blog next Monday.

Create snowflakes and dancing elves in the 2016 Santa Tracker

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Thanks to Santa Tracker, it’s now easier than ever to keep tabs on Santa’s travel schedule. But St. Nick’s developer elves could use some help to keep the holiday fun going. This December, classrooms can pitch in by coding their very own snowflakes with Scratch Blocks or using code to make those elves dance. Lesson plans aligned with Common Core are included, so it’s easy to get started. Visit Santa Tracker to begin.

CSEdWeek is a great opportunity to experience coding for the first time. We hope you’ll share  these activities with your community to help make CS truly accessible.

Impact Portraits: success stories with Google for Education

Editor’s Note: We’re often asked by educators, “what impact do you see with Google technology in schools?” Last year we engaged Evergreen Education Group on a journey around the world to answer that question. During Education on Air on Saturday December 3rd, we will share the findings in Impact Portraits. These portraits demonstrate success with Google for Education through the lens of teachers, students and administrators. To hear Linda Darling-Hammond lead a discussion on Impact Portraits, register now for Education On Air.

At Evergreen Education Group we’ve studied K-12 digital education for fourteen years. Among the most important developments we have seen is the proliferation of devices in the classroom, whether through bring-your-own-device, district-led one-to-one programs or other channels. Relatively little study to date has examined how devices are successfully deployed and what their impact has been.

We were therefore thrilled that Google was interested in learning the answers to these questions, and in particular that they understood the study required speaking directly with the district and school leaders, curriculum and instruction specialists, and teachers at the forefront of the use of technology. Particularly they wanted to understand the impact of Chromebooks and G Suite for Education across schools.

Over the course of 16 months we spoke with more than 100 district and school leaders in six countries representing more than 880,000 students, analyzed each school’s documents and data, conducted surveys of administrators, teachers and students, and reviewed surveys the schools conducted. Our goal at every step was to let educators tell their stories, be honest about the challenges and failures, and celebrate the successes in the vein of highlighting these wonderful schools and providing guidance as schools continue down the digital path.

Early in the project we were asked to complete the sentence “Technology in the classroom equals…what?” Our answer: when considered alone, technology equals nothing. Technology is a tool that can be used well, or it can be used poorly. But when technology was combined with four key factors, it could help the school flourish. What are these key factors? Planning, Professional learning, Patience, and Support.

Why are these factors necessary? Because supporting the teachers who are using technology and transforming classrooms takes time—time measured in years, not weeks or months.

What does success look like? It takes different forms. But one common factor is that when educators speak of their success, they rarely lead with technology. Instead they talk about personalization, student engagement, and the role of teachers—all of these supported by technology.

This is about weaving technology into everything we do. Education technology is a tool, not a strategy.”

Dr. Mike Pressler

Maine East High School

The findings reveal examples of accomplishment and achievement from schools in different geographic regions, of varied sizes, enrolling a diversity of students. We—and the educators that we interviewed—would never suggest that the use of technology is a silver bullet that will in itself improve student achievement. However, based on our review of these schools, we are confident in saying that technology, when well planned and implemented, can be a key component of a successful digital strategy that has a positive impact on student outcomes.

  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg (US), the world’s largest Chromebook deployment, outperformed the state and other large North Carolina school districts in exceeding student growth expectations in 2015-2016 and saw a 20% increase in graduation rate.
[edu] Charlotte-Mecklenburg Chart.png
  • At McKinnon Secondary College (AU), students are actively driving learning and creating more than 1000 Google Docs each day. McKinnon was ranked 14th among all schools in Victoria and named one of the top 50 in Victoria based on Mathematics and English results in 2015.
  • Maine Township 207 (US), an early adopter of G Suite for Education, created a supportive learning environment that helped maintained high ACT scores even as demographics shifted and the low-income student population grew. This shift in demographics typically puts pressure on test scores, but the support of 1:1 take home Chromebooks helped Maine keep the playing field level for all.
[edu] Maine Township 207 Chart.png
  • Tring School (UK) saw 21% of students perform above their expected level in Science compared to the previous year and 20% more students reach average results in Science over the previous year.
  • In Oshkosh (US) changes to English class instruction improved passing rates in two classes from 75% to 94% and from 82% to 97%. And Oshkosh high schools, which implemented Chromebooks and G Suite first, outperformed the elementary school on measures of collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.
  • At St. Patrick’s College (NZ), Chromebooks enabled a flipped classroom for the Science department. Students receive more tailored feedback, and self-assessment is now seen as an essential step during assignments. Year 9 students saw a 97% pass rate on test designed for Year 12 students.
  • Devonport Boys High School (UK) saw 60% increase in students accessing their accounts outside of school. Students led clubs, campaigns and trips using G Suite for Education tools to work together.
[edu] Devonport Boys High School Graphic.png

Along with the individual cases, we surveyed leaders from across these schools and our initial results from the US found that more than 80% of respondents believe that the use of technology had a strong impact on the district’s vision, culture and ability to deliver professional learning. Three in four respondents report that the use of Google tools had a positive impact on the district budget, and–in a surprise to us–63% said the technology had impacted curriculum.

For additional findings and examples of instructional impact, read the Impact Portraits released on a rolling basis at g.co/EduImpact. For ideas on successful implementation of technology, visit Google for Education’s Transformation Center. And stay tuned to the Google for Education blog for a deeper look into each portrait and more profiles from the US, UK, Sweden, Spain, New Zealand and Australia in the coming months.

Impact Portraits: success stories with Google for Education

Editor’s Note: We’re often asked by educators, “what impact do you see with Google technology in schools?” Last year we engaged Evergreen Education Group on a journey around the world to answer that question. During Education on Air on Saturday December 3rd, we will share the findings in Impact Portraits. These portraits demonstrate success with Google for Education through the lens of teachers, students and administrators. To hear Linda Darling-Hammond lead a discussion on Impact Portraits, register now for Education On Air.

At Evergreen Education Group we’ve studied K-12 digital education for fourteen years. Among the most important developments we have seen is the proliferation of devices in the classroom, whether through bring-your-own-device, district-led one-to-one programs or other channels. Relatively little study to date has examined how devices are successfully deployed and what their impact has been.

We were therefore thrilled that Google was interested in learning the answers to these questions, and in particular that they understood the study required speaking directly with the district and school leaders, curriculum and instruction specialists, and teachers at the forefront of the use of technology. Particularly they wanted to understand the impact of Chromebooks and G Suite for Education across schools.

Over the course of 16 months we spoke with more than 100 district and school leaders in six countries representing more than 880,000 students, analyzed each school’s documents and data, conducted surveys of administrators, teachers and students, and reviewed surveys the schools conducted. Our goal at every step was to let educators tell their stories, be honest about the challenges and failures, and celebrate the successes in the vein of highlighting these wonderful schools and providing guidance as schools continue down the digital path.

Early in the project we were asked to complete the sentence “Technology in the classroom equals…what?” Our answer: when considered alone, technology equals nothing. Technology is a tool that can be used well, or it can be used poorly. But when technology was combined with four key factors, it could help the school flourish. What are these key factors? Planning, Professional learning, Patience, and Support.

Why are these factors necessary? Because supporting the teachers who are using technology and transforming classrooms takes time—time measured in years, not weeks or months.

What does success look like? It takes different forms. But one common factor is that when educators speak of their success, they rarely lead with technology. Instead they talk about personalization, student engagement, and the role of teachers—all of these supported by technology.

This is about weaving technology into everything we do. Education technology is a tool, not a strategy.

Dr. Mike Pressler

Maine East High School

The findings reveal examples of accomplishment and achievement from schools in different geographic regions, of varied sizes, enrolling a diversity of students. We—and the educators that we interviewed—would never suggest that the use of technology is a silver bullet that will in itself improve student achievement. However, based on our review of these schools, we are confident in saying that technology, when well planned and implemented, can be a key component of a successful digital strategy that has a positive impact on student outcomes.

  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg (US), the world’s largest Chromebook deployment, outperformed the state and other large North Carolina school districts in exceeding student growth expectations in 2015-2016 and saw a 20% increase in graduation rate.
[edu] Charlotte-Mecklenburg Chart.png
  • At McKinnon Secondary College (AU), students are actively driving learning and creating more than 1000 Google Docs each day. McKinnon was ranked 14th among all schools in Victoria and named one of the top 50 in Victoria based on Mathematics and English results in 2015.
  • Maine Township 207 (US), an early adopter of G Suite for Education, created a supportive learning environment that helped maintained high ACT scores even as demographics shifted and the low-income student population grew. This shift in demographics typically puts pressure on test scores, but the support of 1:1 take home Chromebooks helped Maine keep the playing field level for all.
[edu] Maine Township 207 Chart.png
  • Tring School (UK) saw 21% of students perform above their expected level in Science compared to the previous year and 20% more students reach average results in Science over the previous year.
  • In Oshkosh (US) changes to English class instruction improved passing rates in two classes from 75% to 94% and from 82% to 97%. And Oshkosh high schools, which implemented Chromebooks and G Suite first, outperformed the elementary school on measures of collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.
  • At St. Patrick’s College (NZ), Chromebooks enabled a flipped classroom for the Science department. Students receive more tailored feedback, and self-assessment is now seen as an essential step during assignments. Year 9 students saw a 97% pass rate on test designed for Year 12 students.
  • Devonport Boys High School (UK) saw 60% increase in students accessing their accounts outside of school. Students led clubs, campaigns and trips using G Suite for Education tools to work together.
[edu] Devonport Boys High School Graphic.png

Along with the individual cases, we surveyed leaders from across these schools and our initial results from the US found that more than 80% of respondents believe that the use of technology had a strong impact on the district’s vision, culture and ability to deliver professional learning. Three in four respondents report that the use of Google tools had a positive impact on the district budget, and–in a surprise to us–63% said the technology had impacted curriculum.

For additional findings and examples of instructional impact, read the Impact Portraits released on a rolling basis at g.co/EduImpact. For ideas on successful implementation of technology, visit Google for Education’s Transformation Center. And stay tuned to the Google for Education blog for a deeper look into each portrait and more profiles from the US, UK, Sweden, Spain, New Zealand and Australia in the coming months.

Impact Portraits: success stories with Google for Education

Editor’s Note: We’re often asked by educators, “what impact do you see with Google technology in schools?” Last year we engaged Evergreen Education Group on a journey around the world to answer that question. During Education on Air on Saturday December 3rd, we will share the findings in Impact Portraits. These portraits demonstrate success with Google for Education through the lens of teachers, students and administrators. To hear Linda Darling-Hammond lead a discussion on Impact Portraits, register now for Education On Air.

At Evergreen Education Group we’ve studied K-12 digital education for fourteen years. Among the most important developments we have seen is the proliferation of devices in the classroom, whether through bring-your-own-device, district-led one-to-one programs or other channels. Relatively little study to date has examined how devices are successfully deployed and what their impact has been.

We were therefore thrilled that Google was interested in learning the answers to these questions, and in particular that they understood the study required speaking directly with the district and school leaders, curriculum and instruction specialists, and teachers at the forefront of the use of technology. Particularly they wanted to understand the impact of Chromebooks and G Suite for Education across schools.

Over the course of 16 months we spoke with more than 100 district and school leaders in six countries representing more than 880,000 students, analyzed each school’s documents and data, conducted surveys of administrators, teachers and students, and reviewed surveys the schools conducted. Our goal at every step was to let educators tell their stories, be honest about the challenges and failures, and celebrate the successes in the vein of highlighting these wonderful schools and providing guidance as schools continue down the digital path.

Early in the project we were asked to complete the sentence “Technology in the classroom equals…what?” Our answer: when considered alone, technology equals nothing. Technology is a tool that can be used well, or it can be used poorly. But when technology was combined with four key factors, it could help the school flourish. What are these key factors? Planning, Professional learning, Patience, and Support.

Why are these factors necessary? Because supporting the teachers who are using technology and transforming classrooms takes time—time measured in years, not weeks or months.

What does success look like? It takes different forms. But one common factor is that when educators speak of their success, they rarely lead with technology. Instead they talk about personalization, student engagement, and the role of teachers—all of these supported by technology.

This is about weaving technology into everything we do. Education technology is a tool, not a strategy.

Dr. Mike Pressler

Maine East High School

The findings reveal examples of accomplishment and achievement from schools in different geographic regions, of varied sizes, enrolling a diversity of students. We—and the educators that we interviewed—would never suggest that the use of technology is a silver bullet that will in itself improve student achievement. However, based on our review of these schools, we are confident in saying that technology, when well planned and implemented, can be a key component of a successful digital strategy that has a positive impact on student outcomes.

  • Charlotte-Mecklenburg (US), the world’s largest Chromebook deployment, outperformed the state and other large North Carolina school districts in exceeding student growth expectations in 2015-2016 and saw a 20% increase in graduation rate.
[edu] Charlotte-Mecklenburg Chart.png
  • At McKinnon Secondary College (AU), students are actively driving learning and creating more than 1000 Google Docs each day. McKinnon was ranked 14th among all schools in Victoria and named one of the top 50 in Victoria based on Mathematics and English results in 2015.
  • Maine Township 207 (US), an early adopter of G Suite for Education, created a supportive learning environment that helped maintained high ACT scores even as demographics shifted and the low-income student population grew. This shift in demographics typically puts pressure on test scores, but the support of 1:1 take home Chromebooks helped Maine keep the playing field level for all.
[edu] Maine Township 207 Chart.png
  • Tring School (UK) saw 21% of students perform above their expected level in Science compared to the previous year and 20% more students reach average results in Science over the previous year.
  • In Oshkosh (US) changes to English class instruction improved passing rates in two classes from 75% to 94% and from 82% to 97%. And Oshkosh high schools, which implemented Chromebooks and G Suite first, outperformed the elementary school on measures of collaboration, critical thinking and creativity.
  • At St. Patrick’s College (NZ), Chromebooks enabled a flipped classroom for the Science department. Students receive more tailored feedback, and self-assessment is now seen as an essential step during assignments. Year 9 students saw a 97% pass rate on test designed for Year 12 students.
  • Devonport Boys High School (UK) saw 60% increase in students accessing their accounts outside of school. Students led clubs, campaigns and trips using G Suite for Education tools to work together.
[edu] Devonport Boys High School Graphic.png

Along with the individual cases, we surveyed leaders from across these schools and our initial results from the US found that more than 80% of respondents believe that the use of technology had a strong impact on the district’s vision, culture and ability to deliver professional learning. Three in four respondents report that the use of Google tools had a positive impact on the district budget, and–in a surprise to us–63% said the technology had impacted curriculum.

For additional findings and examples of instructional impact, read the Impact Portraits released on a rolling basis at g.co/EduImpact. For ideas on successful implementation of technology, visit Google for Education’s Transformation Center. And stay tuned to the Google for Education blog for a deeper look into each portrait and more profiles from the US, UK, Sweden, Spain, New Zealand and Australia in the coming months.

4 ways University City School District fosters learning equity

Editor’s note: As part of the ExploreEDU event series, schools are working with Google for Education Premier Partners to throw open their doors and invite neighboring educators to learn from their firsthand experience using Google tools to innovate and improve. To see if there is an event near you, visit the ExploreEDU site. For those who can’t join in person, we’ve asked the host schools to share their experiences and tips in a blog post. Today’s guest author is Robert Dillon, Director of Innovation Learning at University City School District in the St. Louis area. They will host an ExploreEDU event on Dec. 6 with Tierney Brothers.

All students deserve an excellent, engaging education. A big part of our mission at University City School District is to bring rich learning experiences and digital resources to all of our kids, 70 percent of whom are affected by poverty daily. I want to share a few of the ways we’re designing a more equitable learning environment for our students.

1. Igniting positive risk-taking

Taking a new approach to learning requires shifting the mentality of teachers and administrators from compliance and fear to risk and innovation. This starts with senior leadership setting an example, creating a sense of urgency and communicating openly. Our superintendent and principals acknowledge there’s no single formula for creating change, and no one has all the answers; so we need to be willing to fail and to iterate. This culture of experimentation and transparency liberates teachers to try new things, and encourages the team to solve hard problems together. We’ve used Google Classroom as a platform for innovative teachers to gather across buildings to discuss ideas, provide feedback to our education technology solution partners, and decrease any sense of isolation in the district.

Sharing information is key to building trust and energy in the system.  We’re constantly talking with other districts, and bringing people together at events like ExploreEDU to break down the walls between educators in our region. We’re also meeting with all of our principals to talk about their moonshot ideas and the resources they might need to realize these changes.

2. Expanding capacity through the community

The district leadership team also harnesses the power of our community by enlisting parents to share their expertise with us. For instance, one student’s parent who previously led a nonprofit organization is helping my team coordinate parent focus groups to test new ideas surrounding learning academies, competency-based learning, and building a greater sense of belonging in our schools.

Other parents get involved by leading student groups: one parent who sees the learning power with teaching robotics leads our middle school robotics club. Other parents who are active in the arts connect us to community organizations and build relationships with their leaders so we make the most of our partnership. This extends our network of teachers and mentors, giving students access to a breadth of knowledge and experience.

3. Improving learning through technology

We’re able to try new approaches to learning because we have the tools to support it; we also recognize that learning comes first. We selected our technology platform to meet specific goals: increasing collaboration and teaching real-world skills.  Those goals drove us to choose Google for Education which we’ve used for over six years now to help students, teachers and administrators create and share information. In our fifth grade classes that are learning through robotics class, students use Google Docs to write stories about their experiences building robots. They now have the ability to share their stories with fifth graders across the region who are working on similar projects. The power of storytelling, and its application in the real world, is amplified when students have the tools to reach an audience beyond their class and teacher.

4. Encouraging student choice

A challenge to equity is giving students the flexibility to learn about topics they’re passionate about, in ways that work best for them. In social studies and elective classes in particular, teachers are introducing opportunities for students to choose projects that have local impact. For example, many families in our district live in food deserts, which means they have limited access to affordable, healthy food. One middle school class discussed this problem in the context of race and poverty. They proposed solutions: What if schools served as farmer’s markets, or donated surplus cafeteria food to families in need? It’s inspiring to see students learn by solving problems that are relevant to our community.

Achieving greater equity in learning starts with giving our kids everyday opportunities to close the experience gap. A lot of that has to do with having the attitude, partners, tools and autonomy to make these opportunities real.

4 ways University City School District fosters learning equity

Editor’s note: As part of the ExploreEDU event series, schools are working with Google for Education Premier Partners to throw open their doors and invite neighboring educators to learn from their firsthand experience using Google tools to innovate and improve. To see if there is an event near you, visit the ExploreEDU site. For those who can’t join in person, we’ve asked the host schools to share their experiences and tips in a blog post. Today’s guest author is Robert Dillon, Director of Innovation Learning at University City School District in the St. Louis area. They will host an ExploreEDU event on Dec. 6 with Tierney Brothers.

All students deserve an excellent, engaging education. A big part of our mission at University City School District is to bring rich learning experiences and digital resources to all of our kids, 70 percent of whom are affected by poverty daily. I want to share a few of the ways we’re designing a more equitable learning environment for our students.

1. Igniting positive risk-taking

Taking a new approach to learning requires shifting the mentality of teachers and administrators from compliance and fear to risk and innovation. This starts with senior leadership setting an example, creating a sense of urgency and communicating openly. Our superintendent and principals acknowledge there’s no single formula for creating change, and no one has all the answers; so we need to be willing to fail and to iterate. This culture of experimentation and transparency liberates teachers to try new things, and encourages the team to solve hard problems together. We’ve used Google Classroom as a platform for innovative teachers to gather across buildings to discuss ideas, provide feedback to our education technology solution partners, and decrease any sense of isolation in the district.

Sharing information is key to building trust and energy in the system.  We’re constantly talking with other districts, and bringing people together at events like ExploreEDU to break down the walls between educators in our region. We’re also meeting with all of our principals to talk about their moonshot ideas and the resources they might need to realize these changes.

2. Expanding capacity through the community

The district leadership team also harnesses the power of our community by enlisting parents to share their expertise with us. For instance, one student’s parent who previously led a nonprofit organization is helping my team coordinate parent focus groups to test new ideas surrounding learning academies, competency-based learning, and building a greater sense of belonging in our schools.

Other parents get involved by leading student groups: one parent who sees the learning power with teaching robotics leads our middle school robotics club. Other parents who are active in the arts connect us to community organizations and build relationships with their leaders so we make the most of our partnership. This extends our network of teachers and mentors, giving students access to a breadth of knowledge and experience.

3. Improving learning through technology

We’re able to try new approaches to learning because we have the tools to support it; we also recognize that learning comes first. We selected our technology platform to meet specific goals: increasing collaboration and teaching real-world skills.  Those goals drove us to choose Google for Education which we’ve used for over six years now to help students, teachers and administrators create and share information. In our fifth grade classes that are learning through robotics class, students use Google Docs to write stories about their experiences building robots. They now have the ability to share their stories with fifth graders across the region who are working on similar projects. The power of storytelling, and its application in the real world, is amplified when students have the tools to reach an audience beyond their class and teacher.

4. Encouraging student choice

A challenge to equity is giving students the flexibility to learn about topics they’re passionate about, in ways that work best for them. In social studies and elective classes in particular, teachers are introducing opportunities for students to choose projects that have local impact. For example, many families in our district live in food deserts, which means they have limited access to affordable, healthy food. One middle school class discussed this problem in the context of race and poverty. They proposed solutions: What if schools served as farmer’s markets, or donated surplus cafeteria food to families in need? It’s inspiring to see students learn by solving problems that are relevant to our community.

Achieving greater equity in learning starts with giving our kids everyday opportunities to close the experience gap. A lot of that has to do with having the attitude, partners, tools and autonomy to make these opportunities real.

4 ways University City School District fosters learning equity

Editor’s note: As part of the ExploreEDU event series, schools are working with Google for Education Premier Partners to throw open their doors and invite neighboring educators to learn from their firsthand experience using Google tools to innovate and improve. To see if there is an event near you, visit the ExploreEDU site. For those who can’t join in person, we’ve asked the host schools to share their experiences and tips in a blog post. Today’s guest author is Robert Dillon, Director of Innovation Learning at University City School District in the St. Louis area. They will host an ExploreEDU event on Dec. 6 with Tierney Brothers.

All students deserve an excellent, engaging education. A big part of our mission at University City School District is to bring rich learning experiences and digital resources to all of our kids, 70 percent of whom are affected by poverty daily. I want to share a few of the ways we’re designing a more equitable learning environment for our students.

1. Igniting positive risk-taking

Taking a new approach to learning requires shifting the mentality of teachers and administrators from compliance and fear to risk and innovation. This starts with senior leadership setting an example, creating a sense of urgency and communicating openly. Our superintendent and principals acknowledge there’s no single formula for creating change, and no one has all the answers; so we need to be willing to fail and to iterate. This culture of experimentation and transparency liberates teachers to try new things, and encourages the team to solve hard problems together. We’ve used Google Classroom as a platform for innovative teachers to gather across buildings to discuss ideas, provide feedback to our education technology solution partners, and decrease any sense of isolation in the district.

Sharing information is key to building trust and energy in the system.  We’re constantly talking with other districts, and bringing people together at events like ExploreEDU to break down the walls between educators in our region. We’re also meeting with all of our principals to talk about their moonshot ideas and the resources they might need to realize these changes.

2. Expanding capacity through the community

The district leadership team also harnesses the power of our community by enlisting parents to share their expertise with us. For instance, one student’s parent who previously led a nonprofit organization is helping my team coordinate parent focus groups to test new ideas surrounding learning academies, competency-based learning, and building a greater sense of belonging in our schools.

Other parents get involved by leading student groups: one parent who sees the learning power with teaching robotics leads our middle school robotics club. Other parents who are active in the arts connect us to community organizations and build relationships with their leaders so we make the most of our partnership. This extends our network of teachers and mentors, giving students access to a breadth of knowledge and experience.

3. Improving learning through technology

We’re able to try new approaches to learning because we have the tools to support it; we also recognize that learning comes first. We selected our technology platform to meet specific goals: increasing collaboration and teaching real-world skills.  Those goals drove us to choose Google for Education which we’ve used for over six years now to help students, teachers and administrators create and share information. In our fifth grade classes that are learning through robotics class, students use Google Docs to write stories about their experiences building robots. They now have the ability to share their stories with fifth graders across the region who are working on similar projects. The power of storytelling, and its application in the real world, is amplified when students have the tools to reach an audience beyond their class and teacher.

4. Encouraging student choice

A challenge to equity is giving students the flexibility to learn about topics they’re passionate about, in ways that work best for them. In social studies and elective classes in particular, teachers are introducing opportunities for students to choose projects that have local impact. For example, many families in our district live in food deserts, which means they have limited access to affordable, healthy food. One middle school class discussed this problem in the context of race and poverty. They proposed solutions: What if schools served as farmer’s markets, or donated surplus cafeteria food to families in need? It’s inspiring to see students learn by solving problems that are relevant to our community.

Achieving greater equity in learning starts with giving our kids everyday opportunities to close the experience gap. A lot of that has to do with having the attitude, partners, tools and autonomy to make these opportunities real.

Detecting diabetic eye disease with machine learning

Diabetic retinopathy — an eye condition that affects people with diabetes — is the fastest growing cause of blindness, with nearly 415 million diabetic patients at risk worldwide. The disease can be treated if detected early, but if not, it can lead to irreversible blindness.

One of the most common ways to detect diabetic eye disease is to have a specialist examine pictures of the back of the eye and determine whether there are signs of the disease, and if so, how severe it is. While annual screening is recommended for all patients with diabetes, many people live in areas without easy access to specialist care. That means millions of people aren’t getting the care they need to prevent loss of vision.

A few years ago, a Google research team began studying whether machine learning could be used to screen for diabetic retinopathy (DR). Today, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, we’ve published our results: a deep learning algorithm capable of interpreting signs of DR in retinal photographs, potentially helping doctors screen more patients, especially in underserved communities with limited resources.

diabetic retinopathy
Examples of retinal photographs that are taken to screen for DR. A healthy retina can be seen on the left; the retina on the right has lesions, which are indicative of bleeding and fluid leakage in the eye.

Working with a team of doctors in India and the U.S., we created a dataset of 128,000 images and used them to train a deep neural network to detect diabetic retinopathy. We then compared our algorithm’s performance to another set of images examined by a panel of board-certified ophthalmologists. Our algorithm performs on par with the ophthalmologists, achieving both high sensitivity and specificity. For more details, see our post on the Research blog.

We’re excited by the results, but there’s a lot more to do before an algorithm like this can be used widely. For example, interpretation of a 2D retinal photograph is only one step in the process of diagnosing diabetic eye disease — in some cases, doctors use a 3D imaging technology to examine various layers of a retina in detail. Our colleagues at DeepMind are working on applying machine learning to that method. In the future, these two complementary methods might be used together to assist doctors in the diagnosis of a wide spectrum of eye diseases.

Automated, highly accurate screening methods have the potential to assist doctors in evaluating more patients and quickly routing those who need help to a specialist. We hope this study will be one of many examples to come demonstrating the ability of machine learning to help solve important problems in healthcare.

Detecting diabetic eye disease with machine learning

Diabetic retinopathy — an eye condition that affects people with diabetes — is the fastest growing cause of blindness, with nearly 415 million diabetic patients at risk worldwide. The disease can be treated if detected early, but if not, it can lead to irreversible blindness.

One of the most common ways to detect diabetic eye disease is to have a specialist examine pictures of the back of the eye and determine whether there are signs of the disease, and if so, how severe it is. While annual screening is recommended for all patients with diabetes, many people live in areas without easy access to specialist care. That means millions of people aren’t getting the care they need to prevent loss of vision.

A few years ago, a Google research team began studying whether machine learning could be used to screen for diabetic retinopathy (DR). Today, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, we’ve published our results: a deep learning algorithm capable of interpreting signs of DR in retinal photographs, potentially helping doctors screen more patients, especially in underserved communities with limited resources.

diabeticeye_900x500.jpg
Examples of retinal photographs that are taken to screen for DR. A healthy retina can be seen on the left; the retina on the right has lesions, which are indicative of bleeding and fluid leakage in the eye.

Working with a team of doctors in India and the U.S., we created a dataset of 128,000 images and used them to train a deep neural network to detect diabetic retinopathy. We then compared our algorithm’s performance to another set of images examined by a panel of board-certified ophthalmologists. Our algorithm performs on par with the ophthalmologists, achieving both high sensitivity and specificity. For more details, see our post on the Research blog.

We’re excited by the results, but there’s a lot more to do before an algorithm like this can be used widely. For example, interpretation of a 2D retinal photograph is only one step in the process of diagnosing diabetic eye disease — in some cases, doctors use a 3D imaging technology to examine various layers of a retina in detail. Our colleagues at DeepMind are working on applying machine learning to that method. In the future, these two complementary methods might be used together to assist doctors in the diagnosis of a wide spectrum of eye diseases.

Automated, highly accurate screening methods have the potential to assist doctors in evaluating more patients and quickly routing those who need help to a specialist. We hope this study will be one of many examples to come demonstrating the ability of machine learning to help solve important problems in healthcare.