One hot summer day in Yosemite National Park in Northern California, I sat under a tree along a lazy river in awe of the natural beauty around me. I looked out at the majestic granite mountains, the chirping birds and the rustling leaves, and thought about how they were the same that day as they had been thousands of years ago.

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People around the world can now appreciate the beauty and timelessness of the wilderness through Street View. We’ve recently added 360-degree panoramic imagery for five of California’s national parks—including Yosemite—to Google Maps. In addition, we’ve refreshed Street View imagery across most of the state. You can now take a virtual road trip practically the entire stretch of California from north to south.

Redwood National Park sits near the California-Oregon border and hugs the Pacific Ocean. It’s most famous for its giant redwood trees—the tallest trees on Earth. With Street View, you can now stare up at them without straining your neck:

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Inland, at Yosemite National Park, you can visit historic Inspiration Point, the site famously photographed by Ansel Adams in “Clearing Winter Storm”. Panning right from the same vantage point, you can see the cliffs of El Capitan and the picturesque Bridalveil Fall waterfall flanking iconic Half Dome, a granite rock formation almost 5,000 feet tall. You can also use Street View to venture into the valley, overlook Glacier Point (visited by John Muir and President Theodore Roosevelt in 1903), explore the more remote upcountry along Tioga Pass road and see the Giant Sequoias in Mariposa Grove.

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You’ve seen the redwoods, now see more enormous trees with a visit to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, whose namesake trees are the most massive in the world. It would take almost 30 adults linking their outstretched arms to wrap all the way around the largest sequoias. These parks also offer rich and varied landscapes featuring everything from mountains to canyons to caverns.

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The name may be foreboding, but Death Valley National Park, which lies along the California-Nevada border and has the lowest elevation of any spot in North America, is home to a variety of flora and fauna and well worth a visit. With average summer temperatures in this desert environment soaring above 110 degrees Fahrenheit, most people visit in the winter, but Street View lets you check it out any time of year—no sunblock required.

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Slightly north of the U.S.-Mexico border is the fifth and final national park recently added to Street View: Joshua Tree National Park. The gnarly, twisted trees here seem like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. Plan your escapades ahead of time from your browser, then pack up your hiking shoes or your mountain bike and hit the trails in this one-of-a-kind desert landscape.

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This only scratches the surface of what California parks have to offer travelers looking to explore the great outdoors. We hope a virtual trip through Street View inspires you to visit these places in person as well. If you need some additional inspiration, I’ll leave you with a quote from naturalist and author John Muir:

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.

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Driving down Highway 1 through Big Sur is the ultimate road trip in California.

(Cross-posted on the Lat Long blog)

The Official Google Blog

One of the best parts of my job working on the Google Education team has been hearing inspiring stories time and again of great teachers who build strong relationships with and bring out the best in their students. We recognize that there are many factors that can impact a student’s ability to learn, and that technology can be a valuable assistant in overcoming educational barriers, but that it’s really teachers, not technology, who help students realize their full potential. In honor of National Teacher Day today in the U.S., we wanted to showcase a few amazing stories of dedicated teachers who have shown us how they used technology to make learning magical for their students.

At Eastfield Global Magnet School in North Carolina, seventh-grade teacher Elaine Waters was looking for a way to help a student of hers named Malachi, who struggled when it came to putting pen to paper. Elaine decided to have Malachi try using a Chromebook to write—watch what happened below:

Across the country at Xavier College Prep in Arizona, beloved history teacher Gina Nunez had to take a medical leave of absence. With her students panicking over their final exam, Gina found a way to help them study from afar:

We’ll be posting more of these stories on our Google in Education +page and encourage you to share your stories in the comments. We’re always eager to hear about excellent educators who have used technology in ways small and large to make a difference in the lives of students. If you’re interested in learning about more ways to integrate technology in school, you can watch recordings from our first Education On Air conference, a free education technology conference held entirely online from our Google in Education page last week. Watch the sessions on our YouTube channel.

Thanks to all the creative teachers out there who find a way to spark each student’s passion—we hope to hear more stories from you soon.

The Official Google Blog

Today we’re excited to announce the 50 State Winners of the 2012 U.S. Doodle 4 Google competition. We received a record-breaking 114,000 submissions from all corners of the country—from North Pole, Alaska, to Suwanee, Ga. Young artists doodled their way from the prehistoric to the futuristic and everywhere in between with this year’s theme, “If I could travel in time, I’d visit…”.

To recognize the amazing level of talent, Googlers are celebrating the young artists at school events in their communities along with thousands of their teachers, parents, friends and classmates.

Now it’s time for your voice to be heard. From today until May 10, we invite the public to vote and help us select the five National Finalists. On May 17 at our national award ceremony in New York City, we’ll announce the National Winner. You’ll be able to see the winning doodle on the Google homepage on May 18.

We also hope everyone gets a chance to see these State Winners’ masterpieces, so at the end of the contest, all of the 50 State Winners will have their doodles displayed in an exhibit at the New York Public Library. And, for the first time this year, the artwork of all 250 State Finalists (including the 50 State Winners) will be displayed in local exhibitions in their respective states.

We’d like to thank the countless teachers, parents and administrators for supporting their young artists as they doodled their way through time for this year’s contest. Please join us in congratulating all participants—they did a fantastic job of inspiring us with their creativity.

The Official Google Blog

(Cross-posted on the Public Policy Blog)

On the Internet, as with the offline world, the choices we make often have an impact on others. The links we share and the sites we visit can affect our security and sometimes introduce risk for people we know. Given how quickly our collective use of technology is evolving, it’s useful to periodically remind ourselves of practices that can help us achieve a more secure and enjoyable online experience.

This month, Google once again joins the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), government agencies, corporations, schools and non-profit organizations in recognizing National Cyber Security Awareness Month. It’s a time for us to offer education that increases online security for everyone.

It’s fitting that the theme of this year’s Cyber Security Awareness Month is “Our Shared Responsibility.” With ever-increasing ways to access the web and share information, we need to focus on keeping our activities secure. In that spirit, and to help kick off Cyber Security Awareness Month, we’re introducing a new Google Security Center. The Security Center is full of practical tips and information to help people stay safe online, from choosing a secure password to using 2-step verification and avoiding phishing sites and malware.

We also continue to develop products and services that help people protect their information online. Examples that have stood out so far this year include the Chromebook, 2-step verification in 40 languages, and Chrome browser warnings for malicious downloads and out-of-date plugins, among others. We develop free products and tools such as DOM Snitch, a Chrome extension that helps developers identify insecure code.

We recognize the importance of security education and are committed to helping make your online experience both exciting and safe to use. We all have a responsibility to take steps to protect ourselves and together develop a culture of security. We encourage everyone to Stop. Think. Connect.

The Official Google Blog

(Cross-posted from the Lat Long and Student Blogs)

This island has a population of about 57,000 people, with the most settlements concentrated on the west coast. Very little of this island is suitable for agriculture.

After eight rounds of questions from none other than quiz king Alex Trebek himself, the team from Russia was crowned the National Geographic World Champions today at our Mountain View, Calif. headquarters after answering this final question correctly.

(By the way, the answer is Greenland.)

The National Geographic World Champions from Russia (photo courtesy of National Geographic)

Students from 17 regions around the world competed in the 2011 National Geographic World Championship. Today’s final round included answering a series of challenging questions like the one above. The students also interpreted maps and museum artifacts from the University of California Berkeley and fielded questions about live animals from the San Francisco Zoo during the earlier rounds of the competition.

Congratulations to the Russian team and to all of the students who participated. We look forward to seeing where your explorations and knowledge take you.

The Official Google Blog

It’s summer vacation for many kids, but 51 students from 17 different regions have been spending their time off polishing and fine-tuning their geographic skills to prepare for this year’s National Geographic World Championship, a biennial geography competition hosted by the National Geographic Society.

This year, Google is the proud sponsor and on Wednesday, July 27, we’ll host the three final teams from Canada, Chinese Taipei and Russia at our campus in Mountain View, California. The preliminary rounds included a written exam on Sunday and activities at the San Francisco Zoo on Monday morning. Teams ventured to various zoo exhibits and were asked to identify climate maps and geographic locations associated with 10 different animal habitats housed throughout the zoo.

Teams from Canada, Chinese Taipei and Russia will move on to the National Geographic World Championship

Since most of you can’t be here to witness the action in person, we’re going to live stream the finale, hosted by Alex Trebek of the game show JEOPARDY!. Tune into the National Geographic YouTube Channel Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. PDT to cheer on these young competitors from wherever you are in the world.

Through this competition, we aim to inspire the future generation of leaders and innovators to become more geographically literate and have a deeper understanding about the world they live in. We hope you are as excited as we are to see such enthusiasm and passion around geographic education.

Please join us in wishing all of these young geographic experts the best of luck!

The Official Google Blog

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