Guest Blog – A Day Out at Google HQ

This guest blog comes from Nick Hart, a Lecturer in Engineering at The Sheffield College. He and colleagues have recently made the move to Google Classroom and so we funded his trip to an event that might provide further inspiration. Turns out, it did.


Ok so thoughts on Google…

Incredible, mind blowing, inspirational, endless possibilities, potential are all words I would use as an educator for the Google family of software.

As a dad and a human the word I would use is scary!

But with my educator hat on I have to think about the time we could save, the efficiency we could build into our working life, and the positive effect we could have on our students’ experience here at College.

In no particular order:



A fantastic way of collating information from different sources. I could see this being a great way of doing all of the following-

  • A plenary. Exit ticket.
  • ‘What a good one looks like’ (WAGOLL) activities for students to respond to
  • The forms could though be used by our technical assessor facilitators to create a record of industrial visits/work completed by student/evidence of knowledge. The information could then be collated through an extension called Autocrat and put into a Google Doc or PDF for a neat and tidy record.



Mind blowing…

Geo charts is a way of evidencing data captured as a heat map (on a map). This can then be linked to a presentation file and remain live and linked.

Something called sparkline which gives a really quick idea of what a graph would look like for one line of data.

Sheets is a spreadsheet with all the functionality of a normal spreadsheet. It will also answer questions which are worded rather than a formula. The Explore button, bottom right, will allow the user to interrogate the data with a written question.

There was mention of a couple of add-ons which I haven’t yet had chance to play with. Goobric and Doctopus both are aimed at automating marking.


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The use of the explore button was explained here and the link with creating citations which Kieran Briggs had already shown me. The students love it by the way.

If you use tools – document outline it will create an automatic heading menu.

One that I really like and is connected to the comments is the ability to download the document as a webpage. This then includes the comments and links the comments to the text written by the student. This could be useful for when we have an external verifier who can’t use Google (heaven forbid!).


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The presenting part of the Google suite (that’s what they call it). It is really making sense to switch for me, it’s just the time factor converting everything. A couple of things that I liked were:

  • The link with keep, you can include keep notes in slides and then present them within a presentation. If you change them in keep then they change in slides too.
  • You can insert a YouTube video into a slides presentation and trim the length of the video, change the start or the end point of it.


There were a few fun bits too


  • Google trends – if you search Google trends visualiser it makes a really good starter for classes.
  • My maps – again could be a starter or an ice breaker. (also great for the geography department!)
  • Be internet awesome – brilliant for younger people or people with younger minds for teaching internet safety.
  • The teachable machine – making geeks out of normal people with a camera.
  • Reverse image search, drag an image into google image search and it’ll tell you anything about it. (not people, although I’m sure it’ll do that as well).
  • Google earth time lapse – clue’s in the name.
  • Set timer for – if you type ‘set timer for’ into Google in the chrome browser, it’s an automatic timer.
  • Type in ‘fun facts’ and you get fun facts, which then allow you to talk about them in class. (‘I’m feeling curious’ will do something similar).


Really important bits –


Image available from here

Equatio – it’s an extension which I have nearly got working perfectly in class. You can write an equation in and it will convert it to text which can then be inserted into a doc. I have had a maths teacher using it today and he thought it brilliant and would save him hours preparing documents and resources.

I would also like to use it for mathematical assignments, in conjunction with a chrome book and a tablet (not an iPad type thing but a graphical input), the students could then work on their own document live and write in the text. Equatio then converts it into the document and you then have an auditible trail of evidence.

Realtime board – essentially an infinite white board. This could be superb as you could do a years work on one white board and then frame each sessions writing and be able to refer back to it later in the year. Jamboard, an expensive and small white board. Not for me, the software though could be even better than realtime board and can do handwriting recognition. But it’s the collaboration which may be better.

Forms were being used for all sorts of applications but exit tickets were high on the list as I mentioned before.


My Technical Journey- Chris Phillips

During my 23 years at the Sheffield College, technology has changed at an alarming rate. When I first started, the College still used electric typewriters and then moved on to computers: the old style with the huge monitors.                                                                


At the time they were hailed as the new era; it meant the end of tippex and not having to re-type the same information over and over again- plus information could be saved and used in the future. We had boxes full of discs, which with hindsight had a very limited storage capacity!


I did a course and learnt about computers and the Microsoft suite; what it could do and how it could be utilised at work to save time and energy in your working day.

This was then the normal package to use and I found it easy to use as it evolved through the years. With the advent of each Windows package there was always something different to get used to, but the principle was the same and the majority of the time the changes weren’t too different or difficult.

Then we had a new AP for Teaching & Learning start in 2014 who shared the benefits of Google docs. He offered training and so we started on the Google journey.  For the first year it was just small steps getting used to the way Google worked and converting our application forms to Google forms.

Since Hannah Tyreman, our new manager, started in December 2015 there has been a radical shake up of the way our department works. From being heavily paper-based we have now become 90% paperless.


Google has made a complete difference to our working practice and I have to admit I was dragged kicking and screaming into this new world which felt totally alien to me.  At first I found it completely confusing and it was very hard to accept the fact that you didn’t have to save everything and that you could work on the same document as another person at the same time – a very strange feeling…

Having said this, it has been revolutionary.  Our department started with creating forms for course applications which could be sent out, completed online and when they were returned to us immediately populated a spreadsheet.  The drawback was that this turned out to be a huge spreadsheet which was hard to read if there was an enquiry.

The improvement came when Helen Hayes discovered Autocrat, which enabled us to send out automatic responses and forms to line managers- all of which were automatic.  Helen put in hours of research and work to refine the system and has created an extensive range of spreadsheets, forms and graphs which has streamlined the way the department works.

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With Helen’s patience and tuition I have now got to grips with Google and in fact use it at home for personal work.  I have totally embraced the concept of Google and all it offers. I know that I have a long way to go to be completely competent, but I am enjoying the journey (something I thought I would never say at the beginning) and look forward to gaining a more comprehensive understanding of all it offers.

For the moment it is enough to know I can use it effectively in my job role, just don’t ask me to do any formulae!

How Google Works: Part 1- Culture, Strategy, Talent

As I have become more and more involved in learning and development it has become increasingly obvious to me that roles in this area are so closely tied to organisational development, leading change, as well as establishing, and maintaining or refreshing an organisation’s culture.

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My Journey Through Google- Helen Hayes

One of the key attractions to starting at The Sheffield College was that the staff development team had already begun the journey towards Google. Since August 2015, Chris and Helen have made a truly inspiring and incredibly rapid progression to transform processes from paper to the cloud. Here, Helen shares her journey through Google:

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A new class website

As the academic year has drawn to a close and we look ahead to next year, most teachers will be evaluating the successes of the year and looking to improve their approaches. This often takes the form of revised materials, handbooks, schemes of learning and assessment plans and for my learners, the online learning environment.

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A new year: dive in!

Last week, learners began a short two week introduction into their A2 English course.

They were required to watch a couple of videos and answer some questions on our Google+ community. The few lessons I’ve had with them during this time have been relaxed and we’ve been able to discover the joy of learning again without the pressure of their exams looming over us. I wanted to capture this by asking them to reflect on the year ahead. Their responses have been, as ever, honest, insightful and informative. I love asking my learners to reflect, especially about their feelings towards things as this is so useful in me planning the learning experiences ahead.

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My Google Journey

Just over one year ago, an assistant principal (Yousef Fouda) invited me to his office. As a perceived early adopter, he wanted to share the world of Google with me. I didn’t want it to be shared. It felt like it was to become something on my already bulging to do list. I couldn’t see how I would use it and I certainly didn’t have time to be learning something new unless I was certain it would have a hugely positive impact on students’ learning.

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A New Year, A New Class Website

After several revamps, I have finally got my class Google site to where I want it. I am beyond proud of it! Mainly because it has taken me a number of edits, many, many hours and a lot of creativity but I feel it achieves all of the things I need my site to achieve, as well as having an appearance that I hope will prove accessible to students.

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