The 4 Biggest Announcements for Education at Cloud Next '17

Cloud Next

In a crowd of 10,000 developers, press, and businessespeople, Google has spent the last several days talking about its cloud services on Google Cloud Platform or GCP. There have been many interesting product announcements, but there are a few that stand out in the education space. It is important to note that Google Cloud Platform has a lot to offer to education with Machine Learning, Analytics, App Containers, Cloud Storage and much more, but not all of that can make a direct impact in the classroom tomorrow. 

1. GCP Credit Grants for CS in Higher Ed

Google is offering a really sweet deal on Cloud Credits for Computer Science faculty and students through higher education grants. Faculty can apply for grants to get GCP credit in any of its many areas for his/her classes. Google wants students to start developing what's next and this is a way to get some of the most cutting edge technology into their hands right away. I was told by Google's Higher Education team that the grant process is very easy.

You can find more information about the grants at cloud.google.com/edu

 

2. Hangouts Meet

In what is likely to be one of the most controversial moves to some, Google has completely revamped the Hangouts platform by splitting Hangouts into two separate applications. 

With Hangouts Meet, available now on Android, iOS, and the web (meet.google.com) and enabled in the Google Apps Console, Google has recreated its video meeting platform from the ground up. In talking with a Googler, I learned that Meet was built to be low latency, will eventually support up to 50 participants (currently 30), work on even the worst connections to the internet, and easily allow anyone to join meetings. Even if an invitee doesn't have a Google account they can join with a code or by phone. Hangouts Meeting also received a face-lift with participant videos moving to the right side and a cleaner easier to use interface overall.  In fact, the new Meet uses half the amount of RAM that Hangouts does and can create an HD connection is less than a second. Hangouts can take up to a full 10 seconds for HD.

I tried Meet with a fairly poor connection to the internet and it had some issues on both ends. To be fair, the old Hangouts didn't work either and I had to, gasp, make a phone call. The interface is really super simple, and easy to use, but will likely see updates over time. One suggestion was to add automatically add Lower Thirds with each participant's name/title and let people without a Google account add their info in the Green Room. The Meet team said that recording to Google Drive is coming in the near term -- along with a few other features. 

What Hangouts Meet Means for Education

Essentially, Meet is an even easier interface for video interviews, meetings with other members of your institution and a simpler to bring in people from outside of your organization. Really Hangouts Meet is just a more reliable, updated and lighter weight version of the Google Hangouts you know and love. It currently only works with Google Calendar Invites and Google has said Hangouts OG is sticking around for the time being as well. Admins will have to decide if they want two separate products for video conferencing as Education really loves Google Hangouts.  

3. Hangouts Chat

That brings us to  Hangouts Chat. Chat is really a competitor to something like Slack, but with the power of Google behind it. Chat allows you to create rooms which are similar to groups in the current Hangouts. However in Chat you can have threads inside of each room making project management far easier.

Then their are the bots and machine learning. In regular Hangouts you don't get bots to help with scheduling meetings with those in the room, the ability find files in Google Drive and collaborate right inside of the Chat. Bots are being created for external services as well and more bots will come along in the future. All of this allows users to get things done more quickly and not get lost in a never ending chat. One reason for this is Search. Yes you can now search your chats for the info you need!!! 

What this means for Education

Hangout Chats  means better communication around projects in classes and with teams across your campus. Because the @meets bot can look at calendars, it can intelligently schedule meetings and it takes care of file permissions too. There are still stickers too! You gain a whole lot of functionality for collaborating efficiently and effectively. You can still have conversations with a single person, but Chat is really for team collaboration. I was told that instant messaging would remain a feature of gmail that is separate from Hangouts Chat. Right now, Chat is in the Early Adopter Program so you need to apply to get it rolling. You can get to that link below.

Hangouts Chat Early Adopter Program

4. App Maker

In what I believe is a really huge announcement, is App Maker. App Maker's goal is to create citizen developers inside of G Suite to solve problems that have typically been unsolved or solved through time intensive development processes. App Maker works in conjunction with Google Apps Script to create HTML5 web apps to do things like approval processes, people directories, customs webforms and the list goes on. 

All of the applications built with App Maker are bound to your G Suite domain, meaning there is inherent security built in. Beyond that, App Maker uses a drag and drop interface for creating it's components and also creates any databases it needs directly in Google Drive!  You can then add the power of Google Apps Script to do even more with the components.

App Maker by Google

What does this Mean for Education

App Maker creates a safe place for students to develop applications that can be tested and used within your domain. They get to work with databases, authentication, and easy design to get the hang of computer science. This is a really big deal as more and more schools are trying to offer CS resources to students on limited budgets. It also means that teachers like myself, who don't have CS backgrounds have another tool in their bag to learn on and teach with. 

It also means that staff members can build applications they need without needing a computer science degree. I'm particularly excited about this because it will allow me to create applications that I currently have used Google Apps Script for to create something more robust. I have been interested in custom web forms that act like a Google Form, but have more power. This is Google bringing some great tools to bear on the problem of computer science in schools.

While this is my list of the most important announcements for education at Next '17, I'm curious what your thoughts are? Leave your thoughts in the comments for a little discussion!