Google Home in the School Library: FAQ

Since sharing the news of our Google Home with the St. Anne’s community and my community of educators, I’ve received a lot of great questions regarding the system and the way it works logistically in our library. Check out the video above to see some the ways that we’re using the Google Home in our library. Or follow the jump to see a list of the most frequently asked questions and my answers in our first week of use.

How did you present Google Home to your students?

I am sharing Google Home with grades 3-8. I spent one class period with grades 3, 4, 5, and 6 talking about what Google Home can do, what it can’t do, and outlining the ways that we will use it in the library. This lesson included modeling from me, modeling from students, lots of positive examples, and some closely monitored free time. You can view my presentation here. 

Grades 7 and 8 don’t visit the library regularly for a full class, so I gave a short presentation during our Monday community meeting to introduce them to the resource. This wasn’t a perfect way to get things started with them – it was the modeling and guided exploration that really prepared younger students, and  I wish that 7th and 8th had had more of that. Do you have any suggestions on ways to introduce new initiatives to students that you don’t see regularly? I’d love to hear them.

Is your Google Home connected to your school WIFI? 

Google Home is connected to the school’s guest wifi. This network is open to all visitors and is not password protected.

Doesn’t it make you nervous to have Google Home connected to your email address?

I actually created a new email address just for our Google Home. This means that the device is not linked to any of my personal information, or calendars. There are also no names in the “address book” of this email address, making it much harder to accidentally send messages. I definitely suggest this if you are using the Google Home as a common tool for lots of students!

How can you monitor students using Google Home while teaching and supervising a group of students?

The Google Home app is a great tool for keeping track of the way students interact with the device. It has an option to let me see recent activity that not only has a transcription of all interactions with Google, but it also stores the audio of the interaction. I have the app on my iPad and check over the interactions with the tool each afternoon before I leave to see what Google was asked that day. If there is ever an inappropriate interaction, I can play the audio, identify the voice, and go from there.

During my introduction to students, we also talk at length about when Google Home is available and when it is not. Then we get into even more detail about when to use Google as a tool and when to use Google for fun. We work together to create a consequence if anyone decides not to follow these rules – in most classes, it results in a loss of privilege. In my opinion, stating the expectations up front gives students the chance to be successful and to choose to use the tool the right way.

I trust my students to use Google Home appropriately. A lot of this has to do with our community – our students use the library respectfully everyday with a lot of freedom, and they have earned my trust.

Is Google Home safe?

I get this question a lot, from parents, students, and teachers. I’ve done a lot of research on the subject, and have found one answer again and again – Google Home is safe if we decide to use it safely. It’s up to us to use internet safety rules, act as good Digital Citizens, and behave safely when we use this new tool. We cover this in depth in my introductory presentation. The truth is that most students already have these tools in their pockets in the form of Siri, or on their laptops – this is just a new opportunity to teach them to use it safely.

Google Home has inspired some great conversations about internet safety and privacy that we might not have had otherwise. I’m grateful to have this example to work with to better teach students about how to stay safe online.

How do you handle the crowds of students wanting to use Google Home, and what if things get out of control?

Except for Lucky Trivia, our Google Home is only used by one student at a time. Through interactive modeling and lots of practice, we know how to wait our turn and what it looks like to be next in line. Sometimes during morning free time or breaks throughout the day, things can get crowded, but since students know not to use Google Home when I have classes in the library, I am always available to stand nearby and keep an eye on things. If the crowd around the Google Home ever gets too wild, I just turn off the microphone and tell the group to take a break. I can turn the microphone back on when they’re ready to try again.

How can you teach with students using Google Home in the background?

This would be so hard to do! St. Anne’s students know to check around the library to see if there is a class using the space before they wake up Google Home. If there is a class, they know to come back later. I also keep the microphone turned off during my classes, so they can’t wake the device without help from an adult. This has really worked for us so far.

Does your IT team work with your Google Home?

Nope. This tool was purchased for the library and is my responsibility. With my IT background and the device’s low level of maintenance, we haven’t seen any problems so far.

Where is the Google Home located in your library?

We’re still deciding! When I first introduced the tool, I put it on the circulation desk so that I could be close by while students experimented. Now that we are more comfortable with the tool, I have moved it to a nearby shelf with more space for students to gather around the tool and form a line. Because they’re not right next to the desk anymore, they can cheer and laugh and not worry about disrupting me. I’m not sure if this is where Google Home will stay long term, but we’re enjoying it there so far.

How do you control the volume of your Google Home?

In order to turn the volume up or down, you need to touch the device. Our students know that only adults may touch Google Home, so we haven’t had any issues with the volume being turned up or down yet. I have a helpful “Do Not Touch” sign right next to Google Home as a reminder. If they need the volume to be changed or need the microphone turned on or off, they ask me for help.

Google Home’s volume generally stays right at the halfway point – loud enough for groups to be able to hear and play, but not so loud that they can hear it all the way down the hall.

Aren’t you afraid that Google Home will replace you?

Nope! Google Home is great with facts, but it can’t replace a trained school librarian. I am lucky to work with a wonderful community that sees the school library as the heart of the school and shows me that I am valued and important every day. Here is the slide that I use to talk to students about the difference between a school librarian and a search engine: Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 2.47.16 PM.png

This is a fun and easy way to remind them that while Google Home is an exciting new tool, it can only do so much in our library. One student summed it up perfectly: When I asked if her class thought a Google Home would be a good replacement for a librarian, she responded, “Yeah right! We’d need at least four Google Homes to keep up with you.”

Any more Google Home related questions? Send them my way!

6 thoughts on “Google Home in the School Library: FAQ

  1. I put a Google Home in my highschool Computer Science class. The answers to the students questions are awesome! The only issue that I’m having is that even while I’m on a private WiFi SSID I found that Google Home will start playing music randomly during class. This also happened with my Chromecast. The WiFi I am using has a secure password that the student don’t (or shouldn’t) know. It has happened to me about 3 times at different times of the day. Is this something you have run into? I have taken the device home with me over the Thanksgiving break to see if it does it there as well just in case.

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    1. Hi Kimberly – that sounds so frustrating! Our Google Home is linked to our guest wifi, which is not password protected, but I’ve never had the problem you’re describing. Our device is not linked to any music accounts like Spotify or Google Play. I did some quick Googling, and it looks like you’re not the only one with this problem (“google home plays music randomly” brought me to quite a few results). Good luck, and I’d love to hear what you find and how you solve the problelm!

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    2. I’ve also experienced this. I know for a fact that if someone in the wifi has an Android, they can connect to the speaker and start/stop music or adjust the volume. They can also play whatever music they have on their phone. I’m currently trying to find a way to keep this from happening. My students are on a different “wifi” with a different password, but it all comes from the same router, which means really anyone on any “wifi” can tap in if they know how. My assistant principal has an Adroid and was showing me that he gets notifications when I use my classroom speaker. So strange! Let me know if you have any luck!

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  2. I want to say what a great post and thank you for sharing your experience with it. I have one question as the use of Google Home has come up at my school. Did you look into Google Home and its compliance with COPPA? If so I would love to have your research/ resources on this, to help support its use at my school.

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    1. Hi Sarah! Thanks for your great question. Although our students do have Google accounts through Google for Education, Google Home is not linked to a student account. It is linked to a general STAB library account that does not include any student information. As far as the few questions that have popped up about student voice recording, we are paying close attention to what Apple and Google are claiming. If you have any good recourse about using these kinds of devices in schools in relation to COPPA, I would love to see them!

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