This is the first in our Life Hacks series, which aims to provide different insights into how to make your life simpler and more enjoyable.

In a world where everyone is multitasking and everything is instant, the potential for inefficiency and mistakes is astronomical. We’re constantly checking email while scrolling through our social media news feeds, all while catching up on the latest season of our favorite TV shows. Consequently, some tasks that we truly mean to do slip from our minds. In recent years, this had started to become a huge problem for me. As a busy college student trying to balance schoolwork, volunteering, and friends, I often found myself saying that aggravating phrase, “Oh man, I forgot.” Maybe you know the feeling. Enter the power of the checklist.
The famed B-17 checklist
Now, if you’re at all like me, you’re probably skeptical. After all, how could a measly checklist really be that helpful? Well, let me provide you with some evidence to back up the hype. In The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande writes extensively about (you guessed it!) the incredible difference that a checklist can make. To illustrate his point, he tells the story of the B-17’s first test flight. The year was 1935, and the B-17 plane was unlike any other aircraft that had ever existed. It could fly faster and farther than its contemporaries, and it could also sustain a much larger payload. Truly, it was the most complex and revolutionary aircraft of its day. And that was precisely the problem. On its maiden voyage, the pilot had “forgotten to release a new locking mechanism on the elevator and rudder controls,” which caused the plane to crash and a couple members of the crew to lose their lives. In response, the US Army decided to make one simple change. Yep, a checklist. The result? According to Gawande, with the help of a handy checklist, the pilots went on to fly the B-17 “a total of 1.8 million miles without one accident.” Pretty powerful stuff for a checklist. But wait, checklists didn’t just save the day for the Army; they also have saved the lives of numerous hospital patients. In fact, experimental studies have found that checklists cut the rate of death in half and the rate of complications from 11% to 7%. 

Pretty convincing, right? We thought so, too. At Google, we use checklists all the time. For instance, when a manager receives a new employee (Noogler) on her team, she is provided with a checklist of different actions she should take to help her Noogler get up to speed with the team. Altogether, the results have been astounding: Nooglers whose managers followed this checklist became fully effective 25% faster than their peers. So, case closed: Checklists work, and they work really well. 

While you may not be flying B-17s or operating on patients, you can still use checklists to help improve your life. Save yourself the time and stress. Make a checklist.


Have you ever thought about how you would you map the entire human DNA sequence? It is really possible that William Shakespeare wrote all of the plays that bear his name? What about designing a computer program that creates novel music compositions?

All of the skills needed to answer these questions make up what we consider computational thinking (CT), a problem solving technique that software engineers at Google and elsewhere apply all the time to write the programs that underlay the computer applications you use every day, including search, Gmail and Google Maps. Not only is this 21st century skill critical to being successful in the field of computer science, it’s also increasingly important to several careers outside of our industry and computer science, given the ubiquity of technology in our lives today.

As a result, educators are using Computational Thinking in their disciplines around the world. Whether they teach math, science, or humanities, computational thinking can be a powerful addition to classroom activities. By integrating computational thinking skills across subjects, we can help prepare all students to contribute new solutions to seemingly impossible problems!

Our new online course, Computational Thinking for Educators, is free and intended for anyone  working with students ages 13 to  18, who is interested in enhancing  their teaching with creative thinking and problem solving. We believe all students should learn computational thinking, regardless of subject, age or access to technology in the classroom. If our students are technology creators, equipped with computational skills, they’ll be able to participate and position themselves professionally in a globalized society, helping to solve the biggest challenges using creativity.

Sound interesting? Join us and other educators around the world as we take on Computational Thinking for Educators. This  course will run from July 15-September 30, 2015.  

This summer, we at the Google Student Blog are reemphasizing our commitment to gathering feedback from our readers. Consequently, we have designed a brief feedback form specifically for the Google Student Blog. Our hope is that this will enable each of you to voice your opinions, so that we, in turn, can better provide you with the Googley content you love. We are looking forward to receiving your input!


As part of Google's ongoing commitment to advancing computing and technology, we are pleased to provide scholarships to encourage students to excel in their studies and become active role models and leaders. In partnership with EmployAbility, we are excited to announce this year’s recipients of The Google Europe Scholarship for Students with Disabilities.

Please join us in congratulating the following recipients, along with the universities they attend:
  • Alexandra Tzilivaki, IMBB FORTH and University of Crete, Greece
  • Benno Ommerborn, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
  • Anna Kuosmanen, University in Helsinki, Finland
  • Daniel Hershcovich, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
  • Tania Bailoni, University of Trento, Italy
  • Yael Hirshovitz-Shieber, Amsterdam University College, Netherlands
  • Hrayr Harutyunyan, Yerevan State University, Armenia
  • Rachael Botham, University of Bath, United Kingdom
  • Robin Thompson, Newcastle University, United Kingdom
  • Cătălina Mărănduc, Al. I. Cuza University, Romania

Each scholar will receive 7,000 Euros to help them with their studies for the 2015/2016 academic year. All scholars have been selected based on their passion for Computer Science, academic achievement, leadership, and technical accomplishments.

A few weeks back, we ran a poll on our Google+ page asking what type of content you all would be interested in seeing more of on our pages. One of the top responses was information on the interviewing and hiring process. In turn, we decided that we should write a series of posts shedding some light on how hiring works at Google. This entry will primarily cover what components our interviews are comprised of, but if you want to dive deeper into our hiring practices and many other aspects of Google, be sure to check out Work Rules! by Laszlo Bock, who heads up People Operations at Google.

As with just about everything at Google, our interviews are based onand constantly improved uponby data. This reliance on data is of paramount importance, because hiring has the ability to either make or break a company. Plus, research has shown that if data is left out of the hiring equation, the decision of who should be hired and who shouldn’t is often swayed by an interviewer’s unconscious biases and superficial snap judgments. Consequently, according to Laszlo Bock, “Most interviews are a waste of time because 99.4% of the time is spent trying to confirm whatever impression the interviewer formed in the first ten seconds.” Fortunately, Google interviews are not like most interviews. But, how exactly are they different?

To begin, Google interviews only include question formats that have been proven to actually predict job performance. In 1998, Frank Schmidt and John Hunter published a meta-analysis of 85 years of research on how well different types of assessments predict job performance. Overall, they identified three assessment techniques that were more effective than all others: work sample tests, tests of general cognitive ability, and structured interviews. As you may have guessed, we incorporate all three within our interview process.

Work sample tests entail giving a candidate a sample piece of work or problem to complete that is similar to what the candidate would face on the job. At Google, all our technical hires (engineering and product management) are tasked with a work sample test of sorts, where they are asked to solve engineering problems during the interview. This allows candidates to showcase their skills, while also giving us a chance to see how they go about attacking actual problems.

Next, tests of general cognitive ability involve measuring raw intelligence and the ability to problem solve, reason, and learn. However, in contrast to case interviews and brainteasers (neither of which is used by Google), these tests have defined right and wrong answers. For this measure, we want smart people who can learn and adapt to new situations. In general, Google interview questions testing general cognitive ability try to get at how candidates have solved hard problems in real life and how they learn.

Last but not least, structured interviews ask a consistent set of questions and have clear criteria for gauging the quality of responses to these questions. Structured interviews help isolate candidate performance from other variables, so that candidates are all judged equally, no matter who interviewed them. Altogether, there are two kinds of structured interviews: behavioral and situational. Behavioral interviews ask candidates to describe prior achievements (“Tell me about a time…”), while situational interviews present a job-related hypothetical situation (“What would you do if…”). Over the course of a Google interview, interviewers ask both types of questions.

So, there it is...a quick glimpse into the components that make up a Google interview. All in all, the primary objective of our interviews is to accurately predict how candidates would perform if they joined the team. By making sure that we use only those interview formats that have been proven to best predict future job performance and evaluate each candidate equally, we have been able to maintain our high hiring standards, while simultaneously making the interview process more fair and rewarding for candidates.

We are delighted to recognize and congratulate the 40 recipients of the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The full list of our 2015 scholars and the universities they attend can be found on the scholarships website.

The Google Anita Borg Memorial scholarship aims to encourage female students to enter the computing field. It honours Dr. Anita Borg, who devoted her life to encouraging the presence of women in computing through the "50/50 by 2020" initiative, so that women earning computing degrees would be 50% of the graduates by year 2020.

All of the students receiving the scholarship are pursuing degrees in Computer Science or related fields at universities across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. This summer, they’ll join the annual Google EMEA Scholars’ Retreat in London, where they’ll have the opportunity to attend tech talks about Google products, participate in developmental sessions, network with Googlers and attend social activities.

Applications for our 2016 Google Anita Borg Scholarship will open again in the fall. Please follow our updates on the scholarship site, where we will post the exact opening date soon.

For more information on all of our scholarships and programs, please visit the Google Students site.

(Cross-posted on the Google for Education Blog.)

Editor’s Note:  One of the main discussion points of Education on Air, the free online conference from Google on May 8th-9th, was how we can empower students in their learning. Our guest author today, Coby Parker, is one of the students who shared views as part of the student empowerment panel at the conference. Coby and his classmate and co-author Claire Liu are the Editors-in-Chief of the Campanile, the student-created, award-winning publication at Palo Alto High School. Today they share more insights about how the journalism program at his school, led by educator Esther Wojcicki, motivates students. We hope this provides ideas for teachers as they head into summer and next year.
One of the most vital pieces of an education is student empowerment. Here at Palo Alto High School, students are given the opportunity to take complete control over their academic and creative journey through the journalism program Esther Wojcicki (or “Woj”) has created.

The journalism program and publications that Woj has built over the last 30 years are incredibly appealing to our student body, as demonstrated by the hundreds of kids who choose to enroll in “Beginning Journalism” each year. High school is a challenging time – young people are faced with the obstacles presented by academic stress, extracurricular commitments and changing social norms. For me, it was difficult to find something to spend my time doing that provided both intellectual stimulation and creative escape.

Joining Paul Kandell’s “Beginning Journalism” class sophomore year, and then enrolling in The Campanile, a school newspaper that Woj advises, has granted me the space to grow my academic independence and leadership ability. Our entire publication is headed by students only. Student editors like me lead story ideas, and staff writers pick and choose the pieces they feel passionate about writing. There are no limitations on story ideas – as long as a proposal is relevant, we give it the green light.

(If you like what you see in this highlight reel for the Education on Air student empowerment panel check out the full session.)

After students submit first drafts, peers make edits on Google Drive, suggesting changes, marking grammar and AP style errors, and more. When “production” begins, the entire staff stays on campus in the Media Arts Center until 9 P.M. each night to design the tangible, paper product. The entire process is run by students, meaning it is the high schoolers alone who create the complex and sophisticated end product. We even sell advertisements to pay the bills. If a student needs help, he or she asks a high school peer – not Woj. Woj leads very much from behind – an approach that may be challenging for many educators, but one that is truly beneficial to the strengthening of student initiative.

Essentially, the only time Woj intervenes is if she has a specific design suggestion, brief lesson, or if a specific story may contain libel or is unethical in some way – this happens pretty infrequently. In my three years on The Campanile, Woj has never forced us to do or publish anything we did not want to. Her approach provides students the room to take on big projects and develop a self-confidence and desire to test boundaries, both personal and societal.

My colleague Claire Liu, another Editor-in-Chief, explained the impact the course has had for her. “As a staff writer, I have pursued a range of stories, standard and provocative. Whether I was documenting a sports game, addressing race relations or discussing gender roles and sexuality through the paper, I have felt Woj’s subtle but ever present support. In this rare, fast-paced and invigorating environment, we are allowed to fail, and encouraged to take risks and challenge the norm, all while being supported by a teacher who consistently has our back (even when she’s feeling a bit hesitant, and even if we mess up big time!). Students join The Campanile expecting to learn how to design a newspaper page and write articles. They gain not only those things, but an entire toolbox of powerful character traits and skills that will last them a lifetime.”

In psychology class I recently learned the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Generally in the education system, students work hard to get good grades and please their teachers – extrinsic motivation. In The Campanile, the motivation is more intrinsic. The threshold to get an A is the bare minimum, and anything above and beyond that has to come from the individual student’s efforts. The reward is much more basic than an A on the report card; it’s being able to hold a newspaper and point to the real impact that he or she made.

Our advisor, Woj, truly plays the role of advisor and not teacher. She’s there for us when we need her, but when we don’t, she doesn’t impose on us or make us do anything we don’t want to. In the end, we are responsible for our actions, the dime stops with us. I hope more schools can implement programs like The Campanile and empower students to take charge of their own education.

If you’re interested in learning more about Esther Wojcicki’s approach to teaching check out this interview with her in which she talks about her recent book “Moonshots in Education: Launching Blended Learning in the Classroom” or read more on her website.