When used effectively, the appropriate technology and content can combine to transform learning through creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving. While achieving this balance can be challenging, administrators at the Richland School District Two (Columbia, S.C.) have found a way to implement innovative technology and engaging content for its 26,000 students. With Google Chromebooks and Apps for Education, the students at Richland are experiencing an elevated level of collaborative, innovative learning. This web seminar, originally broadcast on May 8, 2013, addressed why Chromebooks and Apps for Education are so effective and what factors are essential for successful implementation.
At Google, we believe in the power of the web to help people discover, connect, and learn. The goal of the Google Education Team is to bring that power to students today. Leading-edge technologies will play a vital role in helping to equip current and future generations with the skills they’ll need in the workforce of tomorrow. The web enables students to engage in dynamic learning across a range of modalities. We are no longer limited to learning by solely listening to a lecture or reading a book. All students do not learn the same way, and we now have the resources to accommodate different types of learners. The web also provides a vast number of tools; students can use virtual graphing calculators or foreign language translators. Another benefit is that learning can take place anywhere, anytime. Google Drive, Gmail, encyclopedias, ebooks, and more can be accessed from the classroom or home.
All stakeholders can collaborate in the learning process through the web. Teachers are able to share Google Docs and Google Calendars with parents so they can see what projects their children are working on and when assignments are due. Students can connect with educators outside of school if a teacher chooses to offer remote of fice hours through Gchat. Students are able to collaborate together on group projects without needing to physically meet. This collaborative model allows for a dynamic environment that moves away from lectures and engages students more in the learning process.
The Google Education Team helps schools adopt the most effective technologies for their specific needs. We also assist by leveraging web resources, and connecting your district to other educators around the world. Google Apps for Education can provide your district with powerful, intuitive, and hardware-agnostic web-based collaboration and communication tools. Students can access their accounts from a Chromebook, Android tablet, Windows machine, iPad, at school or home. Chromebooks address the needs of users who have adopted the web platform while relieving the burden of managing complex devices. Chromebooks for Education unlock the world of the web for your students in a quick, easy, and safe environment. Unique features include extensions that enhance websites you frequently visit, such as timely notifications for Gmail or weather. Chromebooks are more secure than other computers. These machines are simple and easy to use; apps are easily found and launched by clicking the “Launch Apps” icon.
The Chromebook was created with the web in mind. It was built with the idea that to most users, the most valuable application on a computer is the web browser. Your devices are managed with a web-based management console. As the administrator, you can configure and manage all settings from an administrative panel. If you set up your users by organizational units, you can customize their experiences with specific apps, extensions, and themes. In other words, your 8th graders and 6th graders can log into any machine and have their own unique experiences. Chromebooks are as secure a machine as you can make. There are multiple levels of security, including sandboxing, data encryption, and verified boot. You don’t have to worry about malware or viruses because there is no hard drive. One of the most beneficial elements of Chromebooks is that they are always fresh. You always have the latest version of the operating system, as the machine auto-updates itself. Your Chromebook will not slow down over time; in fact, it will continue to get faster. It currently boots up in six to eight seconds.
We now have Google App packs, so that teachers using Chrome devices can pre-install Chrome web apps onto their students’ devices. Given the thousands of Chrome web apps available, it’s not always apparent which ones are best for your class. So Google has curated these Chrome App packs, which are groups of popular applications that are tailored to meet different students’ needs. Each app pack contains about 20 apps that are categorized by subject. Teachers can easily find and install the apps that meet their classes’ needs.
When we began to think about a 1:1 initiative, we started with the end in mind. It’s essential to think about what you want to see in your classrooms. Our vision of the future was improved student learning through the use of technology and meaningful engagement. We want our students to have 21st-century skills, including communication, creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking. We want to emphasize project-based learning, which we found technology facilitates. We began 10 years ago with our first 1:1 program, but have accelerated over the last two years.
In Phase One, January 2012, we began distributing Chromebooks throughout the district. By August 2013, we will have achieved complete 1:1 computing for grades three through 12. We will actually add some Chromebooks to our second grade classrooms as well. When you are starting out with these 1:1 initiatives or adding Google apps, you need to think about what you want to see down the line with your students. Ask “why” at each step. Planning the journey is very important, as is having a planning team. Get buy-in from your school board and other stakeholders by including them in the planning process. Keep public relations top of mind to achieve widespread buy-in; when you implement 1:1, let the community know! Research by checking out what other districts are doing. We also emphasize professional learning in our district. Our academic department assists in leading professional development for all staff, teachers, and administrators, which is crucial for keeping up with the latest technologies. We work with our IT personnel on every step of the planning and implementation process.
It’s great to talk about what you want to see happen in the classroom, but they are the ones who make it happen. It also has been important to have Teacher Trailblazers in our district. They are the first ones to use the new technology and get the other teachers on board. Finally, the most important aspect of our implementation process has been our process evaluation and outcome evaluation. We continuously assess how we’re doing and what we need to do to improve. During the device selection process, we had a lot of demonstrations. We focused on finding out what was important to our teachers and finding machines that would fulfill their wishlists.
Most of our teachers have selected Chromebooks for their classrooms. The out-of-the-box functionality has been great. We handed the students the boxes at the beginning of the school year, let them unbox their device and simply log in. It was that easy. The implementation process is so important.
As we continue along this journey, we are focusing on how Chromebooks can assist in the following areas:
- Intervention classes
- Principal leadership
- Online collaboration
- Core subjects
- Virtual field trips
- Principal training
We know that if we integrate technology into these areas, we’ll see improved student achievement, not to mention cost savings through lessened printing and increased electronic data sharing.
To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please go to: www.districtadministration.com/ws050813