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Creating Collaborative Learning with Google Chromebooks

Google Chromebooks and Apps for Education facilitate authentic learning experiences

Edmonton Public Schools in Alberta, Canada, has been a Google Apps for Education district since 2008. Realizing the power of Google Apps to enable collaborative learning, leaders in EPSD introduced Google Chromebooks to replace computer labs and network-based machines. This web seminar, originally broadcast on December 11, 2013, featured an expert from Google to discuss the Google in Education solution for schools, including the ease of implementation and benefits of Chromebooks, as well as a technology leader from EPSD to explain why Chromebooks were selected as a platform for improved student learning, collaboration, and innovation.

Google in Education Team

I want to discuss the shift and evolution in education and the skills students need for their future careers. Technology, especially Google tools, enable them to learn these skills. “Going Google” in education includes four elements:

  • Empowerment: Helping students to discover a world of infinite resources.
  • Choice: Being able to choose the right device, anytime, anywhere.
  • Teamwork: Having students, teachers, and parents work together in real-time.
  • Scalability: Bringing affordable, easy-to-manage technology into the classroom.

When you have access to digital content, students and teachers are empowered by tools for individualized learning. It is important to help students to discover the world of infinite resources available online, and change the role of the teacher from a lecturer who disseminates information, to a facilitator who coaches and supports students as they explore the information accessible to them to solve real-world problems. Google believes in giving schools choice. We want teachers and students to use the right device, whether that be a laptop, tablet, phone, or desktop, and to be able to use that device in school, at home, or on-the-go. We want the technology to get out of the way so students and teachers can focus on the content and on working together.

With that in mind, Google solutions work across many platforms. Schools can use their existing equipment and keep their options open as they commit to new devices. Collaboration fosters teamwork, problem solving, and organization, which are key skills for the modern world. Multiple students can work together in the same document at the same time through Google Docs. Students learn how to get group work done by making decisions, like designating a leader, or an editor, or who has the right to change work. These discussions are the same kind they will have in higher education and in the professional world. “Going Google” is about scale, or having technology that is affordable and easy to manage. Scalability and device and content management are equally important in keeping the total cost of ownership low, and allowing IT teams to manage a large number of devices.

With Google Apps as the core foundation, it is easy to manage 10 devices or 10,000 devices with our admin tools. You can set up a whole classroom of our tablets or Chromebooks in just minutes. We offer schools a free suite of services called Google Apps for Education. These apps include Gmail as your email service provider and Docs, Spreadsheets, and Presentations for content creation. Since Google Apps are web-based, it means that they are available from any device with a web browser. Chromebooks are web-based computers that are great for schools because they are easy to use, easy to manage, easy to customize and easy to scale. With Chromebooks, students open the lid, sign in, and are up and running in under 8 seconds, which allows teachers to dedicate more of their valuable time toward instruction. Since the Chrome devices are entirely web-based, management is a breeze.

With Chromebooks, you can manage all of your devices through one centralized web page. Because of the security controls in the management console, Chromebooks are approved for PARCC and Smarter Balanced assessments. Google provides a wealth of online applications available through the Chrome web store. There are thousands of applications that span all subjects and grade levels. These are all web-based applications that can be used on Chromebooks or in the Chrome browser on other devices. From the admin console you can also install apps from the Chrome Apps Packs, which are collections of popular Chrome apps categorized by elementary, middle and high school. We also help schools “Go Google” through tablet devices. We recently expanded our device offering to include tablets with Google Play for Education.

Our team worked with schools to ensure that this solution of devices, content, and management was truly designed for learning and made for the classroom. There are over 1 million apps in the Google Play store; you can search for apps by grade level, subject matter, or Common Core standard. The Google Play for EDU site makes it easy to deliver an app to students’ tablets through just a few clicks.

Technology Integration Planning Coordinator
Edmonton (Alberta, Canada) Public Schools

We have been using Google Apps in EPSD since 2008 and have Community of Practice days a few times a year for teachers to share best practices in using Google Apps for Education. It has been inspiring to see the change from minimal use to heavy integration into many teachers’ classroom curricula. The price point of Chromebooks is why we bought them at first, but the simplicity and access of the machines has kept us buying.

The three main benefits of Chromebooks for our district have been:

  • Low price
  • Ease of use for students
  • Ease of support for technology team

There are three Google Apps administrators in my district. We manage all 8,500 Chromebooks, which does not take up a lot of time. We direct ship the machines to the schools upon purchase. Some vendors offer “white glove service,” which means the machines are hooked up to our Wi-Fi before they arrive at our schools. In that situation, staff unbox the machines and 10 seconds later, students can sign in and begin learning. There has been little breakage with these machines, which I attribute to the fast boot time. When a student takes a Chromebook out of a cart, they turn it on and they can almost instantly sign in. There is a lot less downtime compared to other machines.

The ability to have a public session was recently released. As we move from paper-based tests to online assessments, a student can click into a public session that blocks access to websites but allows students to take their web-based assessments. We use Active Directory sync to manage the organizational units for our 100,000 staff and student users. This allows us to change settings for users at the school or department level, or move users to a different organizational group. We have customized a start page for all Chromebooks so we can control what students first see. The settings we set for users in our domain apply for students whether they are using a school Chromebook or are signed into the Chrome browser on a different computer. This allows for consistency of access, with students’ bookmarks and extensions available to them wherever they are.

Chromebooks make getting to Google Apps that much easier. The technology gets out of the way. Students can easily share what they are working on with their parents at home. Last year, we saw a big increase in staff using Google+ as an internal sharing community. Teachers use Google+ Hangouts to collaborate and exchange information. We’ve known for years that getting students out of the lab is necessary. Having technology in the classroom, where they are normally studying science or language arts, has been a big benefit. Google works well for BYOD, since students can access the district settings by logging into the Chrome browser on their personal device. Chromebooks and Google Apps support student-centered, personalized, authentic learning, as students can customize their online experience.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please go to: