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Learning in the Cloud with Google Chromebooks

Google tools use the power of the web to transform teaching and learning

The web enables unlimited teaching and learning experiences. By implementing Google Chromebooks and Apps for Education, district leaders can engage stakeholders, provide students with dynamic learning opportunities, and prepare students for future careers by utilizing the power of the web. This web seminar, originally broadcast on October 9, 2013, featured an administrator and a student representative from Leyden High School District 212 in Franklin Park, Ill. who discussed their district’s implementation of a 1-to-1 Google Chromebooks program, and how this program enhances curriculum, collaboration, and innovation.

Steven Butschi 
Google in Education Team

At Google, we believe in the power of the web as a learning platform for three key reasons:

  • It allows for dynamic learning
  • It engages stakeholders across all locations and devices
  • It prepares students for future careers

Chromebooks are a fast, affordable way for students to engage with the power of the web. The Google Art Project is a great example of a web-based resource that can be accessed on any device. We took very detailed pictures of art, including George Seurat’s “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte.” Students can use the web to examine the painting in great detail and learn about Seurat’s famous style, pointillism.

Not only can students use the power of the web with Google tools, but other district stakeholders can as well. We serve a district in Texas where many parents are in the military. With Google Docs, parents can be watching their students do homework, even if they are thousands of miles away. There is no device requirement; as long as the parents have a web connection, they can access their child’s work. When I speak with superintendents and curriculum directors, I find that a shift has occurred from working locally to working globally. It is about working together. Focusing on collaboration is essential in building 21st -century skills. It is not just about consuming or reading a textbook, it is about “what am I creating from the information I am learning?”

In the future, not only will devices change, but software will as well. Focusing on one specific device is not a best practice. There should instead be a focus on those transferable skills, which will prepare students for jobs in the future that do not yet exist. At Google, we believe in open technology that is not designed for one specific device or one specific unit. Open technology leads to improved learning for everyone, everywhere.

There are four key trends regarding the benefits of open technology:

  • Information: Discovering a world of infinite resources
  • Access: Ensuring schools have the right tools
  • Collaboration: Working together in real time, regardless of location
  • Scale: Finding affordable, scalable solutions

We developed Google Apps for Education, a suite which is free for schools. It includes key features like Gmail, Google Talk, Groups, Calendar, Drive, and Sites. Drive is a popular app because students can edit word processing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations on any device. It is an excellent resource for working anytime, anywhere. Over 25 million active student and district staff users currently use Google Apps for Education. Chrome web apps are attached to user profiles, so students can log into their Google account on a Chromebook at school to access their apps, or a home desktop or tablet. If you Google “Chrome OS Educational Pack,” your first hit will take you to a page where you can see the most popular apps for elementary, middle, and high school students.

Chromebooks are a great fit for the classroom because they boot up in eight seconds, allowing teachers to start lessons quickly. Since web apps are attached to user profiles, students can use different Chromebooks. There are no Chromebook viruses or imaging requirements. From the admin side, it is easy to scale because of the cloud-based management platform. District leaders can push out apps to organizational units from a remote location. Chromebooks are very secure; if you have one corrupt tab, the other tabs will not be corrupted. The operating system is updated every six to eight weeks. Not only is the update free, it automatically applies without any IT work necessary. There are currently four different Chromebook devices. Whether the priority is price or durability, there is an option for every district.

Jason Markey  
East Leyden High School
Leyden (Ill.) High School District 212

Leyden High School is located just outside of Chicago, with 3,500 students at two school sites. Last year, we went 1-to-1 with Chromebooks. Every student takes their device home at night. At our school, our leaders believe that students are different today. Behaviorally, students are different because of the access to technology and the web. In Jason Ohler’s book, “Digital Community, Digital Citizen (Corwin 2010),” he poses the question all school leaders today need to consider: Are you going to make students unplug when they walk through your doors, or allow them the same access they use and enjoy in every other area of their lives?

At Leyden, we believe there are many advantages to allowing that access. We want our students to have 21st-century fluencies wrapped around the idea of being a digital citizen. These skills are really no different than the critical thinking that has always been discussed in schools. However, the need for these skills has really been amplified in the age of the web. We piloted our 1-to-1 program over two years. We combined great teachers, great students, and access to technology whenever it was needed. If we want teaching to be systemic and not episodic, we need every student to have access.

When you think about 1-to-1, there are four key areas to consider:

  • Research and site visits
  • Committees
  • Surveys
  • Pilot program

We were fortunate to talk to other districts and look at how they practiced 1-to-1. We attended the Mooresville Graded School District (N.C.) summer conference and realized it wasn’t about if we should do this, but when and how we should go 1-to-1. We had parent, administrator, and student improvement teams looking at the implementation process and what our focus should be as we moved into 1-to-1. There were a few important surveys we did, particularly of our students and teachers. We learned that most activities done in computer labs could be done on the web, making Chromebooks an attractive option. During our pilot, around 1,000 students experienced 1-to-1. We wanted a device that allowed us to focus as much on the learning and as little on the technology as possible. We did not want something that would be logistically heavy handed.

When considering 1-to-1, it’s important to look not just at the cost of a device, but the total cost of ownership, including the resources needed to manage the device. With our migration to Google Apps, we have seen a tremendous increase in the feedback that is given to students, and the amount of communication between teachers and students in our schools. There are many web apps that allow our students to create, collaborate, and publish. We added 3,500 devices in our district without needing to hire any additional tech support. Instead, we began a Tech Support Internship class for students. Mike is one of our interns.

Mike Vaiana
East Leyden High School

The Tech Support Internship class gives students the opportunity to gain further knowledge of technology. We repair and maintain all of the school’s Chromebooks. All students get to choose a learning pathway, each of which ends in a certification. In addition, we get hands-on experience with building computers and learning about hardware.

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