Personalizing Early Elementary Learning with Tablets and Google for Education
Using technology effectively at the early elementary level has the potential to improve achievement across grade levels in a district, by preparing elementary students to use the digital tools they will need later on in school, and in college and career. In this web seminar, originally broadcast on March 12, 2015, an administrator from Ohio discussed how the district is using Google Play in combination with Android-based tablets to personalize K2 learning, and is using Chromebooks and Google Apps throughout district grade levels to enhance collaboration and empower teachers and students.
Google for Education Team
Students who are in kindergarten this year will be graduating college in 2031. Who are we to say what kind of careers will exist in the year 2031? That’s why we believe our goal should be keeping students engaged with learning and helping them be prepared for an ever-changing world. We need to focus on teaching our kids the skills they will need to be successful—how to collaborate, to research, to organize information, and to formulate an argument. At Google, our mission is to organize the world’s information and to make it universally accessible and useful.
Here on the Google for Education team, we believe that open technology is the key to doing that. We want to help schools transform education by providing a complete education solution—across platforms through Google Apps for Education, and across Chromebooks and Android tablets that you can use with that platform. And we provide educational content in the form of apps, books and videos that you can use on those devices. We offer schools a free suite of productivity tools called Google Apps for Education. These include Gmail as well as Google Docs, Spreadsheets and Presentations. Since these are all web-based applications, they are available from any device that has a web browser. And they are also great for collaborating because multiple people can access any of these tools simultaneously, so they can be creating and editing at the same time.
I would like to highlight a few exciting changes we have made recently to the Google Apps suite. First, schools now have unlimited storage in Google Drive. Second, we launched Google Vault, which is free and available for all Google Apps for Education domains. Third, we launched Classroom, which is a new app that helps teachers manage their classroom workflow, and helps students keep track of announcements and assignments. Also last year, Google for Education expanded our device offering to include Android tablets. We made sure that all of the devices are affordable, durable and easy to scale. Currently there are four tablets that are approved by Google Play for Education. These include the Nexus 7, an affordable model perfect for younger grades; the durable 10-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab for Education, the first tablet that Samsung has designed specifically for the classroom; the Asus Transformer pad, which has an optional keyboard, making it both a touchscreen device and a clamshell device; and the HP Slate 8, which has the longest-lasting battery and an eight-inch screen. All four of these tablets have gone through a very rigorous screening process with Google to be approved for education. They are all built with the hardware specs required to be used with our program.
Whichever devices that you choose, you’ll also need a license for Google Play for Education, which provides an easy way to set up and deploy your Android for Education tablets. In the Google Apps control panel, you can set up your users, set your device controls through a web page, and preconfigure your Wi-Fi settings. Then you can designate one tablet to be an admin device and install the Google Edu device setup app. At that point, setting up all of your student devices is as simple as “bumping” that admin tablet to a blank student tablet. If you are not ready to go 1-to-1, the Android for Education program also supports multiple user profiles on a single device.
Indian Valley Local Schools
Our district has approximately 1,900 students between two elementary schools, a middle school and a high school. We use Google Play for Education heavily throughout the district. As of this school year, we are currently 1-to-1 in grades 4 through 12, with a majority of those devices being Chromebooks. We have around 1,200 Chromebooks throughout our district, and we plan to order more. Last summer we also implemented 200 Nexus 7 tablets with Google Play for Education for our K2 classrooms. It’s worked out so well for us that we’ve also purchased some additional tablets, specifically the Asus Transformer, for some of our special needs students. One of the key reasons we chose to use Google tools was the ease of setting up the tablets, but the biggest reason was having the web-based store that is designed specifically for education, where teachers can easily send apps, books or videos to the devices. Purchasing and maintaining paid apps is a lot easier, too, because they can easily be reassigned as needed.
The initial setup was extremely simple. We had our 200 tablets bumped in about an hour. It took longer to get those tablets out of the box and inventoried than it did to actually do that bumping process. We learned a number of best practices from our deployment. First, just like with Chromebooks, you are able to set different permissions on your tablets based on organizational units in your Google admin console. I highly recommend using this capability to create different settings for your students and your teachers. Everyone handles their Google Apps domains differently. If you disable any services, make sure that those apps are unchecked for syncing or disabled on the tablets. Otherwise, students might see error messages saying they can’t connect to that service. Give all your teachers access to the Google Play for Education store regardless of whether they use tablets or not. And make an easy way for teachers to access the store by either posting links on your own websites, or by pushing bookmarks out through Chrome. Also, create groups for your teachers, or show them how to do it. Then when they send apps or other content to their students, they only have to put in that one group address and every account within that group will get it.
Giving a tablet to the teacher is very important for a couple of reasons. The first is that if they have a device themselves, they can actually try the content before pushing it out to students. The second reason has to do with us replacing projectors with some new ones that have HDMI inputs. Now our teachers will be able to mirror their Android tablet with the class by using a Chromecast device. Another idea that works well in K2 is to label the front of the tablets. We didn’t do that initially and we had a situation where tablets ended up getting put away in the wrong room, and a teacher thought they were having issues with not being able to send apps. You can set up purchase orders in the Google Play for Education store and then delegate who has access to them. Think ahead when making these purchase orders, because when you delegate one to a teacher, they have full access to the PO and could possibly spend that whole balance. So it’s good practice to break up the funds based on whatever you want to allow that teacher to spend.
To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please visit: www.districtadministration.com/ws031215