Ensuring 1-to-1 Success with Google for Education

The right tools are essential to reaping the benefits of 1-to-1
By: | Issue: June, 2014
February 4, 2015

In 2011, Council Bluffs Community Schools in Iowa was one of the first districts to implement 1-to-1 with Google Chromebooks for its students in grades 6-12. Results have included improved student achievement, rising graduation rates and decreasing dropout rates. This web seminar, originally presented on April 29, 2014, featured an administrator from Council Bluffs, who shared why the district went with Google tools, the impact of 1-to-1 on educators and students, and the major decisions that need to be made before any 1-to-1 initiative.

Stephen Fang
Education Team

How do we prepare students for jobs that don’t exist yet? How do we prepare them for careers and other aspects of the future that have yet to be imagined? How do we empower them for the new world that we’re living in? We think that there a lot of ways to do these things because you can connect and discover with technology in ways we never thought possible before. With Google Hangouts, you can connect to military servicemen and women across the seas. You can connect classrooms and share with expert educators across the country. Google Art Project, for example, allows students to go into museums virtually and see famous paintings from their desk in the classroom. Technology is bringing a wealth of resources and making new things possible in terms of learning and achievement.

Our goal is to ensure that students, no matter where they are, can be learning. For us, that breaks down to four pillars:

We want to make sure that we’re empowering students and teachers to discover a world of educational resources.
We want to make sure they are choosing the right device, whether it’s a Chromebook, a tablet or a PC, as long as it’s the right device for the job.
We think that it’s really important to focus on teamwork.
And we want to make sure that as we roll out new technology, new devices, new tools for students and teachers to use, that these are all easy to deploy.

It shouldn’t take many additional people or resources to make these technology advancements a reality in the classroom. With these pillars in mind, we created a few specific tools for school districts. The base platform is Google Apps for Education, which is free. It includes email, calendar and the core productivity suite of tools. Currently 30 million students, teachers and staff are using Google Apps for Education. On top of the platform, we have devices. There is a variety of different Chromebooks and tabletsÑdifferent form factors, different speeds, different memory, so districts can hone in on exactly what they need.

We designed the Chromebook with education in mind. We wanted to create a device that is easy to deploy and easy for students to just log into and access their content. They are safe and secureÑyou don’t need any antivirus or spyware protection. They are incredibly fast to boot up. They are also affordable; most of the devices are less than $350. There is a web-based Admin console for managing your Google Apps for Education, and that’s the same place to manage your Chromebooks. From within that console, you can conduct Smarter Balanced and PARCC testing, and you can push out applications to whatever device students are using.

We know from speaking with densely populated school districts that it’s very difficult to deploy tablets on a wide scale because of the need to plug them in and upgrade them. Our deployment strategy is a little bit different. Basically, you touch the devices together with management console provisioning and the devices are then rolled into the main control panel. From there, you can push out different settings and policies to all the devices simultaneously. Teachers do the same with appsÑfind what you need, then push them out to your users in the same way you would share a Google document.

David Fringer
Chief Technology Officer
Council Bluffs Community Schools (Iowa)

Council Bluffs Community Schools is on the border of Nebraska and Iowa along the banks of the Missouri River. We have about 9,000 students, 650 teachers and 550 additional staff. Every student in our district, whether preschooler or high school senior, has a Google Apps account. We began using Chromebooks in the fall of 2010 when Google was looking for districts to help test the technology. We went 1-to-1 at our high schools in 2012, did the same in our middle schools in 2013, and will follow with grades 3-5 this fall. We have over 7,000 Chrome devices in our environment and a few hundred Nexus 7 tablets.

All these devices require relatively little staff to maintain. In our previous life as a PC district, our ratio of technician to computer was 1 to 700. Based on that, adding the 7,000 computers necessary for our 1-to-1 initiative would have required 10 new technicians and six additional FTE’s. But with Chromebooks we had to add only two more people to support the deployment. We have a three-pronged professional learning model. First, at the district level, we spend one of our profession- al development days a year with an instructional technology focus. Second, at the building level, there are a number of initiatives where teachers share their knowledge and professional development resources interact with staff. Third, every Monday we have Professional Learning Communities that focus on best practices and instruction. You can always do more professional development. We’re still trying to scratch out more ways for professional staff to collaborate and learn together about technology and everything else that we are trying to accomplish.

We love the management console, and we have been lucky to work with the Google development team on a lot of the features and functions. The first time we saw it, you could do about four things. Now there are hundreds of features you can use to keep your environment safe and to make your hardware behave the way you want it to. Google has an open ear. We’ve said, “I wish we could disable guest mode. I wish we could disable incognito mode. I wish we would not have to worry about students deleting their web history.” All of those things have been incorporated, along with suggestions from other K12 customers. Google Play for Education is amazing. Google has done something that hasn’t been done in the other online stores, and that is to categorize the content by grade level, content area and Common Core standard. You can find apps that meet your curriculum needs rather quickly.

Then deploying those apps is easy: You create a master and then create clones of the master device. The best part is, not only can you push the apps out, but you can take them back just as easily. So if you did spend some money to buy something, you can distribute it to all of this year’s first graders, then at the end of the year you can recover those apps to use for next year’s class.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please go to: www.districtadministration.com/ws042914