Keys to Success in 1-to-1 Using Google for Education

Engage the right tools to reap the benefits of 1-to-1
By: | Issue: October, 2014
January 15, 2015

The 9,000-student Council Bluffs Community School District in Iowa was one of the first K12 districts in the country to use Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education in a 1-to-1 implementation, beginning in 2011. The district has seen improved student achievement, rising graduation rates and decreasing dropout rates, with some of the most significant improvement in the state. This web seminar, originally broadcast on August 12, 2014, featured an administrator from Council Bluffs, who discussed the process the district went through before deciding on Google tools and the impact of the initiative on educators and students. Also featured was a member of the Google for Education team, who gave an overview of Google for Education, Chromebooks, tablets with Google Play for Education.

Stephen Fang
Education Team

In today’s classroom, there are many ways that you can utilize technology to change and discover things that you couldn’t before. Examples include connected classrooms where you can do virtual field trips with experts; the Google Art Project, where you can curate your own type of museum from lots of exhibits around the world; and video gatherings in Google Hangouts with different members of the classroom or with different experts. These are all available and possible because of what technology can bring these days. Part of our mission is to create an environment where learning is available for everyone, anywhere. It doesn’t matter what device you are using, and it doesn’t matter where you areÑyou should be able to get to the content and the resources that you need.

At Google, we emphasize four pillars for the different products that we create. The first pillar is empowermentÑ making it easy for students and teachers to discover a world of resources online. The second is choiceÑusing the right device anytime, anywhere. The third is teamworkÑ working together in real time. The fourth is scalabilityÑmaking it easy to deploy and manage all the devices on your network.

Taking those four pillars, we came up with a specific platform, devices and content available to schools. The first is the platform: we offer Google Apps for Education to all school districts, teachers and students for free. On top of that platform, we have devices. Then we have content. The end goal is to allow your students to get to the content that they need, whether it’s YouTube content, Play for Education content, Chrome web apps, Android apps, textbooks, you name itÑit’s available through our platform. With Apps for Education, you have Google Drive for document creation. You have calendaring. You have Gmail for mail. You can use groups to create a working team, and Google Talk to IM and video-chat. And you have Google Sites, which allows you to create websites seamlessly without any previous coding knowledge. We have over 30 million students, teachers and staff members using Apps for Education, including 75 of the top 100 universities in the country. These are institutions that your students most likely will be going to, and they will be using these same tools when they get there.

We created the Chromebooks specifically for education. Part of the reason they are taking off so much is because with the fast boot-up time, you can get to your lessons faster. You can have the same experience no matter which device you are using. It makes personalized learning easy, so whether I am using my Chromebook or any other Chromebook available, when I sign in, I’ll have my documents there, my applications, my bookmarks. Everything will be customized and personalized to me. We have a Play for Education store that makes it easy for teachers to discover content and then to deliver that content to their students. And it takes only a couple of minutes to set up your entire class with tablets. If you do a quick YouTube search, you can find a great video of a class of second-graders who set up 30 or so tablets in two minutes.

The Play for Education store has content not only for tablets, but we’ve also made it available for Chromebooks. Now the Play for Education store is essentially your onestop shop for all the different content you might need. The sections are broken down by EDU-approved apps, and by grade, subject and standard. That makes it a lot easier for you and your teachers to find content. In addition, we’ve revamped the way that you pay by accepting PO’s, so you don’t need to use credit cards anymore. It makes the whole process a lot more seamless.

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

When we adopted Google Apps for Education in 2007, it was a game changer. We are now 1-to-1, with portable computing devices for all students in grades 3-12. There was a strategic plan in our district ratified by the school board in 2009 which called for one portable computing device for every student in grades 3-12. We looked at everythingÑtablets and laptops, and Mac, PC and Linux. We were narrowing in on our 1-to-1 device when Google asked us to be a beta tester for the CR-48, which was the prototype Chromebook. We liked it a lot, so in the fall of 2011 we bought a bunch more, and we now have over 8,000 deployed.

We’ve also ventured into the Nexus tablet world for our preK through 2 learners who need the graphical user interface of a tablet, because they are not ready for keyboarding. The most important thing that you can do in your technology initiative is understand what your focus is in the classroom. We always lead with teaching and learning in our school district. We knew that our research-based instructional strategies work to improve student achievement, so we just looked for tools to supplement teaching and the activities that go along with those research-based strategies. We started with what we wanted to do instructionally, and then we looked for the tools which fit.

On the professional learning side, we take a threepronged approach. First, we have a district-level annual conference focused on technology. But a one-day professional development event doesn’t do anything unless you build on those skills, reinforce those skills, and make sure that people are supported. So we’ve also added two other layers, which are a building-level and embedded building PD, which happen more frequently. There are several specific reasons we chose Chromebooks. First, the cost is definitely reasonable. We were planning on $500 a device, but the cost of Chromebooks is significantly less than thatÑsome as low as $200Ñso we were able to extend that budget. Another two reasons are that there is no system maintenance, and fewer staff are required to maintain the devices. There’s just not a lot to do to a Chromebook unless it’s broken. Yet another thing we like is that the devices turn on in eight seconds. That’s a big difference in the classroom, because it allows teachers to transition from lids-up to lids-down many times during a 70-minute period. In a previous district we were on Windows, and if you asked the students to close the lids on their laptops, you were done because it would take so long to re-authenticate and to get the computers back up again.

We believe in starting small and building capacity. I know there’s a race to 1-to-1, but just buying devices does not change teaching and learning. Actually an influx of devices in large numbers when people don’t know what to do with them is just plain distracting. Lastly, don’t expect the technology to do the hard work for you. You need research-based instructional strategies in order to improve student achievement. Computers are just a tool. Google Apps is just a tool. The software and other web resources are just tools. Tools in the hands of somebody who doesn’t know how to use them aren’t very useful. You still need teachers who are willing to work hard to employ the best instructional strategy possible in order to make sure that your technology initiative is successful.

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