To provide a strong technology infrastructure to support improved learning across the district, the Directorate connected all Canberra Public Schools into one centralised network using broadband internet access. But their learning management system was difficult to use and did not scale to mobile devices, and many of the schools’ laptops were obsolete. Students were frustrated with slow login times and had limited access to learning materials outside the classroom. “We needed a device that could log in very quickly and provide a rich learning experience in school, at home, or anywhere else students needed access,” says Dan Bray, Program Manager, eLearning, ACT Education Directorate. Solution “Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education were the logical choice for us,” Bray says. In 2014, the Directorate ran a pilot test with 208 Chromebooks and Google Apps in four primary and secondary schools. Chromebooks were affordable and in sync with the district’s wireless system, and Google Apps were easy for teachers and students to use. The pilot was a success, with students, parents, and teachers welcoming the world of learning opportunities Google tools provided in a reliable, safe, secure environment. Since 2015, they have rolled out Google Apps accounts for all teachers and 32,000 students, Chromebooks are at 4,500 and counting across the district. Says Bray, “Chromebooks and Google Apps have really helped on our journey to realising our ‘Learn, Anywhere’ vision.”
Rethinking teaching and learning Accessible online from any device, Google Apps lets students work in the classroom, at home, or anywhere they choose to learn. Says year 10 Amaroo School student Sophie, “Having a universal platform is awesome, because all of your work is in one place and you don’t worry about losing your work.” Rather than working on lessons individually and waiting for teachers to correct their work, students now learn together and track their progress using Google Docs and Sheets, giving and receiving feedback in real time. “We did a pre-test quiz in maths and we could see our levels,” says Sophie. “We all talked about the things we needed to work on and decided as a class where we needed to improve.” Google Classroom has enabled teachers to quickly see who has or hasn’t completed work, provide direct feedback at the time it’s most needed and grades to students without printing a single piece of paper. And parents can now take a more active role in their children’s learning. “Learning doesn’t just happen between 9 am and 3 pm,” says Macquarie Primary School teacher Samantha Wansink. “Google tools ‘open up the classroom doors’ so families are able to contribute examples of the learning which they participate in with their children.”
Streamlining tools for learning
The Directorate created a “Digital Backpack” for teachers and students, with Google Classroom and Google Apps available in one dashboard. Students receive a single login and password for their Google accounts, which stays with them from primary through secondary school. These student learning portfolios grow year to year, so families can track student development and celebrate achievements. Teachers can take a richer, more holistic view of student work and progress as well as easily add students into their classrooms.
Empowering students to create change
Amaroo School leaders asked students what they needed to create a technology-rich and innovative learning environment. Student input not only informed the school’s information and communication technology (ICT) plan but guided the Directorate’s implementation of the Google Apps for Education platform. This empowered students to form a group called ASTEC—Amaroo School Technical Experience Crew. They provide peer tech support, using Google forms for students to log requests and Google groups to bounce solutions off each other. “We get hands-on experience in something we wouldn’t have been able to do before Google Apps,” says ASTEC member Sophie. “It’s like work experience, but at our school.”
By adopting Chromebooks and Google Apps districtwide, the ACT Education Directorate has provided greater opportunities for students to share ideas, give peer feedback, and collaborate with each other, in real time. “Chromebooks and Google Apps have helped us simplify technology, ‘uncomplicating’ it as much as possible so our teachers can focus on what is most important—quality learning for every student, every day,” Bray says.
Students across the district are more engaged at all grade levels. Macgregor Primary School teacher Renee Waters shares one example: “Brayden was a reluctant writer who didn’t enjoy the process of handwriting. He would often take three 45-minute lessons to complete a couple of sentences. With the introduction of Google Docs and the process of immediate feedback, along with the support of Chromebooks and access to apps such as Read&Write, Brayden successfully produced a well-structured exposition in just one 45-minute lesson.”
“Cloud solutions for Education are empowering students to be at the centre of their learning,” Wansink says. “Now, students can spread their wings as courageous, connected, and critical learners.”
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