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3 things you might not know about Google for Education

Google for Education’s James Leonard discussed the principles behind the company’s education philosophy—and he previewed a brand-new Google service to launch this fall

Google is launching a major new tool this fall as part of its Google Apps for Education suite.

What does it mean to “go Google” as a K-12 school or district? In a recent eSchool News webinar sponsored by Google, James Leonard from the Google for Education team gave an overview of the many ways the company is using open technology “to improve learning for everyone, everywhere.”

There are four key principles behind Google’s philosophy for education, Leonard said:

Empowerment: Leveraging the web to discover a world of infinite resources.

Choice: The ability to use the right device, any time and anywhere. Google solutions work across many platforms, Leonard said, giving students and educators maximum flexibility.

“We think that a student’s information and learning environment should be easy to access and secure, whether they’re using a laptop at home, a tablet at school, or a Chromebook at a friend’s house,” he explained. “They should basically have access to all of their stuff, and the technology should just get out of the way—so that students and teachers can really just focus on the content and on working together.”

Teamwork: The ability to work together on projects and documents in real time.

Scalability: Technology must be affordable and easy to manage.

Google aims to make good on these principles by providing a secure platform for working and collaborating (Google Apps for Education, a free suite of tools accessible by any device with a web browser); easy-to-manage devices such as Chromebooks and Android tablets; and content such as Android apps and YouTube videos.

Many educators already are familiar with these basic resources—but here are three things you might not have known about them:

1. Google is launching a major new tool this fall as part of its Google Apps for Education suite.

Joining other tools such as Docs, Spreadsheets, Gmail, Drive, Groups, and Sites will be a new service called Classroom, which will “make it very easy for students and teachers to streamline workflow, share assignments, and post questions to an activity stream,” Leonard said.

Classroom weaves together Google Docs, Drive, and Gmail to help teachers create and organize assignments quickly, provide feedback efficiently, and communicate with their classes with ease, according to a description on Google’s website. It will enable students to organize their work, complete and turn it in, and communicate directly with their teachers and peers.

“Classroom was designed hand-in-hand with teachers to help them save time, keep classes organized, and improve communication with students,” Google says.

2. Google Play for Education makes it incredibly easy to deploy, discover, and deliver content.

Launched last November, Tablets for Google Play for Education—a special service within the Google Play app store for Android tablets—makes it easy to find and share classroom-appropriate apps, Leonard said.

With traditional tablet deployments, it can be tough to set up the devices and find good content amid a “sea of apps,” he said. But with Google Play for Education, “you can actually set up a full classroom [of Android-based tablets] in minutes.” He said there is a YouTube video showing how three second-graders near Chicago set up an entire class of Nexis tablets in just 210 seconds.

Through a partnership with the nonprofit organization CUE (formerly the Computer-Using Educators), CUE has correlated thousands of educational apps in Google Play with the Common Core standards. Educators can search for apps by subject, grade level, and Common Core standard.

What’s more, you can buy apps using a school or district purchase order—and you can share apps with students or groups of students, just like you’d share a document. That makes it easy for teachers to differentiate instruction, Leonard said, by pushing out certain apps to students based on their interests, abilities, or needs.

You can also reassign apps when students no longer need them, or share licenses with other teachers in your school or district. You can push out or assign videos from YouTube EDU as well, and you can rent K-12 books and push them out to students thanks to deals that Google has signed with leading publishers such as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Macmillan, and Lerner.

3. Google is constantly adding valuable new content to extend learning beyond the classroom walls.

You might already be familiar with the Google Art Project, which brings close-up views of great works of art to user’s devices—but do you know about the Street View Treks in Google Maps, which take users on a tour of the Colorado River, the canals of Venice, the Eiffel Tower, or the Galapagos Islands?

And did you know that Google has created Chrome App Packs for schools, which Leonard called a “really great way to get started” in teaching with mobile apps? These are custom curated app packs for elementary, middle, and high school, he said. Many of them are free, and they contain resources to complement the Google Apps for Education.

Hank Thiele, assistant superintendent of technology and learning for the Maine Township High School District 207 in Illinois, gave a firsthand account of how his district has implemented 1-to-1 computing with Google Apps and Chromebooks.

Thiele discussed how his district has saved more than $784,000 and boosted collaboration in the last six years by using Google Apps for Education. He also revealed how Maine Township addressed concerns from the community and prepared teachers for success with 1-to-1 learning.

To listen to the full archived version of the webinar, click here.

Google is also sponsoring two more webinars with eSchool News this month.

On Thursday, June 19, at 2 p.m. ET, Dustin Hardin, director of technology at New Caney Independent School District, will describe the journey New Caney ISD took from not having any wireless access on its 14 campuses to starting a 1-to-1 program with Google Chromebooks in just three years. Dustin also will discuss why the district chose Chromebooks—and how it was able to pay for the program.

On Tuesday, June 24, at 2 p.m. ET, Jason Smith from Passaic City Public Schools will describe how his district is using Google Chromebooks to prepare for the new generation of online assessments. Smith and Google for Education’s Stephen Fang will discuss how to use Chromebooks as a secure, locked-down device for online testing, as well as the impact that Google tools can have on teaching and learning.

To register for either or both of these events, click here.

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