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The secret of a unique one-to-one learning experience

Moderated by Kevin Hogan, eSchool News, Content Director

Experts share the strategies and success of the Google suite of apps and a one-to-one initiative in schools

secret-one-learning-experienceOn March 11, eSchool News hosted a webinar on adopting one-to-one technology in schools, featuring information from Google for Education, as well as a district director of technology who testified to the success of both the Google suite of apps and a one-to-one initiative in his schools.

First, Cassie Caputo, a Google in Education team member, gave an overview of Google’s education philosophy.

“Here at Google for Education, we believe that open technology is the key to improving education,” she said. Caputo detailed the central tenets of Google’s approach, which include empowering students with digital access, giving teachers and students alike a choice of devices, allowing teamwork across multiple devices, and enabling easy device management from a single web browser for scalability.

She discussed how districts can make these changes, starting with the free conversion to the suite of Google apps.

(Next page: Implementing Chromebooks and a one-to-one initiative)

As for devices, Caputo talked about Google Chromebooks and Google Play for Education tablets. Chromebooks are web-based laptops that focus on the user, not the technology, and allow students to access lessons more quickly. Tablets often used with younger students offer easy deployment and potential for engaging educational content.

Caputo also stressed that Chromebooks feature a management console, which allows the control of multiple devices through a single online interface. It requires the one-time purchase of one license per device, at the cost of $30 each. Other resources include Google Apps for Education, thousands of K-12 eBooks, which are now available through Google Play for Education, as well as more than 1 million apps, available through the online store.

Joel Handler, director of technology for Hillsborough Township Public Schools in New Jersey, took over, describing the process of his district’s adaptation of Google for Education tools. He emphasized the importance of the district’s technology vision which centers on the cultural shift we are currently experiencing, where everyday technology use is standard.

“People don’t get excited anymore about using their cell phone,” he said. “It’s part of the norm, part of the future. You just pick it up, you just use it.” That, Handler suggested, is what Hillsborough hoped to achieve in their integration of one-to-one programs for its K-12 students: seamless use of Google devices as everyday tools.

The district began to implement its one-to-one initiative in 2011, and anticipated for 100 percent of students to have Chromebooks for the next academic year. Handler cited the low cost and stressed teamwork as a major selling point, because “in the real world, people don’t work independently.”

Handler also explained the critical nature of staff support and “timely and targeted” training, which allows teachers to take classes before or after school to supplement their training, instead of coming in for scheduled in-service days.

Moreover, Handler mentioned the value of this technology in times of crisis, citing how Google apps had enabled educators to keep in contact during last year’s Hurricane Sandy disaster, which had a huge impact on the state of New Jersey.

Webinar participants had a range of inquiries, but the most-discussed question asked was how accepting older teachers are of this new technological model.

“I’ve been teaching for 23 years and wanted to be a part of the pilot program simply to keep up with the technology, but also to increase my own learning and be willing to change with the times…It wasn’t a problem at all,” said one Hillsborough teacher, in attendance with Handler.

Carly Buchanan is an editorial intern at eSchool News.

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