Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The only thing that doesn't change is change

Whether you’re a new grad just joining the District, or you’ve been here for longer than you can remember, you know that with everything ed-tech, nothing stays the same for long.  Just three years ago Google Apps for Education (GAFE) was only in use at a few schools, USB memory sticks were the way for students to save files, and Chromebooks didn’t exist.  Today, every student in every school, from K-12 has as a GAFE account, all schools have SchoolZone and WIFI (we quadrupled bandwidth at most schools in April), students can access all of their work from anywhere over the cloud, and at 14,000 Chromebooks, we nearly have more Chrome than Windows devices in EPS.

In terms of impact on student learning, I see the impact that the meaningful integration of these technologies every time I visit a school or hear a teacher share at our Community of Practice days. Teachers and students are working collaboratively on Docs and Presentations, creating videos, writing blogs, using email and other online tools to design and enhance projects, and make connections to the world outside of their school walls.

But you know all of this.  Ya, things change.  Yes, things get better, faster, stronger (and cheaper!)  As we head into summer, what do teachers and students in our schools have to look forward to in terms of changes in the upcoming school year?

  • Increased support -  for teachers for learning & technology - A TIPS Team member is assigned to each Leadership Group to work with principals and other consultants to provide targeted assistance to school in support of the Learning & Technology Policy framework.
  • Google Sites facelift - with more integration with all other Google Apps.  If you’ve used all of the Apps, you know that Sites, while pretty awesome, is due to get some design upgrades.  You’ll be able to make your sites look even better, and usually Google makes things easier as well.
  • Google Mail facelift - this article came from PC World, but believe's coming. Some new features, but mainly a cleaner look to get you to what you need to know faster!
  • New Chromebook models - these will continue to get faster (better processors, more RAM), lighter, and (hopefully) cheaper! Also - we'll have ChromeBase (Now available) and ChromeBox devices (Fall 2014) available for lab or library set-ups.
  • Android Tablets with Google Play for Education - We will be piloting Android tablets that take advantage of some of the same manageability functions of Chromebooks with a few schools in the fall . Google promises:  Low cost Nexus 7 tablets pre-configured to work in our domain; Bookmarks, Apps, WiFi and other settings can be set via our Control Panel (just like Chromebooks); Multiple users signed into one device - but each with access to ONLY their Apps and files (not a big deal for Div 1, but for older students, yes!). Most schools are happy with iOS devices, so we'll be comparing these to see if there are any advantages to these instead.
  • Online Fee payment - Currently in the pilot phase (5 schools in fall 2014), but the project goals are for parents to be able to pay their students’ school fees, library fines, and even field trip fees through SchoolZone.  More info on this coming soon, but this could free up a lot of time for you to use on more important things!
  • Google Classroom - This has been described to me as the “glue” that brings all of the Google Drive Apps and management together for teachers.  Lots of positive buzz about this lately, and the TIPS team will be testing it over the summer.  It’s supposed to have a Google Plus-like communication platform to use within your class, and make sharing and grading Docs easier.  Maybe not a big deal for Div 1 teachers, and we’ll see if it adds to the features already in SchoolZone.

Terry Korte
Technology Integration Coordinator (TIPS Team)
Edmonton Public Schools

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