Going Google at my School: Part 4 – Sharing the Vision

Having negotiated the first term of the adoption of Google Apps for Education (GAfE) I have presented to Leadership on the progress and been working with the technical support team on how they can support the change. I have tried to give advice based on my experiences so far for anyone looking to lead on the adoption of GAfE or other cloud-based solutions to improving your school’s technology for learning provision.

Go the whole hog

If you are about to embark on a similar journey and are looking to adopt GAfE or maybe office 365 I would strongly suggest making sure there is an appetite from leadership and technical support for a wholesale adoption integrating all the tools rather than any hybrid. We currently have a hybrid of legacy Microsoft email and Google drive and sites. I am keen to move to a complete GAfE adoption but this change is something that will feature further along my roadmap once the need for this is made clear to Leadership by generating pressure from staff and students once they realise the limitations of the hybrid.

Form the vision with experienced educators

Mark Allen has extensive experience of introducing GAfE in schools, having taken a school down this route in 2007. I was fortunate to be allocated to Mark’s team at the Google Teacher Academy in London in December 2013 and his advice has been valuable. Mark offers consultancy for anyone taking on this change in their school.

Dan Leighton has also integrated GAfE in educational contexts some years ago and is a regular contributor on leadership and technology for learning. Dan is someone I hope to visit in 2014 to gain insight into integrating chromebooks into schools as he has had success at this.

In my limited experience here is some advice on how to manage the change with the key people who will help you make your venture a success in the school, enhancing the learning.

Working with Technical Support

The technical support team at my own school have exclusively worked with Microsoft infrastructure for many years and this change has taken them outside of their comfort zone. Our GAfE account is supported by realsmart who have provided a days free GAfE training. It has taken some time to get the training organised for the technical support team as they are very busy setting up schools who join our academy chain.

I have struggled to sell the vision to the team and therefore this is something I advice you to consider. How will you get the technical support team on board. In some cases the change will be driven by the team and in these cases the change will be easier.

Some of the barriers I have encountered are

  • Getting Chrome to be the default browser (It is not technically a problem but generating the support is)
  • Justify the benefits of GAfE in terms the technical team appreciate (learning is not as persuasive as you would hope)
  • Prioritising training for GAfE in order to be able to manage groups and administration of Apps.
  • Concerns over privacy. However this argument feels very similar to when students say “when will I ever use this” in class. This usually happens because they do not understand.
  • The technical team had been considering other VLE providers and strategies for some time and I have brought about change they were not anticipating.

I am trying to work as closely with the technical support team as I can in order to share my vision and plan for this with them. If I could go back this is something I would have liked more time to do before the whole school role out.

Presenting to Leadership

I have presented to the Leadership team on four occasions so far.

  1. June 2013: Proposal for adopting GAfE in order to get support and approval.
  2. Sept 2013: Plan for rolling out GAfE and the impact on students.
  3. December 2013: Update on progress
  4. December 2013: Training for using Google drive for all link meetings

After each session I have left frustrated but when I get individual feedback from members of LMT they are very positive. I have struggled to pitch these sessions correctly. When presenting to teaching staff I tend to aim for inspiring uses and then use a blog, instructional videos and drop in training to build the basic skills. This has been supported by digital leaders, student leaders who are helping drive the GAfE adoption across the school.

I have not taken this approach with leadership assuming they would prefer to see what the key steps are to making this work and how that is progressing. However, I think this needs reviewing. Within the leadership team there is a vast range of technical ability from the very willing and able through to the complete technophobes/cynics. Therefore I encounter all the behaviours you would expect of a year 7 class in a computer room when encountering a new task. Some forge ahead while others require one to one guidance throughout. Having not gone for the “wow” factor I have failed to share some of the vision with leadership and therefore I think they are not clear on the route we are taking and the potential benefits.

Here are the key areas to address if presenting to your leadership team:

  • Impact on learning: Difficult to initially quantify when introducing new technology as the key benefits are engagement, collaboration and developing 21st century learning skills. Saying this will not help… The ideal approach to this is to have a trial group using GAfE, or technology for learning tools as appropriate to the route you are taking, and collect data from this trial.
    • Student and teacher feedback on their experience, in the form of a questionnaire or discussion on video.
    • Invite outside speaker already using GAfE or equivalent in to school to meet with key stakeholders.
    • Circulate research, though in my experience getting everyone to read this involves persistent positive persuasion.
  • Cost: GAfE is free unless you decide to include third parties to connect MIS data or organise Google Drive.
  • Share the vision: This is the part I have underperformed on.
    • Create a roadmap for leadership to view which highlights the steps to success and place responsibility for some actions on others (delegate ownership)
    • Show some exciting uses such as Google+ hangouts (connected classroom from Google is an exciting proposition). Collaboration on a Google document, (note of warning below)
    • Cloud computing where the device is not important, whoch could be demonstrated by creating a film of “A day in the life of a GAfE student” (I will have to make this now!)
    • My presentation to a staff conference workshop on Technology and Education
  • Keep technical requirements low: Try to avoid a live demonstration unless you are 100% confident it will work without any problems.
    • What is someone uses their iphone/ipad and does not have the correct app, has never logged in to their account. These are best avoided and dealt with on an individual level.
  • What your proposed strategy can achieve that the current situation cannot.
    • In some cases this might be achieving the seam under one login.
    • Using the GAfE tools provides a connected environment that you can pick up on any device with an internet connection.
    • Best way to present technical stuff is to make a video prior to the meeting and show it.

Roadmap to your Vision

In creating your roadmap, try to give responsibility for completion of a task to a person, such as making chrome the default browser. Meet with that member of staff before sharing the roadmap and work with them to give you a sensible time to investigate how to achieve it, test it and role it out across the school. What support and training will need to accompany the change. You will need to regularly find key stake holders and enquire about their progress, what barriers are they encountering and offer to help remove them. This might be by putting them in contact with someone who has managed such a task elsewhere and can guide them through it.

Presenting to staff

I am presenting to staff on the first day back after the festive season and I have decided to approach it like this:

  • Identify a  need
    • In my own school’s context, we achieve very good results but in a challenging job market are we allowing our students enough opportunities to experience interesting learning that will inspire them and provide them with a stand-out CV.
  • How technology for learning can address it
    • In my school’s context, by adopting the GAfE tools in their entirety we give the students access to connect via Google+ (if older then 13) collaborate on their work with their peers (life skill relevant to the job market). Manage and organise themselves independently (they will be expected to do this in employment) and technology can be an excellent tool to support this.
    • Provide students with tools to lead (we have a student leaders scheme beginning this year and getting each team to use Google+ could be a great opportunity for them)
    • Connect with other orgnanisations such as companies, universities and other schools in regular discussion and dialogue in the form of Google+ communities, blogs and collaborative documents). This can raise expectations and motivate students.
  • Inspiring ideas
    • Some examples are my digital leaders using Google+ and that some of them are connecting with new communities of students leading on technology in schools.
    • The digital leaders are creating apps for staff, providing them with tangible ways they have used their expertise to contribute to the school and community.
    • Imagine a class having a Google hangout with a scientist working in cancer research, or monitoring seismic activity on the pacific rim, or engineer on a construction site for a event such as an olympic games or world cup.
    • Students creating a weekly podcast on a particular subject area each week using Google Hangouts on air.
    • Steph Ladbroke‘s class did a project on the rainforest, using technology they made connections and the project culminated in the class engaging with a local company that changed its packaging to a more sustainable source due to members of the class writing to them and meeting with their local MP.
  • What you can practically aim to achieve this week, month, term.
    • For each teacher this will be different, some examples will be provided and there responses will be collected.
  • Support to help you achieve these

This was a big post so well done and thank you if you read this far. I think a few smaller but more regular posts might be in order. As always your comments and feedback are appreciated. If you would like to visit me to see GAfE in action please do not hesitate to contact me.

Ben Rouse

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