21 Mar “Google It” Generation: How the Google Empire is Conquering Schools
Education, the company is evolving into a cornerstone of educational computing in schools with and without Chromebooks.
Google Apps for Education provides a user-friendly gateway into the world of productivity tools, which is essential in school environments where technology skill levels are all over the map. Old-school educators can easily transition from the Microsoft Office suite to programs such as Gmail and Google Doc, and the interconnected design of Google Apps allows new users to naturally progress from one program to the next.
Consider the example of Intermediate School 339, a public middle school in Bronx, New York. The school’s 840 students were primarily from low-income and ESL households, and during the 2005-2006 school year, IS 339 was marked for review after receiving a “D” progress evaluation. That year, only 21% of students tested at their grade level in language arts, and only 9% satisfied state standards in math. In his second year as principal, Jason Levy secured a laptop grant, and over the next three years, he explored methods of driving collaboration between staff, students and parents by making Google accounts the backbone of school communication.
Ever mindful of skepticism from reluctant teachers, Levy started small by using email, document and messaging apps to send staff memos, record meeting minutes and share instant updates. The school started holding weekend tech bootcamps for teachers, who gradually made their own forays into using other apps, such as Google Forms and Google Earth, to design quizzes with progress tracking and lead interactive social studies lessons.
Levy says techy-savvy teachers were motivated to share their knowledge with fellow educators, contributing to a unified team equipped to approach lesson plans from new angles. Individual teachers were inspired to test the capabilities of Google Apps, using the tools to set up peer-editing sessions between students, publish group notes and provide remote feedback on essays.
By the 2008-2009 school year, IS 339’s review status was concluded. In addition to launching a full-fledged 1:1 laptop program, the school achieved a proficiency rating of 40% in language arts and 62% in math, an increase of 19% and 53%, respectively. Most importantly, the improvements at IS 339 are proof that Google Apps can be the crux of any technology initiative, whether or not schools have 1:1 programs, ensuring that other struggling institutions stop and take notice.