Case Study: Google solution for school wanting to embrace the cloud

The cloud is ubiquitous. Never before has the internet been so powerful and so much reliant upon it. It is not just a means of sharing information for an audience to access although nothing still does this as successfully. It is now a means of getting audiences and authors to create together, in real-time, at any time, in any location. Our learners stand to benefit a great deal in embracing this collaboration.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” ― Helen Keller

Together we can achieve more. By having an extra mind contributing, thought processes extend and ideas develop equalling heightened progress and success. We learn more together. Learning is a communal experience. The cloud makes the extra-mind contribution easier. It also makes provision cheaper. A win-win, no? Headteacher of the outstanding Therfield First School, Lisa Hall and their Technology Coordinator, Helen Middleton arranged a meeting with me to find out.

Therfield is a small first school in Hertfordshire serving 4-9 year old children. The school does not have a server but does have a master computer to which their laptops connect. They have an iPad though all their devices are dated. One set of devices that are not dated are their 3 Clevertouch televisions. The staff have dabbled with Google Drive though are not using it in a purposeful way. Lisa had a conversation with Martin Pickett, a member of our DE Team, about Chromebooks and how they can be managed in an easy and cheap way. There is an understanding that their digital device provision cost could be quartered should they go down the Google and Chromebook route.

Therfield’s route started with Lisa and Helen coming to visit me at Highover. A clear vision is key to everything. To ascertain how Google could fit in with their existing systems and start thinking about how they can move forward with it, we discussed the following key questions.

  1. Are there any programs that you feel that you could not work without that are currently on your systems?
  2. Do you envisage keeping the server?
  3. Why did Chromebooks come to mind? (DO THE PRO’S MATCH UP)
  4. What is Google?
  5. What is your day-to-day use of Google?

The answers indicated that Chromebooks would fit easily into their current structure. This is dependent on Therfield registering for Google Apps for Education to manage any prospective Chromebooks purchased simply, easily. The was a keen and definite intention to do so.

Therfield have some applications that they feel they would greatly miss if unavailable to any new system. These included Maths Whizz,Purple Mash (web-based) as well as Word, Publisher & Powerpoint of which there are Google alternatives. Word documents, Powerpoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets are also compatible with Google Docs, Slides, Sheets respectively. There is a fantastic Chrome app called Lucidpress (https://www.lucidpress.com), which has many in-app purchased facilities added for free if Google Apps for Education registered, that ably replaces Microsoft Publisher if working on a Chromebook. It seemed that Chromebooks would not stop their children from learning as all their preferred programs could be used. They actually felt that the collaborative nature of Chromebooks and Google’s products would enhance and extend their learners’ learning. Videos on my YouTube Channel, https://www.youtube.com/c/AntonioMariconda, delve deeper into this.

Servers cost a fortune. The last one installed at my school cost upward of £20,000. Add on top of that technical support and ant-virusing for it, the cost year-on-year is considerable. More and more schools are migrating to the cloud. The extended reach and access to programs, files and technology means learning can potentially happen at any place at any time. Managing your virtual space using cloud servers is quick and easy and can be maintained even by using a mobile phone. Even better as Google Apps for Education is free; anti-virus, malware protection, multi-stage encryption etc. included. Therfield do not have a server to replace so moving from a concrete vanilla server to a cloud server is easy with nothing to transfer from the paltry allocated drive space they have from the concrete server to unlimited storage to Google’s servers.

Many people are beginning to hear of Chromebooks and the success stories that they are achieving in schools. However, not many are aware of a shift of approach that is required to make them successful; leaving a master and slave infrastructure to a cloud one to utilise the power of the internet. Therfield wanted to purchase Chromebooks because they are cheap. Indeed they are! One half decent spec’d laptop or five Chromebooks? I know which I would buy into. Though purchasing into Chomebooks requires some behind the scenes groundwork to make them a truly successful and invaluable resource. I can help with that! I will only divulge this; Google Apps for Education subscription is vital.

Ask people, What is Google? What percentage of the people you ask said that “a thing that searches the internet”. True, though perhaps five to ten years a go. It still does that, obviously but Google now offers so much more. Here’s another question. Who still buys a Microsoft Office package? It should be nobody. Google now offers a basic, free ‘Office’ package – Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and many others. The free bit is great but the fact that they are truly collaborative is better! Having thirty children with a Chromebook in front of them editing a single document using Google Docs is truly revolutionary. Whole class working for a shared purpose, working together. Future blog posts and my YouTube video

will go into this in more detail and I look forward to going into Therfield to work on a similar project.

All of the above should cover the last question, What is your day-to-day use of Google? If it is just web-searching then it soon will not be. Visit my YouTube channel (https://youtube.com/c/AntonioMariconda) or my school’s (https://www.youtube.com/c/HighoverHertsSchUkSG4) or email me (antonio.mariconda@highover.herts.sch.uk) to work together to see how you day-to-day use of Google can be so much more than just a web search.

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