(Cross-posted on the Google for Work Blog.)
Editor's note: As educators in North America begin to prepare for the 2015/16 school year, we thought this would be a good time to pull together the best tips we shared in the last year from schools using Chromebooks. If you’ll be at ISTE 2015 next week in Philly, come see us in the Expo Hall at space #1808. We’ll have a range of Chromebooks to demo and over 50 sessions in our teaching theater. If you won’t be there, you can follow along at #ISTE2015 and @GoogleforEdu for the highlights and news.
Schools across North America are choosing Chromebooks as devices to support teaching and learning. Districts continue to invest in Chromebooks, purchasing more devices as they continue to see success. A few examples: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina now use 83,000 devices, Milwaukee Public Schools now use 38,000 and we’re happy to announce that Arlington Independent School District in Texas recently purchased 17,000 Chromebooks. We gathered tips from experienced districts like these to help school leaders prepare for success in the upcoming school year.
1. Understand teachers’ needs
Success begins with asking teachers what they need and truly listening to their answers. New York City Chief Information Officer Hal Friedlander shared the importance of listening to and understanding the needs of teachers. “We treat schools as customers and engage them as advocates of the technology,” Friedlander says. “The educators who live in the community and teach students every day have the best ideas about what they need in technology, not a guy like me who works at the 30,000-foot view.” It’s a logical place to start, but too often people rush this step.
2. Equip staff with advanced training
Fulfilling teachers’ needs also involves training — preparing them with the tools they need to use technology effectively. Back in November, in the midst of dispatching 32,000 Chromebooks, Chesterfield Public Schools Executive Director of Technology Adam Sedlow shared tips for a successful Chromebook deployment, emphasizing the importance of professional development. Interestingly, the district didn’t require every teacher to attend training — instead they created an optional two-day experience called Camp Chromebook. Because the training was crafted to be fun and engaging, the 300 spots filled up in minutes. Once school started, the trained teachers helped their colleagues who couldn’t attend Camp Chromebook.
3. Plan a phased rollout
Over the past year, school leaders have taught us that planning counts. During a panel at Education on Air, three leaders shared what they’ve learned about successful IT rollouts. A common theme: be thoughtful about planning each phase. Hillsborough Public Schools Director of Technology Joel Handler shared that for his New Jersey district, this meant organizing a pilot phase with outstanding teachers who were respected by their peers as instructional leaders. Valerie Truesdale, Chief of Technology, Personalization & Engagement at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, shared that her district used Chromebooks in middle school because data showed them this age group was the place with most need.
4. Encourage risk-taking and innovation
Throughout the year, leaders echoed the importance of encouraging staff to take risks. Joel Handler put it well “if you aren’t failing, then you aren’t taking enough risks.” Outside experts agree. Laszlo Bock, Google’s head of HR, cited the need for risk-taking and failure as one of his four “work rules for school” – lessons included in his recent book "Work Rules." Laszlo shared that “failure actually isn’t failure, it’s the single best learning opportunity we have." Changing culture isn’t always easy, but many educators are doing it well. Ryan Bretag, Chief Innovation Officer at Glenbrook High School District 225 in Illinois, shared a few practical tips on how to create the conditions for change in schools.
What tips did we miss? Share your tips for success with Chromebooks by using #GoogleEdu. If you’re looking for support in preparing to deploy Chromebooks, check out our Google for Education trainer directory. Although Chromebooks are easy to set up and use, we know that many people like to engage a trainer to get started. On our site, you’ll find a range of organizations that make it their full-time job to support schools with edtech.