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Bob Kinney, VP of Information Technology for DFM’s Western region

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Ottawa-Carleton District School Board Improves Student Collaboration, Research and Organization with Chromebooks

Client

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board is the largest school board in Ottawa and the seventh largest district by school population in the province of Ontario. The OCDSB contains 147 schools offering a wide range of programs to promote learning excellence and meet the individual needs of students, parents, and the community at large.

Business Challenge

The OCDSB is currently running FirstClass as corporate email, and is currently investigating a switch to Google Apps. Richard Grignon, one of the leads for the 1-1 Chromebooks initiative for the secondary schools of the OCDSB, also helped lead the efforts for the Google Apps deployment for one of the secondary schools within the OCDSB, John McCrae, 7 years prior. The Google Apps platform was still in its infancy when he began to explore its capabilities within his own classroom. Three years later, the use of Google Apps moved up the chain at John McCrae, and the entire school deployed Google Apps. Because there were limited IT resources on hand, it was essential that the teachers get on board with the initiative in order for it to be a success.

With 79% of the teachers on board creating Google Sites to share and show student work with parents, Richard was then selected as secondary consultant his first year on the OCDSB to implement Google Apps through the secondary school system of the OCDSB. His first year on the board, Richard was helping to oversee the Google Apps deployment of 31 schools - what began as 6 pilot sites became, by the end of the first year, became a push to move all the secondary schools to the Google Cloud. During its initial year, the OCDSB implemented Google Apps in all 26 secondary schools, 4 alternate schools and 1 elementary school.

The OCDSB engaged SADA Systems initially to procure and deploy Chromebooks, and continued to engage SADA for other Google Apps-related requests, such as a Simple Sign-On solution. “SADA was a natural fit,” says Richard. “Everyone I’ve worked with is absolutely amazing.”

Solution

The OCDSB has purchased and distributed 3 class sets of Chromebooks as part of their Chromebooks pilot. The Chromebooks pilot has both general and specific sets of requirements, to test the durability of the product as well as its impact on student achievement. Each school participating in the pilot had the ability to incorporate the use of Chromebooks in conjunction with Google Apps differently.

Examples are as follows:
West Carleton Secondary School had sustained a netbook” classmate” pilot project for three years, and uses Google Apps extensively in a culture of student-owned mobile device use. West Carleton replaced their netbooks with Chromebooks, and currently benefits from Chromebooks integration with Google Apps, particularly with the use of Google Docs. Using Google Docs, students who were formerly hesitant to ask questions could get assistance more quickly and discreetly, whether asking the teacher directly or asking peers through chat. Using Google Docs, students could more easily divide and collaborate over larger projects, facilitating group-work. Students had transparency into their peers’ workflows, which contributed to more cohesive projects.

Hopewell Avenue Public School is the only pilot elementary school using Google Apps, and is heavily invested in technology integration. Chris Hiltz incorporated the use of Chromebooks in his math classes in the form of voluntary quizzes using Forms within Google Docs. Chris used Google Forms in an exploratory manner to see if Chromebooks’ mobility and immediacy would be beneficial to students as a learning device.

Longfield-Davidson Heights Secondary School utilizes Google Apps for both students and teachers, and incorporates Chromebooks usage fully across students from lower to upper divisions, in a 1:1 student to Chromebook ratio. Chromebooks have been utilized daily in literacy classes as well as a limited number of science and technology classes. Student work was accessible either at home or at school through the cloud with each students’ Google Apps for Education accounts. A class set of Chromebooks allowed each student to have their own machine in a 1:1 laptop to student ratio. Students used the folders in Google Docs to separate notes and work on various subjects, consolidating all work in a singular location with Google Drive. Chromebooks were also an excellent research tool for students, providing real-time access to information for assignments or discussions. The search features in Google Docs also helps students find notes relevant to current assignments.

Results and Benefits

Chromebooks’ Easy Administrative Management Frees Up IT Resources
Overall, the majority of students within the OCDSB have responded positively to Chromebooks as a tool that streamlines and makes more effective their learning experience in the areas of collaboration, research and organization. Teachers and administrators benefit from Chromebooks’ easy management, particularly in educational environments with concerns and restrictions around internet browsing. Administrators and teachers can locally control which applications are either made available to students via Chromebooks, or simply block them, without wasting instructional time having students download the programs independently, or tasking internal IT departments to assist. With Chromebooks’ easy troubleshooting and maintenance capabilities, schools save administrators time and money, making them easy to adopt, particularly as school environments become increasingly cloud based. For example, West Carleton Secondary School’s online-only environment, incorporating the use of Chromebooks as well as Google Apps for Education, has been fully adopted by students, who collaborate seamlessly to produce more creative, higher quality work.

Chromebooks Improved Student Collaboration and Organization Skills
Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education allow students to support and engage one another in their work in more dynamic, immediate ways - a result that led WCSS to purchase an additional 98 Chromebooks.The only minor disadvantages expressed with Chromebooks dealt mainly with potential connectivity frustrations due to the bandwidth constraints that varied amongst schools. However, the overall impact Chromebooks have had on the schools in the OCDSB’s pilot has been positive: Chromebooks have improved not only student collaboration and work, but student/teacher assessment and evaluation feedback, utilizing the comments in Google Docs. The communication between parents, teachers and students have also improved greatly, with parents gaining increased transparency in student work and student/teacher engagement by being able to view Google Docs with teacher’s comments running along the sidebar and students’ responses to their teachers. Chromebooks have improved students’ perception of being able to be more effective with their work, and encourages students to use modern technologies being utilized in workplaces today.

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