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English county council saves millions switching to G Suite and Chromebooks

A day in the life of an employee at Northumberland County Council in northern England involves everything from running schools, repairing roads or literally putting out fires. It’s work that never stops and that stretches across a rural area the size of Greater London with 330,000 citizens and three million sheep.

Two years ago, the Northumberland IT team started to notice strain in their service infrastructure which connects 380 locations across the region, and recent budget cuts made that system feel increasingly unworkable.

“We had a very big legacy setup that was costing us a fortune in licensing and devices,” says Neil Arnold, Chief Information Officer at Northumberland County Council. “We decided to bring people together in a central hub to make teams more agile.”

Creating G Suite champions

After evaluation, Arnold and his team chose G Suite for its functionality and flexibility. The team relied on Netpremacy, a Google Cloud partner, to train 300 staff members to educate colleagues on how to use G Suite. Within months, 5,500 corporate users and 11,500 schools users had been set up with G Suite accounts. “Without the support of Netpremacy, we wouldn’t have been able to implement as rapidly as we did,” says Arnold. “They recognised the cultural challenges. There was skepticism at first, but users really took the tools to heart when they could see the benefits.”

From different locations across the region, staff began working collaboratively on Docs and Sheets and inviting others to join. The team saved money by switching to Chromebooks and Arnold and his colleagues started using Hangouts to join meetings to stay synced on daily work.

Even firefighters, who were reluctant to try out Hangouts at first, started using it regularly. “Firefighters now use Hangouts at the scene of fires to communicate with central command, monitor the fire, and decide how many vehicles they need,” says Arnold. “The chief fire officer doesn’t have to get in his car and drive out to the scene to help — he can do it all from wherever he is.”

Firefighters use Hangouts at the scene of fires to communicate to central command, so the chief fire officer doesn’t have to drive to the scene.

Neil Arnold

CIO, Northumberland County Council

Saving big by going cloud-first

Arnold expects switching to Chromebooks will help Northumberland County Council save close to £2.5 million on licensing and hardware, without sacrificing data security since Chromebooks have multiple protection layers.

The next step for Arnold and his team is to bring G Suite to the classroom. “We’ve got a lot of schools using Google Classroom successfully,” he says, “and we want to roll G Suite out to more schools. It’ll be a big efficiency for them, because many have small file servers on site, that they manage themselves or pay a third-party to manage. Drive will help them decommission that.”

Meanwhile, outdated exchange and file servers are being closed down across the council as data is seamlessly transferred to Google Cloud. The new central office for the county is set to open in 2019, and Arnold does not plan to have a datacenter at the new building: “That footprint’s going to reduce over the next three years to virtually nothing.” 

“I’ve been working in IT for over 30 years and this has been one of the most successful and satisfying projects I’ve ever been involved in,” says Arnold. “We’ve achieved more than we expected and using G Suite has been a tremendous catalyst for change.”

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Posted by amiller in Blog, Chromebooks, Connected Workspaces, Docs, Drive, G Suite, Google Cloud, Google in Europe, Hangouts, Sheets
#GraciasALosProfes: Celebrating Teacher Appreciation Day in Mexico

#GraciasALosProfes: Celebrating Teacher Appreciation Day in Mexico

Today is Teacher Appreciation Day, or Día del Maestro, in Mexico, where 30 GEG (Google Educator Groups) leaders are at the helm of the movement to transform education through technology in Latin America. Our Mexican GEG leaders empower their fellow teachers to harness tech to meet students’ needs. We are amazed at the innovative and inspiring ways these teachers and leaders are building their movement across Mexico—from Guadalajara to Mexico City to Monterrey.

In Quéretaro, Nay Belaunzaran thought up an idea to scale the impact of tech across generations by mobilizing children to teach their parents about the internet. Under Nay’s leadership, primary school students prepare classes for their parents about G Suite for Education where the parents learn to jot their thoughts down in Docs, build presentations in Slides, and communicate with teachers through Google Classroom. Galvanizing students to bridge the generational tech literacy gap has made it easier for parents to stay engaged with kids’ schools.

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Nay connected with fellow teachers from all over Latin America at last year’s Google for Education Certified Innovators Summit in Mexico City.

In Tijuana, Gabriela Torres Beltrán has paved the way for dozens of her students to become Google Certified Educators themselves. By building a community of future teachers who keep innovation and technology top of mind, Gabriela is making her mark on the future of education in her community.  “Seeing the smile of satisfaction on their faces as they explore ways to implement technology in class is extremely inspiring,” she shared with an inspired smile of her own.

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Verónica stays after class on most days, providing extra support for students whose curiosity extends beyond school hours.

In Verónica Nuñez Loyo’s classroom in Mexico City, students find themselves at the intersection of traditions of the past and technology of the future. She challenges her middle schoolers not only to research the history of Mexico, but to leverage the internet to share their learnings. Recently, Verónica’s  seventh grade class collaborated to create a multimedia presentation about the Axolotl, an endangered amphibian species endemic to Baja California. Technology was at the heart of the project, whether students were exploring the Náhuatl origin of the word “Axolotl” or investigating how portrayals of this “walking fish” have changed over time.

These are three of many educators who work tirelessly to ignite curiosity and give life to the ideas of Mexico’s rising generation. Which teachers inspire you? Today—and everyday—join us in celebrating the educators who dedicate their lives to working with students to create a more connected Latin America. #GraciasALosProfes.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, Chrome, Chromebooks, education, G Suite
Creating a professional growth culture: 3 lessons from school districts

Creating a professional growth culture: 3 lessons from school districts

Whether it’s a 3D printer, a language app, or a Chromebook on a student’s desk, technology represents potential. The results can be profound, but learning how to make the most of new tools often requires dedication outside of the standard school day.

We spoke with teachers and administrators at Cicero Public School District 99 in Illinois and Chagrin Falls Exempted Village Schools in Ohio about how they designed technology professional development programs to engage teachers for the long term. Here we share three lessons learned from their experiences building programs that impact educators and students alike.

Lesson 1: Incentives help overcome inertia

When the Cicero Public School District 99 board set the goal of giving every child access to a Chromebook, professional development for teachers became a top priority. CIO Cao Mac believed any tech rollout was bound to fail unless teachers got the right training. So his team came up with a plan to motivate teachers to get Google Certified—they’d offer them early access to new classroom devices.

The district now has 104 Google Certified Educators, and has seen a shift in how teachers use devices in the classroom. Before the training, students used laptops and tablets for activities like math games and music videos. Two months after the Chromebook rollout, the top five sites accessed across the district included Google Classroom, Google Docs and Khan Academy. “Right off the bat, they were no longer using their machines randomly,” Mac says. “Their use was more focused.”

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Lesson 2: Time is a precious resource

Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School District is the first public school district to train all of its teachers to become Google Certified Educators. Administrators say they achieved 100 percent participation by customizing the program around teachers’ schedules.

“We made it easy for teachers get certified whenever it was most convenient,” says Nancy Kevern, a technology integration and instructional coach at Chagrin Falls Exempted Village Schools. “Grouping teachers by grade level helped us emphasize the lessons they would find most useful.”

The district also started a committee that works on solutions for fitting professional development into teachers’ busy schedules. They’ve proposed incorporating trainings into the school day—for instance, by delaying student start times.

Lesson 3: Community makes a movement

Cicero Public School District 99 took a grassroots approach to training its teachers. A group of technology resource teachers actively recruited teachers to get certified, leveraging their relationships to build a team of early adopters. This group influenced the rest of the district.

“We knew if these ambassadors were on board, their friends would be, too,” Mac says. “Adoption needs to happen teacher by teacher, grade by grade.”

This momentum has led Cicero Public School District 99 to extend its 1:1 Chromebook program to grades K-8. None of this would have been possible without support from teachers and the entire district.

This isn’t my initiative,” Mac says. “This is the village of Cicero’s initiative. This is ours.

Cao Mac

CIO at Cicero Public School District 99

Professional development is about more than introducing new tools. By helping educators develop the skills and confidence to grow professionally, school districts are investing in their students and building cultures that embrace technology. “It doesn’t matter how many devices you have,” Mac says. “If you don’t know how to integrate technology with teaching, it becomes just another add on.”

Visit the Training Center to learn more about the Google for Education certification programs. And if you’re a district interested in help from a Certified Professional Development Partner, learn more here.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, Chromebooks, Docs, education, G Suite
All the best mobile accessories, now for your Chromebook

All the best mobile accessories, now for your Chromebook

Chromebooks are blurring the line between desktop and mobile with the launch of Google Play store on Chromebooks. Our latest Chromebooks were built from the ground up with this technology. But until now, it wasn’t possible to appreciate the full range of experiences Android Apps can offer.

After extensive user research and market analysis, we’re excited to introduce a line of mobile accessories for Chromebooks. We’ve thoughtfully adapted your favorites to capitalize on larger screens and convertible form factors. Here’s a sneak peek at a few highlights:

1. Chromebook Groupie Stick

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For mobile photography lovers, nothing beats a selfie stick for the perfect shot. But on a tiny phone display, it’s sometimes hard to fit the whole group. To take advantage of beautiful, high-resolution displays, as well as great photo editing apps, we’ve carefully engineered the first Chromebook-sized selfie stick. Never again will you miss the perfect groupie.

2. Chromebook Cardboard

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In collaboration with the Cardboard team, we’re bringing you a new, immersive VR accessory—Cardboard for Chromebooks. Just as affordable and just as mobile, this new version of Cardboard is your gateway to larger-than-life experiences wherever you go. Stay tuned for all the specs so you can turn any large appliance or pizza box into your own Cardboard device.

3. Chromebook Workout Armband

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For the dedicated athlete, we’re introducing the Chromebook Workout Armband for all your fitness needs. Giant media buttons make it easier than ever to skip songs without taking a pause, and music apps let you take your music offline wherever you go. Whether you’re out for a run or in the gym, this armband allows you to really go big with your workout.

Keep an eye on the Google Store for these products and more. The next generation of Chromebooks is here, and we can’t wait to bring you all the accessories to make them the ultimate mobile devices.

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Posted by amiller in Blog, Chromebooks