Before becoming a consultant for the Google team at Appirio, I was a computer science teacher in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. I taught in higher education, to students aged 15-20 years. The introduction of G Suite (back then it was called Google Apps) was a major change for teachers and students alike, and not without challenges. In this article, I’ll describe academic G Suite advantages and thresholds I encountered at the school where I was teaching.
The vision and its challenges
I was blessed to work with a dean that had a clear vision:
- To give students equal opportunities;
- To let students study in the way they live their lives;
- Create a worker experience for teachers: increasing quality and saving time in a modern and fun way.
Give students equal chances. Let’s leave access to education aside for a moment — it’s not something that can be fixed by educators. Once a student gets into a classroom, the traditional model of teaching pretty much consists of lectures at school and homework at home.
The way we educate youngsters has not changed for a long time, and we are beginning to see some cracks in how students receive education. Let students study in the way they live their electronic lives. The McCann Worldgroup’s study “The Truth About Youth” revealed that over half (53 percent) of today's youth would give up their sense of smell rather than lose access to technology. Yet some schools maintain their policy of not allowing phones into the classroom.
As if educators don’t already have a difficult task of teaching today’s youth, they also have to somehow capture their students’ divided attention. Educational institutions need to create a Worker Experience that increases quality, saves time, and is modern. Teachers are often presented with a methodology chosen by their school system that is purchased from a publisher. It often consists of the books for the students, a facilitator's guide for teachers that explains how to teach the topics throughout the year, and (if you’re lucky) some multimedia assets to backup what’s in the books. Changing the teaching experience is often obstructed by publishers who continue to gain from antiquated processes.
Almost unanimously, my school chose Google G Suite as our productivity platform. We knew, as educators:
- We didn’t want to blow our budgets on an ever-growing IT staff to manage servers. Such efforts were better spent in transforming that role into supporting our primary goal — providing education.
- We could never keep up with spam control like Google.
- It matched the anytime, anyplace, any device paradigm.
- It allows students to study in the way they live their (electronic) lives;
- The right change management program would create a more impactful teaching experience that increases quality, saves time, is modern and fun
Obtaining Google G Suite was easy. Google required evidence that we were an educational institution and almost immediately granted us the (free) licenses for all our students and staff. The implementation was over before the summer ended.
Before the academic year started, we trained our teaching staff, teaching assistants, and back-office colleagues. They were up-and-running in a few days. And the transition continued with help from our onsite Google Guides, located in the science department.
The biggest hurdle
So far, so good. Our school had Google, we were able to collaborate with staff and students.
Our new Google implementation not only meant that we could freely access email and calendars, it also comes with Google Drive (let’s call it a file and media server in the cloud), together with Google Docs - a word processor, Google Sheets - a spreadsheet editor, and Google Slides - a presentation program (among a few other apps).
Because our access to Google Drive also gave us the access to built-in YouTube technology, it enabled us for transformational change. It put more power in the hands of educators, giving students the freedom to choose whether to attend a lecture in person, or instead listen on their phones later on in the day.
Teachers began using Google docs to grade papers, which allowed for greater visibility and opportunity for more collaboration. I was amazed to see entire classes passing by my grades sheet while I updated. I even noticed students looking for further opportunity to challenge their scores. None of this would be possible without Google.
Advice to educators
As mentioned earlier, today’s education system continues to be imprisoned by publishers who produce content in closed portals and formats. Take that threshold out of the equation — and well-equipped and well-educated teachers are enabled to create their own curriculum and transform their lessons in unimaginable ways. Today’s educational leaders should:
- Implement G-Suite for teachers and staff.
- Allow your teachers the time to create their own content so that they can collaborate with their students.
- Record lectures, so students can consume them anytime and anywhere.
- Spend as much time in class as possible to provide personalized student support.
- Make sure that students study the way they live.
- Start your journey in year one with the Mail, Calendar, Drive, and Google Classroom implementation with a good Change Management program.
- Continue in year two by driving a transformation agenda, enabling teachers to be their own publishers.
Choosing the right partner
The technology itself is only part of the equation — having the right people and processes in place are equally important to a successful educational implementation and smooth user adoption. Find a Google partner that can help you ask the right questions and can work with you to design a strategy that fits your unique needs.
As a Google Premier Partner, Appirio has an experienced team of deployment specialists, architects, and change management experts, and is responsible for some of the largest, most complex G Suite deployments in the world.
We look forward to seeing you at Google Cloud Next 2018, where the Appirio Google THRIVE team will happily answer any questions you might have. Read more about how Appirio’s can help you implement G Suite on our Appirio Hub.