BY TRICIA HILL
During the Boscobel School Board meeting in June, technology director Allen Hines asked the board to agree to pay 30-plus teachers to attend a Google Training to be held on July 29-30 from 8:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. After much debate over the matter with the board trying to find an easier way to save the school district $12,000, they agreed to go through with the Google Training program.
“Now that the training is done, I feel it was very beneficial,” Hines said.
The training program started last Monday and the teachers had the option of being placed in the beginner class or the intermediate class. The intermediate class worked on preparing material they would like to incorporate into their classes. Some of the items that the intermediate class covered included: going further with the Chrome program using the browser, calendar and eventually Gmail, digging deeper into Google docs, and showing certain Google apps and how they can be used for student projects.
“They worked on showing the teachers mainly how this would be available to not only the teachers but also the students 24-7,” Hines said. “They went through how it would work if a student was home sick and how the student could do the homework or tests and get them right back to the teacher.”
The beginner group worked on getting started with Google apps such as mail, calendar, docs and drive. They wanted to help the teachers understand how to use the items that are available to them, so they can bring them into their classroom when the school is ready to go 1:1 with their students.
“The biggest thing with the beginner class was getting people comfortable with what they are doing,” Hines said. “A couple years ago when I started getting into this Google was overwhelming to me because there is just so much that you can do with it. This gave them the opportunity to get in and work with a few things that will always be available to them.”
The Google trainers worked with both programs, some on using Gmail, but did not go overboard with it as the teachers will still be working with their emails they are currently using. However, in hopes of helping the teachers get used to the Gmail set up, Hines made changes to the teachers’ emails to have them more resemble what a Gmail account would look like.
“This way if we ever do switch over to Gmail it will be more familiar to the teachers as far as what they are using,” Hines said.
The teachers did do most of their work in the computer labs, but were given the opportunity to work with the Chromebooks as well. On Tuesday, the teachers in the beginning group were taken to the Elementary Library, where they were shown how easy it is to not only log into a Chromebook but also get a sense of how it works.
“The hope was to show them how easy it was for them to use and give them the feeling that it would be the same for the students,” Hines said.
Prior to the program taking place, there were some teachers that were unsure of how they felt working with the new system. However, by the end of the program almost all of the teachers felt it was a positive experience for them. Hines received many emails telling him of how much they really enjoyed taking part in the Google training.
One of those teachers being Mary Trumm, who will be required to work with the Chromebooks in her classroom as the fifth and sixth grade students go 1:1 in their classrooms this upcoming school year.
“I was not sure going into the class what I would think but now that I took it I am excited to teach with this new technology in sixth grade,” Trumm said. “I see so many more advantages for my sixth grade students using Google and the Chromebooks they will have.”
Cindy French, who is the Special Education teacher for the middle school and high school, even enjoyed going through the courses, but wished it, could have been more than a two-day session.
“I have lots of ideas how to use it in the classroom and tracking student progress for IEPs,” French said. “It would be nice if they could come back in the middle of the year or again next year, giving us time to try things out and work through things with actual hands-on projects and uses.”
As of right now there is nothing planned to have the Google Trainers come back to the Boscobel School District again for more training. The reasoning behind this is because now Hines, sixth grade teacher Rich Schneider, and Darlene Bloedow are Google Certified Trainers.
“We feel pretty comfortable that we can take with the teachers who were advanced and now teach the rest of the staff,” Hines said. “That was one of our main goals as to why we paid what we paid to get these people in here. Now we can use the resources we have within the school district to help other teachers use Google.”
With this being a big opportunity for the teachers, it left many of them wanting to get going on using Chromebooks in their classrooms. However, as of right now the school is not ready to go fully 1:1. They are still in need of 275 Chromebooks and at least 10 charging carts for them to be placed in when not in use.
“My ideal goal for us as a school district would be to go 1:1 by the 2015-16 school year,” Hines said. “Our infrastructure is in place for it and so now we our switches need to get in place, along with some other upgrades.”
Now that the training has been completed Hines has high hopes that this is going to help teachers that were not on board with Chromebooks prior to the training come more on board with the idea. He believes by word of mouth the other teachers will get others to get on board so they can continue to move forward with bringing the school to 1:1.