Background Information

The Chromebook Pilot in Highland, Scotland was born out of a need to increase the overall amount of internet-enabled devices (with offline functionality) that support the delivery of the Broad General Education (S1 to S3) and for meeting the rigorous requirements of the Senior Phase of the curriculum (S4 to S6) in all Secondary schools.

In primary schools particularly the need to use technology to fully support the transition to Secondary School and the development of 'technology rich environments' for digital literacy skills, personalised and exciting learning. Reducing inequalities for learners is at the heart of our approach, providing access to technology for all.

The pilot was launched with (S1-3) Kingussie High School, (P7) Kingussie Primary School and (P7) Alvie Primary School in Spring 2015. We chose Google Apps and Chromebooks due to their rapid expansion of services to education and ease of use. Introduction here.

It was established originally to assess whether or not device neutral and web based content, tools and services can fully meet the needs of learners through a 1-1 model using Chromebooks. This includes using tools/apps and browser based technology to access Glow - the Scottish Schools Intranet and Google Apps for Education. We are also seeking to establish a model that adds value to teacher’s professional development in the use of ICT in Learning.

We also as a service seek to keep costs to a minimum and to create a sustainable model for technology rich environments. Using faster, mobile, cheaper devices which still meet our requirements for functionality are key to the pilot. In the pilot we used the Acer C720P model of Chromebook which has a touchscreen and low bandwidth utilisation. Each device is licensed and managed through our Google Apps for Education Admin Console. This will be provided with a hard shell case which pupils can personalise. We will also include a small trial with Chrome Bases, Box and the use of Cast.

The pilot is an action within our approved Highland Council, Care and Learning service 'ICT in Learning Strategic Action Plan' and is being managed by a Project Board which includes multi-service partners.

What is a Chromebook?

A Chromebook is type of device growing in popularity in education, it is essentially a Google Chrome Browser in a small light laptop style device. Offline functionality provides the opportunity to read webpages, PDF documents, create mail, read, edit, save and upload documents (including MS Office) when connectivity is re-established. A number of apps will also work offline.

When used in education - pupils are required to login with a school /authority provided account. Highland has a Google Apps For Education domain with pupil accounts and a dedicated administration / management console. The console provides a huge variety of settings that can be allocated to certain groups or individual devices with ease. E.g access to login to the device, password resets and access to websites / apps. This provides a great platform for a learner device as there are a number of safety features that can be implemented without disrupting the learner experience.

Software cannot be installed on to the Chromebook like a Windows device but you have access to a wide range of educational apps and also of course, the usual browser based content, tools and services.

A major educational draw of Google Docs is the ease of use of the collaborative documents, saved instantly with revision history, comments and chat. The collaboration is 'real-time' and can include multiple users, rather than one pupil at one time editing the document. The visibility of real-time editing with multiple users is a powerful one for learning and teaching.

Any updates are installed without disruption and anti-virus software is not required. They are robust devices with very few breakages or errors reported in local authorities who have begun to use them.

They are very light, portable and due to the very minimal operating software they boot up to desktop in less than 7 seconds, another attractive feature for educational purposes, especially in a classroom setting. Operating time before re-charge is at least 7.5 hours (on the device we have chosen for the pilot). Touch screen options with pinch / zoom are available thus giving the functionality / feel of tablet devices and a strong feature for visually impaired learners. They have HDMI, USB, SD Card ports therefore they can connect to projectors or peripheral devices easily. The bandwidth utilisation is low due to way the browser operates.

They are multi-user devices, the pupil's login will only be to their own content and settings. However because all content is stored in the cloud a pupil can also log into Chrome on any machine (including home and school PCs) and access their saved content, bookmarks and apps. They can also do this with their personal devices, this supports anytime, anywhere learning. The Google platform itself is therefore is device neutral.

Original ICT in Learning

Strategic Action Plan. Current plans are on the Digital Toolkit for educators


Benefits of a Tech Rich Environment

What do we mean by a 'Technology Rich Environment'?

Quite simply this is an environment where there is appropriate access to the right types of technology, it is used effectively for learning and a culture exists where digital skills can be nurtured and allowed to flourish. It is important to note that a Tech Rich Environment is not about flooding a school with 'kit'. It is an environment that will take time to mature with the right support and mindset. It is an environment that has removed as many barriers as possible to accessing appropriate technology for all learners.

Why do we need this type of environment?

The way children and young people learn today has changed, the provision of information from a teacher has moved to instant ubiquitous access to information through the internet. Skills to be able to curate, collate and understand this information are vital now and for the future. Through access to technology the ways in which we socialise, make transactions, work, shop, has transformed our lives, many people today are in a constant state of connectedness. As educators, ensuring children and young people can use technology safely and responsibly through learning is a key part of the culture of a Technology Rich Environment.

The future world of work for many young people will be entirely different, different jobs requiring different skills, more contract project based jobs as opposed to a lifelong profession. Young people today will absolutely need the skills to be participate in the global digital marketplace. For example many job interviews are now conducted using Skype and workers are remote working. Skills for communicating through digital methods and collaborating are considered essential by employers. Developing a positive digital impression as opposed to a negative digital footprint is also a relatively new concept, but is increasing evidenced as desirable for future work and life.

It is pretty much accepted that technology can and does engage young people, however the provision of technology alone does not equal engagement in learning. Hence the Technology Rich Environment brings together the very best opportunities for learning. Learning with technology makes learning relevant as digital participation and engagement is the youth culture of today.

Being more efficient and effective with the use of our resources.

Economic benefits of a Technology Rich Environment can be evidenced, certainly there are savings that can be made from using the tools themselves and the way the environment is established and matures. We have begun to identify a few key savings that can be made:

  • Time, the most precious resource of all of our teachers and learners. Teachers using apps such as Google Classroom have found it saves their time, chasing up homework. Creating homework tasks and duplicated personalised copies of documents for each student. This is done automatically with the options when an assignment is created.

  • Expensive software requiring installation has become much less of a need and relied upon. There are free apps such as 'Duolingo' which are subject specific, but also collaborative tools such as the Google Docs which negate the need for licensed products. We fortunately have access on online MS Office Apps through the use of Glow.

  • Time and Travel can be replaced with the use of better, easier and free online conferencing tools such as Google Hangouts.

  • Reduction of Printing and Photocopying by having access to digital copies by way of the 1-1 device. The chosen device also has a touchscreen saving printing costs for Visually Impaired learners. Pupils are becoming less reliant on printed copies as the online version becomes the Master version.

  • Service Management Costs, annual service charges can be minimised or uncessary as the devices themselves require no heavy end management or separate Active Directory Logons.

  • Server Storage. Onsite servers which can be costly are no longer required for curriculum materials. Using cloud servers and unlimited storage with Google Drive, pupils can save images, voice recordings, clips and video edits. These may include large files for project work that have not suitable to be stored on smaller size limited local servers.

  • Text Books available as online or e-books, these not only save purchasing costs but can also reduce the weight of the pupil's school bag.

  • As the distance learning model grows the opportunity for more course choices for our Highland learners. The thinking behind this can be demonstrated here at United Classrooms.

  • Reduced storage requirements for Outlook Mailboxes. Rather than attaching files (for files that are not personal or sensitive information) a link can be sent to the file stored in the Google Drive.

  • Google Forms are a really easy way of creating online surveys, they have built in analysis tools and are simple to use. This saves subscription costs to online survey tools.

  • Google Docs now have built in Voice Typing, this is a new sophisticated core part of the doc as opposed to an 'Extension', This saves addition licence costs for dictation tools.

  • Using a Chromebox with a plasma screen can be used as an information screen by having a scrolling collaborative Google Slide deck. This can save associated costs with an expensive digital signage system reliant on a separate server.

What does it look like in terms of devices and technology?

Adequate networks, connectivity and filtering supporting:

  • Devices with specific software (teacher devices, computing science, technologies, graphic communication, music, industry standard e.g High Spec and Macs)

  • 1-1 Provision - we are proposing chromebooks. This is the most inclusive approach and the device meets Teachers stipulated requirements

  • Ability to use a personal device as a companion device where approved and appropriate

  • Technologies that encourage curiosity and construction skills - coding , app development and making

  • A range of devices suitable for very young learners, may include touchscreen tablets and simple recording equipment

  • Screen share and projection tools

  • Technologies that are right for learners depending on any additional support needs.

  • Technologies that are right for future developments e.g 3D printers.

  • Opportunities to try new technologies in a safe environment

  • A common platform or 'glue' that knits it all together, supporting anywhere, anytime access, irrespective of what type device is being used.