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Take a route to the cloud!

Save money, enrich learning and increase efficiency with Google

After more than a year of using ‘aspects’ of Google within BPSI, time came to formally launch our support of ‘it’ for schools, teachers, children, teaching, learning and Admin.

What exactly is 'it'? From within a DfE document of guidance –

Cloud Computing services Guidance for school leaders, school staff and governing bodies July 2016


  • The guidance covers the potential of cloud computing solutions to improve the delivery of school teaching and learning, together with the associated benefits and risks of moving some or all services to the cloud.

  • It also explores some opportunities for cost-effective improvements and offers recommended approaches and next steps that should help schools to move successfully to cloud.

  • Whilst the Department considers that there are potentially significant benefits to be gained from the uptake of cloud based services, schools themselves are best placed to decide whether the adoption of cloud based solutions can contribute to meeting ICT needs in a cost effective way.

  • The potential move to cloud services is not necessarily an “all or nothing” decision. Many schools already use some cloud applications (such as email), and a more comprehensive take-up of cloud services should make sense for educational, financial and technical reasons otherwise alternative solutions should be considered.

This we would sum up in our tag line

Save money, enrich learning and increase efficiency with Google

A day was arranged as outlined below to make an audience of school leaders aware of some thinking needed to embrace the cloud and to showcase some actual examples of the cloud being used across all aspects of school life. As a traded service we had opted for a ‘Google’ approach after a good deal of research and trying of different possible solutions. The final prompts to go in this direction were probably cost, potential and ease of use by users.

Within the traded service over the previous year we had used ‘Sites’ to create subject specific sites for curriculum areas along with drives to be maintained by subject specialists. A secure headteacher area had been created to hold sensitive information for headteachers, such as our traded service hours used displays. These provide each school with up to the minute itemised accounts of their hour usage over the year and in the new year a facility to compare current year with previous year. The Admin team had started to use the cloud to undertake some of their tasks.

So time to start to support ‘Google’ use amongst our schools. At first, reactions about Google were really around saving money and/or Chrome books. The planned day would need to show a greater range of possibilities.

The day would kick off with two schools sharing their journeys into it, both quite different. One school started with children sharing their recent presentation at the BETT Show. This explained issues in the school pre the transfer and the wonderful life they now have with reliability, ease of use, extensive App availability and ultimately what it has done to their learning, plus.

The first school had slowly embraced aspects involving acquisition of chrome books, linking with the school website for single login for children and use of the range of Google Apps as a replacement for Office applications. There were of course teething problems, things they may have done differently should they start again, but technology moves on. A second school had dived in replacing machines with chrome books and looking for every opportunity for existing packages to go to the cloud. No need for massive storage facilities in school any longer.

Some very wise words, but what our audience really needed to witness was some opportunities or examples of ‘Google’ being used within our range of intended users. So, mid-morning came ‘walk about time’. Several stations were set up around the building.

First a group of three children would interview participants about Google, capture on camera, transfer into a Google based application, edit and produce a video for sharing all in under an hour. The audience could walk around and interact with groups as they wished during the hour.

Secondly, at the same time, another group of pupils would engage the audience by taking their photo, encouraging a survey to be completed using Google forms, capture the data, convert into a presentation and summarise the data in graphs ready for a presentation, again all within the hour. The audience were free to switch between groups to see how children undertook the tasks.

Another pair of children worked collaboratively on a presentation in Google docs, all about mythical creatures. Although the children were sat next to each other, they could have been a million miles apart. They showed and talked very knowledgeably about how they collaborate, being able to work on the same document at the same time, how they can email, talk via hangouts as the presentation is formed.

Another pair of children showed off how their school use ‘Treehouse’ a VLE of web pages that the children and staff maintain on a range of subject matter, children explaining about equivalent fractions for others, accounts of school wide projects and activity days, and school level support for themes such as anti-bullying.

Alongside the children demonstrating learning and development opportunities, the head and a staff member from each school showed off how they use ‘Google’ in one school to aid collaboration between staff, this would include Google Forms for surveys, Google Docs for planning while not in same room or even building, along with google drive for storage. The other school showed aspects of its school admin function, through Google calendar, shared docs, drive use and some cloud based applications for finance etc. Then there was a chance to see some of the use the BPSI admin had made of Google, behind the scenes, especially security settings and sites use. All through this walkabout time, the audience could freely move around between the various demonstrations.

Attendees using Plickers

A working lunch time saw folk continuing to ask the children and each other about a range of different issues in keeping with our tag line, this would include an impromptu demonstration of the web application ‘plickers’ for gathering pupil (and others) views, answers etc.

At the end of the lunchtime came presentation time, each of the children’s groups demonstrated the product of their morning’s work. The video was complete, the audience could not believe the speed and quality of production, and the amazing revelation that this was the children’s first exposure to this particular cloud app. One Headteacher asked if they could take the children back to their school to make some videos. The survey presentation showed a wide range of skills being used in creation and also in interpretation of data. The treehouse sharing group were well prepared to demonstrate/ share including the heart stopping poem ‘I don’t like maths’. Finally the mythical creatures presentation was shared. Overall Wow!!

The afternoon concluded with a panel session for questions that revolved around technical questions of domain acquisition and account setups, hopefully something we can help with in the autumn term. Other questions were about how staff can acquire the skills of using any of the many aspects of Google. Watch this space for a summer term day featuring Google Forms - how to use, what to use them for across the range of users in school?

In conclusion – Google can now be accepted as a subject within our traded service offer, so appropriate CPD opportunities and consultancy provision is on its way.

Steve Marshall BPSI Adviser

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