Chromebook Deployment and G Suite for Education
Over the last few months, the district has been piloting the use of Chromebooks at multiple grade levels. K-3 technology teacher Jill Cooper, 4th grade teacher Ivy Violette, 7th grade science teacher Kelly Haarala, and 11th grade English teacher Siiri Julian have all deployed classroom sets and have gained valuable experience in successfully integrating them into their instruction. We are set to expand the use of Chromebooks and I want to share some general information about them, as well as information about Google's G Suite for Education, the collaborative platform in which students will increasingly gain valuable experience.
A Chromebook is a different kind of laptop. Instead of Windows 10 or Mac's OS X operating system, Chromebooks run on Google's Chrome OS, which is free. They're designed to be used while connected to the Internet and as such, the apps, documents, sheets, slide shows, etc. are saved, stored, and accessed in 'the cloud' as opposed to a hard drive. Because of the free operating system and the minimal hardware needs for efficient processing power, the devices themselves are relatively inexpensive and a great option for many classroom applications. Here's a link for more information about Chromebooks:
To access everything that's been created or saved on a Chromebook, users log into their Google account, which in our case will be individually assigned and managed within the "FHAcademics" domain of Google's G Suite for Education. FHAcademics can be thought of as a walled garden in many respects in that student accounts are managed and restricted so that the capacity to send and receive messages, as well as sharing documents, sheets, and slide shows, is limited to other users within our domain, including teachers, staff, and other students. These features enable students to collaborate in real time with teachers and their peers when appropriate, while the district is able to maintain oversight and security within a safe and innovative environment.
An advantage of expanding our use of Chromebooks paired with using the tools available as part of the FHAcademics domain is that everything students create and/or save in FHAcademics can be accessed from anywhere with any device at anytime as long as there is an Internet connection. As an example, I've been using G Suite for many years (it had been called Google Apps for Education until recently) and I regularly access and use my documents from my Android phone, iPad, home PC desktop, and Lenovo Chromebook. I rarely lug a computer with me but rather use whatever is available wherever I am, be it at home, at work, or in-between. An added bonus is I never have to worry about losing my documents or other digital assets in the event I were to lose or damage a device. Any of those devices could get run over by a bus but my work will still be available in my FHAcademics account.
Be sure to check out Mrs. Gomez's message in the Four Peaks/Middle School newsletter linked below. There's some excitement in the air at Four Peaks as they prepare to deploy classroom sets of Chromebooks in the coming weeks.
Bike Safety Rodeo
I want everyone to have advance notice that all kids and their families are invited to a Bicycle Safety Rodeo on Saturday morning, January 28, from 9 to 11 a.m. at McDowell Mountain Elementary School. The Noon Kiwanis Club and Fountain Hills Bikes will be conducting the event - making sure bike helmets fit, that you're riding a safe bike and then testing your bicycling and safety skills on a fun course on the school's grassy play area. There will be snacks, refreshments and free prizes! Bring your bicycles and join the fun.
Finally, I hope everyone has a wonderful winter break and enjoys extended time with their families and friends. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah and hopes for a great new year!
Patrick Sweeney, Ed.D.