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MSAD #51 Transition to Google Apps

posted Nov 16, 2012, 4:57 PM by Dawna Green   [ updated Nov 16, 2012, 5:15 PM ]
October 2011 Spotlight

MSAD #51 Transition to Google Apps

Whether sitting in a Kindergarten Open House learning how the new ELMO projectors and Smart Boards are changing learning in the primary grades, or listening to Greely Middle and High School teachers discuss the instructional potential of Google Apps, it’s hard to ignore the technological changes occurring at MSAD #51. Two years ago, the district began researching the viability of transitioning from its previous operating system, First Class. After scrutinizing the benefits of various systems, last June,MSAD #51 made a full scale conversation to Google Apps. Not only is Google a free service, it provides enhanced opportunities for communication and collaboration among staff, students, parents and administrators.

To help guide the users through this major technological transition, and to help trouble-shoot the problems that are inevitable in such an undertaking, the district created a new Technology Support Center. Composed of four staff members, the Technology Support Center is designed to provide quick technical support to staff and administrators and students alike. Making up the team are Joe Bickard, formerly our Tech Coordinator and currently our Data Manager, Pete Rohde, the Systems and Network Administrator, Rob Hale, District System Technician/MLTI Technical Leader, and Dirk Van Curan, our Technology Support Leader. Not only does this team of four provide expertise and experience, it enables the District to efficiently resolve any technical problems with the new Google Apps infrastructure.

MSAD #51 staff received professional development during the 2010-2011 school year and this past summer so that all teachers are familiar with Google Mail and creating personal websites. There are many convenient applications of Google Apps for parents, including aligning personal calendars with a child’s academic assignments, or receiving automatic updates to a sports team’s practice or game schedule. More comprehensively, Google will enhance the collaboration and communication among different stakeholders in our district. Teachers auto-correcting homework assignments provides immediate feedback about how well students understand a new concept introduced. Middle school students editing a collaborative project on their computers simultaneously, provides greater opportunity for sharing. High school students writing papers, which are commented on electronically by their teachers, reduces paper transfer and increases efficiency and communication. And a Kindergarten teacher placing a child’s writing or artwork under the ELMO projector, to display for the class so others can provide comments, connects peer learners.

The introduction of the Technology Support Center and Google Apps provides greater access to technology for administrators, staff, students and parents. Professional development is a key piece in making sure that these tools are used efficiently and effectively. Our ultimate goal as a district is greater integration of technology in our classrooms. In the future we plan to have our technology integrators increase the amount of time spent assisting staff and students in classroom settings. More professional development and training time for staff led by our integrators is another goal as we move further into the Google Apps for Education world. All of this is being done with the goal of fostering better communication and collaboration among all stakeholders in our district.

Please contact Martha Leggat, mleggat@msad51.org, if you would like to submit information to be included in a Spotlight article.