Google Apps Are Used Widely in K-12. A New Tool Will Show Just How...


Google Apps Are Used Widely in K-12. A New Tool Will Show Just How Useful They Are.

By Tony Wan     Sep 24, 2019

Google Apps Are Used Widely in K-12. A New Tool Will Show Just How Useful They Are.

One doesn’t need to search long to see how deep Google has seeped into schools. The company claims that, around the world, 90 million students and educators use its productivity tools, G Suite for Education. Forty million use Google Classroom, its learning management system. On the hardware front, 30 million students are on Chromebooks.

But user numbers alone do not reflect how a product is being implemented—let alone whether it has any impact on student outcomes or a school’s academic objectives. Google hopes that providing more granular information can help school officials answer the question: Is technology actually making a difference?

On Tuesday, the company launched a new offering called “transformation report,” which offers administrators a bird’s-eye view of how each Google tool is used across their schools, and how the tools align with their district’s technology goals. The main feature is a dashboard that lets administrators see usage data across all G Suite for Education apps—including Calendar, Classroom, Docs, Forms, Hangouts and Sheets.

Google Transformation Reports screenshot
Sample screenshot of Google Transformation Report

“In every conversation we had with school districts, we heard from instructors that they want to quantify the impact that Google’s tools have on schools,” says Kevin Kells, global director at Google for Education. “It’s not enough that they are used, but that they’re useful.”

The transformation report dashboard allows school leaders to see a visual breakdown of how different G Suite for Education tools are used on a week-by-week basis, along with how often students and teachers are posting and sharing on Google Classroom. It also lets them see which Chromebooks may be due for a hardware update (most need to be refreshed every six-and-a-half years).

When it comes to technology, what schools buy is not always what they use. Last year, a report from BrightBytes, a company that tracks education technology usage, found that the majority of software licenses purchased by schools went unused. LearnPlatform, which does similar analyses, estimated that just 9 percent of edtech tools are used to their intended extent. It also reported that the average district uses more than 500 edtech products each month.

In addition, the dashboard allows district administrators to distribute surveys to educators to give feedback on seven areas of transformation as defined by Google: vision, learning model, culture, professional development, community engagement, technology implementation and funding. The purpose is to gauge educators’ perceptions about how their school’s technology usage currently supports those areas.

By combining qualitative feedback about technology adoption with data about how much Google tools are used, the company believes these transformation reports can “provide district leadership with a holistic view of their implementation of Google’s apps,” says Kells.

It’s hardly an exact science. But he believes that having these data points can “spark a conversation” among teachers and administrators “about where they want to take the school and how they’re transforming.” For example, if a district’s priority is to increase collaboration among students, would it make sense to see how Docs or Hangout could play a bigger role? Or if administrators want to solicit more parent engagement, would it make sense to use more Forms?

While Google touts transformation reports as a new offering, other companies have also sought to give educators visibility into how their peers and students use Google’s tools. Hapara, which has long offered a dashboard that lets teachers see and manage student assignments in G Suite for Education, allows district leaders to track usage across their schools and classrooms, at an even more granular level.

Transformation reports are available for free, but for Google there’s a self-promotional component. Based on the product usage data and survey feedback, the dashboard will recommend teacher training programs and other paid professional development resources offered by the company. “We can be a little overwhelming at times because we offer so many things for school districts, from products, to professional development, certifications, trainings and other resources,” Kells admits.

The idea is to direct school officials to specific programs such as Google’s Certified Educator and Trainer courses, which cover tips for implementing Google’s tools in the classroom. Many offer a certification exam for a fee, and the transformation report will display the number of educators who have earned these certifications.

Transformation reports are available to K-12 districts and schools in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The dashboard is set to be updated twice a year, on a semester basis, although Kells says the data will likely be refreshed on a more frequent basis in the near future.

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