Highland Council puts students and teachers at heart of learning with Google for Education

Google AppsWhen Highland Council schools wanted to better meet the four focus areas of Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence – to enable each student to be a successful learner, confident individual, responsible citizen and effective contributor – they realised they needed a new technology solution.

The schools wanted to provide more students with internet-enabled devices, so they could learn anytime, anywhere. Since the Highland Council serves a wide range of students and teachers, the region needed an affordable, flexible solution that would improve the learning experience for every student and teacher at every school. Sharing resources across the district is an important goal since schools are spread geographically across the region.

“At any point, we want to make sure that pupils in the north of the region who want to learn about astrophysics but don’t have a professor specialising in that can access the resources 150 miles away at a school that does,” says Louise Jones, ICT in Learning Manager of The Highland Council.

After talking with schools in East Lothian about their use of Chromebooks, The Highland Council considered Chromebooks to be the right choice since they provided students with the ability to guide their own learning and improve their communication and collaboration skills.

The council launched a Chromebooks pilot in May 2015 with one primary and two secondary schools. The three schools introduced 250 devices total, using a 1:1 model. At the same time, schools introduced Google Apps for Education and Google Classroom.

Google Apps for Education use grew organically; once other schools saw how Google Apps for Education improved the learning and teaching experience, they wanted to use it as well. The council now has 14,500 and rising Google Apps for Education users.

Many of the Highland Council schools still use legacy devices, and Google Apps for Education allows them to access the same information, and use the same cloud technology, as students and teachers using Chromebooks through the Chrome Browser.

Jones created the Highland Chrome Pilot blog to share the council’s experience forming a strategy, rolling out the technology and using the devices to build on the four educational areas. “Google Apps for Education is the glue that binds it all together because it’s device neutral,” Jones says. “For example, students can use different devices – one on a Chromebooks, one on a Windows device and a couple on iPads – to collaborate on a creative writing story about Hamish and the Beanstalk.”

Institution: The council includes 225 schools of varying sizes: some schools have hundreds of students, while others in remote islands have only a few students. Overall the council teaches 30,000 students and employs 4,000 teachers.

Products used: G Suite for Education – A free suite of communication and collaboration tools – including Gmail, Classroom, Docs and Drive – for learning anywhere, at any time, on any device. Chromebooks – A range of fast, affordable devices that update automatically and are easy for institutions to set up and manage.

Read the full case-study here.