Avonworth SD Implements Google Apps & Chromebooks in the Classroom

Recently members of the Questeq team had a chance to talk with teachers at Avonworth School District to discuss their recent move to Google Apps, Google Classroom and Chromebooks. Prior to 2013, the availability and reliability of technology tools was a concern for many teachers within the district. Educators were still enthusiastic about using technology but couldn’t always count on having the tools available when needed.

 

 

Questeq became the Educational Technology Management partner of Avonworth in June 2013. Since then, the district hasn’t looked back and continues to re-envision their educational technology strategy.

Under the direction of Questeq Director of IT Shawn Stoebener and other Questeq team members, we stabilized the IT department (rightsized staff and skills) and infrastructure (Network, Wireless, Content Filter, Email) over the first year enabling Shawn to focus on implementing strategic initiatives. As part of the new strategy, the district implemented HP Chromebooks and the Google Apps suite for students in grades 6-12. The district more recently implemented Google Classroom when it was released earlier this calendar year. Due to the increased availability and reliability of their technology, teachers have renewed confidence to use these tools more frequently in the classroom.

Ms. Emily Hickman, 8th grade English teacher, uses Google Classroom extensively for students to access class materials. Due to the ease of use and instant availability of information, it removes excuses and helps to maintain student engagement levels. About her technology philosophy, Ms. Hickman shared, “Technology is only as good as what you use it for.” She also uses Google Classroom as a way of providing information or sources that she wants her students to access when researching a topic. This method provides a model for her students for evaluating and using valid information sources.

In addition, Google Docs is utilized for collaboration during grade-level team meetings. Agendas are created using the collaborative tool so that all group members can have input. Parent contacts are also kept current through the use of Google tools. The immediacy of updates to pertinent information allows all teachers to be informed.

Ms. Amanda White, 7th grade English teacher, uses Google Docs and Classroom with her students. The availability of the Chromebooks has allowed her students more classroom time for writing and research. The peer editing process has been simplified as students work and share in small groups while using Google Docs to make comments and revisions. Ms. White has found that students are more collaborative and are receiving more feedback on their projects. This increased peer collaboration has lead to better projects and more student engagement.

Students at Avonworth are happy with the access to information and tools both at home and school. One student shared that due to illness, she had missed several days of school and was still able to keep up with assignments and class work. In addition, the availability of school email helps students communicate much easier when working on group projects.

Mr. Doug Pastore, Creative Writing teacher, also utilizes Google Docs for the peer editing and review process. Mr. Pastore sees the students being active and not passive learners in his classroom. Google Docs has changed how students work by allowing them to post assignments and comments anywhere and anytime. During a recent satire class discussion, the students were able to access information on the Chromebooks to quickly share learning and knowledge with the rest of the class.

The enthusiastic teachers that we spoke to at Avonworth all encourage their fellow educators to give the technology tools a try if they haven’t already. The tools are easy to use, reliable and can easily fit into a teacher’s busy schedule.

The district is one of the fastest growing in the area and opened a brand new primary center for students in grades K-2 for the 2014-15 school year. In addition, Avonworth was selected to join the Digital Promise League of Innovative Schools. We featured this honor on our site earlier this year. Great things are happening for students at Avonworth and we are privileged to partner with them on this journey.

Supporting Microsoft Software Center Configuration Manager (SCCM)

Microsoft Software Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) is a software suite that enables the management of servers, desktops and mobile devices from a single location.

SCCM works by integrating with the systems already in place at each site. The suite is able to easily install applications, antivirus protection, critical updates and image new and existing devices that are located within the site domain.

Project Services is responsible for the complete setup of new SCCM servers for our customer sites as well as for the support of our sites currently using the product.

There are many challenges that technology departments face when deploying and maintaining technology devices. Three of these challenges include:

  • Device Management (imaging and inventory)
  • Application Management (installation and curation)
  • Update Management (installation and administration)

Though many solutions exist to resolve each issue individually, SCCM offers complete management of a technology environment from one location, using only one software suite. With application and update management tools built in to SCCM, as well as remote desktop support, technicians no longer need to spend long hours updating devices with latest patch or version of software.

SCCM enables our sites to tackle any technology project they can envision – from the installation of a new version of software to the rollout of brand new laptops for a one to one initiative.

Having the latest versions of updates and software mean the most secure environments for our customer sites. SCCM enables onsite staff to work on other projects as well as support users to further improve and develop the technology program.

Developing Technology Refresh Plans

The Project Services team at Questeq provides proactive infrastructure management for customer sites that have contracted with Questeq to manage their technology program.

Every fall, we work with our site Technology Directors to develop infrastructure refresh plans and budgets that meet the needs of each individual district. The types of technology reviewed in this refresh include servers, backup/recovery solutions, switching, wireless solutions and other network infrastructure. Technology refresh plans are essential due to lapsing warranties, end of life support for older systems and declining performance of existing hardware and infrastructure.

The goal of each refresh plan is to move districts towards a more proactive approach for keeping technology current and performing well. This proactive approach allows districts to be prepared for the inevitable need to upgrade hardware and infrastructure over time. Once established, the refresh plan can easily be adjusted as district needs and initiatives change.

Including the infrastructure refresh projects starting this fall, Project Services currently has 95 pending projects, 52 of which are in the design or implementation phase. The projects include anything from mobile device management to Office 365 implementation, reducing the number of servers a district needs in-house by moving essential services to the cloud.

Becoming a VMware Solution Provider

Due to the growing number of customers that are moving towards VMware software, our Project Services team is in the process of becoming a VMware Solution Provider. We are working towards the Professional partnership level that allows us to resell VMware products and services directly to our customers.

Our team is excited to provide these valuable products and services to our customer sites in the very near future. We will provide more information about the partnership once we meet all of the certifications and requirements.

Fannett-Metal SD and Questeq featured in Chambersburg Public Opinion

Last week Questeq and our customer Fannett-Metal School District were showcased in a Chambersburg, PA news outlet, the Chambersburg Public Opinion. The article discusses our partnership with Fannett-Metal School District and highlights many improvements and upgrades made to their technology since our partnership began last year.

You can read the full article by visiting the Chambersburg Public Opinion website.