Google Workspace drives collaboration and Chromebook adoption
At about the same time that Chicago Academy High School got its delivery of Chromebooks, the entire district adopted Google Workspace for 300,000 students and 25,000 teachers. “One of the reasons we did this was to create a more open and collaborative workspace for teachers and students,” Carroll says. In many ways, allowing individual schools to make their own decisions was empowering, but the decentralized approach made management difficult—and also prevented teachers and administrative staff from sharing information and learning from each others’ best practices.
Gmail replaced the district’s FirstClass email system from OpenText, giving teachers and admins a consistent way to communicate with each other. Students in 4th grade on up also received Gmail accounts. The arrival of Google Workspace and Gmail, along with new district-wide tech support for devices, started accelerating the arrival of more Chromebooks in 2015, since the devices help students and teachers seamlessly work with Google Workspace tools.
As of late 2019, the district has 300,000 Samsung and Dell Chromebooks. School leaders still have leeway to choose the technology they want; but overwhelmingly, Carroll says, they’re choosing Chromebooks. “We love that the updates are seamless, happen in the background, and keep devices secure automatically—and teachers and kids love that Chromebooks boot up fast,” he says.
In a logical progression, Google Classroom caught on after Gmail and Chromebooks were becoming common classroom tools at CPS. “It’s really taken off,” Carroll says. “It’s been a great driver for better communication with parents—something teachers struggle with.” Instead of asking their children repeatedly for updates about school assignments and progress, and only seeing final grades, parents and students can read summaries throughout the school term.