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Concord Community Schools brings the world to its classrooms, using Google Workspace for Education Plus

About Concord Community Schools

Concord Community Schools (CCS) has a diverse population of 5,500 students across seven campuses in the Elkhart, Indiana area. Digital learning is a key part of the district’s strategy for achieving its goal of developing students who are highly literate, demonstrate mastery of state and national standards, and are college- and career-ready.

“Google Workspace for Education Plus made teachers realize we can bring just about anyone into the classroom, and also build out more content for virtual learning.”

Matt Jerlecki, Technology Director, Concord Community Schools

Putting the learning experience first

As CCS’s Technology Director, Matt Jerlecki spends a good part of his day assessing tools, strategies, and products that foster digital learning. “I always fall back on the same hierarchy for assessing technology—students, then teachers, then admins,” Jerlecki says. “My first questions are, is it going to improve the learning experience? Will it better engage students? Will it enhance collaboration, and connect students with more outside learning resources? That's what we start with. Period. Then, we look at how teachers and admins will benefit.”

This was the decision-making process that helped bring a 1:1 Lenovo Chromebook program to the district, several years after adopting Google Workspace and Google Classroom. Jerlecki’s research paid off: The Google tools helped the district expand accessibility to digital learning through MOVE UP, a virtual academy for high school students. Additionally, the district offers eLearning Days, an Indiana state program that allows students and teachers to work together online if weather events or student illness impact school attendance.

The eLearning Days have been so successful that teachers wanted to develop even more fresh course material to share with students. “The program isn’t just about helping students catch up on days they’ve missed—we’re now thinking about ways to offer students online instruction in newer, effective ways,” Jerlecki says.

Going bigger and broader in sharing classroom events

However, limitations in videoconferencing were affecting plans to expand online learning. “We’d love our MOVE UP classes to get even bigger,” Jerlecki says—but the number of participants for Meet was capped at 20. “We could see a situation where a teacher would like to have virtual office hours for students, or simply offer a teaching session that’s intended for several classes at once.”

Likewise, Jerlecki foresaw the benefits of recording such sessions so they could be shared easily with even more students—or even record school board meetings and parent-teacher nights so that people who couldn’t attend could watch the videos on their own time.

With anticipated growth in the district’s eLearning programs, Jerlecki decided to upgrade to Google Workspace for Education Plus to get the benefits of Google Meet recording, and the ability to add as many as 250 participants to video events. “With the Plus version of Google Workspace, we have all these capabilities, so we’re full steam ahead on MOVE UP and our eLearning Days,” he says.

Inviting speakers to share knowledge

The district was already creating innovative online content even before upgrading Google Workspace. “One of the most exciting things is how we’ve used Meet to expand the use of outside contributors to class,” Jerlecki explains. “We’ve had first graders do Meet with other first-graders in Singapore. We had Mark Rober, the former NASA scientist and ‘egg-drop challenge’ expert, talk to our second-graders and show them a piece of the parachute from the Mars Rover.”

What’s exciting, says Jerecki, is the newfound ability to record these events, and share them with even more students and teachers. “We feel it’s easier to ask more speakers, like famous authors, to speak to students because we don’t have to arrange for their travel,” he says. “And once we record the session, we can send people a link.”

Teachers are also seeing the value using recorded Meet for their own classrooms. ”Google Workspace for Education Plus made teachers realize we can bring just about anyone into the classroom, and also build out more content for virtual learning,” Jerecki says. “When a teacher can record a class and make the recording available in Google Drive, students who miss class will have a way to get that material,” says Jerlecki. “Teachers can create content for the virtual academy this way, or outside of class if they prefer, on their schedule.”

Jerlecki is also hoping to use Meet to stream and record CCS school board meetings. Since recordings are automatically saved to Google Drive, they’re easy for community members to watch simply by logging in to Google.

Faster, more fruitful searching

Like many school districts, Concord fields an increasing number of requests from parents, law enforcement officials, or district leaders for records such as emails or school board meeting communications. Because Google Workspace for Education Plus has more robust eDiscovery tools for emails, chats, and files, Jerlecki and his colleagues can respond to requests more quickly. “Today, technicians can do in 15 minutes what used to take two hours in terms of searching records—that’s a big win,” Jerlecki says. As the district technology leaders like Jerlecki dig deeper into Google Workspace for Education Plus’s capabilities, he’s looking forward to sharing feedback with Google and learning about product updates. “We like that Google includes us in this process, and invites us to try new features,” Jerlecki says. “We get the sense that Google cares about what schools think of the product, and how it will serve schools’ needs.”

At a Glance

What they wanted to do

  • Build content for virtual learning
  • Expand the audience for virtual learning content
  • Allow community members to attend events on their own time

What they did

  • Adopted Google Workspace for Education Plus

What they accomplished

  • Exploring opportunities to capture learning events through Meet recording
  • Inviting experts and authors to share their knowledge with classrooms
  • Preparing for expansion of district’s virtual learning program
  • Improving readiness for state’s eLearning Day Program

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