Jesuits is a religious congregation founded by Ignatius of Loyola with 68 coeducational charter schools throughout Spain, currently educating 75,000 students in all education stages (from Preschool to High School and Baccalaureate). During 2014, three of the schools have made a determined commitment to go one step further in the digital education of their students, providing them with Chromebooks for their schooling.
Jesuitak School with 1,600 students and located in Donostia - San Sebastian, Escuela San Jose School with 2,100 students and located in Valencia and Colegio San Ignacio School with 1,300 students and located in Oviedo have been developing, for some time now, a cloud-based digital learning environment through G Suite for Education and Classroom. But it has been during 2014 when these three schools have taken a leap forward in terms of their students’ digital education and learning outcomes, partnering with Google to gradually introduce Chromebooks in the students day-to-day life.
Jesuits’ Schools have always borne in mind that adapting their educational scheme to the new times is a priority and, especially during the last years, they have been involved in the digitalization of the educational process.
Few years ago, Jesuits’ Schools created computer labs that could be used by students in certain subjects, basically using traditional office suites for their academic papers. But they found this system very unpractical and with several problems such as maintenance problems, usability problems, high costs due to licenses and particularly when it came to sharing documents and information between students and teachers. In addition to this situation, the great need for adapting the educational process to the new digital environment encouraged a group of teachers involved in I.C.T. development to ask all Schools' Boards for the green light to decisively face innovation introducing Chromebooks and G Suite in the classrooms.
“Chromebooks have allowed our students to investigate more about a certain topic and to search for more information on the Internet. They create and share materials with other students and with the teachers. Students are developing important digital skills."Pablo Laspra, Social Networks, Web Services Administrator, and Teacher, Colegio San Ignacio School in Oviedo
This decision did not only mean that schools were committed to solve all the old system problems and inefficiencies, but going beyond as Alberto Gilsanz, I.C.T. Coordinator in Escuelas San Jose School in Valencia said: “Among the different improvements that we were expecting with the introduction of Chromebooks in all the schools were the development of learning strategies based on peer-to-peer collaboration, a higher student motivation, autonomy and responsibility in their self-learning, an improvement in the student’s digital competencies and a much more efficient information management within the school.”
“It is because of G Suite and Chromebooks that students are much more motivated and involved in the subjects and lessons. Working in a collaborative environment makes easier to carry out team projects.”Pablo Laspra, Social Networks, Web Services Administrator, and Teacher, Colegio San Ignacio School in Oviedo
During 2014, these three schools have significantly increased their efforts to carry out a complete digitalization of their educational proposal, not only with the aim of taking technology into classrooms, but with the objective of improving, optimizing and developing a modern and cost-efficient educational process, which provides students optimal digital skills to successfully develop their careers in the future.
When it came to planning the introduction and use of Chromebooks in the schools, testing projects and training days for teachers were carried out in order to help them to get used to Chromebooks, Drive, and G Suite and to show them how friendly it is to create a cloud-based subject. After those training days, teachers have built specific digital learning materials for their lessons based on G Suite and some of them have even created Sites (websites developed using Google Sites) where students are able to find all the tasks, material, video links, and additional information related to the subject.
The second step consisted of acquiring Chromebooks. All three schools have carried out an investment for purchasing Chromebooks for their students. Specifically, 247 were acquired by Jesuitak School for their secondary education students, 20 were acquired by Escuela San Ignacio School for their International Baccalaureate program, and 70 were purchased by Escuela San Jose School for their primary and secondary education students.
Some teachers at Escuela San Ignacio School pointed out the benefits for students of using Chromebooks and G Suite: “Chromebooks allow students to easily work with Google Docs, taking notes directly in Drive. They can also use specific apps for each subject which improves their learning.”
At the beginning of the new academic year in September 2014, schools have provided students with the recently acquired Chromebooks. Nevertheless, schools have followed different approaches depending on their particular plans and needs.
On one hand, Jesuitak and San Ignacio Schools decided to go for a model based on one Chromebook per student in those selected courses. They can take them home and use them for taking notes, doing their homework, submitting their projects and papers to the teacher, developing their knowledge in a subject using G Suite, working as a team, etc. With this one-Chromebook-per-student model these schools want their students to have a complete immersion in this new digitalized cloud based learning environment.
A good example of the use of the tools for education created by Google in a concrete subject is Biology in the International Baccalaureate program in San Ignacio School in Oviedo. According to the subject’s teacher: Students use Chromebooks for taking notes, complete assignments, looking up information on the Internet and logging in the rest of Google products. Google Classroom allows students to manage their daily work and pending tasks. All the needed materials for the subject are available on the Biology Site, such as notes, summaries, presentations, links to the teacher’s Youtube channel, etc. Google Drive is the student’s portfolio, where all the student’s documents are, so they can easily share their work with the teacher. Google Hangouts is used by students to contact the teacher when their are working or studying at home after school. The Google+ Community is the place where students and teachers share their knowledge and discuss about the different topics in the subject.
“We can share documents with other students and make team works while teachers are sharing new materials with us,” said one student from San Ignacio School in Oviedo.
On the other hand, Escuelas San Jose School in Valencia decided to go for a shared devices approach. This school has planned that every student will have a personal Chromebook in the future, but for the moment they preferred to start with this sharing scheme in order to allow as many students as possible to use Chromebooks in some subjects and lessons. The school has acquired a number of Chromebooks that are placed in carts so teachers can take the carts into the classroom and students can use the available Chromebooks during the lesson. Once the lesson is over, Chromebooks are returned into the carts so they can be used again by other students. Since every student was provided with a personal email account, they can effortlessly log in and synchronize with Google Drive and Chrome in the shared Chromebooks and have immediate access to all their documents, assignments, schedule, materials, etc.
Chromebooks, G Suite for Education, and every other action planned with the objective of developing a cloud-based educational process have inspired students in all three schools to have higher motivation, get more involved in the lessons, and become more committed to their own learning process.
Students like using Chromebooks. It is still soon to clearly say if using Chromebooks in a daily basis has improved the academic performance of the students and their grades, but undoubtedly all students are highly motivated to work in teams and to investigate on the Internet about a specific topic. They all know that they can contact their teachers anytime in order to solve questions and ask them for feedback. This has allowed students to keep learning at their own pace using G Suite and the information available on the Internet, but it has also permitted to have a closer support from teachers to those students that really need it.
Apart from the direct impact in motivation and students academic performance, the introduction of Chromebooks and G Suite in the schools has come with significant savings for both families and schools in teaching and school materials such as books, notebooks, pencils, paper, ink, etc. There has also been a tremendous cut in maintenance and product license costs, as well as an improvement and an optimization in schools’ management from both an educational and an administrative point of view.