At South Australia’s Murray Bridge High School, an upgrade to Workspace for Education Plus helps students sharpen their research skills

Trading up to flexible, engaging education tools

By 2019, Murray Bridge completed a project to equip all students with Chromebooks—in part because the school had also recently rolled out Google Workspace for Education Fundamentals. The school was also encouraging teachers to use Google Classroom, which had been in use since 2015 but was largely limited to Murray Bridge’s Inclusive Education Centre.

“Several years ago, we were still very much a Microsoft school, and using Office 365,” recalls Luke Starczak, Senior Leader of STEM and Innovative Pedagogies at Murray Bridge. “Now, with Chromebooks and Classroom, we see much, much higher usage of Classroom every day.”

To drive adoption of Classroom when the Chromebook 1:1 program began, Murray Bridge’s IT team created a solution to automatically create Classrooms and add students, eliminating many administrative tasks for teachers.

“Now our teachers can use their time to check in on assignments as much as they like,” says Starczak. “Teachers should be focused on teaching, not whether they can work how to get a student into a Classroom. That’s something we want to relieve them of so they can just focus on the students.“

The combination of Chromebooks and Classroom was also an “equalizer” for Murray Bridge, many of whom are low-income, Starczak says. “It was a smart decision in terms of making collaboration easier, but also an equitable decision because our staff and students can now work in the same space.”

Everything in Google Workspace for Education is about guiding students along the whole journey, not just at the final submission of their work. Education Plus gives us ways to continuously help students, not hit them over the head with a stick at the end and say, ‘Well, you did the wrong thing.’ That just isn’t a smart way to do things.

Luke Starczak, Senior Leader of STEM and Innovative Pedagogies, Murray Bridge

Giving students guidance on research and writing best practices

As the school’s technology leaders worked to boost their proficiency with Chromebooks and Classroom throughout 2019, the school became part of a beta test for Google’s originality reports, which uses the power of Google Search to help students integrate outside content into their writing. Murray Bridge had been using an endpoint plagiarism scanner, which only checked student work when it was completed—not while it was being created.

With originality reports, students can check their own coursework to make sure content is properly cited, and to avoid unintended plagiarism. The tool compares a student’s Google Docs against billions of web pages and millions of books, then shows links to the detected webpages and flags uncited text. In this way, students can solve citation and content use challenges before they turn in assignments, and teachers can also step in to guide students in proper research and citation techniques.

“Last year, I showed a student an originality report for a completed assignment,” Starczak recalls. “The student’s score was 80 percent, and I thought we could get that number down. I was able to help them use more of their own language, and explained why they should read information rather than just copy and paste it into the assignment.”

During the originality reports beta and for a period of time afterward, access to originality reports was limited to 5 reports per educator with Education Fundamentals. Murray Bridge decided to upgrade to Google Workspace for Education Plus, which would provide students and teachers with unlimited access to originality reports.

Guiding students along the learning journey

A very helpful feature of originality reports, Starczak says, is that it’s built into Classroom, and therefore is easy to access by every student and teacher.

“This is an example of why we chose Google in the first place,” says Starczak.

With the Education Plus upgrade, originality reports also include school matching, or the ability to run checks against a database of work within a school instead of just general web searches. “We can add all of our existing student work to this database,” says Starczak.

Senior Students at Murray Bridge complete an advanced assignment called a Research Project, in which they explore a topic of their choice in depth. “We have a lot of students who are seeking to publish their work,” says Starczak, “and knowing how to properly reference sources and write originally is obviously a big part of that. Originality reports is extremely helpful for students working on these projects, especially as they prepare for university.”

A foundation for security

As Murray Bridge technology leads explored the features in Education Plus, they came to appreciate enhanced security tools such as investigative and usage reporting, and data loss protection (DLP) policies that ensure ownership and control usage.

“We were ready to upgrade to Education Plus purely because of the originality reports,” says Starczak. “As we considered the other features we would gain by upgrading, it became an easy decision. The investigation tool in particular is really useful, and not just for security. If our Digital Learning team wants to get quick answers on usage of Workspace features, or which Chrome operating system versions are running on our various school devices, that information is readily available as well.”

The Education Plus security features had another benefit: helping get upgrade buy-in from administrators by reassuring them about security and system integrity. “Being the caretaker of student data means a lot of compliance,” Starczak says. “With Google we have something we can point to and say, ‘We’ve got processes in place to ensure that we’re as secure as possible.’”

As Murray Bridge tech leaders adopt more of the features available in Education Plus, Starczak knows that the content and data his students and teachers create will always stay secure—and accessible. “Some competing product contracts actually stipulate that they own client data,” he says. “With Google, it’s just the opposite. We will always own all of our data, and access will always be assured.”