At Sweden’s Norrköping schools, enhanced Meet features in Google Workspace for Education Plus give teachers greater flexibility

About Norrköping schools

Norrköping is a city in the province of Östergötland in eastern Sweden, about 160 km southwest of the national capital of Stockholm. Norrköping schools and their 3,000 teachers educate 10,000 students from kindergarten on up through high school, as well as adult education services.

Digital tools for a digital world

Norrköping schools were an early adopter of digital tools for learning, starting with Google Classroom in 2008.

“We’ve always felt that how we teach must reflect the real world, and of course that has been going digital for a long time,” says Matthias Tybåhl, an education support specialist for Norrköping. “In the beginning, it was about giving our teachers tools to manage their work better so they could focus more on students.”

By 2015, when Norrköping began using Google Workspace for Education Fundamentals, city schools had a robust deployment of Chromebooks, with students in 7th grade and up receiving their own devices.

We’ve always felt that how we teach must reflect the real world, and of course that has been going digital for a long time,” says Matthias Tybåhl, an education support specialist for Norrköping. “In the beginning, it was about giving our teachers tools to manage their work better so they could focus more on students.”

Matthias Tybåhl, education support specialist, Norrköping

Remote classes become essential

When the COVID-19 pandemic came to Sweden, remote classes became a necessity. “We had used video tools for teacher training and a few presentations,” says Tybåhl, “but never for classes.” That all had to change as both students and teachers began working from home. “Our teachers were inundated with choices for free video conferencing services,” says Tybåhl, “but we decided to keep it simple and stay with Google.”

As teachers made greater use of Google Meet to teach students remotely, one request came up repeatedly. Teachers wanted to divide students into groups in order to have them work on separate projects on their own, or to provide more attention to students who need coaching. In the absence of a breakout rooms feature, teachers would use complicated workarounds, such as creating individual Meet sessions for each student group.

“The teachers had to set up multiple meetings at once, then try to navigate between all the meetings,” says Per Joelson, education strategist for Norrköping. “It was cumbersome and not a good solution.”

A better remote-learning experience

When Joelson and Tybåhl learned of the expanded and enhanced capabilities in Google Workspace for Education Plus, including breakout rooms in Meet, they decided to upgrade. In classes conducted with premium Meet features, teachers can easily create as many breakout rooms as they need. In addition, teachers can easily navigate among rooms in much the same way they might move around the physical classroom.

“This is what our teachers were asking for, and with Education Plus, we have a tool that makes the process of creating separate rooms easy,” says Joelson. As students come back to physical classrooms in Norrköping schools while some of their classmates remain at home, teachers can use Meet and breakout rooms to continue working together.

Easy-to-use originality reports

Another benefit of Education Plus is unlimited access to originality reports, which is built into Google Classroom. The schools’ previous originality solution was difficult to use, explains Mikael Pedersen, a Norrköping math and science teacher who’s also responsible for the city’s Google deployments. “Students had to send their work to teachers by email, and then teachers had to put the student work into the application,” Pedersen says.

With originality reports, students can check their work on their own, submitting it via Classroom in just a few clicks. In this way, students can learn how to improve their research and citation skills.

The successful usage of Education Plus and Google Meet was largely due to Norrköping teachers, as well as to the time that Joelson and Tybåhl devoted to training. “We created short how-to videos and made sure that our most tech-savvy teachers had a chance to share their knowledge,” says Tybahl. “But in the end it was the teachers that made it all work. They really came through for everyone.”