Taming the "wild west" tech and training environment
In very large school districts like Palm Beach County, it’s not easy to offer consistent and comprehensive digital skills training for all teachers. "We didn’t have the manpower on our own to do what needed to get done at the school level," says Kim Culp, Educational Technology Specialist for SDPBC. Without a strategy, the 11-person educational technology staff couldn’t keep up with new tech coming into classrooms.
"It was the wild west," explains Mike Goldstein, Technology Program Specialist for the District. "We usually deployed technology first, then teachers figured out how to use it later. Some schools did a great job helping teachers learn to use the technology—and in other schools, it would sit on the shelf."
The IT Department led the district switch from Microsoft Exchange to Google Workspace in 2009, but there hadn't been much adoption beyond Gmail. "Email was the starting point—we went to Gmail mostly for cost savings and record retention," Goldstein says. But when it came to using Google Workspace to foster student-teacher collaboration and create flipped classrooms, adoption was very slow.
The Ed Tech Team quickly saw the power of collaborative tools for transforming learning, and the District’s IT team was also enthusiastic about Google Workspace’s potential to help teachers engage with students. They brought in a technology consultant who made it clear to Michael Sims, IT Applications Team Leader, "If you want utilization by teachers and students to grow, you have to get buy-in from the academic side." This was a tipping point for the project. There was an intentional shift at that time to make this a collaborative project between IT, Ed Tech and Curriculum. This change in mindset, to leverage the Google Workspace ecosystem to improve instruction by the broader group, was a critical step for what was to follow.