OGDEN — School district representatives from around the state met Wednesday at Ogden High School to learn more about how Ogden School District uses Google technology in the classroom.
Fourteen school districts were represented at the event, from nearby Davis to more distant districts like Tooele and Nebo. Ogden School District hosted the leadership roundtable because it is one of two districts in Utah selected by Google to be Google Reference Districts. The other Utah Google Reference District is Weber School District.
Google Reference Districts are school districts that Google recognizes as leaders in the use of technology in teaching, including the use of Google’s Chromebook and other tools, such as Drive, Docs and Google Classroom.
As a Google Reference District, Ogden has committed to share its expertise in Google tools by hosting events for other organizations.
”I’m a science teacher, and I believe in ecosystems, and that’s what (Google tools) have become for us — definitely integrated, intertwined across every phase of our organization, down to the student level and all the way up to the administrator,” Ogden Superintendent Rich Nye said when welcoming the group.
”Our most raucous opponents of this are now our most ardent supporters because it got to that point where the value add was just that... clear and that evident.”
As part of the event, visitors rotated through classroom visits where they could observe Ogden High teachers in action using Google tools. They visited a variety of classrooms, from AP Government to biology.
In Sara Byrd’s sophomore biology class, students worked on an assignment that was formatted as a breakout game — they faced a hypothetical scenario where human life was at risk due to increasing levels of radiation.
Students had to work through a series of steps to prevent disaster, unlocking clues that would lead them to their next task. They did most of this work online using Chromebooks and a simple site created by the teacher with Google Sites, Google’s web page creation tool.
Every once in a while, students would call out “I love science!” signaling that they had made it to a certain stage and were ready for another hint.
At another stage in the same assignment, a group of students worked together to open a lock box at the front of the classroom, using information they had uncovered during a previous step.
These boxes are a key part of “breakout” lesson plans, and the district has purchased several for teachers to check out.
In Jaci Durtschi’s AP Government course, Durtschi instructed students on the Fourth Amendment, taking breaks for them to work in groups. Every student had a laptop and accessed a shared class Google doc, allowing them to follow multiple group discussions.
Leilani Baker, a student in Elisabeth Huber’s English class, said she likes using Google tools at school.
“With paper, you have to always have it on you. If you lose it, then it’s hard to find it and then you have to redo it,” Baker said. “On a (Google) hyper doc, it’ll just save everything, and you can just sign in, go to it, and finish it.”
However, she and other classmates around her said there’s still a place for paper.
“On paper, you’ll learn a lot better,” Baker said, because when working on a computer, it’s too easy to copy and paste text rather than reading everything thoroughly.
She appreciates that her teacher, Elisabeth Huber, still reads books aloud to the class.
“I feel like (students) should have a choice if they want to work online on the computer... or do it on paper,” she said.
Visitors also attended sessions run by Ogden School District staff and representatives from Google and Amplified IT, consultants that support schools using Google products.
At these sessions, Ashlie Cashin, a digital learning specialist in Ogden district, and Adam McMickell, the district’s director of student achievement, highlighted two Google training projects — a program for students called the Digital-Learning Ambassador Program and series of Personalized Learning Pathways for teachers.
The district ran its first Digital-Learning Ambassadors program for students over the summer. Students spent three weeks learning Google tools for four hours a day. The program culminated in an event where students showcased their work for their parents and the community. They planned the event using Google tools. The program will run again this summer.
The Personalized Learning Pathways for teachers are different options teachers have to learn how to use Google tools in the classroom. The district offers support in preparing teachers for Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3 (Trainer) Google certification exams. Teachers are also awarded a stipend for each certification they attain, funded by a state Digital Teaching and Learning Grant.
Across the district, 106 teachers and staff have earned Level 1 Certification, 58 have attained Level 2, six have become Google Trainers, and three are Google Innovators.
The district employs more Google Trainers and Google Innovators than any other district in the state, according to a district press release.