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Google Apps for Education (GAFE)

Google Apps for Education (GAFE)
Google Apps for Education (GAFE) is a free web based suite of programs provided by Google for schools to use. GAFE includes such programs as Google Drive, Google Calendar, Gmail and Google Sites.  GAFE can be accessed from anywhere you have an internet connection (school, home, smart phone, etc.) This reduces and replaces the need for flash drives and/or external data drives. Furthermore, since GAFE is all online, it is the same everywhere you use it. There is no issue with having one version of a program at home and a different version at school.  All staff and students in the Ithaca City School District will have access to GAFE through a secure account managed by the ICSD.  
Access to GAFE allows your child to--
  • create a wide variety of products (documents, presentations, videos, etc.) to demonstrate their thinking and learning;
  • easily share documents and files with teachers and other students so they can turn in assignments electronically, receive timely feedback and support, and collaborate on projects with classmates; and
  • connect and communicate with classmates, teachers, and a global audience through Gmail, Google Hangouts, and Google+.

Introducing the Chromebook

 The ICSD will provide each student in grades 4-12 with a Dell Chromebook 11 i3.  Chromebooks are low-cost personal computers with integrated access to the Google Apps for Education suite and a robust catalog of educational content and online tools.  Rather than using traditional software that resides on the device itself, Chromebooks operate on Google’s web-based Chrome platform and update automatically so they are easy to use, manage, and support.  Furthermore, students must be logged in with their GAFE account to use their Chromebook which creates a personalized and secure user experience.  Students are encouraged to continue their learning outside of the school day by using their Chromebooks at home and other locations outside of school.  A WiFi Internet connection will be required for the majority of Chromebook use, however, some applications can be used while not connected to the Internet. Students are bound by the Ithaca City School DIstrict’ Acceptable Use Policy wherever they use their Chromebooks.
Chromebook Overview

Chromebooks are designed to allow users access to the Internet via the Chrome operating system. In the ICSD, district staff and students can use a district provided account to use Chromebooks and access their Google Apps for Education accounts. The Chromebooks that 4th through 12th grade students will have starting in the 2015-2016 school year allow user to store access and interface with content that is stored remotely with their Google Apps for Education account. Using this tool puts an emphasis on access to the resources of the Internet over access to a specific device. As long as a student has a connection to the internet, using their account they can connect to all the materials they create, communicate with teachers and collaborate with school and community members. Even when a connection to internet is not available, students who are using Chromebook can access create or modify files associated with their Google Apps for Education Google Drive account.  

Using the Chromebook
  • 150428-004.jpgChromebooks have a series of external ports which may be used to connect to external devices such as USB thumb drives, projectors, video cameras, mouse or other media devices. Depending on the device and device drivers, many of these may indeed work with a Chromebook. On the left side of a Chromebook, there is an HDMI port, two USB ports and an audio port.  There is also the connection point for the Chromebook charging chord.
  • On the right side of the device there is an SD card slot and a lockpoint. The ICSD issued Chromebooks do not have the ability to connect directly to the internet through an Ethernet port since no such ports exist on the device.
  • Trackpad: Most of the Chromebook use is driven through a central trackpad that correlates hand movement to mouse movement on the screen. The track pad allows users to click via a soft tap or a firm pressdown of the trackpad button. If users simultaneously touch and press down the track pad with two fingers a option menu appears much like a right click with a traditional mouse.
  • Sign on process: The sign on of a Chromebook requires the user to have an ICSD issued domain name and password.  Without an ICSD domain name users will be unable to use a ICSD issued Chromebook. A standard gmail account will not be able to access Chromebook.  If you are unsure regarding your domain name please contact the technology department.
  • Offline: Since a Chromebook is a web-based tool, it has limited offline capabilities. If a user desires to use or access files while not connected to the Internet this can be done so through the offline options in the Google Drive settings console. For further information on this process, please see this video. It is also important to note, that users must be sure to sync content while connected to the Internet in order to have access to content while offline.
  • Trouble shooting: Since Chromebooks have a very simple operating system, there are a set of basic functions that you can use to troubleshoot the device. If an individual web site is not operating or its buttons seem to be inactive, please press ctrl R.  Doing this allows the user to reload the web page which often solves the problem. If problems persist, consider restarting the device using the power button. This process should only take 20 to 30 seconds. If there are issues with the internet connection, make sure that you are connected to the ICSD network or your home internet network. This connection information can be found on the bottom right section of the Chromebook display. If there are still problems and you still have trouble connecting, please contact the technology department.

Resources for Parents

  • Go Guardian
    The district has contracted with a Chromebook management service called Go Guardian.  This service allows for the remote filtering of ICSD issued Chromebooks.  This service also has theft prevention features that assist the district in locating stolen devices.
  • Common Sense Media
    This is a valuable resource for parents to use when thinking about issues concerning students and technology. The site offers many links and resources on how to work with children and get them to the understand the impact of technology. Included on Common Sense are a series of conversation starters for parents to have with their children on topics including dealing with cyber bullying, digital drama, digital footprints, privacy online and the distraction of it technology. Additionally, digital citizenship curriculum, which Common Sense Media publishes, will provide the basis for the curriculum that teachers use when teaching digital citizenship in the classroom
  • Screen Time
    Screen time is an issue that many parents and guardians deal with on a daily basis. Studies show that there is a stark difference between passive and active screen time. Meaningful learning occurs when students actively engage in using technological devices to communicate collaborate and create. Conversely, long periods of passive technology use for students can have negative development effects. ICSD teachers strive to use instructional technology tool to support and develop meaningful learning opportunities.   

Resources for Students

  • Your Responsibility 
    Each student will be assigned a Chromebook for the duration of the 2015 to 2016 school year. The maintenance and care of this device is the responsibility of the student. As part of those responsibilities each student should bring the Chromebook to school fully charged every morning and be sure to report any Chromebook damage or other issues to the appropriate parties
  • Login Information
    Student logins are student first name dot (.) last name all put together with the domain name (example: Student passwords are their 7-digit ID numbers or lunch card numbers. If students cannot figure out their login information or passwords, they are encouraged to contact their building librarian.
  • Reporting Lost, Stolen, or Damaged Chromebooks
    If a Chromebook is damaged, students should let their classroom teachers know. The technology department has designed a system where a local technician will check broken Chromebooks at each building. The building library will have a station where students who do not have a Chromebook may check out a device for the day. If a Chromebook has been stolen, students or parents should immediately report the loss to their building administrator and/or teacher.
  • Digital Citizenship
    Students are responsible for all content that is created, stored and associated with their ICSD Google Apps for Education account. Students are required to take part in district digital citizenship curriculum provided to them through district technology personnel, building librarians and classroom teachers. This curriculum is vital in illustrating that students have accessed and understood the responsibilities of operating in a digital environment and using a district issued device. Additionally, students must understand that the content they create must comply with district policies.

Resources for Staff

  • Go Guardian Teacher Edition
    The district uses a Chromebook filtering system called Go Guardian. This system works to filter student Chromebook activity and block students from accessing appropriate internet content. Additionally, Go Guardian will be developing a teacher classroom management console where teachers can monitor student devices from a centralized station. Use of the teacher console for Go Guardian will be forthcoming in the fall.
  • Google Classroom
    Google classroom is a classroom content management system designed to digitize the workflow process of student assignments. Teachers can assign papers quizzes or any other assignment to students and collect the assignments in a digital format. Google Classroom also allows teachers to grade and return work in graded form to classroom students. The instructional technology Department continues to offer support for teachers interested in learning more about using Google classroom.
  • Google Play For Education
    (App assignment) Google Play for education allows teachers to assign apps to Chromebook users. These apps then appear in the user Chromebook start menu. Google Play for Education also allows teachers to assign books in digital format to the students account.  
  • 1:1 Success
    Many districts across the United States have implemented one-to-one initiatives. The ICSD is one of the largest districts in the state to deploy from books on a one-to-one level and iPads at a classroom set level. Use this link to research other districts that have similarly used Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education.