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Chicago Public Schools Says Communication Was Key to Successful Google Apps Rollout

Strong communication and well-planned training were behind the success of the recent rollout of Google Apps for Education across 681 schools in Chicago Public Schools (CPS), according to Lachlan Tidmarsh, chief information officer for CPS.

Before implementing Google Apps for Education last fall, the district's principals and administrators used Microsoft Outlook for communications, and the teachers used OpenText FirstClass. The district decided to move to a consolidated system to save money and improve remote access, and narrowed the options down to Google and Microsoft. For the final decision, the district consulted with teachers and administrators, who ultimately chose Google Apps for Education.

The district completed the implementation in time for the start of the 2012 school year, migrating 270,000 administrators, teachers, and students to Google Apps. The district worked with Google Apps partner SADA Systems to help with the migration and training. As part of the rollout, they designated one staff member in each school as a "Google Hero." The Google Heroes were trained on the system before it went live and were available to help others in the school. The district also provided faculty and staff with online tutorials, blogs, and classroom-based instruction. When the new system went live, the help desk received very low call volumes.

Since the implementation, CPS teachers have been finding new and creative uses for Google Apps for Education. Many teachers are sharing assignments with students through Google Drive. Some teachers create daily quizzes in Google Forms to assess student understanding and use the results to tailor their lesson plans for the following day. The district also plans to use the system to coordinate school operations and communicate with students in case of a snowstorm or other major weather event.

Google will be discussing the CPS rollout of Google Apps at the FETC 2013 conference taking place this week in Orlando, FL.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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