GOOGLE for Education, backed by Chromebooks, is emerging as the technology of choice among schools and universities across South Africa and the rest of Africa, as they move into a new era of teaching and learning.
This is according to Digcloud Africa and Google for Education partner iTechSolutions, who say public and private schools are fast moving into an era of digitally enabled education.
Daryl Duncan, Founder and Partner at iTechSolutions, says the pandemic accelerated schools’ plans to deploy technology throughout their environments. “There has been a big push to drive one-on-one learning, improve learning management solutions and utilise devices in classrooms. This in order to access resources, collaborate, upload assignments and for peer review both in class and remotely,” he says.
“Connectivity was a hurdle, but more private and public sector organisations are making free or low-cost connectivity available to schools. This now enables them to embrace new ways of teaching and learning. Schools want to enable real-time access to collaboration tools, learning and resources wherever learners are, but they also need the environment to be secure and easy to manage. This is why adoption of Google for Education is picking up. It makes collaboration easy – anywhere, any time – and solves the security issue by following the learner wherever they go.”
Candice Erasmus, Training and Change Management Consultant at Digicloud Africa and end-user specialist for Google Workspace, says Google for Education ticks all the boxes for schools, parents and learners.
“Learning is at the heart of what Google does, and over 170 million students and teachers worldwide use Google Workspace for Education to power learning. Over 150 million students and educators use Google Classroom and over 50 million students and educators use Chromebooks,” Erasmus says.
“Because Google tools are familiar to everyone, the Education suite is easy to navigate and use. With Google, there is one version and full functionality across any device and users don’t have to download an app. Importantly for much of Africa, it’s as easy to use on mobile devices as it is on laptops. It’s uniform, it can do everything and schools love it. We’re seeing phenomenal uptake,” she says.
Digicloud Africa is Google’s chosen enablement partner in Africa for Google Cloud products, including Google Workspace, Google Cloud Platform, Chrome Enterprise and Google for Education solutions.
Erasmus says Google for Education is available in tiered and customisable editions, starting with Google Workspace for Education Fundamentals, with free and secure tools for communication and collaboration. Schools can opt to upgrade to Education Standard; Teaching and Learning Upgrade; or the premier Education Plus Edition – a transformative solution with advanced security and analytics and enhanced teaching and learning tools.
The enterprise-grade version enables meetings with up to 500 participants and streaming to up to 100 000 in-domain viewers with Google Meet. It also allows personalised cloud search within the customer’s domain. Every edition includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Meet, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Classroom, Sites, Assignments, Groups, Drive, Admin, Tasks and Jamboard. Google Classroom enables teachers to assess progress from anywhere and includes originality reporting to check for plagiarism and copying among learners.
Duncan notes that schools prefer using Google’s integrated ecosystem for security and management. “For young learners, teachers can lock down some of the features in line with policies and principles, so they enjoy ease of use and ease of management. When they standardise Google Chromebooks as part of this ecosystem, management becomes even easier,” he says.
Chromebook devices, typically priced lower than other devices, complete the Google learning environment.
Harnessing the Chrome OS, Chromebooks are easy for IT to administer, secure and simple to use. They are available in a range of shapes and sizes – including tablets, convertibles and laptops.
“Schools are starting to put Chromebooks on their stationery lists,” he says. “When all the devices are standardised, teachers find it easier to help students and talk them through which buttons to press, and the school can easily roll-out patches and updates.”
iTechSolutions works with a growing number of schools and tertiary institutions to help them optimise and manage their new environments.
“Schools are realising that it’s best to work hand in hand with a partner such as iTechSolutions for training, best practice system management and to help them get the best value and most effective use out of the solution,” says Duncan.
“We are technically skilled and certified to offer ongoing training and support to ensure schools get the best value out of their investment.”