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Interview: Google for Education & Homeschooling Tips

"You often hear from other schools about what doesn't work. I think it's important to share what does work for a change. Working with students in distance learning is reliable and seamless. Any issues that arise can be quickly resolved, partly because we use Chromebooks and Google Workspace for Education."
Vanessa Wissel, Deputy Headteacher of PGS Kahl Middle School

Most schools in Germany were caught completely unprepared by the Corona crisis, and the introduction of digital instruction and homeschooling was, and mostly still is, fraught with considerable difficultiesExternal Link. But fortunately, this is not the case for all of them. One positive exception is the middle school at PGS Kahl. Even before Corona, Vanessa Wissel, deputy principal and IT officer at PGS in Kahl, had been intensively involved with Google Workspace for Education (formerly G Suite for Education) and Chromebooks and had begun integrating them into the classroom. Jasmin Wirth, another teacher, supports her with the administration of the devices.

In an initial conversation at the beginning of the pandemic, she had told us why she or her school had originally chosen Google for Education. The middle school at PGS had already been using Chromebooks in the classroom before the lockdown, so they were able to draw on prior experience in distance learning. We wanted to know how her school has fared since then, what her experiences with Google for Education and homeschooling have been, and what tips she might have for other educational institutions. Vanessa Wissel...

...about the transition to homeschooling and the current situation

"We've really had very few problems. The Chromebooks are used in different ways in our classes, and now we're simply transferring that to homeschooling. For example, the students get a topic from us, work on it collaboratively, share it with us, and then present it in a video conference. This works really well, especially when I look at other schools. Quite often, the students are only sent a weekly plan and then have hardly any contact with the teacher for the whole week. That's not the case here at all, we teach according to a timetable. This ensures that important learning material can still be taught in all subjects despite distance learning.

...about the frequent use of video conferencing

"One of the reasons we do so much videoconferencing in classes is so we can keep in touch with students and respond to issues and concerns right away. That's very important to us. The communication that students lack in lockdown, we try to pick up as much as we can in the videoconferences.

...about teaching with Google Meet

"The video conferencing is going great. Teachers often share screens, but students can do that too to show something. I also use the integrated Jamboard. I just share that in the video conference if I want to explain a task in more detail It gives me great pleasure to try new things with the students and prepare them specifically for the digital world. The students are just great and everyone gives their best.

One innovation was the breakout rooms, are the breakout rooms. The teachers like to use them to divide the students into small groups. It's just a lot of fun to work with and brings variety into the lessons.

The Breakout Rooms feature is only available in G Suite Enterprise for Education, but the upgrade was no problem. Everything was set up in 2 days, thanks to the simple administration."

Practical tips for other schools

Vanessa Wissel feels it is important to share her experiences with Google for Education and homeschooling with other schools and to exchange ideas:

"You always hear from other schools about what doesn't work. I think it's important to share what works. Working with students in distance learning is reliable and smooth. Any problems that arise can be resolved quickly, not least because we use Chromebooks and Google Workspace for Education. This also enabled us to lend 48 Chromebooks to students within a few days."

She therefore has some practical tips on how to successfully implement digital teaching.

Tip 1: Extend Google Workspace for Education with EduPage

"We use G Suite in combination with EduPageExternal Link. There is a digital class book with a timetable where teachers can easily create a Google Meet video conference. A blue camera icon appears in the class book. Students who are logged in with a Google account just need to click on the camera icon in the class book and they automatically join the video conference for that lesson. It's perfect."

Tip 2: Step-by-step instructions for students, teachers and parents

"To get everyone on board, I've created step-by-step guides with pictures. This way, everyone knows where to click. Additionally, I've prepared a teacher and parent handbook for our digital classbook EduPage. It gives teachers and parents the confidence they need. We communicate and support each other within the faculty, which is very valuable. Of course, the digital world is rapidly evolving, and we try to stay updated and meet these challenges through in-house teacher training. I'm aware that it's not always easy."

Tip 3: Media badge for personal passwords

"Our students often face issues with their passwords because they're unsure where to store them and end up forgetting. That's why we introduced a 'media pass,' listing students' passwords, which they carry with them. If a password is ever lost, we can quickly reset it thanks to Google Workspace for Education's straightforward online management."

About us

Educational institutions and Public Cloud Group? We would be happy to support you in the introduction of Chrome devicesExternal Link and Google Workspace for EducationExternal Link.

Benefit from our experience with Google for Education and homeschooling, successfully introduce digital lessons and make them more interactive. For a successful start, we offer step-by-step instructions, among other things.

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