Garland ISD was recently named a Google for Education Reference District, making it the largest school district in the nation to receive this recognition.
The title demonstrates excellence and thought leadership through the innovative use of technology to drive impact and positive learning outcomes. GISD had to submit accomplishments and a story of impact application in order to receive this honor.
"I see it as a recognition of all the hard work all of our staff are doing, so it's not a single person that has earned this award,” said Executive Technology Officer Matt Yeager. "We put a lot of training and professional development into this to allow teachers to be involved in this, but most of it is because what we're doing in the classroom, our main thing is how we impact student learning."
Last school year the district rolled out its Ready 1:1 Chromebooks at the middle school level, and this year the district is phasing Chromebooks in their high schools as they phase out the use of iPads.
Yeager noted that although they’re phasing in Chromebooks at the high school level, all of the campuses and departments have been using Google platforms. But their focus now is on the teachers and putting the resources in their hands to continue student growth.
Brian Dean, digital learning facilitator, handles the training side of things and how teachers can implement technology in their instruction.
"Our teachers have truly been able to start to integrate this seamlessly because every kid has access (to Chromebooks) and it wasn’t that way prior,” Dean said.
"With this reference category we have an enhanced partnership with Google. So they provide our students so many opportunities for partnerships, internships, and extra certifications,” Yeager added.
The two also noted that this aligns with the district’s College, Career, and Military Readiness initiative. Because they’re preparing students for whatever route they choose, whether it be college or straight into a job or the military, with Google partnership and certification students will get a leg up.
Additionally, utilizing Google platforms allows all students to collaborate with their peers and teachers without a face-to-face, something that is increasingly common in college and careers today.
"Some students are going to gravitate to more of the standard athletics, band or choir, etc., but this provides an avenue that maybe a really shy or quiet kid who never really talked much a way to connect with their teachers and their peers,” Dean said.
Yeager said they pursued this recognition because it was something that showed what staff and students can do.
"Being a reference district now other districts can look upon Garland ISD and say, 'What are you doing? How are you doing that?' because we're producing outcomes,” he said.
Garland ISD can provide site visits and advice to other districts in this area as well.