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Implementation of Google Apps for Education pushes DoDDS-Europe closer to 21st Century

WIESBADEN, GERMANY — December 17, 2013 — As advances in technology continue to mold society in how people live, work and play, reliance on internet-based technologies has grown exponentially.

DoDDS-Europe educators are hard at work staying ahead of the curve by transitioning their professional and curriculum development to highlight 21st Century skills needed by today's students and educators.

To assist in the 21st Century push, beginning this school year, DoDEA adopted Google Apps for Education for all students in 3rd-12th grade and for educators who wish to use it.

Careers of the future will require new skills and the ability to adapt and quickly learn will be keys to success, according to Dr. Russ Claus, Assistant Deputy Director for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment.

"This system, I believe, is a hallmark of student collaboration and a key component for addressing 21st Century goals for our districts and schools," said Claus. "They fall in line with Tony Wagner's Seven Essential 21st Century Skills which we have adapted as a model of sharing information regarding 21st Century education."

Google Apps is a cloud-based program where everything is automatically placed in the cloud. All email, documents, projects and calendars can be accessed and worked on anytime and anywhere from a computer or tablet device.

These Apps, already used by millions, will change and shape the way our educators and students make use of computer resources worldwide, according to Claus.

The suite procured includes Google email, shared documents and storage to be used as a creative platform for student collaboration. More than 30,000 accounts for students and teachers have already been created for DoDDS-Europe.

All schools have access to the apps and many teachers have already taken the opportunity to move forward with the voluntary program, said Pat Ridge, DoDDS-Europe Area Educational Technologist. He estimates that it will take two years for full implementation.

"With the click of a mouse, every student in a given class will have access to the most current version of any document or presentation and edits can be made at the same time if students are collaborating," added Ridge.

Because this program is in its infancy, the DoDDS-Europe Education Division has been working to put together online learning resources, tutorials and newsletters to assist educators in the development of their individual programs. Teachers and students get a mutual benefit from this technology.

According to Dr. Aaron Marsters, special education instructional systems specialist, the apps offer a user friendly tool to increase collaboration with DoDEA colleagues and students around the world.

"Already I am using forms to ascertain training needs, collecting feedback on live and virtual professional development offerings and analyzing work related data," he explained. "The Docs app has allowed me to keep a running record of notes and resources that can easily be shared and edited by participants.

"It (Google apps) offers enhanced learning opportunities for students with diverse learning needs," he continued. "Students use traditional digital features to complete tasks with the added benefit of working, sharing and collaborating in the cloud.Students use the digital tools with peers and teachers to demonstrate understanding while receiving essential synchronous and asynchronous feedback and edits anytime or anywhere with internet access.Working and actively collaborating online allows students the opportunity to develop into responsible digital citizens."

A really bright spot for this program is affordability.

"Besides the educational advantages, in today's fiscally constrained environment, the Apps reduce the IT workload significantly because Google maintains the servers and software," Claus explained. "Also, all data is automatically backed up by Google—meaning that if a student has a computer problem or forgets their work—a copy is always available."

Marsters believes DoDEA as a whole will benefit from the use of this centralized productivity suite which leverages the best features of web 2.0 for creating, communicating and working in a globallyThe future looks bright and the DoDDS-Europe educational leadership is doing its part to bring this technology to students.

"I'm excited about the future learning possibilities in our classrooms," Claus said. "Military students really benefit from this because it is a key component of educational technology integration in many school districts and universities—we are truly preparing them to compete in the 21st Century workplace."