In person, virtual or hybrid: helpful tools for back to school

As a former director at the largest school district in the United States, I’ve witnessed the challenges of preparing for the back-to-school season. It can be daunting to equip your districts, educators, students and families with the educational resources they need to go back to school with confidence.

We recently sat down with a group of school administrators from around the world to get a sense of what they’re thinking about when using digital tools to overcome challenges for back to school in 2021. Although the term “going back to school” looks different across different schools, states and countries, here are a few of the top things administrators are thinking about to help guide you when going back to the classroom, regardless of whether you’ll be in-person, virtual or a hybrid of the two. To find more tips for how to use Google tools this upcoming school year, check out our Back to School Guide for school leaders.

Tools to enhance teaching and learning

Ruth Yeh, a teacher and technology advisor at Taipei First Girls High School, said she’s thinking a lot about how different it continues to be “to conduct classes the way we used to, and making sure all students are given the attention they need to learn and grow.” Ruth said that using Google tools, educators have been able to connect with students in real time using Google Meet, or do daily check-ins on mood with Google Forms or Google Classroom. Nothing can replace being in person – but tech tools can help bridge the gap in the meantime.

We’ve seen educators using Jamboard to have class brainstorms and discussions (all within a Google Meet!), where students can share ideas by writing and adding images in real time on a digital whiteboard. And for checking for understanding, Google Forms make conducting and grading quizzes easier – and can also be used for student check-ins. Educators are using Forms now to reach out to students with an emotional-health questionnaire and ask simple questions about how they are feeling… and then can set up time to talk to them afterwards.

Supporting students and families beyond the classroom

“Parents and guardians are trying to help their kids with their schoolwork, but sometimes don’t understand the tools and devices,” says Femi Aina, Executive Director of IT at Atlanta Public Schools. The biggest issue: They had trouble finding Meet links for their children’s virtual classes. Atlanta Public School teachers and principals resolved this problem by providing the support and resources guardians needed to understand how to use Google Classroom and other Google for Education tools, including the Tech Toolkit for Families and Guardians video series.

Providing students and families with supplemental resources beyond the classroom curriculum can help them understand how they can use Google for Education tools to support their education. Guardians can learn how to support their children’s education through Google resources like Google FamiliesGuardian’s Guides to Google for Education Tools and this information on setting up Classroom email summaries for guardians. For more support resources, check out our Help Center.

Google’s commitment to data privacy and security

Chin Song, Director of Technology at Milpitas Unified, told us that he’s planning on updating policies in Google Admin Console to ensure a safe learning environment, like the new age-based access setting, and making sure all of the district’s Chromebooks are updated to the latest operating system. And Ron Caroll, Manager of Instructional Technology at Chicago Public Schools, said in addition to customizing policies to protect students’ online learning experiences, it’s equally important to bring parents and guardians along during the process.

To inform guardians about their children’s use of Google Workspace for Education tools and how these tools protect their security online, Chicago Public Schools is planning on sharing information to help them learn more about Google’s privacy and security policies, like these frequently asked questions.

By customizing settings and updating policies, schools can support safer learning experiences for students through Google Admin console. Leverage resources to help inform families about security and privacy like the Safer Learning with Google for Education Guide, Google’s security commitments, our Be Internet Awesome Family Guide and our Guardian’s Guide to Privacy and Security.

Stay up-to-date with your Google for Education products

Mark Garrison, Chief Academic & Innovation Officer at Breck School, said his previous team typically spent summers focused on Chromebook deployment, helping schools set up and manage their devices. And Chin Song said his district has a secretary that logs every single Chromebook in a consolidated spreadsheet when deploying devices, to keep inventory management efficient. This year, they’re focusing on not only getting devices ready for in school learning, but also preparing them to go home, too.

Setting up and deploying Chromebooks ahead of the back-to-school season can help the return to the classroom be more seamless. For tips on how to set up new user accounts or pre-installing apps and extensions, check out the Chrome Device deployment guide for step-by-step instructions and this guide for sending Chromebooks home.

Regardless of how your school setup will look this year, our team is working to make digital tools easier and more helpful for everyone. For more best practices on heading back to school with Google for Education tools, check out Teaching Resources and our Google for Education Back-to-School Guide