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ChromeOS Schoolwide, is it possible?

Are you a school leader interested in enhancing efficiency and reducing your annual costs? Take ChromeOS everywhere.

Efficiency and reducing annual expenditure are two goals that we often strive for, especially within the education sector. Two goals that can be key to continuous digital improvement; however, not often can you achieve both simultaneously. Sometimes to increase efficiency you have to spend more; sometimes to reduce expenditure you naturally spend less but then do not have the right tools for the job.

So how can we achieve this? One of the answers may be to take ChromeOS everywhere.

In this post, we will be exploring a potential avenue or route your School could take, ChromeOS school-wide: is it possible? What are the benefits of this option? Why should you entertain this pathway in the first place?

Let us start with the 'why' - always an important question whenever changes are being made. The change shouldn't be a rash or rushed choice; changes at this scale should be discussed with all stakeholders and planned out thoroughly as part of your Digital Strategy.

Person using a laptop

Why should we take ChromeOS schoolwide? Many schools who have opted for the Google route, such as 1:1 Chromebook schemes coupled with the use of Google Workspace for Teaching & Learning, might just stop there.

What is the benefit of taking everything a step further and spreading ChromeOS across the school into every crack and corner - why should we do it?

Simplicity and Value - Simplifying your technology across your school can help raise efficiency amongst staff and their workflows, and better-value-for-money devices can also help decrease annual costs. My school is currently working towards this aim, as is our MAT collectively.

Simplicity - Our day-to-day lives are hard enough without added pressures of technology going wrong in the classroom, or being too complex. We are not naively suggesting that ChromeOS solves all problems and that technology will never fail... But reducing complexities down to a simplified standardised setup across a school, and long-term across an organisation will be so important.

Value - This is an important term, not to be confused with 'saving money' or 'reducing costs'. Although choosing a ChromeOS everywhere route will help with reducing operating costs, the aim is to get the best value solution that meets the organisational needs. The cost reduction is a more-than-welcome side effect.

Efficiency - Streamlining processes should be a main measurable outcome. By taking ChromeOS everywhere, we simplify our technology across the school, and feed that directly into the inner engine of the school, to increase efficiency. When all staff members, including teaching, admin, support and leadership, use the exact same systems it naturally creates better working links between teams as workflows become more seamless. This is instead of having a 'hybrid-estate' of devices that require a variety of working methods.

EdTech is often seen as technology used within the actual areas of teaching & learning; however, we should begin to see it as technology used across the entire education establishment.

Person on a laptop

By optimising the use of EdTech across the establishment, we can begin to work more cohesively and synergistically. Here’s a personal example of the confusion I have seen: the admin team requests certain data to be used in Microsoft Excel, whereas teachers use Google Sheets. The tools’ fundamentals are very similar but the ways they’re used are vastly different. Admin managed multiple copies and versions of spreadsheets that were emailed back and forth. Teachers were more used to the collaborative approach of Google Workspace. These barriers can be removed by streamlining procedures so that both parties work in the same way.

Creating efficiency is just part of the overall goal. Obviously, there will be some speed bumps along the way, but long-term the benefits of a simplified approach to technology will make life smoother. With these changes made, IT Support provision may be able to support staff and students far quicker than before.

The other half of the goal is bringing better value into IT procurement. For example, removing Windows devices and replacing them with ChromeOS devices can have a large impact on overall costs and expenditure. However, that is not the main aim; the aim is to bring about better value. The right step to help increase efficiency is moving to the ChromeOS ecosystem, and this just happens to be a very good way to bring down expenditure.

By removing Windows devices, you suddenly do not have a need for such an extensive Windows Server network. Some Windows Server services are only required if you are indeed managing Windows Devices. So by removing one side (the devices), you can safely presume that you can remove at least the majority of the other. The next steps are then to see what you are currently using your Windows Servers for and if you can migrate them to a more cost-effective solution, whether it be changing what operating system your servers are running, or opting for a serverless or cloud approach.

As ever though, with any large-scale project or change, there are always going to be issues that get in the way. These all depend on the situation you find yourself in; each school will be different and has its own set of circumstances that have an impact.

Certain software only has applications that run on Windows; they might not have a web-based alternative. This issue may be simple enough to resolve - maybe they do have a web-based alternative and you just need to re-train users on this different solution. Or you may have to stop using the application altogether and research and find a different solution. These tasks will take time, and need to be factored in early on in the decision-making process.

A significant point to consider is your Management Information Systems (MIS) provider. In the secondary setting, the main player in the UK for years now has been SIMS: heavily Windows-based, requiring Windows Server to host it and Windows Devices to access the application. Although you can look at add-ons that can make it web-based, SIMS itself is not designed with that in mind. We recently migrated our Trust from SIMS to Arbor, a completely web-based MIS, and this has had a positive impact on the way we work. It has also allowed more freedom and flexibility when it came to the decisions around going ChromeOS everywhere, as our MIS is now accessible from any device.

At the end of the day, moving to ChromeOS everywhere is definitely possible. Remember that no matter the issue that arises, there is always a solution. Glean all the information possible from your staff about their current workflows and circumstances and what applications they use. Then work from there, and design your solution with all stakeholders' interests in mind. You may not be able to cater for them all, but as a collective moving forward, taking ChromeOS everywhere can increase efficiency and give you better value for money in your IT equipment and future procurement.

Dan headshot

Dan is the IDS & Google Lead at a Google Reference School that is 1:1 with Chromebooks. Dan and his team provide inclusive digital services to staff, students and parents. As a Google Certified Trainer and a Certified ChromeOS Administrator, Dan can up-skill and develop understanding in both teachers and techies across the Google Workspace ecosystem. Having somewhat recently taken the plunge into the world of education, he is very proud to have been shortlisted for the EduFuturists Network Manager of the Year 2020 Award.


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