Digital investments help remote learning efforts

Posted On: Friday, April 3, 2020

Nearly seven years ago, Ottawa Hills Local Schools made a decision to go digital in two big ways: by adopting  a suite of education products from Google and launching “OH Global” to eventually put a computer in every student’s hands.

As the COVID-19 crisis moves learning from classrooms to homes, those investments are helping faculty, students, and families make the transition. The crisis also gives the district an opportunity to add video conferencing into the learning toolbox. Google Hangouts Meet (more commonly called Google Meet) is now a central part of students’ weekly educational activities.

The district’s digital transformation started around 2011, as ideas were shared about how to make classrooms more digital and interactive. By 2012, the Green Bear Ball – a biennial community fundraiser – made the digital initiative the beneficiary of that year’s donation ($43,000).

By the summer of 2013, an 18-month review of concepts and proposals ended, as the Board of Education approved the technology policies and procedures for the “OH Global One-to-One Initiative” – the name eventually given to the effort. OH Global now receives annual support through the district’s Permanent Improvement Fund, which also supports the purchase of instructional equipment, textbooks, and building repairs. Families also pay annual fees to keep OH Global operating.

Once the district decided to add computing devices, it needed to pick right software platform. That’s when Google Classroom and other applications from Google come into the picture (see descriptions of each below).

By the fall of 2013, OH Global had placed a 13-inch Mac Air laptop into the hands of every 7th through 12th grader. It also added mobile laptop carts at the Elementary School. Before OH Global, mobile carts and computer labs (four at the Junior/Senior High School) were the primary ways students used computing devices inside the buildings. Every Elementary School classroom also had 4 iMacs.

In addition to regularly refreshing laptops (retiring older ones), OH Global has expanded to now cover every student. Students in grades K-6 are issued a Google Chromebook. Students at the Junior/Senior High School receive Apple laptops

With the additional computing devices has come investments in other technology to enhance learning, from expanded Wi-Fi access points in both buildings to the installation of Clevertouch and Smartboards in classrooms.

With the conversion to Gmail in the spring of 2019, the district completed its transition to Google products. (Software packages for students and faculty, mainly from Adobe Inc. and Microsoft Corp., also are loaded onto machines or available from “the cloud.”)


G Suite for Education: G Suite for Education is a combination of applications designed to help educators and students learn and innovate together. Products in the suite include Drive; Classroom; Docs, Sheets, and Slides; Gmail; Calendar, Forms, Jamboard, Sites, and Groups. The suite also includes Hangouts Meet (sometimes shortened to Google Meet), the video conferencing app. It's always been part of the Google suite, but has not been used widely.

According to Google, more than 80 million students and teachers are using G Suite for Education.

Google Classroom: Google Classroom is a product in the G Suite for Education. It makes teaching more productive and meaningful by streamlining assignments, boosting collaboration, and fostering communication. OH faculty use it to create classes, distribute assignments, send feedback, and see everything in one place. Classroom integrates with other Google tools like Google Docs and Drive. Products like Google Classroom are sometimes called “learning management systems.”

According to Google, more than 40 million students and teachers are using Google Classroom.

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