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At Upper Dublin School District, Google Workspace for Education Plus brings training flexibility and added security

About Upper Dublin School District

Located in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, the Upper Dublin School District (UDSD) comprises four elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school, serving 4,100 students in grades K-12. The district uses digital tools to support its mission of providing a safe environment in which all students are respected, educated, encouraged, and challenged to become lifelong learners within a global society.

"When you record a PD session, you create an artifact that someone else can access later. Or you can record meetings, so people can catch up on them later in the day."

Philip Vinogradov, Chief Technology Officer, Upper Dublin School District

Aligning technology to teaching and learning goals

For years, Philip Vinogradov worked as a teacher and tech coach in school districts that hadn’t made the leap to blended learning and technology in classrooms. When he arrived at UDSD as Director of Technology and Learning, he leapt at the opportunity to create lifelong learners by implementing tools like Chromebooks and Google Workspace.

“I always felt that Google, Chromebooks, and Google Workspace had truly transformative potential,” Vinogradov says. “technology has become integral to how students learn, and how teachers prepare them for the opportunities of tomorrow.”

Today, UDSD is a 1:1 Chromebook district in grades, and all students and teachers use Google Workspace. But Vinogradov is quick to note that technology isn’t just in the district because it's shiny and new: It must serve a purpose.

"We have strategic goals for teaching and learning, innovation, and fiscal stewardship," Vinogradov says. "The technology we choose has to align with these goals."

Building an anytime, anywhere PD environment

When Vinogradov learned about Google Workspace for Education Plus, which offers premium features like security dashboards, access controls, and more instructional tools, he realized it could solve a key professional development challenge for UDSD teachers. While both the Plus and standard versions of Google Workspace include Google Meet, the Plus version lets users record meetings with up to 250 attendees.

“We have a lot of professional development going on,” Vinogradov says. “And we want to deliver training in a way that respects teachers' time and allows for flexibility in managing schedules. There are many days in the year where we offer in-service training, and a lot of time is lost with people moving between buildings.” The district's existing video conferencing system allowed for recording, but there was no easy way to share those recordings or stream them to a wider audience. Google Meet eliminates the friction that prevented teachers from attending professional development sessions.

“When you record a PD session, you create an artifact that someone else can access later," Vinogradov explains. He envisions the possibility of teachers simply setting up meetings to record their best practices for using Chromebooks and Google Workspace in the classroom, then sharing recordings with colleagues and storing them in a PD folder in Google Drive.

In some ways, a recorded PD session is preferable to attending training in person. “When someone views a recording, they can pause, re-watch the highlights, and repeat sections as needed,” he says. “It’s more accurate and efficient than taking notes on the spot.”

Stronger email security

While the Meet recording capability was the initial motivation for Vinogradov’s decision to upgrade to the Google Workspace for Education Plus offering, he also discovered/appreciated the value of its additional security features. When the neighboring Souderton Area School District fell victim to a ransomware attack which shut down school networks, it brought home the potential effects that UDSD students and teachers might suffer in the wake of a cyber attack.

Shortly after implementing Google Workspace for Education Plus, Vinogradov discovered the security sandbox feature for Gmail. When emails arrive for UDSD recipients, the sandbox feature detects malware by opening attachments and executing any code within them, analyzing any possible effects on networks and data before emails are delivered.

"Initially we thought we'd have to spend a lot of money on an endpoint security solution for computers besides Chromebooks—and for students and teachers who might be logging into Google Workspace at home," Vinogradov says. "But we realized that the sandboxing feature took away that day-to-day anxiety about security. It's always working for us in the background—a real set-it-and-forget-it tool."

At a Glance

What they wanted to do

  • Offer teachers more flexibility in accessing professional development
  • workshops by capturing PD sessions for later reuse
  • Improve email security

What they did

  • Adopted Google Workspace for Education Plus

What they accomplished

  • Recorded PD sessions are now available for teachers to access any time
  • Gmail’s sandboxing feature helps protects the district from malware

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