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12 Ways K-12 CIOs Use CloudReady

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12 Ways K-12 CIOs Use CloudReady

The world of operating systems is changing. 

Microsoft’s Windows has practically dominated the space since 1990, when Windows 3.0 came out. But now Google’s Chrome OS is upending the OS status quo. In just a few years, Chrome OS has gone from nonexistent to totally dominant in U.S. K-12 school districts, making up 70% of new computer shipments in 2018. Now, it is quickly making inroads with large enterprises, government agencies, and other organizations trying to attract and adapt to the next generation of graduates, save money, enhance security, simplify management, and increase reliability, without all of the traditional headaches. Chrome OS has already won early enterprise adopters shifting to the cloud (est. 5% U.S. market share in 2019), and now the early majority are beginning to pile in as the paradigm shifts from Windows and the OS status quo to Chrome OS and doing everything in the browser.

At Neverware, CIOs of school districts ranging from 100 to over 1,000,000 students come to us asking for help transitioning to the cloud - specifically OS help - and they usually have a specific problem they’re trying to solve. But what they come to realize is the paradigm shift with Chrome OS can address a LOT of other issues with their Windows/Mac computing - the cost of refreshing computers, the risk of ransomware attacks, the slow pace of wholesale migration to Chrome OS, the amount of time and effort IT spends supporting the OS status quo, and perhaps most importantly, the time students and teachers waste waiting through slow boot ups, battling through errors, and eye-rolling through lengthy, unexpected updates. Often, they don’t realize it’s an issue until they learn there’s something better.

A bit about our flagship solution: 

CloudReady is an operating system that transforms Windows and Mac computers up to 13 years old (no joke!) into Chromebooks. 

LI-CloudReady-machines.png

Neverware actually guarantees support for this HP Mini 100e model through mid-2023, believe it or not!

 
LI-mini.jpeg
 

And some of the newest ones look like this:

Newer computers that have been converted to Chromebooks using CloudReady

They then behave just like Chromebooks or Chromeboxes for students, teachers, and for IT admins. Students & teachers get faster boot times and better performance (imagine: no more disruptive Windows updates, no freezes/crashes, etc.), and IT eliminates a lot of inefficiencies tied to the OS status quo: 

  • Paying for new computers every 3-5 years

  • Pushing out Group Policy, updates, and security patches

  • Paying for and deploying antivirus and malware software

  • Dealing with endpoint security vendors

  • Handling TONS of helpdesk tickets

  • Reimaging computers

  • Oftentimes, paying to outsource some or all of these

  • Oftentimes, paying to cope with ransomware attacks

These are just a handful of items on the long list of IT responsibilities, though, and solving them can easily fall behind other priorities, especially when some IT admins, teachers, and staff don’t know these are solvable problems, having never worked with anything other than Windows or Mac OS! They don’t know what they don’t know. And those that “get it” might not know how to frame how big an impact Chrome OS/CloudReady can have for their CIO and school district as a whole. 

What would it mean to leave Windows - partially or completely?

After all, it is the OS that everyone has used for the last 25 years!

It takes an open mind and bold leadership from the CIO (and even the superintendent/board) to highlight these inefficiencies, prioritize technology, and tackle them head on - for the benefit of the IT team, students, teachers, and the district’s overall health. If you’re still new to Chromebooks or want some back story on how Google became dominant in K-12 the last few years, here are 4 reasons why Superintendents and CIOs have chosen Chromebooks

And here are 12 ways you can use CloudReady to your advantage as CIO:

1. Save or stretch your budget. 

As CIO, you are under pressure to perform and take on greater and greater responsibility. From digital transformation initiatives to cybersecurity programs, data privacy compliance and physical security, IT supports practically every new initiative in school district today, and it’s dizzying. A couple of CIOs I work with have inherited maintenance responsibilities in their buildings, or work under the policy that if it plugs into an OUTLET, or goes on the network at all, it falls under IT’s responsibility! 

While overall budgets may be increasing for select districts’ IT teams, most are getting squeezed. Even districts that are not actively trying to shrink overall IT costs are expecting investment into new initiatives that drive new student outcomes and therein curtailing legacy infrastructure budgets. CIOs are getting asked to do much more with less, and faster, while totally understaffed. Just ask Hal Friedlander, former CIO for the NYC Department of Education, overseeing IT for over 1.2 million students:

 
 

Or Jeffrey St. Aime, who operates all things Google & IT for Henry County Schools, with 40,000+ students and 40,000+ Chromebooks.

 
 


2. Eliminate end-user obstacles

with faster boot times, better browsing speed, and improved performance. End-users report a 94% decrease in PC downtime normally lost to helpdesk calls, reboots and OS maintenance. As CIO, you are responsible for ensuring the technological productivity of your organization. If students, teachers, and staff can work with greater speed and focus, everyone wins. Technology should get out of their way, never impede them.

 
 

3. Keep Windows 7 computers running, secure and supported after end-of-life (EOL) occurs on Jan 14th, 2020. 

As CIO, you can’t leave Windows 7 computers on Windows 7 - they’re a major security threat on your network and for your district. Upgrading to Windows 10 might be an option, but many Windows 7 computers will not run Windows 10 well, and they might not even fit it on their old, small drives! CloudReady offers you a secure, manageable, and reliable alternative to keep your Windows 7 computers in production for years longer. See how Questar Assessments - a company of 500 people that helps districts across the country with digital testing - does it.

4. Eliminate malware, ransomware and data privacy vulnerabilities. 

Chromebooks are secure by default and cannot launch malware or ransomware. In fact, they’re among the most secure computers out there. As CIO, your superintendent and board are increasingly counting on you to protect the organization from malicious actors and the front page of the newspaper. You can take a giant leap forward by securing your endpoints and student and teacher data with CloudReady.

5. Save your team time. 

IT teams that shift to Chromebooks experience a 78% average drop in helpdesk tickets & never have to update, secure, patch or deploy Group Policy again. As CIO, you then get to decide whether to reduce or repurpose your staff toward more impactful activities that support your teachers and students in new ways.

6. Centralize device management and standardize end-user computing on Chrome. 

As CIO, you want a central view into computers across your organization and control over how they’re used. Google’s Admin console and Chrome device management greatly simplify this for IT and make reporting a breeze.

And students and teachers get a simple interface they already know and love with the Chrome browser. There’s a minimal learning curve, and you can get everyone on the same platform quickly.

7. Increase the useful life of computers (up to 13 years). 

Windows and Mac computers are made to last 3-4 years and then often slow down dramatically. Along with updates come new bloatware (default apps you might not need, background services, etc.), and the cycle perpetuates. It’s a version of planned obsolescence, so that OEMs (Apple, Dell, Lenovo, HP, etc.), resellers, and other service providers stay happy selling new computers, accessories, and services. While some CIOs sweat these assets up to eight or even ten years in rare cases, performance for students and teachers suffers greatly with native OSs, and the computers fall out of compliance with the latest apps and digital testing requirements. 

Kirk Langer at Lincoln Public Schools, an A+ district in Nebraska with 40,000+ students, used CloudReady to extend the useful life of 4,000 Dell Latitude laptops, saving his team support hours in the process.

 
 

CloudReady is made to run on computers up to 13 years old. The OS is designed around efficiency, and modern Chromebook specifications (RAM, storage & processor capability) are remarkably similar to 10-year-old Windows & Mac computers. So the computers run great up until they hit the 13-year mark and even after, allowing CIOs to put off or eliminate costly replacements every 3-4 years. Think your CFO will like that?

8. Easily set up secure kiosks. 

Whether it’s for VDI (Citrix, VMware, Nutanix, etc.), digital signage, sign-in stations, or to lock down computers for high-stakes activities like K-12 state testing, CloudReady and Chromebooks are the easiest way to turn any computer into a secure kiosk

Henry County Schools uses CloudReady for Georgia Milestones Testing (42,000+ students), and CIOs from the largest districts in the country utilize CloudReady and Chromebooks at scale for state testing.

Note: CloudReady is used for state testing in all 50 states and across all major testing platforms (AIR, TestNav, DRC, NWEA, Questar, i-Ready, etc.).

9. Show financial prudence and accountability

to your board, superintendent, CFO, taxpayers, teachers, and parents. When was the last time you gifted them cost savings, productivity boosts, and happier teachers and students that they didn’t expect or realize were possible?

Ramona Loiselle, IT Director at Coronado Unified School District, with ~3,000 students, saved $180,000 with CloudReady and nailed CAASPP testing.

10. Increase good device access 

by getting more computers in student hands, including backups for when kids lose, damage, or leave their computers at home. CIOs know the pain of not having enough computers all too well. Getting 1:1 (one computer per student) is no longer ahead of the curve, it’s the expectationMinimizing the cost and sustaining 1:1 is another story though, and utilizing existing computers helps. CIOs can also turn old, slow, and obsolete computers into good computers that students and teachers want to use again, increasing good access, affordably, all while making it easy for their team. 

Dwayne Alton, Executive Director of IT Infrastructure Services for The School District of Lee County, with 90,000+ students, used CloudReady to increase access, save money and ease the transition from Windows to Chrome at scale.

 
 

11. Establish a long-term, sustainable computer refresh cycle. 

Has your district already budgeted for a refresh in four years, or will it be caught taking cookies from the CapEx cookie jar? As CIO, it makes life easier for everyone when you’ve formulated a long-term plan to keep your computers updated and determined the most appropriate budget well ahead of time. If you can’t quite get where you want today, CloudReady is a great option to bridge the gap. In some cases, CIOs have told us we were even their lifeline, enabling them to get the computers they needed just-in-time and just-within-budget, when they didn’t expect it to be possible.

12. Avoid Chromebook auto-update expiration (AUE). 

CloudReady computers never stop getting updates, and models are supported until 13 years after their release date. With regular Chromebooks, you have to budget for new ones every 5-6 years, at a maximum. 

With CloudReady, you gain the flexibility to sweat your assets as long as you want, and to avoid the effort and cost to actually do a replacement so often. Some CIOs are even buying new and refurbished Windows computers + CloudReady to avoid AUE.

What do you think? Will you swim with the rising tide, or sink with the OS status quo?

Have you checked what districts around you are doing? Have they already begun swimming, or maybe even raced ahead?

 

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CloudReady is now Citrix Ready certified

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CloudReady is now Citrix Ready certified

Hiya CloudReady Fans!


We’re back with another blog post to tell you about an awesome partnership we’ve established.

CloudReady, meet your long-lost cousin (on your father’s side), Citrix Ready!

Neverware has joined forces with Citrix to officially certify CloudReady with Citrix’s suite of solutions, under their Citrix Ready program.

Before jumping into what this means, let’s hit pause for a second and talk about what Citrix is.

What is this Citrix business anyway?

Citrix is the company behind an industry-leading virtualization product, Citrix Virtual Apps and Desktops (formerly known as XenApp and XenDesktop). Virtual Apps and Desktops allows organizations to securely and conveniently use Windows or Linux applications/desktops, running on a remote cloud or on-premises data center resources, and delivered to any end user device, ranging from mobile phone to CloudReady device to Chromebook to Windows PC.
More information here.

What is the Citrix Ready Program?

As defined by Citrix, “Citrix Ready is a partner program that showcases verified partner products trusted to enhance Citrix solutions for mobility, virtualization, networking and cloud platforms. The Citrix Ready designation is awarded to third-party partners that have successfully met test criteria set by Citrix, and gives customers added confidence in the compatibility of the joint solution offering.”

While CloudReady and Citrix have always worked well together, this partnership takes it one step further, providing additional elements of value to our customers and our product.


So really, why is this partnership important to CloudReady and our customers?

  • It’s not official until it’s on Facebook the Citrix Ready Marketplace.
    CloudReady is now officially defined as a supported operating system in Citrix’s Chrome Devices ecosystem, so that organizations can confidently adopt CloudReady without replacing their hardware or tools.

  • Can you hear me now?
    This partnership has deepened the channel of communication between Neverware and Citrix Product & Support teams, allowing Neverware to be both a strong resource of knowledge and a voice for our customers that are either using or considering using Citrix products.

  • Into the future, and beyond!
    Citrix Ready certification doesn’t only mean mutual product compatibility at this point in time. It also means that all future improvements Neverware & Citrix make to their products will be supported and complimentary.

Why would I want to use Citrix on CloudReady?

Many organizations see the value of CloudReady’s secure, manageable and easy-to-use platform, but dependencies on old or familiar Windows applications stop them from changing their endpoint OS. Things like Andrew from finance’s killer Microsoft Excel macros or Michelle from accounting’s full-version of Quickbooks are the reasons that organizations feel the need to remain on old/legacy platforms.


There’s a solution!

Virtualization tools like Citrix can deliver these applications seamlessly to your CloudReady devices, allowing your users to experience all the great things that come with CloudReady without sacrificing any business-critical functionality. Users and teams that are ready to move to a full cloud experience can do so, while users who still rely on legacy applications can continue to use them via CloudReady and Citrix’s highly secure and manageable environment. The combination of Windows applications running in Citrix’s seamless window mode, with CloudReady’s local, multimedia-rich browsing and web application experience, is sure to change the way you think about end user computing.

 

Microsoft Excel running seamlessly on CloudReady via Citrix.


 
 
Note

Side Note:

Our Product Team is working hard to further improve the experience of Windows apps on CloudReady. Want to help us mold the next-generation of end user computing?

 


How did we achieve Citrix Ready certification?

The CloudReady operating system was run through an exhaustive list of test criteria that validate the robust Citrix Virtual Apps & Desktops features, specifically on CloudReady devices. Things like graphics performance, multi-monitor support, & peripheral support are all tested to ensure a high standard of functionality across the entire CloudReady operating system.

We can all now sleep soundly at night, assured that we’ve done the testing, research and due diligence to ensure enterprise-ready compatibility with Citrix technology and CloudReady.

Got questions?

Using Citrix on CloudReady or Chrome OS already? We’d love to hear from you! Reach out here.

 

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Quiz: Are you CloudReady?

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Quiz: Are you CloudReady?

Our friend (and fellow Google enthusiast) JR Raphael published a piece over at Computerworld intended to help people get to the bottom of a question that’s near and dear to our hearts:

Is Chrome OS right for you?

In his post, JR posed three questions that readers could answer to learn if they were ready to make the move to Chromebooks, noting that people are always asking him if Chromebooks might be right for their needs.

Although JR’s post was seemingly targeted more at consumers, we often hear a similar question from decision-makers and influencers at organizations that are considering making the move to CloudReady.

We thought that providing some additional context to the questions in JR’s quiz could be helpful for people considering a similar question:

Are you CloudReady? Take the quiz.
 

Is

CloudReady Horizontal Logo (1).png

right for you?

1. Do you spend most of your time using the web and web-centric services?

JR’s first question really gets to the heart of the matter. If your school or business (or even a specific team or OU within your organization) spends most of their working time in a browser, particularly if they’re using a productivity suite such as G Suite or Office 365 online, CloudReady’s a homerun for you. You’ll benefit from the speed you get thanks to the lightweight OS, and IT teams will love the inherent security and protection from malware and viruses...not to mention the ability to manage all your CloudReady devices using the Google Admin console.

You may think you need a MacBook Pro, but you don’t. Just today, our senior project manager walked over and said, ‘Hey, I want one of those Chromebooks.’ He was excited about using it because he doesn’t need anything else but a web browser. This is lighter in software and lighter physically.
— Marc Dantona, Kiva.org
 
 


2. Do you have specific local programs that you absolutely need, or could most of the things you do on a computer be accomplished with web-centric equivalents — along with Android and/or Linux apps to fill in any gaps?

The second question in JR’s Chrome OS quiz highlights an important piece of any transition: change management.

As we alluded to in the previous response, there will always be groups of people who are more ready than others to make the jump to using CloudReady or Chrome OS simply because it’s designed to work the way they do now—not the way people worked ten or fifteen or even twenty years ago. Something we like to say: If you could design an OS, you’d design CloudReady.

In some cases, though, users might have to make some minor adjustments to the way they work...whether it’s transitioning to the online versions of apps, as JR mentioned, or using a virtual desktop infrastructure like Citrix or VMware to access legacy apps in order to maintain an expected level of user experience and functionality.

(And for all you consumers, hobbyists, and tinkerers out there, CloudReady Home Edition offers additional functionality to help with the app gap, including experimental Docker support, Flatpaks for Linux apps, VirtualBox, and Crostini.)

With CloudReady, we can connect to our VDI environment, yet if we lose connection, we still have a functional device.
— Nicholas Winnie, Questar Assessment


3. Try living only in the Chrome browser on your PC for a week, without opening any local programs. How does it feel?

The final question is where CloudReady really shines, and where the difference between CloudReady and Chromebooks becomes very clear.

As JR outlined, you can simulate the Chrome OS experience using only the Chrome browser on your existing computer—although he admits it’s a less than optimal approach, since it ignores a lot of the OS’s key benefits, including faster boot times and streamlined updates.

To truly test the full experience, you can either:

1. Pay out of pocket for a Chromebook; or

2. Install CloudReady on existing Mac or PC hardware for free


Try CloudReady Now

If you’re still not sure if CloudReady is right for you, we get it—and we’re here to help. Because the beauty of CloudReady is that you’re getting all the benefits of Chrome OS, but on the hardware you choose...whether that’s a computer you already have, a school lab full of aging devices, a fleet of computers your business has had in service for couple of years, or highly specialized form factors you need to do business.


Curious to see what using CloudReady would be like for your school or business?

Sign up for a trial and install it on a few machines to gauge whether it meets your needs. Or just install it on a secondary laptop for a week to see what you think about it.


Not sure you’re ready for a full trial?

Not a problem. Create a CloudReady USB installer and use it to live boot your existing computer to see what the CloudReady experience is like.

 

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CloudReady USB Maker Updates

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CloudReady USB Maker Updates

 

Hey CloudReady Fans!

We’ve released a new version of the CloudReady USB Maker today. The new version has a couple of helpful features and some fixes for an improved user experience.

Release Notes

  • Format CloudReady USB installers after done installing: Unlike the default Windows format feature, this new Welcome screen option preserves the storage capacity of the USB device.

  • Removal of USB device format prompt: Windows will no longer prompt users to format the device after USB installer creation.

  • Fixed: When running the USB maker a second time, "What's next?" text incorrectly displays during the USB installer creation step.

About the CloudReady USB Maker

The CloudReady USB Maker is a Windows application (.exe) that you can download directly from Neverware to guide you through the process of creating a CloudReady USB installer.

Current customers, or those with a trial of CloudReady, can get the USB Maker by logging in to my.neverware.com and visiting their Downloads tab.

Users of the Home Edition can find the latest version here.

As always, your feedback and suggestions are welcome!

Have questions at Home? Visit the forums!

Need help at school or work? Support's here to help. 

Need help installing?

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4 Reasons Why CTOs Have Chosen Chromebooks

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4 Reasons Why CTOs Have Chosen Chromebooks

 

People involved in educational technology (EdTech) know that Chromebooks have become the computer-of-choice in school districts across the U.S. Some experts are estimating that 80% of new computers sold into U.S. K-12 this year will be Chrome devices (Global Market Insights; Statista 2018). But why?

In 2012, Chromebooks had 1% of the K-12 market, but by the end of 2014 had 39% market share! The number of all types of computers sold almost doubled in these 2 years, mostly driven by public school districts’ rapid acceptance of Chromebooks.

Source: Futuresource Consulting Ltd.

Source: Futuresource Consulting Ltd.

So what exactly about Chromebooks led to this?  

Chromebooks are dominating U.S. K-12 because of their speed, simplicity and price. They boot in 7 seconds, run the fastest browser in the world (Chrome), and can cost less than $200. The simplicity of running entirely in the browser has made life easier for both education IT professionals, via the Google Admin console, and students, via G Suite for Education. The total cost of ownership for Chromebooks is 1/6th of PCs and Macs, and will continue to diverge with the accelerated development of free, web-based tools and curricula built for the Google ecosystem. For those that understand and live this, it’s no surprise that Apple & Microsoft are getting thrashed, and superintendents, Chief Technology Officers, school site techs, teachers, students, parents and taxpayers are increasingly opting for G Suite and Chromebooks.

G Suite for Education

Education technology is often focused on the newest hardware, bleeding-edge software, the latest AR, VR, AI algorithm, blah blah blah. But the only thing that matters to CTOs and K-12 leaders is helping kids be better students, employees, entrepreneurs, and ultimately citizens! Better at taking tests, graduating, extracurricular activities, community service, getting jobs, and going to college. Google recognized this, created a comprehensive library of tools and resources for teachers and students - many of which are unique to Google’s ecosystem - and made it totally free. It includes things like Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs/Sheets/Slides, Google Forms, Google Calendar, Google Expeditions, and perhaps most importantly, Google Classroom, which helps teachers and students manage assignments and coursework.

The Google Admin Console

School district IT departments are not always front-and-center in the way that teachers and principals are, but they are the crucial backbone that keeps all technology running, from the network infrastructure, computers, and classroom technology, to the central office, ERP and security systems (recently, I spoke with one IT Director at a rural, socioeconomically disadvantaged district who even handles his district’s HVAC system, and coaches the wrestling team to boot). Out of necessity, most IT professionals learned in the last couple of decades how to manage heavyweight Windows & Mac environments, with a large operating system (OS), constant OS updates, a multiplicity of desktop applications, computer refreshes, security threats and increasingly, digital assessments. There weren’t any other good options.

The Google Admin console made it incredibly easy and quick to set up large numbers of Chromebooks, manage them securely, and update them automatically, in the background, from the cloud. No more day-to-day OS updates or issues with version compatibility! The only cost: a $30 Chrome Management License to manage each Chromebook.

Furthermore, the Google Admin console’s “Kiosk Mode” enables IT to lock down computers to a single browser-based app, for student assessments, in a fraction of the time it takes on Windows & Mac computers. Nearly every US state's department of education has a roadmap for digital transformation (http://www.state.nj.us/education/techno/localtech/tpdl/tpdl.pdf), a cornerstone of which is often a transition to digital student assessments. Digital assessments yield faster reporting on test results, while reducing the operational overhead of analog, pencil-and-paper assessments. Faster assessments align with superintendents' and Curriculum & Instruction departments' objectives for quick feedback so they can iterate and improve on the fly and year to year, thus compelling them to switch to Chromebooks. The end result: Google for Education has amassed market share, namely by expanding the market to segments that could not previously afford to run complex assessment routines and could not make a swift transition to assessing digitally.

At the end of the day, all of this transformation for administration and IT meant a better experience for teachers, and therein, a better experience for students.

Source: Futuresource Consulting Ltd.

Source: Futuresource Consulting Ltd.

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)

The first thing I learned when I began working with public school districts 4 years ago was that money is tight...scratch that - very tight. Paying to get the best teachers, curriculum, district support personnel, facilities and IT resources adds up, and districts don’t always get more money if they help kids better. More often than not, school districts are in a constant battle to make ends meet, and keeping up with technology for students is one of the first things to get cut. I spoke with a CTO of a 50,000+ student district this week whose budget was slashed 50% from last year!

But superintendents are increasingly aware that their students need access to technology to perform on digital tests, graduate on time, get decent jobs, compete for admission to college and become well-informed, well-rounded citizens that positively contribute to their community. Without adequate computer access, students are at a serious disadvantage, like in Baltimore City Schools, where the push for digital assessments combined with the lack of computer access for low-income students has hurt those students' test scores. Six years ago was when this awareness began spreading most strongly, and Google introduced the Chromebook right on time.  

With the least expensive models priced at $179, Chromebooks are undisputedly the most affordable computers for students and teachers. When buying in bulk with a Chrome Management License, white-glove setup, shipping and all other burdened costs, districts regularly pay $250 per Chromebook, much less than the standard Windows setup, which regularly runs double (or Mac, which easily runs quadruple).

IDC even did a study showing that Chromebooks have a 61% lower TCO over a 3-year period as compared with Windows computers, as a result of the 49% lower cost of Chromebooks, 68% more efficient IT support workflow, 91% lesser need to reboot, and whopping 93% faster deployment!

Google has also invested in Neverware, where we help school districts repurpose their old computers as Chrome devices, speeding them up and providing the same experience as Chromebooks, for as little as $1 per student per year. And they’ve sponsored services from companies like Amplified IT, so school districts can get their IT staff, Instructional Support staff and teachers the necessary training on Google tools and the Google Admin console with the purchase of their Chromebooks, and so teachers can jump right into teaching and focus on helping their kids with these tools. Again, all this for free!

Free Web-Based Tools & Curricula

The final key to Google and Chromebooks’ rapid adoption in K-12 has been content and apps.  Below are just a few examples from the broad ecosystem they’ve fostered:

  • Google Expeditions, empowering students to travel and learn (virtually) across the globe

  • Google “Digital Tools” like Scholar, which enables students to search scholarly articles

  • Google Computer Science, a large initiative to encourage and facilitate CS education

  • 3rd-party apps and tools to facilitate classroom instruction, IT administration and more

  • Google Training Center, with professional development resources for teachers

All of this led to continued growth of the K-12 device market and Google’s share of it, and by the end of 2017, Google owned almost two-thirds of all K-12 computing, and by way of its ecosystem, even more of EdTech mindshare as a whole. If superintendents, CIOs and CTOs weren’t already thinking this way, Google’s made it easy for them to decide, by mobbing them at the ground level with teacher evangelists that are well-versed in Google’s ecosystem and the resulting benefits for students.

Source: Futuresource Consulting Ltd.

Source: Futuresource Consulting Ltd.

And unlike Microsoft and Apple, who’ve had this position in the past (albeit not quite as dominantly), Google’s not letting go. They’re the first to make it easy for high school seniors to transfer their Chrome profiles over for college, and to eventually follow them into the workplace.  

Taking all of this into account, it’s no wonder that some experts are estimating that 80% of new computers sold into U.S. K-12 this year will be Chrome devices. More and more districts are going 1:1 (targeting a student-to-computer ratio of 1), and almost none of them can afford to do so with anything else. Nor would they want to. Superintendents realize that the heavyweight, costly Windows & Mac computers just aren’t needed, and that the money saved can be invested in helping kids be better instead.   

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Going Google at Scale in Florida: Webinar Q&A

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Going Google at Scale in Florida: Webinar Q&A

 

Hey CloudReady fans!

On Tuesday the 24th, we held a webinar featuring two guests from Florida's Lee County Public Schools: Dwayne Alton, Lee's Executive Director of Infrastructure Services, and Jerry Christmas, Systems Engineer.

Dwayne and Jerry spoke during the session about the background, processes, and lessons learned from their district switching to the Google ecosystem, including G Suite, Chromebooks, and CloudReady. You can find the session available now as an on-demand webinar here.

During the session Q&A, we encountered some audio challenges with the last two questions, so we've transcribed that portion here for you:

Q: What do you feel is good enough, as well as suggested, internet bandwidth for deploying Chromebooks and CloudReady?

A: So let’s put it this way - for our high schools, which hover around 2000 students, we have 1GB for those. Our middle schools have 500 MB to them and they hover around typically around 1200 students - and keeping in mind that we’re not using digital textbooks - we’re actually using interactive digital objects and videos and things like that, so we deliver some pretty heavy content over that. Our internet bandwidth right now is 16 GB, it’s two redundant 8 GB lines. We did increase our bandwidth with the implementation, however a lot of people think that if you use Google rather than Windows that your bandwidth utilization is going to be higher because everything is “in the cloud.” In reality, there is actually not a big difference between what we were seeing with on-prem Windows machines and the cloud traffic for Google Docs. Google Docs saves continuously while you’re typing. Microsoft saves files in larger chunks. So the transition from Windows to Chrome was handled with the bandwidth we had already roadmapped for upgrades anyway. We didn’t do anything special for Chrome. Of course if you’re in a rural area and you’re saying 16 GB, that is special, I understand. 

Q: Can you talk about how you’re doing Web content filtering, and are you doing SSL inspection?

A: So the answer to the first one is we’re using GoGuardian for our Chrome devices, and GoGuardian has two components: one is filtering, which is called GoGuardian for Administrators, and the other one is GoGuardian for Teachers, which is a classroom management tool where they can see the students’ screens, kill the background tabs when the students are not on task, and add their own rules to what the students can do. We implemented those two solutions - it’s actually one product, but two pieces. As far as SSL inspection, it’s a little bit different way of looking at it. It’s not like a traditional perimeter appliance where you’re doing a man-in-the-middle attack and installing your own certificates and decrypting the traffic and inspecting them. We see all SSL traffic, not just the traffic for the specific sites where we’ve pushed “trusted” certificates. The other benefit is that we see what the user intended to go to, not where they ended up. A lot of the solutions show you destinations, I see what they’re trying to get to. I’ll give you an example where that’s useful. If you have SSL decryption turned on and you happen to catch that they’re going somewhere inappropriate, you might see - oh, they’re going to a proxy site. For us, we see what they’re looking at through the proxy site. So, having the agent on the device to see the traffic before it even hits the tunnel is beneficial. For the Chrome world, your two probably biggest leaders would be GoGuardian and Lightspeed; both use similar methodology for the Chrome devices. And what I really like is that they are human-readable reports. So the way we do it is to delegate the review to the schools. Whether it was blocked sites or they were getting through to something inappropriate, the AI system sees that and flags it for the school directly so the IT department doesn’t have to do all the investigation.

Our thanks to Dwayne and Jerry for taking the time to join us on the webinar!

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Using older computers to increase security at your school

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Using older computers to increase security at your school

 

It's no surprise that recent events have school districts worried about security. Parents and educators around the country are voicing the need for additional safety measures, and in an education system where every proposed dollar of spend needs to be squeezed out of a tight budget, some districts have already implemented, and in many cases bought, new things.

Take Henry County Public Schools, for example, a school district in Georgia that transitioned their 14 schools, central office and 42,000 students to an automated 'Ident-a-Kid system', where visitors now use computer kiosks in an outer lobby to sign everyone in and print IDs:

Read more: Henry County Public Schools

Another district, Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools in North Carolina, has offered free lunch to officers in an effort to increase law enforcement presence at random times throughout the day on elementary school campuses:

Read more: Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools

How about Midway Independent School District, which is investing up to $100,000 on increased security measures like an additional armed security guard, and a buzzer system added to school entryways?

Read more: Midway Independent School District

What if your district board denied your budget request to fund additional security measures? For some, they’re resorting to “kicking rocks." Literally! That's what Blue Mountain School District did, by equipping every classroom with a 5-gallon bucket of stones (in addition to starting active shooter and evacuation drills).

Read more: Blue Mountain School District

It’s pretty clear that school district administrators are purchasing new technology to answer the call from parents and their state for increased security, which is great for districts that have the means to do so - but is too expensive for districts that don't, and need it most (initiate student rock-throwing security system).

So, districts that can do so will replace old computers with new, but other districts repurpose, refresh, or recycle.

When looking at outdated technology and revamping district security, many seem to be throwing out their older, slower computers that are believed to be 'end of life' computers, thinking that their only option is to buy new security tech. However, many districts are running their old computers as “kiosks” at school entrances, to screen visitors and enhance security at a very affordable rate.

This has the added benefit of not just screening potentially armed visitors, but also sex offenders, people with restraining orders, divorced parents with allocated child time, or even volunteers, where cloud-based software can keep track of time they log at the school - at a fraction of the cost of buying new.

This is how the Coronado Unified School District got it done.

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A creative, yet realistic, approach to 1:1

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A creative, yet realistic, approach to 1:1

 

Has the goal of becoming a 1:1 district blinded us to the realities of budget, asset allocation, and financial responsibility? Have the means become more important than the end goal?

Schools have been going 1:1 at a dramatic rate. The cost of doing so has been astronomical, not just in terms of the cost of new computers, but also in the effort of staff, and the energy required to sell another tax raise/budget increase to a board and community.

The science, student success, and teacher feedback from 1:1 programs is irrefutable. Having a computer for every student and increasing the time they spend with it has a positive effect on student learning. The question is, does it have to be a new computer to be effective? Do schools have to spend hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars to see these results? 

Schools have so many under-utilized assets. Computer labs that are rarely used, carts of laptops that are no longer checked out, and sheds of old equipment waiting to be sold at an upcoming auction. 

What if those assets are the key to unlocking a better 1:1 program: a program that provides the same benefits to students while decreasing the work load on staff, and leaving money in the budget? What if you could get a 1:1 program and have enough money left over to give teachers a raise, update network infrastructure, or buy other equipment?

Here at Neverware, we've helped hundreds of schools across the US use the assets they already own to build a sustainable 1:1 program. Those 10 carts of laptops that are not being used, the storage room with 400 Latitude laptops, and the computer lab with desktops that are becoming too slow to use daily, are now being converted into fast and simple Chromebooks.

New computers are not fundamentally more valuable to a student's learning process than old computers, if the old computers can keep up with student needs. When schools focus more on the end goal, and less on how others have achieved it, more creative solutions become apparent. 

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