Together, CloudReady and Chrome Device Management are helping this London school transform its students’ life chances
The Lilian Baylis Technology School (LBTS), located in Vauxhall, London, is a secondary public school with 900 students ranging from year 7 to year 13. Rated as “Outstanding” in overall effectiveness in its Ofsted inspection report, the school’s aim is to transform the life chances of all its students as it works toward its stated vision of continuing to be the first choice for the local community.
Vauxhall is an ethnically diverse area—most LBTS students are from minority ethnic groups, and more than half of the school’s students speak English as an additional language. Accordingly, helping students to improve their English language proficiency is one of the school’s key challenges. As with many schools in the UK, budget cuts present yet another challenge, particularly because systems upgrades are so expensive, leaving schools struggling to afford new technology as a priority over other resources.
A commitment to affordable technology
For the past 10 years, LBTS have been part of the London Grid for Learning (LGfL), a community of schools and local authorities dedicated to using technology to enhance teaching and learning. LGfL was set up by the 33 London Boroughs in 2001 as a not-for-profit charitable trust; its objectives include saving schools money while keeping children safe, tackling inequality, and energising teaching and learning. All LGfL member schools receive high-speed broadband, managed network services, and premium learning resources.
“One of the benefits is that we’re able to obtain technical advice and support from one single contact,” explained David Wong, Senior ICT Technician at Lilian Baylis.
This proved very useful in 2016, when LBTS made the decision to move to G Suite, attracted by the platform’s easy setup and cost effectiveness. Wong attended LGfL’s Google Administrator training to learn important best practices for managing users, groups, settings, and security.
“As a cloud-based system, G Suite has allowed students and staff to access IT anywhere,” Wong said. “We’ve seen higher engagement from students due to the flexibility of cloud-supported learning.”
Shifting to G Suite was just the first step in LBTS’s cloud journey, however. As part of its flexible learning strategy to allow students to access learning resources on the internet, LBTS next deployed 300 Chromebooks.
When evaluating whether to adopt Chromebooks, there were two primary considerations, according to Wong— cost and software support for teaching. The devices also get his recommendation for how easy they are to set up and manage as well as for their speed. “The Chrome management console has been really easy to use,” he noted. “The Chromebooks boot up a lot faster than Windows and Macs and the cost is more reasonable.”
A new cloud services collaboration
At LGfL’s 2018 Annual Conference, Wong learned of an interesting new collaboration between LGfL, Google for Education, and Neverware, whereby LGfL would make licences of Neverware’s CloudReady operating system available to member schools for free, along with discounted Chrome Device Management licences. (Neverware is a Google-backed company; CloudReady is the only way to convert existing computers so that they can be managed alongside Chromebooks using Chrome device management.)
The offer allows schools to increase device access by getting old computers off of shelves and back into classrooms, brought back to life as secure and speedy Chrome devices. The Chrome device management licences ensure that administrators can apply policies across the devices at the touch of a button, as well as customise settings according to specific year groups and in line with school policies.
“It’s helped the school to turn almost 200 old computers into Chrome computers that we expect to use for another two years.”
Lilian Baylis were eager to take advantage of the offer to aid the school in its transition to being a Chrome-centric ecosystem. “It’s helped the school to turn almost 200 old computers into Chrome computers that we expect to use for another two years,” Wong said.
Wong was also happy to discover that the process of converting the old computers to CloudReady was relatively easy and came with clear instructions. “The installation of CloudReady is simple, which allowed me to convert older computers quickly,” he explained. The Chrome device management licences also helped create a unified fleet of Chromebooks alongside CloudReady devices. Wong noted, “I find it easy to manage the CloudReady devices through the Google Admin console.”
Over the next two to three years, the LBTS technology plan calls for the school to further develop its cloud-based network and devices, continuing along the path that G Suite for Education, Chromebooks, and CloudReady have helped forge.
The short-term challenge the school faces, according to Wong, is linking its legacy systems to the cloud-based network. When asked how they’ll solve that challenge, Wong is optimistic about ongoing technology advances.
“We’ll look to Google for software and apps,” he said, emphasizing the school’s continued commitment to remaining a Chrome-centric ecosystem.
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