Google invites UCPS to education think tank

Dec. 03, 2013 @ 04:59 PM

Union County Public Schools has been invited to participate in a newly-formed Google in Education think tank. 

The think tank is meant to inspire innovative programs in education and to show how Google technology can best support schools. The think tank consists of 20 institutions, including K-12 school districts, community colleges and universities, Chief Technology Officer Tony Burrus said. He said there were not a lot of K-12 districts on the list. 

“They reached out to us,” Burrus said. 

Google also reached out to the district to host a leadership symposium in Union County in February. Burrus said he is getting more and more excited. 

At the symposium they will look at the technology depot, see the digital learning in action at Central Academy of Technology and Arts and discuss the “my size fits me” education model at the Professional Development Center. 

“We’re kind of giving them a peek into every aspect of development,” Burrus said. 

When they were first looking at rolling out the 1:1 Laptop Initiative and when they were first looking at Google Chromebooks, it was one of the largest roll-outs in the nation, Burrus said. 

“We had a pretty big deployment over the summer,” Burrus said. “Honestly, what’s going on now is they’re referring a lot of school districts our way to help them out.” 

Burrus said when he was helping to develop the plan to ensure every child had access to a digital learning device he had “had no idea” how successful it would be. 

“I knew what I needed to do was make sure our infrastructure was right...my part in that was just to make sure our infrastructure was sound and to keep strengthening it,” Burrus said. 

He said he did not have any inclination it would go down this route and they would become a model for other districts. They have had calls from other school districts in the state interested in doing site visits. Burrus hopes to roll the requests into the Leadership Symposium. 

“I think it’s an honor,” Burrus said. “We’re little ole Union County and you have big ole Google calling to ask if you want to be in a think tank...I think it’s a pretty big deal.” 

“It speaks to the overall vision that (Superintendent Mary Ellis) has for the district to where we want to go and to make sure kids are in an ‘anytime, anywhere’ learning space,” Burrus said. 

He thinks it shows that they are well on their way, he added. 

Superintendent Mary Ellis said Google picked institutions that they believe have a vision for technology in education. She said the think tank will look at emerging trends, blending learning and the K-16 spectrum, from Kindergarten through four years of college. 

“The learning is still the learning, but the way the children receive the learning,” Ellis said. 

Ellis said they are excited about it and have already started a Google Document to work off of. The think tank will meet twice a year. 

“What it says to me is that Union County Public Schools has been on the right track all along,” Ellis said. “My size fits me and learning anywhere, anytime. That is an emerging trend and we were, I guess, smart enough or figured it out before the masses did, but that’s where we’re all headed.” 

A representative from Google could not be reached before press time.