GOOGLE CASE STUDY HIGHLIGHTS DISTRICT’S CLASSROOM TECHNOLOGY TRAINING
The School District of Palm Beach County is leading the way nationally in how teachers use technology to shape their instructional time. In fact, the District’s Technology Trailblazer program has been so successful that Google for Education recognized the District in a case study by highlighting how the program came to be and how it serves as the blueprint for other school districts.
“It used to be that teachers used technology only for specific tasks and then put it away,” said Kim Culp, an Educational Technology Specialist. “Now, it’s driving instruction and changing how teachers interact with students, and not just in Trailblazer classrooms. We see the change in the entire District.”
The District’s Education Technology (Ed Tech), Information Technology, and Teaching and Learning departments started the Trailblazer program in 2017, aligning with one of the District’s strategic initiatives to provide digital and blended learning opportunities utilizing technology.
The program’s goal is to “train teachers who could then build their schools’ digital culture by supporting other teachers in their schools,” according to the Google for Education case study, “Palm Beach County Schools Launch ‘Trailblazer’ Program, Inspiring Teachers to Sharpen Digital Skills.”
Part of achieving the goal was getting teachers to become familiar with the tools in G Suite for Education, a program in which Google offers certification exams. In 2017, only a few teachers in the District were Google Certified Educators. Now, the District has the most Google Certifications of any school district in the world, according to Ed Tech Director Adam Miller.
There are many benefits to becoming a Google Certified Educator, including the ability to effectively engage students in lessons by using tools in the G Suite. Trailblazers are also among the first to receive new technology, such as the nearly 100,000 Chromebooks and the 11,000 Penny Sales Tax-funded SMART Interactive Flat Panels.
The Penny Sales Tax has helped make the Trailblazer program possible by providing the necessary technical infrastructure, including upgrading wireless technology in classrooms.
Google for Education’s case study recommends the District’s steps in the Trailblazer program as a model for others to create their own successful Train the Trainer program.
That includes rolling out technology only after training, building rigorous training resources, branding the program to create excitement among teachers, and creating a list of ideal traits and requirements for participants.
“We believe that if we’re going to give technology, we have to train first,” Miller said.
The Google for Education case study details how the District successfully selects Trailblazers and trains them for the rigorous Google Certification process. Principals nominate educators who are willing to train their colleagues, exhibit the necessary leadership traits, embrace change, do not fear failure, and have strong relationships with students.
Those selected go on to complete an online Certified Educator course and attend a two-day in-person training before taking the Google Certified Educator Level 1 exam. The case study discusses how 30 percent of the first round of teachers who took the Level 1 test failed. As a result, Ed Tech adjusted the training by creating four-hour customized study sessions, a move that improved the exam results.
Now the District has 1,750 Trailblazers who have either earned Google Certified Educator Level 1 or 2 status or are working towards that distinction. Miller said every school in the District has Trailblazers and thanks to recruitment efforts, the program is growing.
The current goal is to add up to five new Trailblazers at each elementary school and continue to grow the program at each secondary school. There are also 16 ESE Trailblazers who have received interactive flat panels, Chromebooks or iPads, and other resources to help engage students in their smaller classroom settings, Miller said.
New Trailblazers will spend two days this summer, between late July and early August, in intensive training.
For more information on the Trailblazer program: