Students at some schools are testing out Google Play as an educational tool. Twenty-five kindergarteners crowd around the tablet looking at some dots. Bethany Hayes points and asks how many dots they see.

Google Play as an Educational ToolThe students say they count three. Bethany says she wishes she had six and wants to know how many more she would need.

With their fingers, they each drew three more dots on the rubber-cased tablets clutched in their hands. Then they wrote what they’d done as a math equation: 3 + 3 = 6.

“We’re working really hard on making our number sentences, aren’t we?” Hayes told her tiny scholars.

In an article by Julie Anderson, she says, “The tablets, Google’s version of Apple’s iPad mini,are part of a test the Council Bluffs Community Schools just wrapped up with a neighbor, the Internet giant Google. Though the test is over, the tablets remain at the school.


Google Pilot Program

Like the last time the Council Bluffs district participated in a Google pilot program, the test wasn’t necessarily focused on a specific computing device but on the programs and systems that make it go.

This time, the district was among 50-some schools across the United States trying out the company’s new Google Play for Education site, which went live Nov. 21.

The site, which features teacher-approved educational apps, videos and other materials, is part of the Google Play store. Teachers can search the education portion of the store by subject, grade and standards, including Common Core.

Council Bluffs also is among about 20 school districts and colleges that have been invited to participate in a Google think tank aimed at finding what students, teachers and administrators need in educational tools.

“Google wants to pick the brains of people in technology and curriculum,” said David Fringer, the Council Bluffs district’s chief information officer. He will participate with Corey Vorthmann, the district’s director of secondary education.

Google Play as an Educational Tool

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The first meeting will be held in early March. At least three more are expected to follow over the course of the two-year project. “It is really an honor to be asked to participate,” Fringer said.

The Council Bluffs district’s first Google pilot program with Google occurred in 2011.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company, which has a $1.5 billion data center in Council Bluffs, gave the district 500 prototype notebook computers featuring its then-new operating system, Chrome.

The school district was one of a handful nationwide to participate in testing the system, which also was vetted by businesses and individuals.

Google’s line of Chromebook notebook computers went on sale a few months later. The Council Bluffs district since has purchased thousands more Chromebooks, with 7,000 now in use throughout the district.

Students in grades six through 12 have their own Chromebooks. Those in grades six through eight use them only at school.

The rest keep them 24/7, even over the summer. Next year the district plans to put them in the hands of students down to third grade, completing a goal set in 2009.”

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