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Increasing Student Engagement and Improving Assessment with G Suite

Increasing Student Engagement and Improving Assessment with G Suite

Join CTL and Dani Kennis for a free webinar on how to get started with G Suite for student engagement and improved assessment on Wednesday February 22, at 9am PST.


By Dani Kennis ( or @kennisdani on Twitter)

Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, is quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life.” When considering change as it affects education, today’s digital age means that we get to try many new and exciting tools in our classrooms. However, not all stakeholders in education are ready to jump in head first and readily embrace change. This blog post will serve as a slow dip in the shallow end of the Ed Tech pool and will introduce you to some of the ways educators can incorporate Google tools into their teaching repertoire to enhance engagement and assessment in the classroom. It is my hope that this blog post can be a jumping off point for a conversation, or even the implementation of new strategies and lessons in your classroom.

G Suite offers teachers many options for connecting, motivating, engaging, and assessing students. ‘What is G Suite?,’ you ask? It is Google’s free collection of cloud based technology apps, such as Google Docs, Google Slides, Google Draw, Google Forms, and Google Classroom. Allowing students to utilize these tools as an integral part of their learning experience enables rich and memorable learning opportunities that focus on important future ready skills such as creating, collaboration, and critical thinking. Below are five ways you can utilize G Suite tools to engage students and improve assessment in your classroom.

  • Flipped Instruction: In this model of teaching, the role of student and teacher are reversed. The ‘old school’ classroom model of lecture/note taking becomes work that is done at home so that class time can be used for questions, deeper learning, or group projects. While there are many different models of flipped instruction, I choose to pre-record videos (10 minutes or less in length) which serve as the direct instruction portion of a lesson. Then, the video is uploaded to my YouTube channel and students go home to watch and take notes. Independently, students fill out guided notes at home while following along with the lecture video. The final step is for students to complete a Google Form with questions on it, which is how I hold them accountable for doing the work. The next day in school, I review the answers on the Form to assess understanding and based on that information, we start by reviewing what students saw and heard in the video. Usually, this takes place in the form of a Post It where I have students write two things they learned and one question they still have on the material. Before digging deeper or doing a project, it is important to make sure to clarify misconceptions or misunderstandings that students may have. Eventually, when you’ve flipped a handful of lessons and students have gotten used to the new model, it becomes a seamless process whereby class time can more readily be used for various projects or other collaborative learning opportunities that foster deeper understanding and student driven learning.
  • Google Calendar: Many of my students struggle with organization and executive functioning. When I asked my freshmen how they keep track of assignments they reported that they ‘just remember’ or store it ‘in my head.’ They do not yet grasp the importance of using an agenda, calendar, or alternative tool to keep track of long and short term assignments or due dates. This is why I take time at the very beginning of the year to introduce Google Calendar and suggest that students download the app onto their phones, along with downloading Google Drive and Google Classroom. I explicitly teach my students how to enter assignments, due dates, reminders, and how to access all of the information independently and at home. I show them how to use Tasks and To Do lists, as well as discuss the importance of keeping track of both school and non-school related tasks, such as jobs, practices, or meetings. Focusing on these skills and teaching students to implement these tools early on in a student’s educational career stresses the importance of responsibility and organization, making them better and more effective students later on.
  • Google Forms: Another beginning of the year procedure I stand by is having students complete an interest and learning inventory questionnaire. I used to have this survey on paper but I found it took too long to collect and sort through the stack. Now, I use a survey I created on Google Forms and post it on Classroom for students to access. The purpose of this is twofold; it provides me with a lot of valuable information and data and also reinforces the many key, rudimentary skills that my students will need to be successful in our class – Taking their assigned Chromebook from the cart, logging in, accessing Google Classroom, typing, and putting their Chromebooks away in an orderly and timely fashion.
  • Google Draw: The information I collect from the above mentioned survey provides me with insight into students’ strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles. I take the time at the beginning of the year to discuss learning styles with my students because I want them to understand that not everybody learns in the same way. We talk about the differences between being visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners and talk about how many people are a combination of many of those styles. For students who learn best by doing and creating, Google Draw is an invaluable tool. While I always provide written notes for my students, I will often assign them projects in which they have to interpret and prove that they understand the information. Many of them choose to do this using Google Draw either to create an illustrated summary of information or to create a graphic organizer. There are so many options for different projects students can do with Google Draw and, best of all, it’s simple to learn and easy to use for students.
  • Group Essays: While essay writing isn’t typically a skill that students look forward to, allowing them to collaborate and assigning specific roles makes the process much less daunting and more manageable for students. Using Google Docs, I have students work in groups to complete the different parts of an essay so that they are able to specifically hone in on certain skills and components of essay writing. I will assign one person to write an introduction, another to a body paragraph, another to a conclusion, and another to editing and proofreading. This also helps them to understand how much effort, time, and thought needs to go into writing an effective and strong essay.


Dani is a high school Special Education Social Studies teacher and Technology Coach in the New York suburbs. She is also a Level 2 Google Certified Trainer and co-founder of The Education Calendar, a crowdsourced map and calendar of education events worldwide. Her blended classroom incorporates the use of G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Education) as well as other Web 2.0 tools in order to prepare her students to be successful 21st century learners in a global community. She blogs about her work and teaching at and would love to connect on Twitter (@kennisdani).

CTL® Announces that it is Exploring Collaboration with PortableCloud from TCEA

CTL® Announces that it is Exploring Collaboration with PortableCloud from TCEA

CTL teams up with PortableCloud to offer classroom servers that can be configured with the exact websites, learning resources, course materials, and tools needed for a particular subject or class, without connection to the Internet. Contact CTL for more information.

CTL has announced that it is exploring collaboration with PortableCloud from the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) conference in Austin, TX. CTL will offer customers the PortableCloud platform and Cube servers which allow users to access curated files, web-content and web-apps over WiFi in any device with a browser, at blazing speeds, regardless of Internet connectivity.

PortableCloud Helps Schools Overcome Connectivity Limitations

The PortableCloud Cube micro-server empowers schools to ensure that educational content and apps are always available, even in areas without internet connectivity! The PortableCloud Cube server is connected to a Server applications marketplace where schools can download needed solutions, content, resources and tools to the PortableCloud and it will seamlessly connect to wireless devices on campus.

PortableCloud Gives Teachers the Right Resources in the Right Places

The PortableCloud solution gives schools control over the web pages and apps their students can access. PortableCloud Cube servers can be customized for each grade level so that students have access to resources appropriate to their curriculum. Common references such as Wikipedia, the Khan Academy, and other educational sites and apps will be readily accessible, while the distractions of the entire internet simply won’t be an option.

Benefits of PortableCloud for Schools

  • Ensure content and apps that matter the most are always available fast and appropriate for K-12 students
  • Integrate with your existing platforms, or make Portable Cloud the platform
  • Run best in-class open-source learning solutions, such the Khan Academy and other proven learning solutions
  • Deploy in-classroom or lecture-hall cloud e-learning solutions without requiring any external infrastructure
  • Connect multiple Cubes to expand local network capacity
  • Save bandwidth use on core content and learning activities
  • Provide parent education opportunities via mobile devices
  • Protect intellectual property with full security options
  • Keep networks online during power outages with battery options
  • Download new shared content from Portable Cloud Marketplace
  • Share top lesson plans on Portable Cloud Marketplace
  • Integrated hardware and software makes deployment easy
CTL Continues to Expand, Helping to Bring More Chromebooks to Classrooms Worldwide

CTL Continues to Expand, Helping to Bring More Chromebooks to Classrooms Worldwide


CTL Chromebook sales increase in Europe after enormous success of Chromebooks in US K-12 Education

CTL’s European team just attended this year’s BETT education and technology trade show in London, England. Over the past year and a half, CTL has expanded into the European market with the opening of an office in Vigo, Spain in August of 2015. Chromebooks have rapidly skyrocketed here in the US, even outselling Macs for the first time in the US, according to a May 19, 2016 article in The Verge. Europe has taken note and teachers in Europe are learning from teachers experiences with technology here in the USA.

CTL Spain’s General Manager Hugo Ramallo has made the CTL J2 Chromebook one of the top selling Chromebooks in Spain. Additionally, the CTL J4+ with IPS panel and CTL J5 rugged convertible touchscreen Chromebook are now available in Europe. CTL is excited to announce the addition of a German office, that will be headed by Eric Masso. If you’re attending Didacta in Stuttgart February 14 – 18, look for Eric and the CTL team in Hall 4, booth number 4A60.

For more information on CTL Spain, contact Hugo Ramallo at To contact CTL’s General Manager for Germany, Eric Masso, email

CNET Previews the CTL J5X Extra Rugged Convertible Touchscreen Chromebook

CNET Previews the CTL J5X Extra Rugged Convertible Touchscreen Chromebook

The CTL J5X was recently featured in a January 29, 2017 article by CNET Senior Editor, Lori Grunin. This rugged Chromebook was showcased with CTL’s impressive line-up of education-specific Chromebooks at FETC.

The CNET article called the CTL J5X “A Chromebook convertible you can stand on, scribble on, and splash.” In the article, Grunin details the J5X features and benefits: “ It’s a rugged convertible — it has a 360-degree hinge so it can function as a tablet, presentation panel or plain-old touchscreen Chromebook — with a cover that can withstand up to 300 pounds of pressure and a write-on wipe-off skin. It’s rated for drops up to almost 2.5 ft/76 cm and keyboard flooding to up to about 11.2 oz/331 ml. And if you do successfully manage to damage it, it’s covered by a 1-year accidental damage warranty.”

Other J5X Specs include:

  • 11.6-inch 1,366 x 768-pixel 16:9 IPS display with 5 touch points
  • Intel Braswell N3060 processor (bursts to 2.48 GHz)
  • 32GB storage standard
  • Chrome OS
  • Combo audio jack
  • 3 USB 3.0 ports
  • HDMI connector
  • microSD slot
  • HD webcam
  • Up to 10 hours of battery life
  • Serviceable battery

Qualified education customers can buy a discounted unit to try out through CTL’s “buy and try” program. In addition to the J5X, CTL has an extensive line up of Chromebooks including touchscreen and extra rugged models. CTL provides complete education solutions. In addition to Chromebooks, CTL offers Chrome Device Management Licenses, White Glove enrollment services, Chromebook carts, free professional development webinars for educators, and more.

Why CTL Works Harder to Earn Your Business and What Our Customers Have to Say About It

Why CTL Works Harder to Earn Your Business and What Our Customers Have to Say About It

Contact CTL Today to Learn More! Whether you’re a Department of Education, School District, individual school, Government agency, business of any size, or individual end user, CTL will work harder than our competition to deliver your ideal technology solution.

CTL has been in business for more than 26 years, operating locally in the Portland, Oregon area. Over the years, we’ve built long-term relationships with our valued customers as we continue to diversify and expand into new markets. CTL has been recognized as one of Oregon’s fastest growing companies and was listed by the Business Journal as one of the Top Hardware Technology Companies in Portland. But CTL is hard at work for customers across the nation and around the globe. We’re proud to say that we earned the MLTI 1:1 Education contract alongside tech industry giants such as Apple and HP. In 2016, CTL was exclusively awarded the Nevada Ready 21 contract, this time, winning over some much larger companies. In the past few years, we’ve expanded into the European Marketplace and now have offices in Vigo, Spain and Stuttgart, Germany.  

CTL has grown a lot… However, CTL is still smaller than some of the large Multi-National computer hardware corporations. CTL has been here in Oregon since we started and we’ve learned what it takes to compete against larger competitors. We know that bigger is not always better. When you call CTL, you’ll be calling a USA-based company, and be greeted by a friendly person instead of a frustrating automated phone system. We understand that quality products and excellent customer service helped us get where we are today and we’re grateful for your business. We’re interested in helping our customers solve problems, not just selling them products. Our competitors may be bigger, but CTL works harder to earn your business. Don’t just take our word for it. Below are just a few of the great testimonials and reviews we’re constantly receiving. Thanks to these customers for their appreciative words. We promise to keep up the good work.

What our Education Customers Have to Say

“CTL Chromebooks have been an outstanding addition to our district. They have been much more reliable and dependable than any other brand we have here. Our staff and students have been nothing but pleased with their performance.”

Barry Cory, Technology Director
Fairview South School District 72 in Illinois


“Everything about CTL speaks to quality. The devices have offered the kind of consistent performance, battery life, ease of use and management, and ruggedness we have needed for some time. The service I have received from you and your colleagues has been impressive, consistently hitting the right mix of ease and swiftness, professionalism and friendliness. Thank you for running a business that serves our school so well.”

Jonathan T. Sallée, M.Ed., Supervisor of Technology
Lincoln Elementary School District 156


“Over the last year, CTL has been our source for student Chromebooks. Their price was right and still is. The devices are packed expertly and arrive on schedule. The Chromebooks were delivered as promised without issue. We were never disappointed. I would highly recommend CTL as a technology vendor.”

Ryan Case, Greenport Union Free School District


“Chromebooks are Chromebooks . . . NOT!  The little extra’s from CTL have pushed them ahead of the others, not to mention the personal attention from the Sales staff and the Tech Department.”

Cris Sidell, Cedar Cliff Schools


Customer Reviews of the CTL J5 Chromebook

“Been using it since the beginning of term as school has gone over to Chromebooks – never used one before but really simple and love how you can use it as a tablet. It seems very sturdy as most CTL product are and ideal for the classroom environment. It really easy to transfer all my class material over to it and project it to the screen.”

John J., Amazon customer


“I received this as a gift from my Amazon Wish List. This is replacing my first Chromebook which is a Acer C720. Why the switch? Two reasons:

1- the CTL J5 is on the list of Chromebooks that are to get Android Apps support. The Acer is not.

2- More importantly is the J5 is solid and has been drop tested and is spill resistant.

The IPS screen is very good when viewing at an angle. Fingerprints are a bit of a problem but easily corrected by using a stylus which l usually use to lessen typos due to my shaking hands. The 360-degree hinge is great for me as I have to change positions often. Battery life is great – about 10 – 10.5 hours.”

William S., Amazon customer


Customer Reviews of the CTL J2 Chromebook

“Have had this computer for less than a week but I already love it. As a college student studying microbiology, being able to open multiple tabs and download a large number of files for reviewing, note taking, and studying is critical, which is why I love this thing.

It’s super light so I can carry it to class, the lab, and back to my dorm to study easily. It has a super long battery life so I don’t have to worry about being gone all day and it works great even with over five or six tabs open! All the things I need are online (google docs, slides, and sheets are great) and the processing speed is impressive compared to my old mac. Even video quality, which I wasn’t expecting much from, is pretty great and can handle everything I’ve thrown at it so far.”

Guy Hult, Amazon customer


“This laptop is amazing!! It out performs my last laptop in every way, and the battery life is excellent! This Chromebook is perfect for school and I am beyond satisfied with its performance. I absolutely love the simplicity of this laptop and it’s light enough to carry around.”

E.V., Amazon Customer