Getech Education: Meet the company connecting classrooms to Google Apps

Google mobile apps

For nearly 30 years, Getech Education has supplied computers and technology services to the UK education market, beginning with universities and colleges but more recently moving into schools. At Bett 2017, the company aims to expose more schools to its vision for under-18 education, based on Chromebooks, Android tablets, G Suite and managed services. It's a holistic approach that doesn't focus purely on technology, but on how to make it work within the school's existing pedagogy and methods.

Getech is a hybrid enterprise, with one half a distribution business specialising in thin-client computing -- a field in which it's the UK market leader -- and the other half working in education. Approaching 100 staff, its core activities originally centred on the higher education (HE) market, working with the majority of the UK's biggest universities as part of the National Desktop and Notebook Agreement procurement framework, supplying over 20,000 devices into HE establishments every year.

"We didn't want to be just another product supplier"

Four years ago, Getech decided to take its expertise into UK schools. "What we did, having reviewed the market, was to look at the most appropriate technologies to break into that space," says Richard Maclean, Google Education sales manager. "We didn't want to be just another product supplier."

Getech looked at UK schools, their educational objectives and the rapid growth of Google Apps within the US education market before opting to specialise in Google Apps for Education, Android tablets, web-based apps and Google Chromebooks. As Maclean says, "We'd seen the impact on teaching and learning and also the relatively low cost of delivery and execution."

Getech covers the whole extent of the deployment, from broadband and network infrastructure (it works with Schools Broadband and is a BT distributor), to Wi-Fi and on-premises web filtering, to software, services and the devices themselves. However, what's more interesting is the way Getech provides this. "We have a very clear take-on process where we try and establish what the school's teaching and learning objectives are, then work with the school back from that point to look at the most appropriate type of deployment to meet those objectives. We're not about trying to push technology into classrooms, but about finding the best way of integrating it."

To this end, Getech offers a four-week pilot scheme with a class-set of 30 devices, in order to look at how the school could benefit from using Google's apps and services in the classroom, and it provides a consultant to show teachers how to get the best from the technology. The idea is to hammer home the point that, say, Chromebooks aren't just a cheap laptop alternative. "Rather than look at it as a pure substitution decision, we're looking at getting the best from these devices in terms of opening up new resources to both teachers and students."

Once the project is go, Getech also provides Teaching Planning Workshops, focused on the senior leadership team. This produces a 12- to 18-month roadmap with additional workshops that help teachers integrate the new devices into lesson plans. "We try to show them methods to bring the technology in," says Maclean, "so that they're comfortable with it in the classroom and don't see it as an obstacle to what they've traditionally delivered."

The emphasis is always on not imposing new methodologies on teachers, but making the tech work within the way they already teach. "Most teachers will give you a look skywards when there's news of another IT project coming down the line," Maclean explains, "so for us it's more about asking them: how can we make your life easier by saving time, speeding up processes or adding activities - maybe looking at flipped learning or at a different method of delivery?"

With comprehensive configuration pre-delivery and an optional managed service, where the company manages the school's Google domain on its behalf, Getech's happy to take the hard work out of a Chromebook deployment. "When you get a Chromebook from us, you literally get it out of the box and hand it out," says Maclean.

At Bett, Getech will be focusing its energies on the actual teaching and learning impacts of G Suite and Chrome, running a series of short 20- to 30-minute sessions that look at a variety of different subjects, from the cost-benefits of 1:1 schemes to the steps schools need to take to adopt flipped learning. The company will also be running separate sessions on best practice for implementing G Suite in schools, based on findings from its own experience, plus sessions on working with Chromebooks and multi-touch classroom displays, to help teachers using Chromebooks within a connected classroom.

Elsewhere at Bett, Maclean expects to see a little less discussion about the various pros and cons of G Suite and rival services, like Office 365 for Education, and more about total cost of ownership (TCO). "Chrome saves a lot of money in a lot of areas, and that seems to be one of the driving factors," he says. "The teaching and learning impact is clearly at the centre of everything, but with the current pressure on budgets, Chrome is coming to the surface in a lot more conversation about cost savings." Chromebooks aren't just cheap to acquire, he believes, but cheaper and easier to manage, and as a bonus can free up IT teams from management and housekeeping to work on projects that could have a bigger positive impact on teaching and learning. With Chromebooks available through Getech with HP's HP Subscription leasing scheme, they're well within the reach of every school.

Getting the best from Bett

For Getech, Bett is a unique and hugely valuable event. "It generates a lot of potential opportunities for us that then keep us busy for the rest of the year," says Maclean. "We do monthly events and co-ordinate our own events, but nothing really matches Bett." It's also a great opportunity to work with key partners like HP. "It's a valuable way of working with our partners to develop relationships with schools," says Maclean. "Because it's spread over a four-day period, you genuinely do get the opportunity to get some really good conversations going."

Sometimes, the sheer size and scope of the show can be a challenge, both for exhibitors and for schools. "There are so many things on show that you can go into Bett with a few ideas and come out with a whole lot more," Maclean notes, explaining that this can unsettle even those schools that had a strategy nailed down. This doesn't have to be the case, however. "If you do your homework in advance and make sure you're speaking to the people that you want to see, then there's a lot of value to be had from being there."

Bett 2017 show preview - what should you definitely see?

Stuart Andrews

Stuart has been writing about technology for over 25 years, focusing on PC hardware, enterprise technology, education tech, cloud services and video games. Along the way he’s worked extensively with Windows, MacOS, Linux, Android and Chrome OS devices, and tested everything from laptops to laser printers, graphics cards to gaming headsets.

He’s then written about all this stuff – and more – for outlets, including PC Pro, IT Pro, Expert Reviews and The Sunday Times. He’s also written and edited books on Windows, video games and Scratch programming for younger coders. When he’s not fiddling with tech or playing games, you’ll find him working in the garden, walking, reading or watching films.

You can follow Stuart on Twitter at @SATAndrews