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Choosing to go Google

Staff and students at Lakeview School are successfully adopting a wide range of Google applications, as Tim Nelson explains.

What got you started?

 Last year, I read an article about a large college in Auckland that was using only open source products. This really struck a nerve with me. If they could do it, why couldn’t we do something similar. I also think that it is important to let students know that there is another way of doing things; by this I mean that Microsoft Office, which is a great product, isn’t the only way of creating documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

What made you choose Google?

 I guess I stumbled across Google Apps when I clicked on the ‘more’ option on the Google home page. I subsequently read several very positive reviews explaining how schools were doing all of their work on Docs, and were starting to use the spreadsheet and presentation tools as well. These programs don’t necessarily have all of the bells and whistles of other packages, but they do have what we need to meet the needs of our students. Google is a massive company. They have assured users that Google Apps for Schools will always be free. We expect them to be around for some time! We’re using:

1. Gmail

 Last year, we replaced our locally hosted Microsoft Outlook email system with school gmail accounts. Since this time staff haven’t had a single problem with their email accounts. Previously a lot of our ICT support time was spent addressing a wide range of issues. Additionally, being cloud hosted, email can be accessed from anywhere that an Internet connection is available; be it school, home … or Timbuktu!

2. Google Sites (sites.google.com)

Our school website (lakeviewschool.info) was created on Google Sites. Updating it is ridiculously easy, meaning that it is as up to date as any school site that I have seen anywhere (take the time to check it out). Our student Tech Crew has taken on responsibility for maintaining the website.

3. Blogger (blogger.com) 

Class pages have been created on Blogger. Teachers are very good at keeping them updated with what’s going on in their classrooms. The ease of using this product is highlighted by the fact that teachers who had struggled with ICT are now doing (at least) weekly updates.

4. Google Docs

This term all of our Year 5 to 8 students will be trained in the use of Google Docs as their primary word processing tool. This has been done by creating a Google account for every student within the Lakeview School Google Apps account. They will have access to their work anywhere with an Internet connection, meaning parents and caregivers will be able to check out what their children are doing at school. Student Google accounts also give students their own email address. This provides them with another means of communicating with their peers and teachers.

5. Google Apps calendar

Our school calendar is now a Google Apps calendar. This can be accessed by our parents and caregivers via the school website.

Do you have any plans for the future?

The next step will be to extend Docs across the whole school. I would also like to see students setting up their own online portfolios and student management systems. I went to a SMS presentation last year and as I was sitting their I kept thinking that everything the package provided could be done through Google Apps at no cost (apart from the time and effort put in by staff).

Anything you’d like to add?

I was an ICT novice and have become self taught in the wide range of applications within the Google Apps product base. Oh yeah, Google Apps for schools education edition is free. Staff and students are now doing a lot of what our ICT service providers had done in the past, saving us potentially thousands of dollars.

What more can I say about a great range of products from Google. I strongly believe that cloud computing is the way of the future – a future that we’re embracing.

Tim Nelson is Deputy Principal at Lakeview School.

Comments
Paul   Posted: 7/09/2010 10:07 AM
In response to Graeme’s comment, data ownership tends to one of the primary concerns (refer http://waveadept.com/why-switch/faq/) that corporate customers have of Google Apps (in their case, with Google Apps Premier Edition). As a Google Apps reseller, we spend a significant amount of time discussing and addressing these concerns with potential clients – some of the discussion can be found at http://waveadept.com/why-switch/faq/how-do-we-get-out-of-google-once-weve-given-all-our-data-to-them/ An interesting aspect of all this is the work of the Data Liberation Front (http://www.dataliberation.org/) – an engineering team at Google whose singular goal is to make it easier for users to move their data in and out of Google products. Expect to see greater functionality built into Google Apps in the near future, as a result of their work.
Graeme   Posted: 7/09/2010 8:41 AM
Also, if you read the fine print. It states that Google has the right to implement charges at year 4 of use. Not that I suspect they will as the MS product is being pushed to schools and Universities for free.
Graeme   Posted: 7/09/2010 8:22 AM
I am not so sure about Google. Sure the applications are great and are getting better by the day but there is that whole question of ownership. What if Google starts charging for applications 4 years from now? You data is out there, how are you going to get it all back? Who owns it? Are there backups that you can recover from every few hours? We supplied Google apps to students about 3 years ago. In the first year 1/2 of our students used it regularly [about 600 students]. The next year about 200 students. This year we are seeing on average 10 students using it a month. Ironically, the product is getting better and better. I think that Google Apps is a better option than Microsoft LIVE but I am still not convinced that I would put staff and school data out there.
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