October 15, 2010

Our School is One in Ten Million!

Full-blown educational cloud computing -- love it!

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Google Apps for Education Users Grow to 10 Million

By Tammy Wolf, TMCnet Copy Editor

The idea of the classroom being the only outlet for students to learn from and interact with faculty is almost antiquated, as the development of out-of-the-classroom tools continues to skyrocket.

One of these includes Google’s (News - Alert) Apps for Education, a version of Google’s online productivity tools geared toward K-12 schools and universities. Since the beginning of the school year, Google said the application has gained a substantial amount of new users – a staggering 2 million on top of its 8 million students, staff, faculty and alumni from a few weeks ago, bringing the total to almost 10 million.

Blogger Audrey Watters recently pointed out in a post that more and more school districts are choosing to move to cloud-based offerings such as Google’s Apps for Education, saving these educational institutions a significant amount of money.

Oregon was the first state to take a swing at the program, which Google said it plans to continue as a free offering. By using the application, Oregon school districts were able to save about $1.5 million for e-mail, as well as cut down the budget in hardware and software upgrades since the OS is in the browser.

Also, Howard Chan, director of technology for K-12 public charter schools in San Diego, helped eight schools make the move to Google Apps for Education. According to Chan, this saved the school time and money since e-mail servers did not have to be administered. He also cited the development of new tools such as a Tech Support System using Google Voice and Google Docs.

The service currently offers filtered e-mail, calendar, online documents, video conferencing and website development. Schools are granted their own domain that is managed by IT departments, while the school staff manages the amount and type of e-mail messages that pass through the system.

The three C’s – communication, collaboration and customization – enable faculty, staff and students to work together and learn more effectively, according to Google. Community dialogue is enhanced with hosted e-mail, shared calendars and integrated video chat; students and teachers can share documents online at any time and location via Google Docs and Google sites; and IT systems can be easily integrated with Google.

Google is not alone in its attempt to break into the educational sector with its tools. The search engine giant and Microsoft (News - Alert) are going head-to-head, as Microsoft offers Live@edu, a similar suite of online productivity tools for students and faculty.

According to a recent article, Live@edu has close to a whopping 50 million users. It will be interesting to see if Google will be able to catch up.

Tammy Wolf is a TMCnet copy editor. Previously she was assistant to the editor at The Darien Times, a weekly newspaper in Darien, Conn., where she edited submissions, did page layout and design and helped manage the newspaper’s website. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

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