Monday, May 3, 2010

Google Apps for Education: HARK!

HARK! You can now LISTEN to this post in a Podcast!





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In March I had was honored to attend the first Google Teacher Academy for Administrators. I was a huge Google fan before the academy, but after 12 hours of Google education, I have become instead an evangelist (unpaid). If you care to read WHY I LOVE GOOGLE Apps for Education, then scroll to the bottom of this post. I'm going to assume if you're reading this post, you're looking for WHAT EXACTLY and HOW TO, so I'll give you that first. What is Google Apps for Education?: Google Docs (word processing, spreadsheets, drawing, and presentations) all online (available wherever you go)FREE and modeling all the best "stuff" we should be teaching our children--more on that later. BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE. You can use the same login information your students have at school for Google Docs, then you can add on nifty extras like Aviary, which includes sophisticated image creation and editing (see the zipper cat) as well as amazing sound manipulation and image markup (like Snag IT and the Jing Project--highly recommend!)

Aviary.com
And Google Forms (fill this one out to see some of the features in action): If you're in charge of collecting any amount of data for any thing, please HARK! (That's what they say in The Bible when angels are about to appear.) Because Google FORMS will change your very life. And

GMail
, IF you choose to turn it on. Oh come ON! You do have a GMail account don't you? NO, well sign up here.

And
Google Groups (wow!)--again, completely under your control. And Google Video (you choose who can upload and who can see it).

And so much more I could write ALL DAY. For example, check out those
spreadsheet widgets. Bet your MS Office can't do that!

Golly, I didn't even talk about Google Moderator, Google Sites (here's one of mine), or any or these other FREE Google Tools that are so ripe for the educational picking.


Allrightly
then, back to the main point, if you're convinced already, then you're dismissed, but if instead you're headed to a meeting where people will talk about Sherpas (or is that Ferpas?) or Sipping (CIPA?), then keep reading.

Q: Will our students be safe if they're using Google?

A: Are your students safe now? Well, unless you have them wrapped in a polystyrene bubble, they probably are NOT. Better to teach them how to fish without falling out of the boat rather than pretend we are not in the water. Google
Edu Apps seeks to help us provide a safe boat to fish from, but it does operate on the correct (imo) belief that we ARE in fact IN the water.

Q: Will the
FERPA and CIPA police come and get me if I use Google Apps for Education?
A: They haven't gotten any of us yet, and no matter how many people I ask, I can't find anyone who has seen the mysterious men (women?) in black. Do we do our utmost to protect our children's data? YES WE DO. Are they providing their data to online sites less reliable than Google all the time. You can answer that for yourself, but don't pretend you know what they're doing when they go home, 'cause you don't. So there.
All kidding aside, we do not believe that
CIPA or FERPA guidelines are violated. CIPA seeks to "limit children's exposure to pornography," and so do we. FERPA says we can't post their education records for the world to see unless they say it's okay. I'm still not sure why this argument keeps coming up, but I THINK it's because teachers use Google Forms to collect student information ALL the TIME. C'mon folks, don't ask them to type in their social security numbers, addresses, and birthdays. Even more important, don't download sensitive student data to the hard drive of your unsecured net book, then leave it lying in the back seat of your car. (Bad people can break the windows out, take it, then sign up for credit cards using your students' social security numbers). Generally speaking, the goal of "bad people" is to buy neat stuff off Amazon.com, NOT to illicitly know your kids' reading levels.

Another important argument that is close to my heart goes as follows:
Q: "When my students get out into the REAL WORLD, shouldn't they know how to use Microsoft Office."

A: Okay, well REALLY? Check out what these
businesses who have purchased Google Apps (that's what businesses have to do----they have to buy this stuff we're getting for free) have to say about their Google
implementations. Heck, if you don't believe it, call them up and ask them for yourself. If you're too tired to click that link above and look for yourself, here are some users of Google Docs: The City of Los Angeles, Salesforce.com, Hamilton Beach, Wild Blue . . . . The "coin of the realm" in the 21st Century is to learn how to learn and know how to change, not to rely on one software. Perform this little experiment if this seems crazy to you: Install Open Office on your student computers and let the file types default there. See if your students can figure it out without your help. We've done this little experiment all over our district for about 5 years now (that is we stopped buying MS Office), and low and behold (DO I hear a HARK!), they don't even notice the difference. (Teachers, I'm sorry to say, are a different story, but they can and DO love Google Docs!)

Even an Evangelist gets all ranted out from time to time, but if you'll comment (nicely please!) with any questions/arguments
/etc. you have that I have not yet addressed, I'd be glad to write you back. For the two of you (thanks MOM!) who read all the way to here. Thank you for listening. I feel better now, and I hope you do too!
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