Monday, February 22, 2010

Response to: Google Apps for Education: Is It the Right Choice for Our Students?

Ben Grey pointed me to Karl Fisch's excellent post here on Google Apps Edu where he raises some good points - many of them we were asking way before Google Apps existed. For years we have provided students with network storage and every year we have faced the same set of questions: how do kids transfer it out, what happens if a student graduates and then needs something later, what if they don't own the programs they need to display their work after they leave (especially with programs such as CAD and digital imaging software - although many students don't have the MS office suite at home). Every year we have posted steps for copying and moving this information (we now include steps for their Google products as well).

Overall (except sites) moving this material has become easier and the program used to run/display the work is readily available. Google's data liberation project is making it easier to get your data off or transferred all the time.

I agree that keeping the digital footprint becomes fragmented, but for those articles that are worth displaying I would encourage students to create their own portfolio outside of our walled-garden. The semi-walled-garden may not be authentic, but it is an environment where many of our students (and more often our staff) feel comfortable making, and learning from, their mistakes.

I agree as well, that many schools are interested in the control aspect of Google Apps Edu - but in some cases that is what allows for the filters to come down and for schools to open up to the possibilities it offers. Over time Google will continue to add other apps into the fold and it will become more robust (just as they have started to with groups). For us it was an organizational issue - we wanted students to all have an email address - we wanted to make sure it stuck with them and didn't change. This gives us a constant way to contact students and this has made many of our teachers more open to using other "2.0" technologies such as Nings and Wiki's because they can be sure of who is a member of those sites and there is some accountability for these classroom extensions. We rely on those email addresses to distribute essential information; therefore we need to be the administrators of those accounts, just like we are for our staff. Sure there are times when we need to access those accounts for discipline reasons (we do for staff too).

I don’t think this is an either or question – it is a combination of both is the correct answer. Just as I maintain a work account and profile and a personal account and profile, our students need to learn to do the same. What happens when I leave this place of work? I need to use skills to transfer my online life from one profile to another. We should be teaching our students these skills as well – for when they move through their many stages of life. Put them on Google Apps Edu, and for those over 13, encourage them to start building their personal profile as well. Let them make mistakes where it is safe and then display great work where they feel is appropriate. Teach them to do it all while they move between the many levels of society (face to face or virtual) which is one of the many things that growing up is all about.

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