UPDATE 01/28/2010: Follow-up blog post with an example of a really large district–18th largest in the United States.
ORIGINAL BLOG ENTRY:
Thanks to Lucy Gray for originally sharing survey results about GoogleApps in Education usage, as well as Lisa Velmer Nielson for reposting them on her Facebook page. Both efforts helped spread the information and made it easy for me to locate a week after they posted it! Amazing how many emails and communications are flowing in about everything under the sun, so finding stuff worth keeping–as these survey results are–can be problematic if it takes me long to blog it.
Finding out the information is helpful for school districts who are considering GoogleApps for Education. One of the pieces of information I wish the spreadsheet collected was the total number of students and the number of schools. One of the complaints I hear is that GoogleApps for Education hasn’t been deployed in LARGE districts.
What I would like to see is a school district that has 8000+ users and over 100 schools that is using GoogleApps for Education as a complete replacement for MS Exchange services. I’d also like to see their full implementation plan and how they have dealt with issues such as FERPA, etc.
Robert Alford (blog) recently asked presented a fascinating question that gets at implementation issues that I suspect districts that just “jumped” into GoogleApps for Education haven’t really thought through:
Question regarding staff members/school districts use of Google docs. What is your district’s stance regarding teachers/schools use of Google docs? Would signing up for a Google Apps for Education account and activating the SSL capabilities meet with FERPA laws?
An example: A teacher using Google forms/spreadsheet to keep track of parent contacts made and items discussed. Using Google docs the school’s administrative staff could have access to the information as the teacher complies the data. BUT because we are not in a contractual agreement with Google (as opposed to Fitness Gram or TMSDS) would this violate FERPA law?
Now, some might suggest that we should just call Google and get a response. The problem with that is the last time someone called Google about GoogleApps for Education, the representative said, “GoogleApps for Education are NOT free for a large district with 8000+ users and 100 schools.” Of course, this caused quite a bit of confusion. While early adopter districts can jump into GoogleApps for Education, they should know that other districts are fearful–rightfully so–of abandoning tried and true approaches to services that they can’t just call someone for support.
In many ways, it is this support model that inhibits the spread of free open source solutions…”I can’t just pick up the phone and hold someone accountable [except myself and my small team] for fixing our problem.” Unless GoogleApps for Education can clearly deal with getting information out, no amount of enthusiastic support and endorsement from early adopter districts is going to make it happen.
In reviewing the information in the spreadsheet, here are educational entities that are using GoogleApps in Education. Regrettably, most of the examples cited in the spreadsheet Lucy Gray shared (thanks, Lucy!!) are small campuses, small districts, or virtual schools. In other words, none among them that would convince large district administration to dump a system they’ve invested hundreds of thousands of dollars of time, effort and precious funding for a system that lacks CONTACT US link with real phone numbers, a HelpDesk that can be contacted.
While arguing that phone numbers and helpdesk are part of old support models, the truth is, if you can’t pick up the phone and talk to a real person, then you’re being asked to take GoogleApps in Education on faith. Consider this scathing remark from a technology director in the United States about SunBurst educational software’s support efforts:
I’d just like to warn anyone who may be considering or has already purchased Sunburst products; THE COMPANY NO LONGER HAS LEGITIMATE TECH SUPPORT! They have a toll-free number they mislead you with that they advertise as tech support, but you will not be able to speak to anyone and you will not be able to leave a message for a call back like the “so-called” support site says you can. Also, don’t expect a return email or a legitimate answer through the “supposed” ticket system.
I challenge GoogleApps for Education–the organization, not the users–to speak up and share the toll-free number they have for technical support, knowledgeable support staff to respond to questions, and HelpDesk for their GoogleApps.
Not much of a list, huh? In reviewing the entire list online, it appears the vast majority are individual campuses or districts with less than 10 schools. This is not evidence sufficient to convert a large district.
I did hear rumors of a district “Matt Whacker” is in, have attempted to make contact with him, but to no avail, even via Twitter and/or his blog. Another rumor is that there is a New York district with 1200 schools using GoogleApps for Education but no firm contact there.
Now, while I want to use GoogleApps for Education in Texas schools, I can honestly tell you that unless I can show GoogleApps for Education being used in school districts with 40 or more, it’s not worth bringing up except as a tool for teachers to use for their own personal purposes.
UPDATE 01/24/2010; 10:38 AM: Thanks to Lucy Gray for sharing the following links that are well worth watching:
Subscribe to Around the Corner-MGuhlin.org
Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure