Back in December, at our District Technology Committee, we were discussing technologies like online learning, cloud computing, social media, collaborative learning, and mobile learning when I had mentioned Google Apps for Education. This was a free suite of tools (Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sites, Google Talk, Google Groups, and Google Calendar) that could be managed under our districts umbrella.
Our district was having email issues and we would be looking at purchasing a new server….or another option would be to look at Google Apps as Gmail (Google’s email) was one of the apps we could utilize RIGHT NOW. Going with Google Apps, just for Gmail alone, would save our district around 5-6,000 dollars. There was no “licensing” or yearly fees. It came with a FREE spam/Virus checker, and it was all hosted AND backed up on Google’s infrastructure. One other big problem Google apps was going to help solve for me…was the increasing number of SMART phones making there way into our district. Staff wanted the ability to access email on their phones. Because many of these phones were personal, we couldnt standardize on any one. Google Apps solved that problem and is completely compatible with the Window, iPhone, Blackberry, and of course Android phones.
By the time I left the meeting, Google Apps was a GO! Because many of our service agreements were coming up for renewal – We needed to act fast!
Google had a great 6 week deployment plan that was very helpful in our deployment. Even though there is a short inservice scheduled, our hopes are that staff will take a self learning approach and take advantage the newly created Byron Apps training site. ( developed by using Google Sites and a FREE template) Also, because this is Google, and we were all use to “Googling” for information – it is simply amazing the resources available on the web OR Youtube to help users find print or video content about whatever help they need within Google Apps.
This past Friday, we actually went live with the new application. On Thursday at 3pm we cleared the queue and shut down the email server. At midnight, the switch occurred and when we arrived at school Friday morning, mail was already beginning to arrive in our gmail inboxes. (I had expected it to take 48 hours ) It was business as usual. Over the next few weeks, staff will be working on uploading their email and because we used the email client Mozilla’s Thunderbird, I found a sweet little add-on, called Zindus, that would allow users to synch their personal addressbooks with Byron Apps Gmail. (after some much needed clean up of course!) Also, adding an Imap account in Thunderbird, for the new Byron Apps gmail, would allow users to copy and Synch emails too. This is going to take some time for staff, but will be well worth it in the end!
Here is a great video from Google that explains why YOU should go with Google Apps too!