Interview: NCCE Presenter, Google’s Richard Achee, on Making the Case for Google Apps for Education


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Richard AcheeThe final countdown is on for NCCE 2015 in Portland! The NCCE family is thrilled to welcome Richard Achee, Google’s Strategic Partner Manager, who will be on hand discuss Google’s vision for transformation of education through technology.

Richard recent sat down with me and Mike to discuss Google Apps for Education, Chromebooks and a look at Google’s future vision for education.

Mike: Many districts we have worked with over the past 12 months are trying to decided between Google Apps for Education or Office 365. In your opinion what are the key differences between the 2 platforms?

Richard: In terms of looking at Google Apps for Education and Office 365. Most schools are making the decision on:

One of Google Apps for Education’s  distinguishing characteristics is that is 100% cloud based. There is nothing installed on the device itself. Office 355 has a subset of functionality that requires a desktop solution. The first fundamental decision is do we want to install an application on the computer? Do we have the resources to do that? Philosophically is that how we want to manage our IT assets? What are the tradeoffs? There are pluses and minuses to each approach.

One of the reasons people choose Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks is you don’t install anything on the device. The reason that is an advantage is if you can’t install anything on the device you’re not getting viruses, spyware, malware. You don’t run into the update issues, patches, and those sort of maintenance items.

Chromebooks with Google Apps For Education is really a paradigm shift in deploying applications. Whereas, Office 365 is a more incremental step to the cloud in some ways.

When we talk with teachers and districts is it always come down to collaboration. One of Google Apps for Education advantages is how easy it is to collaborate in Google Apps. Why is that important? Schools are transforming the way they are teaching. Flipped classrooms have been effectively around for decades but now we have technology that allows to flip at a very high level. You can really redefine the task of whatever you are teaching.

Because the grassroots movement already exist, what we find is that many teachers are already using Google Apps in their classroom and they may have already set up their own domain. It would be a good idea for a district leader to look at first what are the teacher using today, because they most likely have rouge deployments in their district already.

Jason: There is an active campaign from some of Google’s competitors to suggest that other cloud-based services are safer with personal data.  What does a teacher, district or parent need to know when picking a service to trust with their educational data?

Richard: Today more than 40 million students, teachers and administrators rely on Google Apps for Education to learn, communicate and work together more efficiently. And protecting the privacy and security of our users — including students — is a top priority and we work very hard to maintain the trust of our customers.

If you look at our service level agreements, there are no ads in Google Apps for Education services and we have no plans to change this in the future. . Additionally, K-12 Google Apps for Education users signed in to their Apps for Education accounts do not see ads when they use Google Search. I definitely recommend everyone spend time to look at the terms and conditions of their contract and hold your vendors accountable.

Many of the decisions Google has made over the years is based upon the feedback given by users. This is one of many reasons I am proud to work for Google, the integrity with which they listen and respond to customers based upon feedback. One of the cornerstones to Google’s philosophy is to put the user first. I see this everyday with Google Apps for Education, both in terms of privacy and security as well as improvements like Google Classroom. Classroom was 100% driven by teacher feedback.

Mike: What does it mean to be a Google Educator and can anyone achieve this certification?

Richard: If you use your favorite search engine and search for Google for education there is a section on training. There are really two levels of training. Level One describes the basic: How to use Google Apps. Level Two is how it is applied in the classroom. There is also the Google educators group. These groups are made up of many Google certified teachers that discuss best practices, lesson ideas, and how they are using Google Apps in the classroom. These communities are extremely valuable for getting teachers beyond the certification level to specific use cases that will help them in integrating Google Apps into their teaching.

Mike:Let’s talk about Chromebooks in the classroom.  Development and redevelopment of software assets in the educational space is very slow, how do you see teachers striking a balance between using Chromebooks and still be able to utilize web based tools built in javascript, Adobe Shockwave, or other older frameworks?

Richard: We have tackled this problem in a few ways. First, we look at the developers themselves and see if we can get them to move away from these older technologies and onto HTML 5. People are moving away from older technologies for a reason, there are some challenges with these these older technologies that will not go away. The second thing is to look at the strategy of the school. What are the legacy apps that the school needs to migrate from or find alternatives? Many have found that there are similar apps, or often better apps available through the Chromebook. Finally, some schools have setup a virtual desktop environment to allow access to legacy apps on Chromebooks.

Jason: If I am starting at square one and want to consider Google Apps for Education and/or Chromebooks, what are the first steps?

Richard:

  1. Engage a partner to get you started with Google Apps.
  2. What are your learning outcomes?
  3. Now look at devices. Ask yourself: Are we just going with Chromebooks or are there tablet solutions that make sense? We have found that tablets have been most effective in the K-2grade levels and from 3rdand beyond Chromebooks have been the best fit because students need a way to easily type. It is not an either or discussion, it is usually a mix of both.
  4. When you make a hardware decision, if you go with Chromebooks, get “white glove” service. That means the Chromebooks will be delivered already setup on your domain so you can just roll them out to students. This makes for a much smoother process.
  5. It is all about Professional Development. This will be the difference between a mediocre deployment and a highly successful one. This PD needs to be an ongoing effort and it is going beyond the point of “just getting it” to the point where your teachers can teach others.

Richard Achee is sponsored by Troxell Communications.  Please visit him in the Troxell Booth #512 on Thursday and Friday.

It is not too late!  Register right now for NCCE in Portland.  Click here to find out more and join your colleagues and the Tech-Savvy Teachers in Portland!

 

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