Why Not Google Apps? A few reasons why Google Apps for Education may not be the right choice.
Image via WikipediaI've given a lot of love to Google Apps for Education lately, including a set of "Tech Talks" this week at ETHS. However, I think it's important to consider some potential reasons why a teacher and possibly a school would choose not to "Go Google."
Just another tool
The last thing I want teachers to feel about technology is that we are constantly shoving tools, programs, or unreliable devices down their throats. Google Apps could be view as "just another tool" that may look and sound fancy, but may not be immediately applicable in the classroom. For example, students love the real-time editing features of Google Docs, and I'll be the first to acknowledge that I use this as an eye-catching "wow" part of my demos. However, does this make a teacher's curriculum and instruction any better? Probably not. I will continue to argue that Apps are great for improving collaboration and communication, but these too may come at the price of class time spent learning the application.
Although not labeled as a Beta product, Google Apps for Education is still very young and often includes weekly, if not daily updates. Although these changes are almost always improvements, they are implemented to fix something or add functionality that is usually pre-existing in a stand-alone program such as MS Word. Most students are well versed in MS Office, and switching over to a less polished product can be a bit problematic. I usually point out the trade-offs in that the collaboration that one enjoys when using Google Apps outweighs the formatting issues, varied performance with different browsers, and lack of slide transitions. Besides, do you really want and need that bullet sound in your presentation?
Reliance on Internet connection
As opposed to a stand-alone program such as MS Office or a downloadable one such as Open Office, Google Apps needs to have an Internet connection to be fully functional. When one turns to the cloud for computing, one quickly becomes dependent on the existence of the Internet connection and the speed of said connection. This can be problematic for users who may have a computer at home, and don't have Internet access. The problem could be solved in the future if public WiFi becomes more widespread, especially as more towns and communities begin looking to cloud computing as cost saving solutions.
Of course, Google Apps isn't the only player in the game. Microsoft astutely joined the fray with an online version of its Office Suite, and it has been targeting schools and universities as well. Admittedly, I don't have much experience with Live@Edu other than an occasional mention of SkyDrive or an article on Office Online. Thus, I still don't associate the Microsoft apps as a serious contender to Google given the latter's head start and stronger feature set. However, with its strong brand following in MS Office apps, Live@Edu has the potential to give GAFE a run for its money.