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News breaks today that Oregon has signed up to utilize Google Apps for K-12 email, document collaboration and calendaring services.  Districts do not have to adopt Google services, and many may choose to continue providing their IT systems, but at the bargain price of free I’d imagine many Districts are going to seriously consider a switch.

Privacy concerns abound but, with the recent fiasco regarding webcam pictures in Philadelphia I’m not sure that Google is inherently any less secure than the in house options we’ve got already.  I understand not wanting Google to own every piece of data created in our schools but unless students are managing their own data on personal thumb drives, I think Google is as secure (or more secure) than District based solutions.  I’m not sure why I’d trust the guy across town who currently manages my network to not pry into my students’ personal details more than a faceless Google employee who doesn’t know (or care about) any of my students.

And, as a service, I’d love to be able to collaborate with students on documents using Google Docs.  Just getting each student a reliable, fast email service is a huge win.  Any district knows that email is a huge technical headache- outsourcing (for free) to Google is a no brainer.

Savings for Oregon are estimated at 1.5M a year.  I find that number shockingly low and won’t be surprised if it’s far higher, once staff who previously administered these systems are eliminated.  1.5M is roughly 15-20 tech employees (with benefits) and I can imagine cutting more than 15 positions as a result of Google Apps.  Additional savings from servers, software and disk space probably aren’t as significant as personnel costs, but they add up.

Now, if I only had a computer lab with systems capable of adequately opening Gmail.

I, for one, welcome our Google Overlords.

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