I’ve had an email this morning from a school considering using Google Apps for Education in their school, and asking for some feedback on our experience. Having written the email, I thought it might be useful to share here…
We went for Google Apps for similar reasons, we didn’t even have a working email system for staff, let alone pupils!
The system was very easy to set up, we had confirmation in a few days (the system for approving schools outside the UK is manual rather than automatic) and we got 2000 accounts, which we upped in September to 3000 to handle our cross-over from yr 11 to sixth form, and give former students time to back up their accounts before we deleted them.
You will need control of a domain name that the accounts will link to. In our case that was fine as we own and operate our website outside county control. I don’t know how easy it would be to use your school address, you’d need to talk to someone at county for that. As an alternative though you could easily purchase a domain name and a basic hosting package (we use a company called CS New Media (csnewmedia.co.uk) and put the file that google needs there.
Since we’ve had it, it’s been a huge sucess. Staff have gone from complaining about having to check emails to wondering aloud how we ever survived without it. It was mandated at the start that staff check their emails at least twice a day, and we showed staff how to set their browser up to open multiple tabs when they opened it, so they would have SIMS, their email and the school homepage open by default. Most staff just leave their email tab open all day now.
Some staff have started accepting work by email and many are encouraging students to contact them by email if they have any problems with work (particularly useful with the sixth form) and some are doing so.
Because of the package we also have Google Calendar, on which we have an internal events calendar shared with staff and an external events calendar viewable online.
We also have Google docs which some departments are starting to use to collaberate of schemes of work, and many students who don’t have Office at home are using for writing to avoid the issue of opening MSworks files in school. We are also using a shared spreadsheet to organise cover, so staff can check online if they are doing a cover lesson on any particular day.
We’ve started experimenting with Google Sites in one year 7 class as a place for them to store their work, and with a couple of the school clubs who wanted some online space.
We did switch off Google Talk at the request of the ICT dept, and we’re also not using the start page as some of the addable content was not suitable for schools (although I believe that issue may now have been fixed)
We have the privacy issue raised twice in the 18 months since we switched on, but in both cases people were happy that we were not storing anything particularly confidential online (grades etc go straight into SIMS). Most people seem to be either oblivious to the privacy issues, or happy that the benefits outweigh the issues.That has certainly been our experience. Up time has been excellent – we’ve lost email twice in the last 18 months, once for a couple of hours and once for about an hour.
Hope this is of some help. If you don’t mind I might stick it online for other schools to have a look at as well!
Please get back to me if you’ve got any more questions.
All the best,