Tag: Google Apps (page 1 of 2)

Utopia, pedagogy, and G-Suite for Education

This week, I’ve been over in Jersey helping a school with their educational technology. In particular, I’ve been doing some training on G-Suite for Education (as Google now call what used to be ‘Google Apps’). The main focus has been Google Classroom but, as this is basically a front-end for the rest of G-Suite, we spilled out into other areas.

A bit of history

I first used G-Suite for Education back when I was a classroom teacher. We didn’t have it rolled out across the school but, back then, and in the school I was in, I was left to just get on with it. So I can remember being administrator, sorting out student accounts, forgotten passwords, and the like. The thing that impressed me, though, was the level of collaboration it encouraged and engendered.

Then, when I became Director of E-Learning of a new 3,000 student, nine site Academy in 2010, I rolled out G-Suite for Education for all 500 members of staff. It worked like a dream, especially given some of the friction there was harmonising different MIS and VLE configurations. The thing that I valued most back then was the ability to instantly communicate between sites by using a tool which has now morphed into ‘Hangouts’.

At that time, I was a bit of a pioneer in the use of Google’s educational tools, which is why Tom Barrett and I, along with some others in our network, were ‘Lead Learners’ at the first UK Google Teacher Academy. That’s grown and grown in the intervening period, while I’ve been working in Higher Education, at Mozilla, and consulting.

Back to the future

Fast forward to the present, and we’re in a very different educational technology landscape. Where once there seemed to be new, exciting services popping up every week, the post-2008 economic crash landscape is dominated by large shiny silos. The dominant players are Google, Microsoft, and Apple — although the latter’s offering seems less all-encompassing than the other two.

I have to say that I’m a bit biased in favour of Google’s tools. I’m not a big fan of their business model, although that’s a moot point in education given that students and staff don’t see adverts. It’s a much more ‘webby’ experience than other platforms I’ve used.

The more I get back into using G-Suite for Education the more I appreciate that Google doesn’t prescribe a certain pedagogy. The approach seems to be that, while particular apps like Classroom allow you to do some things in a certain way, there’s always other ways of achieving the same result. It’s also extensible: there’s loads of apps that you can add via the Marketplace.

So what?

OK, so that’s all very well and good, but what has that got to do with you, dear reader? Why should you care about my experiences and views on Google’s education offerings?

Well, a couple of things, I suppose. First, in relation to my 7 approaches to educational technology integration post, I feel like there’s some really easy ways to move staff up the SAMR model towards the ‘transformational’ type of technology use we want to see. One thing I’ve been focusing on recently, is explaining the mental models behind technologies. In other words, rather than telling people where to click, I’m explaining the concepts behind what it is there doing, as well as situations in which it might be helpful. How they teach is up to them; I’m providing them with skillsets and mindsets to give them more options.

Second, I feel like there’s a huge opportunity to integrate Open Badges with G-Suite for Education. It seems pretty straightforward to build upon Google’s platform to provide the email addresses of who should be issued a badge, as well as the environment in which badge issuing would be triggered.

I’m thinking through a badging system for one of my clients at the moment, built upon the usual things I emphasise: non-linear pathways, individual choice, and an element of surprise. In that regard, I’m planning on starting with something like a ‘Classroom Convert’ badge that recognises that staff are developing mindsets around the use of Google Classroom, as well as skillsets.

There are, of course, ways in which staff can go ‘full Google’ and become (as I am) a Google Certified Teacher, and so on. That’s not what this is. My aim in any badge system is to encourage particular types of knowledge, skills, and behaviours. Whatever system I come up with will be co-designed and go beyond just the use of G-Suite for Education. As the TPACK model emphasises, the system will have a more holistic focus: integrating the technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge required for purposeful educational technology integration.

Utopia

Ideally, I’d like an approach where students can use something like Unhosted apps to bring their own data store to the applications they choose to use when collaborating with their teachers and fellow students. I’d like to see them have a domain of their own, and learn enough code to have real agency in online digital spaces.

While I’ve got that in mind, I’m also a pragmatist. The tools Google provides through G-Suite for Education, while not world-changing, do move the Overton Window in terms of what’s possible in technology integration. Even just working collaboratively on a single Google Doc is pretty mindblowing to people who haven’t done this before.

Weeknote #15

This week I have been mostly…

Buying mobile broadband

I noticed that O2 are offering mobile broadband for £5/month. It’s only 500MB but the important thing is that you get unlimited access to BT Openzone wifi hotspots as well! A bit of a deal if you ask me. 🙂

Setting up a mobile blog

I wasn’t going to publicly-promote this until later, but Nick Dennis and I have set up a blog about mobile technologies in education over at http://mobilizingeducation.tumblr.com. The URL (and indeed the name of the blog) may change but we felt that there wasn’t enough that blended pedagogy and practice in this area.

Wondering about Ben’s next computer

We bought Ben an Apple eMac for his 3rd birthday in January. He loves using it, but as he’s progressed to more complex games and activities, it’s become a bit too much for the machine. In fact, one Flash-based video he tried to wach recently was reduced to a slideshow! I’m wondering whether his next ‘computer’ should in fact be a tablet of some description or whether, given that schools are likely to stay with traditional computers in the near future, that would put him at a disadvantage?

Playing with Google Apps

JISC infoNet is testing out Google Apps Education Edition on behalf of JISC Advance. It was super-easy to roll out given my past experience. It’s also refreshing to give access to people who ask higher-level questions (e.g. how to switch between Google accounts) than really basic ones. It reflects our team’s immersion in all things digital. 🙂

Google Apps Marketplace: apps worth installing

I’m currently sorting out Google Apps Education Edition for internal communication and collaboration at work. Things have changed a bit since I set it up at the Academy last year: there’s a new admin interface and (most importantly) Google Apps Marketplace, amongst other things.

Google Apps Marketplace allows third-parties to integrate their products and services – usually by single sign-on – with Google Apps. Some are paid-for, some free and all have separate terms and conditions to the core Google Apps offering.

I’ve been through all of the third-party products and services currently available (August 2010) and created a Google Doc of those that meet the following criteria:

1. Free (not just free trial)
2. Education or productivity-focused

The document (embedded below) is editable by anyone with the link. Please do have a look and make any additions/alterations if you can! 🙂

Google Apps (Education Edition) vs. Microsoft [email protected]

Today I’m presenting on the benefits of Google Apps as a collaborative platform for people who work together often, but aren’t physically co-located. It’s not easy to separate fact from myth when comparing Microsoft’s hosted services (e.g. [email protected], Office Live) with Google Apps.

Microsoft have, very helpfully, concocted a Fact Based Comparison of Hosted Services (16 May 2010). Unfortunately, it’s rather selective with those facts. Most of them revolve around ‘can you do the same stuff with Google Apps as you can with Microsoft Outlook?’ That’s a flawed question for two reasons:

  1. You don’t necessarily want to do the same things with Google Apps.
  2. You can use Outlook to connect to Google Apps anyway.

To me, after reading several articles (available at my Delicious account) the choice seems to be between:

  • Cloud storage (Microsoft [email protected]/Office Live)
  • Cloud collaboration (Google Apps)

Whilst Microsoft’s offerings allow near real-time collaboration with Excel and OneNote, pages are locked for editing if someone else is using a Word document or PowerPoint presentation. By way of comparison, you can collaborate and edit all of Google Docs’ offerings in real-time.

Lifehacker, a website I’ve used for the last few years, published How Does Office Web Apps Compare to Google Docs? on 16 June 2010. I quote Kevin Purdy, the author of the article:

In terms of real-time collaboration, Google wins hands-down, because Office offers none.

And again:

Google’s Docs offerings have been on the market a good four years now, so they’ve had more time to learn what users want and need in an online suite. It shows in the design and function of Docs for day-to-day users.

I toyed with the idea of producing a point-by-point checklist here to compare Microsoft and Google’s offerings, but I don’t really think there’s any need. It’s a question of attitude and focus. For example, Microsoft drags its heels insisting on Silverlight installation whilst Google looks to the future with HTML5, an emerging web standard.

So, if you always use the same device, deal in only Microsoft-produced documents and are convinced Outlook is God’s gift to email users, then you’ll love [email protected] and Office Live.

But if, on the other hand, you like to be able to get various kinds of documents in and out of your systems easily, if you need to collaborate (in real-time) with colleagues not physically co-located, and if you want to be able to access everything on whatever device and browser you prefer using, then you’ll love Google Apps.

You can probably tell by the tone of this article which one I prefer. And I make no apology for that. Rome was not built on ‘functional specifications’ but on passion, enthusiasm and dedication. :-p

Weeknote #11

This week I have been mostly…

In hospital

First of all we had a bit of a scare with Hannah’s pregnancy. The risk of the baby being born with Downs Syndrome was elevated from 1/1000 to 1/28. She had an amniocentisis (which means she needs to take it easy for a couple of weeks) but everything’s fine. Oh, and it’s a girl! (due late December) 🙂

And then, whilst at nursery on Thursday, Ben decided it would be a great idea to stick a chickpea up his left nostril. Cue my coming home from work early. Two hospitals, three doctors, some pinning down from Daddy and a bloody nose later, it was out! I don’t think he’ll do that again…

Presenting

They say things comes in threes and that no buses tend to all come at once. It’s the same with me presenting. I’ve got three in the space of a week – yesterday I demoed the OER infoKit at the Open International Resources International Symposium.

Next Tuesday I’m presenting to a JISC Advance comms group about the benefits of Google Apps, then it’s Google Teacher Academy on Thursday. Awesome.

Blogging

Whilst I’m no longer committed to blogging every day, it would seem that being free to post every day (and not necessarily with images) means I might as well be!

I’ve also been experimenting with Posterous, importing this blog to http://dajbelshaw.posterous.com. It was mainly an experiment (took 5 days, worked flawlessly) but it actually looks great and works really well. Hmmm….

Running

Well, not since the BUPA Great North 10k, actually, but I was really pleased that I managed it in 49:30. That’s underneath the 50 minute target I set myself! My main target was to get around the course in under that time and at the end I felt I could have gone faster. I’m aiming for 45 minutes for the next one (although it’s a half-marathon next according to the plan)

Many thanks to those who sponsored me. Overall, including Gift Aid, UNICEF received over double the target amount! 🙂

Where we’re headed with the Academy’s E-Learning ecosystem.

I have to keep telling myself that we’re only five weeks in to a brand new, 10-site all-age Academy. There’s so much I want to do this academic year in my first year as Director of E-Learning that it’s frustrating when it’s not all up-and-running straight away! However, that’s because of a number of factors largely beyond my control. Things will settle down! :-p

The above diagram is a very simplistic representation of how I want the E-Learning ‘ecosystem’ to function by summer 2010. It’s a 4-stage process:

1. Roll out Google Apps to staff

This has already been done. We were going to use just instance of Google Apps at ncea.org.uk but decided against it. Why? Because we want to turn on as much functionality as possible for staff (e.g. Google Chat, Google Sites) whilst having the option of turning of these for students.

Rolling out Google Apps to staff first enables them to play around with it and get used to a slightly different way of working before they start interacting with students through it.

2. Get forensic filtering & monitoring software up-and-running

Whilst we’ll have some filtering provided through the Postini services that can be turned on for free with Google Apps Education edition, I (and Northumberland County Council) want more than this. We’re going to be going with an offering by the name of Policy Central. This allows us, amongst other things, to do the following:

  • Automatically take screenshots based on keywords typed into any application.
  • Block websites locally.
  • Whitelist persistent offenders.

We need to have this in place before rolling out anything to students from an e-safety point of view.

3. Roll out Google Apps to students

I’m planning to roll out Google Apps to students (nceastudents.org.uk) strategically. I’m going to start with the Sixth Form (ages 16-18) as they’re likely to be the most responsible and give the best feedback. Once I’ve collated, reflected, and acted upon this I shall then roll it out to Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14). Key Stage 4 may or may not get Google Apps depending on conversations I have with various people.

Finally, Key Stage 2 students will get access to Google Apps on the Primary sites. This will start with Year 6 (10-11 years old) and work downwards. This should allow me to go into assemblies and iron out any problems as they happen. I had hoped that this would be completed by Christmas but because of various events that have taken place it may take a while longer.

4. Open up the Learning Platform to staff and students.

We’re going with Frog for our Learning Platform. They are not only the market leaders in the UK, but have a track record of producing easy-to-use software which can incorporate and work with that from other providers. We’ll be looking – as other institutions are – to integrate Google Apps and Frog via a Single Sign-On procedure. That is to say, signing into Frog will automatically sign you into Google Apps.

Once this is in place, I think teaching and learning interactions should begin to be transformed. I’m not going to dictate workflows, but I can imagine something like this happening:

  1. Student collaborates with another student via Google Docs.
  2. Students complete document, export as Word document or PDF and send to teacher through Learning Platform.
  3. Teacher takes submitted work and opens in their Google Docs area.
  4. Teacher stores students’ work in a relevant folder within Google Docs.

You may wonder why I’m allowing only student-student collaboration and teacher-teacher collaboration. This is because I want the Learning Platform for the official submission of work and Google Docs for drafting, collaboration, and more informal interactions. At least in the first instance.

Other than that, I’m happy for things to grow organically. I’ve already seen some teachers begin to experiment with Google Sites, despite my only mentioning it in passing. Encouraging! 😀

What are your thoughts on the above?

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Never lose a document again: how Google Docs can change the way you and your department work!

Instead of attaching documents to emails, why don’t we attach email addresses to documents? That way, everyone sees each update of a document (e.g. a scheme of work) and there is a central repository for departmental or school files.

Watch this video:

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Google Docs is part of a wider suite known as Google Apps. There’s a version of this called Google Apps Team Edition that allows only those within an institution or business to collaborate on documents. You can access Ridgewood’s login page here. Only those with an @ridgewoodschool.co.uk email account can access this (which includes pupils, so be careful who you share documents with!)

Step 1

Sign up for an account. Follow the instructions using your school email address.

Step 2

Login to the Ridgewood Google Apps dashboard using the username/password set up in Step 1. You might want to bookmark this login page for ease-of-access next time!

Step 3

In the dashboard area you have several options, the rest of which you can explore at your leisure. For the moment we’re interested in Docs, so click on that!

Step 4

The Docs overview area is fairly straightforward. Documents which have been shared with you are accessible to the bottom-right. You can click on the toolbar to create a new document/spreadsheet/presentation/form/folder, upload existing documents (in Word .doc format, etc.), and share these with others:

Step 5

Once you have created or uploaded a document, click on the blue Share button to the top-right of your screen in the editing window. Then click on Share with others:

Step 6

You can view the ‘revision history’ of the document by going to Tools/Revision history in the editing window. This shows every change that has been made to the document. You can revert to any previous incarnation of a document if necessary!

Step 7

Play! Explore what Google Docs can do. Once you exhausted that, have a look at the rest of the offerings within the Google Apps suite – Sites (easy departmental websites), Calendar (plan course/departmental/school events), Start Page (customised ‘home page’) and Chat (real-time text chat like MSN Messenger)

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90% digital, or 12 ways my teaching ecosystem is evolving.

I’m looking forward to the new academic year. Having said that, I’m not hugely excited about the Web 2.0 tools I’ll be using next year – and I believe that’s a good thing. It shows that such tools have become part of my teaching ecosystem. As I read recently, “The music is not in the piano.” (i.e. it is but a tool, just like technology)

The only reason my teaching ecosystem isn’t 100% digital is because of outside influences: documents from colleagues and marking student books. It’s part of my aim for my E-Learning Staff Tutor position to put more digital tools in the hands of colleagues. I’ll be using the new elearnr site to help with that. 🙂

This week I came across Top 100 Tools for Learning 2008. It’s made up of a large number of educators’ top 10 lists of elearning tools. I haven’t tried to stick to 10 in what follows – it’s just a list of what I’m going to be using (in order of what I’ll be using most!) 😀

1. Google Calendar

I’ve been using Google Calendar for a couple of years now for my day-to-day planning (see here and here). Although it takes around half an hour to enter your timetable initially, you can then set this to repeat until a certain date (i.e. the end of the academic year).

I use a ‘double-star system’ (see screenshot below). Before a lesson has been planned it has two asterisk after it. Removing one star means that I’ve entered the title and lesson objective (and homework, if applicable). Removing the second star means that the lesson is fully planned.

After the lesson, if there’s anything I need to remember for the next lesson with the class, I just add it to the comments section.

Obviously things like meetings, parents evenings can be entered ad-hoc. As you can access Google Calendar via mobile phone as well, it means I’ve got my day-to-day planning everywhere. 🙂

2. Attendance/Homework checkers

I run a two-laptop classroom. I’ve got my school-provided laptop at the front of my classroom running the interactive whiteboard (a SMARTboard) and my netbook (an MSI Wind-like Advent 4211 now running Mac OSX) is for everything else.

Whilst I could use Google Spreadsheets for my attendance registers, there’s two reasons I don’t. First of all it just doesn’t update very quickly, being web-based. Second, I’ve got to have a register – even if Internet access goes down at school. So I use Microsoft Excel with some conditional formatting goodness that I blogged about ages ago.

3. Google Docs

I’d be the first to hold my hand up and say that I’m a last-minute planner. What I do in the next lesson with a class depends very much upon what happened in the previous. Students have different questions and things can go off at a tangent. That’s not to say I don’t medium-term plan, however!

For my medium-term planning I use Google Docs. Nothing fancy, just a table with columns for lesson title, objective and possible content. The great thing about this is that I don’t have to remember to back it up and I can drop in links to any online resources quickly and easily. I do about a half-term at a time, having worked out before how much I need to cover to get everything done within the year. :-p

4. Evernote

You’re not going to believe this but my school still doesn’t use email as the primary method of contact between members of staff. Hard to believe, I know! Consequently, I’m overwhelmed by a deluge of paper. To counteract this, I started taking a photograph of the documents using the camera in my Nokia N95. The trouble was that organizing these images was difficult and time-consuming. In the end, I just gave up.

Then I was invited to take part in the private beta for Evernote. This program is available cross-platform and is now out of beta, so it’s available to everyone. It takes the image you’ve taken and transferred to your laptop (e.g. via Bluetooth) and recognises the words – even when they’re hand-written! You can add tags to the photos and they’re automatically (securely) synced with your account on their server. That means they’re available wherever you’ve got an Internet connection.

Evernote’s a great system no matter what phone/digital camera/laptop combo you’ve got, but if you’ve got an iPhone, you really do need to download it from the App Store!

5. Google Presentations

Sometimes I feel a bit guilty for still using Powerpoint. After all, I’m training colleagues to use software such as SMART Notebook when I rarely use it myself. The truth is, Powerpoint is compatible, flexible, and has great clipart.

The problem comes when you want to get a Powerpoint online. Say that you’ve drawn on top of a diagram and want to make it accessible for students outside the classroom. In the past I’ve had to use OpenOffice to convert it into Flash, upload it to my website, and then create an HTML page in which to embed it.

Not any more. Now I just upload it to Google Docs and it’s transformed into a Google Presentation. This can then be easily embedded into a blog, wiki or website. Marvellous! 🙂

6. Google Sites

I used a self-hosted installation of WordPress for a couple of years successfully at learning.mrbelshaw.co.uk. That’s the place I direct students to in order to access homework activities and resources to aid their learning. At the end of last academic year, however, I switched over to Google Sites. My version actually comes as part of Google Apps Education Edition, but there’s no advantage in this other than the ability to customise the domain name.

I’ve found it really useful and reliable. Because it’s hosted by Google, I’ve never experienced any downtime and, of course, it’s not blocked by the school network’s proxy. You can edit things in a straightforward, easy-to-use manner. The built-in navigation features make it simple for students to navigate. Embedding objects is easy – I could ask for any more! 😀

7. Twitter

I’m disappointed that Twitter, the micro social-networking service, has made the decision to stop the ability to receive SMS updates when you receive direct messages or replies. It means that I’m unlikely to use it with my GCSE students this time around.

To neglect to add it to my list, however, would be misleading. I’ll still be using it both in and out of school in a professional development capacity. I can’t imagine being connected only via blogs now (as in the early days of the edublogosphere). Twitter and other real-time tools make professional development fun!

8. Edublogs

With my last cohort of GCSE History students I installed WordPress Multi-User (WPMU) edition at mrbelshaw.co.uk. Whilst it worked fine and the students took to it well, the system took some configuring and was a bit of a nightmare when I transferred web hosting companies.

This year, I’m going to be using Edublogs. It, after all, is a giant installation of WPMU, but they host it for you, make hundreds of themes available and there’s added values with wiki and forum integration (to name but two). It should cut down on hassle. I track what students are up to via the RSS feed for the blog entries and comments. 🙂

9. Google Earth

It’s fair to say that I use Google Earth a lot. In fact, when I had to teach Geography to a Year 8 Set 4 class last academic year, I think I used it every lesson! It’s also of great use in history as it’s so much more than a mapping application; the ‘layers’ and ability to create tours add huge amounts of value.

I’ll be using it next academic year, as I have in previous years, to plot the route of Hannibal’s march with elephants on Rome, doing a flyover tour of Engladn in 1066, building up the tension of the Cuban Missile Crisis, and a lot more. I’ve shared some of the resources I’ve created for Google Earth over at the historyshareforum.

10. Simple English Wikipedia

Although I’ve threatened to do it a couple of times before, this academic year is going to be the time when I carry through my plan. I want students to be creators and contribute to the Internet. In Years 10 and 11 whilst they’re doing their GCSEs, I get them to blog. But what about in Key Stage 3?

I’m going to get them to add to the Simple English Wikipedia. This lesser-known sibling of Wikipedia is for children and foreign language students. Every page on the main Wikipedia site (potentially) has a similar page on the Simple version. The trouble is that the Simple version doesn’t have as much content – I want to rectify that by getting my students to edit that.

The main problem with this is that they can’t do it at school. I’m sure it the same with most educational institutions: our IP address is banned from editing do to ‘vandalism’ of Wikipedia by a minority of immature students. So, I’ll get them to do it at home and look at the revision history of the page for proof! I’ll let you know how it goes… :-p

11. bubbl.us

I’m a big fan of mindmaps. Although I’m not convinced that bubbl.us creates mindmaps in the true sense of the term they are, at least, very useful brainstorms. If you haven’t given online, collaborative mindmapping/brainstorming a try with your students, I’d suggest you try.

Due to a re-organization of the core subjects at our school, students only get to choose two options for GCSE. This has the knock-on effect of meaning they have 4 lessons to cover content that previously was covered easily in 3. I’m going to spend that fourth lesson with them in the library or an ICT suite blogging, brainstorming/mindmapping, and more…

12. Posterous

I came across Posterous during the summer holiday (see this post). You couldn’t really ask for a blogging service to be made much simpler. All you do is email post@nullposterous.com and it intelligently sorts out what you’ve sent (including attachments) and displays them appropriately. At last I can say to staff that if they know how to email they can set up their own class blog!

If you read my previous post on Posterous, you’ll see that I feel the killer feature will be themes. They’re adding features all the time, it being a new service, and if they add this ability before the start of the academic year (1st September for me) then I’ll seriously consider using them with students too. It might seem shallow, but I’ve found that teenagers like to create an identity online, and the ability to make their site different from their friend’s is important to them.

Finally, I’ll be charting my progress and adding resources to help colleagues as part of my E-Learning Staff Tutor role over at elearnr. Do visit there often and/or subscribe to the RSS feed. 😀

(Image credit: Personal Ecosystem by activeside @ Flickr)

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Google Apps proposal

Google Apps

A couple of days ago I was at an departmental ICT representatives’ meeting at school. Every problem that was flagged up seemed to me to be easily solved by an installation of Google Apps Education Edition:

  • Want to be able to provide staff/pupils with more than 10MB webspace? GMail offers over 6GB!
  • Want students to be able to start work at school and finish off at home? Try Google Docs!
  • Want departments to be able to quickly and easily create websites? Use Google Pages or Google Sites!

That evening I started putting together a proposal. As usual, I tweeted about what I was up to.

Twitter - Google Apps

A few kindly folks – namely Tom Barrett, Dave Stacey, Damian Bariexca, Kevin Jarrett, Miguel Guhlin, Paul Williams and Daniel Stucke were kind enough to give me feedback and suggestions.

The version I submitted to the Senior Leadership Team and those in charge of ICT at my school is available here:

PDF Google Apps proposal

For various reasons, I doubt that it will gain any traction at my school. However, I’m putting it up here with the hope that it may prove useful to someone else in their cause! 😀

Google Apps in China? A response for EdTechRoundup

Google Apps productsI was informed via a pingback of a post by a Chinese educator who had picked up on EdTechRoundup’s upcoming interview with the Google Apps team. He was impressed by the questions on EdTechRoundup’s wiki page that many different educators have submitted, agreeing with at least 10 of them. Two parts of his post stood out for me… 🙂

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