I spend my time immersed in technology, and even though I call ed-tech my beat, it's fair to say that I focus much more on the tech than on the ed.
Today was a welcome change. I spent the day at Sherwood High School in Tualatin, Oregon at the Google Summit, an event put on by Google and the Oregon Virtual School District.
Oregon was the first state to have its school system "go Google," offering schools and districts the ability to take advantage of the Google Apps for Education program. This gives schools free access to a suite of productivity, collaboration, and communication tools -- email, calendars, docs, in addition to a number of educational apps (like Aviary and Grockit) available via the Google App store.
It sounds great in theory, right? I mean, we want our schools to have access to free, easy-to-use, online tools for communicating and collaborating.
But in practice... ok, it's still awesome. But it's challenging. How do you get administrators to let go of their fears about students using emails for "inappropriate purposes"? How do you get teachers to rethink lesson plans in order to incorporate new tools into their instruction? How do you decide which apps to roll out, which grade levels get access to which programs? How do you use Google Voice or Docs or Forms in innovative ways? How can students take their data with them when they graduate? How do you migrate legacy systems and legacy processes to the cloud? How do you tackle federal and local policy issues governing FERPA and filtering?
It was good to hear Jaime Casap, Google's "Education Evangelist" and Apps for Education Manager, say that the Oregon schools have his attention. And I liked hearing him say to those present that "You have the attention of the executive team at Google." It is great to see the support from the Google team here, onsite, making sure teachers and IT folks can get their questions answered.
And I think that's the most heartening part -- watching a large crowd of educators come together to figure out the on-the-ground issues of how to implement these programs. Because rolling out something like Apps for Education to a school, let alone a state, is a complex technological feat. But it also requires a cultural change, of sorts. It requires grassroots adoption, and doesn't happen simply because a Department of Education and big corporation have decreed that it should.
Many of the presentations are available online, including recordings from the keynote.