This post is about introducing GApps to my school and my experiences in doing so. It is not my intention to wax lyrical about the pros and cons of GApps. Others much more qualified than I have written eloquently on the subject. Obviously I will discuss some of the merits because it would be difficult to avoid doing so. I am a devotee of cloud computing but there are some pitfalls when introducing to the whole school. It is these I wish to share with you.
Around 18 months ago I fell completely out of love with my flash drives. I had several of them used for different purposes and a further one to back up the others just in case of mishap. I had them in a little case to keep them safe and all was well. One day I came to the sudden realisation that I was wasting valuable time with this system. I was taking more time to save my documents and transfer between home and school than to actually do the work. I needed to find an alternative solution.
Around that time I had seen much chat on twitter around the subject of GApps and cloud computing. I decided to investigate and see if there was anything in it for me. I’m pretty pleased I did! I sat and played with it on my own for a while and saw huge benefits for my working life.
First and foremost I was able to wave a fond farewell to my collection of flash drives. Never again would I leave them in the wrong location and be unable to work. For good or bad I would be able to work anywhere, any time as long as there was an Internet connection. Even without a connection, I could do an off line draft and upload when back on line. This is of course terrible for my work/life balance but you can’t have everything.
I enlisted the help of our wonderfully talented and helpful ICT technician @darrenludlam. He gave freely of his time to help me work out the more complicated points I hadn’t mastered. I learned that I could collaborate with others in real time. This is a huge bonus when working on a document. There is a comments box and drafts and comments are emailed to other collaborators. Documents are updated instantly and the latest version is always saved. There are templates covering everything from certificates to official letters to presentations. All are easy to use. Folders and folders within folders are easy to set up making documents easy to find. The best thing was that I wasn’t tied to my school network drive or flash drive. GApps is available on all my Apple devices (or Android) enabling me to work whenever I wanted to.
This system was for me! I loved it. I went to tell our HT about it and listed some potential benefits. Apart from the small list above there are benefits for pupils and whole school. Pupils could be given homework and would be able to work with the teacher remotely. Homework could be redrafted in a fraction of the time and ‘dogs would never eat homework’ again. For whole school, money would be saved on printing paper and ink which is incredibly expensive for schools.
My HT is a forward thinking man and he was also sold on the idea. Very quickly the school had our own GApps domain and we began training our staff. In Blackpool we are fortunate enough to have some experts in the use of cloud of computing. I asked the talented @TomSale and also @stuartaris to help with training our school staff. This involved 40 TAs and around 10 teachers. Both of these clever chaps visited my school and were instrumental in pushing things forward. Very soon almost all TAs were proficient in all aspects of cloud computing. They took it to their hearts and practised daily. Clever ladies. I will add here that this is where problems began to come to light.
Our teachers, as much they wished to embrace the new system were struggling. All their lesson plans, policies and documents were made on Microsoft Word. Some were easily converted, others were not. Emails arrived with attachments which needed downloading and then uploading to GDocs and storing in folders. New templates needed to be made for many documents and teachers needed to learn how to ‘share’ with whole school. This is a very big ask for busy teachers. Naturally they tried to revert to their old systems as it saved time. I made crib sheets and helped them all individually to pick their way through it. I sold it to them as best I could.
The point I am making here is that if you are aiming to introduce your school to GDocs choose your time carefully. Teachers are always busy people but ask yourselves when is the best time to introduce it. Ask for their opinion. If they aren’t on board it won’t succeed. Recently I have spoken to several schools in the same position. They are half cloud computing and half on network drives. For me this is frustrating. If I am sent a document to edit why can’t it be on GDocs and edited immediately. Emailing backwards and forwards is such a waste of time for busy people. Cloud computing is the way forward!
I hope this post has helped anyone thinking of introducing GDocs to time it carefully and also to enlist the support of all your teachers.