Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Google Apps for Education: Ushering a New Era in Learning

While traveling to different schools in the Philippines, I always pay attention to how much classrooms have changed from when I was in school (which was many years ago) to now. Being someone who shares how educators can use the web and Google tools to teach and expand their Personal Learning Network (PLN), I was struck by how much things remained stationary in the Philippines. The blackboards, when replaced, became whiteboards, which did not really help much when it came to modern teaching exercises, like flipping the classroom.

Filipinos are known to be incredibly social. By the end of 2012, 88.96%* of internet users in the Philippines were on Facebook. And now, with Google Apps for Education becoming an option for schools to offer messaging and collaboration accounts to students and staff, a lot of schools and universities have begun exploring what the web can truly do for them.

But the question remains, are we ready for this transformation?

The simple answer is, yes, we are. Our students have been ready for some time, but our teachers, sadly are not. It takes a tremendous amount of political will and planning to direct a school to transform from a traditional learning environment, to one which uses the media and tools of today. Schools have to start looking at how students find and consume information, and create learning platforms that can better serve them.

Unfortunately, there are barriers to this and the top three that we see are:

  • Budget - Schools normally don't have the budget to buy servers to enable an account for each student. Computers are expensive, and budgets are tight.
  • People - The number of administrators and IT professionals required to manage a school-wide initiative to computerize classrooms is daunting.
  • Scale - The planning has to take into account expansions and new course offerings, as well as an influx of new students, which brings the school back to the budget question.
So to make the transition easier, an option that most schools in the Philippines can opt for is Google Apps for Education. Google Apps provides a no-cost alternative to moving to a cloud solution for messaging and collaboration, and brings a whole new level of collaboration to students and faculty alike. Management is easy because there are no servers to maintain, and scale will not be an issue with a data center like Google's.

Other tools, aside from Google Apps are also available for schools to use. YouTube for Schools is a platform to bring the power of video to classrooms for free. It provides a way to organize videos and spark discussions on various topics. YouTube for Schools also gives a teacher the ability to flip the classroom and facilitate feedback.

It is an ongoing process to move a classroom to an interactive environment, able to use the tools of today and bring about a new age in learning. With Google, it doesn't have to be an expensive solution.