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7 Things You Should Know About Google Apps

7 Things You Should Know About Google Apps

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Published by Mourad Diouri

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Published by: Mourad Diouri on Apr 19, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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things you should know about...
Google Apps
 To support her master’s thesis in sociology, Sylvia de-veloped a project that brought together students roma high school in downtown Chicago with students romMonroe High School in Monroe, Wisconsin. Despite be-ing just a two-hour drive away, the schools were worldsapart culturally, and the project’s goal was to investigateattitudes that students in each school held about thoseat the other. The instrument or the project was a ction-writing exercise in which a group o students at eachschool would write a story set in the other school’s town. As the stories developed, the students at each schoolwould review and make edits to the story rom the otherschool. Both schools suered rom outdated computerswith a range o sotware (though all o it was PC-based)and no prospect o district unding or hardware or sot-ware improvements. Sylvia was a dyed-in-the-wool Macuser, which presented another compatibility concern. They all had Internet connections, however, at least atschool, and most o the students selected to participatealso had Gmail accounts.Sylvia set up blank documents on Google Docs andgranted access to the participating students. She letthe story ideas and development entirely up to thestudents. Once a week, the two groups would “trade”papers, seeing how the story—ostensibly about
was progressing and making comments in the le itsel about how their town and its culture diered rom thestory’s portrayal. Sylvia also reviewed the les and madeher own suggestions. Because all o the writing and re-viewing happened through web browsers, there wereno problems with le compatibility, and Google Docskept a record o the many versions o each story. Initially,Sylvia thought she and the students would keep in touchusing Gmail, but the students soon began using Google Talk among themselves, so Sylvia did too. Those stu-dents who had Internet access at home could accessthe les and the sotware to work on them, which wasvital because many o the students could not aord tobuy traditional sotware. Sylvia spent spring break vis-iting her amily in Arizona and, without having to takeher computer, could access and comment on the sto-ries rom there. The ability to share documents—andto communicate—with others, regardless o platormor sotware, allowed Sylvia’s project to succeed. Stu-dents in both groups saw how stereotypes infuencedtheir ideas about urban and rural culture, and they cameaway with an appreciation or their dierences—andtheir similarities.
 What is it?
Google Apps is a collection o web-based programs and le stor-age that run in a web browser, without requiring users to buy orinstall sotware. Users can simply log in to the service to accesstheir les and the tools to manipulate them. The oerings includecommunication tools (Gmail, Google Talk, and Google Calendar),productivity tools (Google Docs: text les, spreadsheets, andpresentations), a customizable start page (iGoogle), and GoogleSites (to develop web pages). The tools are ree, or users can payor a Premium Edition that adds more storage space and othereatures. Alternatively, an Education Edition includes most o theextras in the Premium Edition and is oered at no cost to K–12and higher education. Google Apps allows institutions to use theirown domain name with the service and to customize the interaceto refect the branding o that institution. In this way, a college oruniversity can oer the unctionality o Google Apps in a package(and with a URL) that is amiliar and comortable to constituents.
 Who’s doing it?
Since its launch, Gmail has been a popular choice among stu-dents—higher education as well as K–12—and many o thesesame students are users o Google Apps. For them, being able toaccess their documents rom any Internet-connected computer,without having to worry about sotware versions or compatibility,ts well with their always-connected, just-in-time liestyles. Manyaculty, however, have been hesitant to store their les on some-one else’s servers, given perceived concerns over security andthe stewardship o their data. Some institutions have adoptedGmail or student and alumni accounts while maintaining in-house mail services or aculty and sta. Still, a number o col-leges and universities have migrated to Google Apps, oten onlyor e-mail but increasingly or the entire suite o communicationand productivity tools.
How does it work?
 All o the applications in Google Apps work through a web browser.Users must have a Google account and, once logged in, can ac-cess amiliar—i scaled-down—unctionality or word-processing,calendaring, chat, and other tools. Google Docs, or example,allows basic ormatting o text documents but without higher-levelunctions (such as style sheets and templates) ound in traditionalsotware. Spreadsheets support ormulas and simple unctionsbut not macros or the creation o gures and tables. Each le hasa creator/owner, who determines who is allowed to access the le,
© EDUCAUSE 2008 This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 License.http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/3.0/ 

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