things you should know about...
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 Both schools suered rom outdated computerswith a range o sotware (though all o it was PC-based)and no prospect o district unding or hardware or sot-ware improvements.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 letthe 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 diered 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 sotware to work on them, which wasvital because many o the students could not aord tobuy traditional sotware. 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 platormor sotware, 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 dierences—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 sotware. Users can simply log in to the service to accesstheir les and the tools to manipulate them. The oerings 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 payor a Premium Edition that adds more storage space and othereatures. Alternatively, an Education Edition includes most o theextras in the Premium Edition and is oered at no cost to K–12and higher education. Google Apps allows institutions to use theirown domain name with the service and to customize the interaceto refect the branding o that institution. In this way, a college oruniversity can oer the unctionality o Google Apps in a package(and with a URL) that is amiliar and comortable 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 sotware versions or compatibility,ts well with their always-connected, just-in-time liestyles. Manyaculty, 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, oten onlyor 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-levelunctions (such as style sheets and templates) ound in traditionalsotware. 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,
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