Achieving Free in Texas School Districts
Real conversation that took place on April 8, 2010 on a real email list:
School District Staff: Are educational institutions exempt from the over 3,000 user restrictions? My district wants to go Google, but we have more than 3,000 students. Please answer asap.
GoogleApps Staff Member:
GoogleApps Staff Member:So, the word "free" caught my attention again.
Chatting with folks around Texas over the phone or via Skype--virtually, no cost--I continue to be surprised, and perhaps, a bit disappointed, at the decisions both small and large school districts make. The central question I ask myself is, "Why can't school districts achieve a free state of being with modern technologies?"
Now, while not everything is free, there is a lot that IS free. For example, just yesterday, I was chatting with my cousin/half-sister in the Republic of Panama as she prepared dinner. I was able to start the conversation on my Android phone using Fring (Skype on your phone), continue the chat via Skype on my computer, and then as I moved back to the kitchen, continue the conversation...she never noticed that I was switching between Fring on my phone to Skype on the computer and back again. As I made dinner, she was making dinner. Pizza popped into the oven was "making dinner" for me, while for her it was rice, beans, yucca, and other interesting things.
Cost of the long distance conversation between someone in North America and someone in Central America? Free. Sure, the technology itself isn't free, and yet, it's great we don't have to pay for all that software licensing, etc. It just works. We pay in different ways, but in essence, my phone call was free.
As I chatted with one colleague this evening--albeit, a local call that didn't involve any technology fancier than a regular phone--I was struck by the Technology Director's desire to achieve a "state of free" with the services in her district. So, for fun, what might that look like in a Texas district?
- Replace FirstClass/MS Exchange/GroupWise/email system with GoogleApps for Education. I recently heard someone say that it would cost $300K+ per year to store data in "the cloud." But then, as I stumbled over the amount, I realized that it wasn't the GoogleApps cloud but a "private cloud" where all the data is hosted internally.
This point was driven home in the conversation I had tonight because we all store our data somewhere else...whether it's a student information system hosted by an Education Service Center (Region 20) or somewhere else, your data exists elsewhere. Or, consider the various data-driven accountability systems (e.g. Wireless Generation, iStation, D2SC, GradeSpeed, whatever). They all offer the ASP model where they host your data. The question the director I was chatting with asked was simple--If they can host your data and you're not worried, why not Google?
- Free or low-cost Web Site Solution. Wow, this is something that seems like a no-brainer in retrospect. We know teachers find editing wikis a lot easier than anything they might use (like Dreamweaver, Frontpage or Expressions). Why not use wikis to accomplish that? Some districts are paying for various fancy systems that enable content management...but wouldn't it be less expensive to use Google Sites for free, or Wikispaces.com/PbWorks.com at a much lower per user cost than the fancier systems?