Go green, go Google!

There are lots of things that need to be considered when a school or other educational Go green with Google Apps for Education and Linux operating system.institution considers ‘Going Google.’ Sure, Google Apps for Education is free but anyone who has had some involvement in technology understands the concept of ‘total cost of ownership’ and that free is not really free (and, sometimes, not even cost effective!)

There is lots of information about what you need to consider when look at implementing Google Apps for Edcuation including this comprehensive guide to going Google. In terms of hardware when working with notebooks or desktops, you don’t necessarily need the latest and greatest but you do need to keep your browser up-to-date (and preferably have Chrome installed).

What does that mean if you have a bunch of old computers with, for example, Windows XP installed? Now that Microsoft is no longer supporting the XP OS and Google will discontinue updating Chrome for XP at the end of 2015, do you need to give away your Google Apps dream until you can afford new hardware?

The answer is….no! If your hardware still works, and it has USB port, you can replace your old, tired Windows operating system with a shiny, new, FREE and fast Linux operating system that will work beautifully with Google Chrome and GAFE. Not only that, by increasing the useful life of your technology, you are reducing e-waste which is becoming a huge environmental problem.

As long as you have decent Internet access, doing the upgrade on a small scale is pretty straight forward. You don’t need to be too techy.

My Linux distribution of choice is Mint with the Cinnamon desktop. I need to download and install the Chrome web browser on top of that. It’s easy to set-up an admin account on the computer and a user account that does not require a password. Google Apps for Education works great on this set-up. I have installed it on notebooks and desktops of all types of brands, specs and ages. Linux Mint looks very similar to a Windows desktop. The great thing is you can create a USB boot disk and try it on a Windows computing before committing to an install.

Recommended specifications are for Linux Mint:

  • 1 GHz processor
  • 20 GB hard drive
  • 1 GB RAM

Most computers that up to 10 years old should meet those specifications. Click here to find out more about Linux Mint and to download the OS.

If you have working computers with lower specifications, you might like to try the interesting Cr OS Linux. This is a lightweight Linux distribution that is similar to the Chrome Operating System (used on Chromebooks).

Want some more inspiration? Read about how a Spanish school ditched Microsoft for Linux operating system and ended up reducing costs and technical problems or how a teacher created a computer lab with $0 using Linux.

How green is my Google?

Combining older hardware with Google Apps for Education is a more ecologically friendly technology solution because:

  • you get more from your hardware, reducing e-waste
  • Google infrastructure uses 50% less energy than the average data centre, is carbon neutral, and meets certified environmental standards

Applications for Education

  • Linux OS + Google Apps for Education = reduced total cost of ownership (potentially, but do your homework!)
  • Easy to implement on a small scale
  • Longer life for older hardware
  • Can still install many Windows applications on Linux using Wine (but consider if you really need to)

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Differentiation without tears: Speech-to-text in Google Docs

Differentiation in the classroom can be challenging. In theory, technology shouDifferentiation without tears: speech to text in Google Docsld make it easier but that’s not always the case. I remember in the not-so-distant past struggling with expensive dictation software and an expensive head-set with a reluctant writer without great success. We were expected to spend hours to train the software to understand him and it felt like we were both getting no-where fast! Instead of empowered, he ended up frustrated and the situation ended up an assistive technology fail.

Fast forward five years and, now, all you need is an iPad and Google Docs (part of Google Drive/Google Apps for Education) and you’re set! No voice training required! No expensive headset! (Although I suspect using a microphone would work even better).

This video demonstrates how easy it is to dictate into Google Docs on the iPad using the built in speech recognition. I recorded it with a wicked cold and no headset connected to the iPad. See the results yourself:

 

Educational applications

Using voice command dictation on Android or iOS with Google Apps for Education is great for reluctant, struggling and non-writers, e.g., students who may be diagnosed with a learning disability, dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADD/ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Asperger’s Syndrome, ADD/ADHD, or those with physical or sensory disabilities that impact writing. Depending on student needs it can be an easily implemented assitive technology solution.

This allows for a strengths based approach to learning, focusing on what they can do (talk!) vs what they might not do as well.

For a list of voice commands for Android and iOS see:

http://www.howtogeek.com/177387/use-voice-dictation-to-save-time-on-android-iphone-and-ipad

For more on how Google Apps for Education can help facilitate differentiation in the classroom, click here to see an earlier post.

By the way, that reluctant writer became an excellent typist and, not only that, found out he was quite a talented story teller.

 

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