More Google Apps magic on more platforms

As the Google Drive and Google Apps for Education (GAfE) suites have matured, so have the available compatible apps across mobile platforms. This means you can do more on-the-go and using whatever device available than ever before. It also puts the power of GAfE in the hands of more people as they can be accessed on devices across many price points. And, of course, the More Google Apps magic on more platformsapps are free.

It is important to note that not all ‘smart’ devices can access Google Apps effectively – read the post Does Google Apps for Education play nice with BYOD? for more on this. It also has ideas on how to breathe new life into old technology.

Also, the mobile apps tend not to have all the features of the browser based versions; this can be an advantage. Fewer features can sometimes mean greater productivity, particularly for people distracted by ‘bells and whistles’ like hundreds of fonts (yep, that’s me!). You can potentially use the desktop versions through the Chrome mobile browser but I have personally found this to be a frustrating experience.

Sometimes, the mobile versions liberate you to do things that are difficult on a desktop or laptop. Have a look at the post Create a comic in 3 minutes or less with Google Slides (with bonus puppies!) for one idea using Slides on an iPad.

Below is a quick reference table for many Google Apps across devices. It has already changed from when I first put it together as the mobile apps have improved. Some of the mobile apps are closer to their browser based counterparts than others. You will need to do more research to find out specifically what won’t work on the mobile apps. (I tried to find the definitive Google list but I was unable to).

The great thing is most apps retain their collaborative and commenting ability.

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!

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)

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!

Does Google Apps for Education play nice with BYOD?

BYOD (bring your own device) is an emerging educational technology trend according to the NMC Horizon Report > 2015 K-12 Edition. BYOD initiatives open up a lot of opportunities and present some challenges. There are many reasons why a school would decide to implement a BYOD strategy and there is a considerable amount of work that is required to ensure the roll-out is successful. There is already a considerable amount of literature on BYOD best practice and case studies. Here I’ll specifically be looking at issues relating to BYOD and GAFE.

My school is yet to implement a BYOD initiative for students. Staff already utiDoes Google Apps for Education play nice with #BYOD? www.googleappsaction.comlise some of their own technology to supplement the technology made available by the school. I predict we will be looking at BYOD for students within the next 2 years. As a GAFE school, I like to experiment with different devices to see how well they work with the GAFE environment generally and Google Drive specifically. I find it works very well with:

  • Windows computers with the latest of Chrome
  • Linux computers with the latest version of Chrome
  • Apple computers with the latest version of Chrome
  • iOS devices (iPad/iPhone) with the latest version of both the operating system and the Google Drive apps
  • Android devices with the latest version of both the operating system and the Google Drive apps
  • Chromebooks (well, duh!)

Here are some stumbling blocks I have discovered with different devices (please let me know if you have a different experience with the below or have anything to add to the list):

  • Microsoft Surface tablets with Windows RT cannot have Google Chrome or Drive apps installed. You can access Google Drive through Internet Explorer but it is unreliable and can behave strangely
  • Microsoft Windows phones do not work with Google Drive. There are some third party apps but reviews indicate these are not productive
  • Android and iOS devices that cannot be upgraded can only have the last compatible Google Drive app installed. This means with these devices, at best, you can only view files, not create or edit them.
  • Google Chrome will be supported for Windows XP until the end of 2015. Do yourself a favour. If you are running a laptop with an old, unsupported version of Windows, download and install Linux Mint. I have installed it on older desktops and laptops and it has always worked beautifully with Google Chrome.

Should GAFE schools require students to have fully compatible technology? Not necessarily and it is not always realistic. There are no doubt many other issues that schools need to consider when looking at the possibility of implementing BYOD initiatives not least of all understanding what technology students can afford to provide. However, it is important to understand the limitations in order to plan accordingly.

Did you find this article useful? Why not share it!