GAFE You Have Me Convinced


 It is the framework which changes with each new technology and not just the picture within the frame ~ Marshall McLuhan

There was a time when I was unconvinced about the power of web 2.0 apps and in particular Google Apps for Education (GAFE). Over the years I became more and more comfortable working with web 2.0 apps such as Evernote, Animoto, and Diigo. But for some reason the suite of Google Apps just didn't do it for me. It wasn't because they didn't work as advertised. I was impressed with the ability to collaborate on projects and share documents with a group. I just had this niggling voice in the back of my head that kept saying "What if your work disappears? Stick with Word, it will always be there." Well this week that all changed for me for two reasons.

The first reason came to me as I made my way into classes during curriculum walkthroughs. I witnessed two scenarios at the opposite realms of the technology spectrum. In one BYOD class students were responding to a quote by Winston Churchill by creating a blog post in Edmodo. All of the students in this class have their own Evernote account, gmail address and dropbox accounts. Everything was working great. Students were engaged in the blogging activity and their access to the wireless in their room ensured they could take create documents and files in any web 2.0 application that they needed. That was one end of the spectrum. At the other end was a class that didn't have the same opportunities as their peers in the BYOD class. They entered our computer lab to work on an scavenger hunt assignment, recording their findings in Word. Access to the internet was working well, maybe even better than the wireless connection in the BYOD class. The difference was that when students logged into their computers half were missing Word. The application shortcut was nowhere to be found. A lost learning opportunity for those students because the operating system failed them. This wasn't one-off occurrence, it happens often in my experience. 

The second reason was a personal experience I had with my own work. I'm working towards completing my Master of International Education and School Leadership when something curious happened. The course instructor had created a brief powerpoint presentation to give us some direction with our final paper. I downloaded it at school, but got error messages that the file wouldn't open without turning off the antivirus program, which of course I don't have the ability to do. I tried a couple of times with the same result. I wasn't sure why this happened but I had to think of a way around it. I decided to upload it to my Google Drive account, converting it to a Google Doc in the process. And guess what? It worked like a charm! I was able to view the entire presentation and it saved me a lot of grief. It was in this moment that Google Apps for Education convinced me. 

Unfortunately my district doesn't promote the entire GAFE suite for use with students although they do provide gmail accounts to those students and teachers who wish to use them. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the power of the GAFE suite of tools. With Chrome Books making their mark in the education market and school boards exploring BYOD initiatives it just makes sense to embrace GAFE, doesn't it? Of course there will be added pressure on school networks with web 2.0 tools chewing up bandwidth but in the long term isn't this more sustainable than continuing to purchase, manage and support software installs? And I realize that there will be issues when using web 2.0 apps. Nothing is as perfect as we would like it to be. That being said, the power of web 2.0 tools and in particular the GAFE suite of tools make creating and collaborating that much easier. 

If you're using GAFE in your class, school or district I'd love to hear about it.

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