I have traveled to many places on the planet Earth. I have been in deserts, jungles, various oceans, in the frigid cold of Eastern Europe, and the unbearable summers of the Arabian Gulf.
I have found that sometimes I encounter a new place that seems like a place I would want to live. Something about it truly stands-out. I am not one to move on quickly. I tend to linger and explore. I want to find the underlying reason for the charm. I want to be as objective as possible. After all, I have learned that if I decide to move and live somewhere, I can move and live anywhere.
Visits always end, and returning back to home is inevitable. It is only after a person returns home, and they are completely unable to ‘be’ where they were, that they understand what not being there means.
This inability to connect truly helps shape the final and most objective opinion we can form, always a little bias, but honest about the reality of where we are and where we could go.
Only in this state of objective absenteeism can a person say, “Yes. I do want to change and do something different in a different place.” Or, “No. I think what I have is all I need, and change would be less gain and more loss in the long run.”
I am telling you, without any hesitation, that being disconnect and unable to fluidly use Google Apps, the Google Api, and the millions of websites that are Google powered has limited my ability to reach students, families, and staff. It has forced me to create small pieces of infrastructure, at significant cost, just to get beyond word processing and email.
I am in a place where it is impossible to guarantee universal access to anything powered or owned by Google solutions. Most people are not aware that over a million websites use the Google Api, store their videos on Youtube, or use Jquery hosted by Google. Most of the free sites used by people sporting Web 2.0 interfaces for schools use these services.
Google Apps is not about mail and making documents, it is about being part of a massive ecosystem. If all you do is bicker and worry over the best way to make a presentation or send an email, then as a technology leader you are doing a disservice to your community.
Everyday I manage and implement features for my campuses with Office 365 and Sharepoint. My team and have just been recognised by Microsoft as leaders in our region for our implementation. I use everything they have. I design solutions in Sharepoint, move people into OneDrive for Business against their will, and create training materials full of hints and tricks like a boss.
Doubt not! I am an Office 365 ninja.
But if I had a choice, I would simply use Office 365 for office staff only. Anything and anyone connected to teaching and learning would be on Google Apps. I would run multiple email domains, which I do anyway, and share data via the Active Directory.
I have seen a few very good international schools recently tell all staff, and new hires, “If you want Office make sure you buy your own copy.” I think this is smart, and cost effective. I also think everyone who needs Office can afford the educational price once every five years. I, in fact, have done this in the past. The world did not end. Some people were angry. But when I rolled out four new software packages for math and science with the savings from the Office license, tempers faded.
The simple answer to the debate, Google Apps or Office 365 is:
Teaching and Learning = Google Apps
Office Staff = Office 365
Everyone = Can use solutions developed in both environments.
Until you have known both, and then can only have one, you may not understand.