Recently I read an article in the NY Times titled How Google Took Over the Classroom by Natasha Singer. It is a good article that talks about how G Suite for Education (formerly Google Apps for Education) has risen, very quickly and to great prominence in schools in America. You should read it!
One point in the article is the concern over privacy. The article shows how parents and IT professionals in the schools feel that this is just a giant data collection machine for Google. As we know Google makes most of its on advertising. You can read this report from the BBC and check out the graphic below that I snagged from it.
While Google does not serve ads to these students, teachers or whoever has a G Suite account, it is still collecting information and data on all of these people. It claims that it does not use or sell this data but that begs the question of why collect it?
Google has written its G Suite Terms of Service in plain English. It’s not a long read, but I’ve gone ahead and clipped what data they collect as you can see below.
Whether you believe the claim that they don’t sell the data or not (we have to take their word on this), what people fear is that once the student graduates, creates their own personal Google account, Google will associate all their data from their G Suite account with their personal account. In short, Google is collecting this data to build a better profile of that person and to get a better idea of how to serve proper ads to children of that age.
Looking at G Suites for Education through this lens looks a little insidious. I can see why this would leave a bad taste in people’s mouth and make them question if schools should use this service, but before you run down to your school and start protesting (you do have the option to opt out of G Suite) – you have to look at what is being offered to the district, school and student in return for this data collection.
They save money, time and ease of use. If a school wanted complete privacy, they would need to have an IT professional in every building (maybe more) keeping email up and making sure that updates to the computers, servers and infrastructure at each location are done properly. In the Times article mentioned above Natasha says that schools in Chicago have saved 1.6 million by offsetting some IT costs.
That is money that should be reinvested into the district to hire more teachers, update buildings, purchase Chromebooks, new textbooks or supplies, etc. I think you get the idea. It also puts the power of Google behind your products. Google claims that their servics (G-mail, Drive, etc.) will be up 99.9%. In real numbers that means that throughout a year, these services will be down at a maximum of 8.76 hours. That’s impressive.
Teachers now have a reliable way to communicate with not just parents but for the first time in a long time, with their students. Whether they are using Google Classroom, G-Mail or Hangouts (or whatever they call it these days).
Teachers also have a lot more resources that they can share with students in a variety of ways. Maybe its a class website on Google Sites or Weebly! Maybe the teacher wants their students to make a collaborative blog on Blogger. Perhaps they just want them to do a presentation. The students can chose from Google Slides, SlideRocket or PowToons!
The options of services that a teacher can leverage in their class is ridiculous making for a more engaging and collaborative environment. Something that would be impossible to achieve without many paid subscriptions.
With one account, students can have access to a huge amount of services that give them loads of ways to express themselves. This is what I love about technology. It can provide new avenues for students to explore and easily express themselves. Some students may want to do a Google Slide presentation which is pretty traditional while others may want to create a YouTube video while others may want to create a mind map with Coggle.
Not only do students have great opportunities to create but there are a number of opportunities to communicate. They can email all their teachers, collaborate with other students on projects and keep up with what’s happening with their class through Google Classroom or Edmodo. More communication means more transparency and better understanding in a class. This is a good thing too.
Should schools use G Suites for Education or pay and go for a more privacy conscience route?
I vote for Google.
I believe that these services are worth giving up some privacy. I can’t think of a better platform that can be leveraged so much and do such good as the G Suite for Education. I know that there are people out there who disagree and that’s fine. I am opened to a discussion on this topic and I know it may be more complicated than what I have laid out here, but at the end of the day I think these services will open up more opportunities for teachers and students to enhance their teaching and learning.