Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Why use Google Apps for cluster communication?

I'm preparing to work with a cluster of schools this year and one of the areas for development is infrastructure. To state an obvious truth we need to communicate and collaborate effectively. One of the first tasks I will be undertaking is providing everyone with a Google account alongside the professional development and support they need to use it on a day to day basis. There are several reasons for wanting to do this.
  1. It makes sense to have everyone using the same tools. Each school will have its own I.S.P and email service separate to each other, meaning we would have to use third party software to do what can be done within Gmail itself. Schools can use Gmail as a common communication tool and still receive emails from their current school address.
  2. By having a Google Account and online identity early on, members of the cluster can start plugging into learning opportunities more readily. Cluster members with be able to subscribe to feeds and make comments on blogs as an example.
  3. As a facilitator I can share my calendar and keep track of docs across schools with Gcalendar and Gdocs.
  4. Data aggregation: iGoogle aggregates data from a variety of sources into a single Homepage. This is a perfect way of sharing and disseminating information across a cluster of schools. It's all good and well creating and publishing something wonderful if you don't have the means to share it nor the audience to view it.

There is so much more, so I'll summarise and discuss other Gapps in future posts.

Google has developed a wide range of applications that can be used to collaborate effectively with colleagues in the workplace. In today's technological age the workplace has been redefined to include 'Anywhere, Anyone and Anytime'.One of the initial challenges of the information age was the volume of information being produced and the confusion that resulted when people tried to make sense of it all and work together. Typically, emails were sent out with documents attached and individuals edited their copy and brought it along with them to a face to face meeting. The attendees at the meeting then collaborated on the task at hand to produce a single document with consensus. This method works but there is a better way, it costs less, saves time and confusion, nobody misses a meeting and ultimately produces a better result.

The following video demonstrates how google docs works and employs this type of collaboration.

This video provides an overview of Gmail the hub for Google Apps

I was investigating creating a Ning for the cluster but not being an expert would be interested to hear your thoughts on team collaboration and infrastructure.


  1. I'd like to do something similar, on a smaller scale, within our school. We've already tried it (with one collaborative document)within our teaching team and that worked well. Updates and changes to documents are emailed immediately to everyone who has access. The other thing we did was to set our "school" email accounts to forward messages to our Gmails.

  2. start with a document that all staff need to access, one that is essential and that has purpose.

    going for a gmail account rather than starting at gdocs with their school email addresses will get them into google collaboration tools too which is nice, it will be too much too soon for many staff but you would be setting the bar too low by going the slow way. I say go for the whole gmail thing for all, and build slowly working with gdocs. try to get management hooked. we have zillions of good uses for principals and DP's and school mngmt for gdocs, happy to talk to the bosses if they want to come to the big smoke.

  3. Thanks for the comments.

    Thanks also for the offer Podgorani, always up for a field trip. Was a Principal myself for 8 years also so see lots of application but as you say hooking management in is the key. Imagine the difference if we had gdocs when tomorrow's schools came in with the flood of policy writing to follow.