Our district is currently looking at going to a free email hosted solution with the capability for online storage and document creation.  We are looking at these two.  

I am finding that Microsoft has recently put a lot of resources into their platform and it looks pretty interesting.

 

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/education/liveedu-grows-evolves-into-offi...

 

Has anyone made this decision/comparison recently?  I would love to hear what you all have to say. 

Tags: apps, google, live@edu

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Great stuff going on here.  Depending on what features you are looking for, another option to look into is eBackpack - www.eBackpack.com

 

Not full-on cloud computing but basically cloud storage, admin control, HW dropbox, easy collaboration between users AND THE BIG ONE - full customer support!

 

You might be interested in Oregon's decision making-- They've been using Google Apps now for about a year.

"Oregon schools adopt Google Apps to save cash, expand ed-tech offerings" http://tinyurl.com/25vhhcc

I am so glad you mentioned Oregon. I had read a whole article from their dept. of ed website saying they had chosen Live. But then I found school districts mentioning that the state had gone Google. I am confused! Here's the link to the article about Live:

https://district.ode.state.or.us/wma/groups/itmanagers/2010-11/livevsgmailv2.pdf

Do you know more?

I think for states like Oregon, Maryland etc. the press release means that the state has singed a contract at the state level with Google that means schools don't have to work with Google individually to sign a contract (in my district, not in one of these state,  this process took 10 months, for reasons on both sides). It doesn't mean that all districts converted, and Oregon seems to be putting a lot of effort into supporting and promoting Google apps to their districts with training seminars etc.   By contrast, in Kentucky, where the Dept of Ed was providing email to districts the adoption of Live let them rollup and consolidate 180 separate exchange environments.. http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2010/jun10/06-03mskdepr.mspx

 

(This does not mean that I think Live is better than google, just that their press releases are less confusing. Deciding on one vs the other depends on your districts needs and your district's circumstances/ability to support and culture)

Ok so here is a question for people, which system do you think would require more support?  That is a biggie for our district.  There are 3 of us total for the district.  It's an important thing to factor in I think.

I would say that they are similar in terms of the amount support that they require, but that there are more resources available in the internet community to find peer support for Google issues that are k12 specific that with Live and 365 is an unknown quantity. But one big point in MSofts favor is Live does allow you to do much better delegation of admin responsibility so you can assign users only the abiity to reset passwords (for example). in the Google world, there is only 1 type of admin role and it is all or nothing so it makes it difficult to share the load f simple tasks like password resets to non-admin users

 

Also with Google you can turnon and off modules so you can phase in your roll-out to minimize the support impact, you cannot do this with Live everything is on (365 should let you selectively enable)

 

For Google I would definitely check out GAM(Google Apps manager) it is a lifesaver for administering your domain http://code.google.com/p/google-apps-manager/  makes it much easier to do bulk changes (e.g. turn of web clips for all users). I set this up for my users to do password resets and I really don't hear much from them.

 

The support questions are really limited to the limitations (which there are in both systems). Problems with formats on import, differences between docs and office as far as features, students must have sites enabled even just to view a teacher's site, etc..

 

Sorry for giving the "on the one hand" answer, this is a complex topic

Thank you for all of your replies.  They have been very very helpful for me.  I like the "on the one hand" answers because they are more real.  

 

I will check out the GAM.  Our district has Active Directory, Exchange and a mix of Windows and Macs and we are running all on Microsoft Office applications (for mac and PC).  

"On the one hand" it seems like it would be an easier transition to Live/365, today.  On the other hand that is going to give us features we have today online.  There are some added benefits like sharepoint, skydrive(which is apparently going away?), and Onenote. With Google we will get an ever growing suite of 3rd party products for our domain to take advantage of.  We have been doing research and it looks like both are pretty similar processes for provisioning accounts/syncing with AD so there isn't really an advantage there.  I would say if Microsoft had an advantage there we might lean that way, but since I don't really see one I like all of the Apps marketplace tools available to users (classio, aviary, etc.).

 

Tough Decision.  Thanks for all the feedback, and keep it coming!

With Google, do you know whether or not you can turn some items on for some users and not others?  For instance, can I turn on sites for grades 6-12, but not younger? Can I allow older students and staff to share Google docs and sites outside of the district, but limit that to within the district for younger students?

(short answer, your best approach would be 2 seperate domains, but NOT the google multiple domain feature)

 

long answer....

good news: You have the ability to put users into groups and turn on tools at the group level.

 

bad news: thats is all the control you have, the tool is on or off and whatever sharing is set for the tool (walled garden vs open) is set for all users

 

The above ONLY applies to the CORE tools (sites, chat, groups, calendar) but not email, where sharing is controlled by content filters in postinini

 

There are also two other categories

1) Non core Google apps (previously the "consumer" apps like reader, blogger, picassa etc) the admin can only control if they are on or off for a given group there is no control over the boundary, the user decides.

 

2) Non-google apps installed via the marketplace. These are typically on or off for the entire domain and the control is specific to each app. I have never found one that lets you create a "Walled garden" but there are hundreds of apps.

 

By comparison, Live does not allow you to turn of ANY tools and the only walled garden is in email (if you want a walled garden with Live, look at ePALS schoolmail 365)  Office 365 should have some better controls for at least turning tools on and off by role. Keep in mind that Live uses the "live ID" which can also be tied to other tools that like the google consumer tools are not under the control or view of the school that issues the live id (like connecting the account to a myspcace or facebook account, )

In message 61294, Jane Krauss started a sub-theme about Oregon schools adopting Google Apps. However, see the National Federation of the Blind press release Adoption of Google Apps Program Discriminates Against the Blind:

Baltimore, Maryland (March 15, 2011): The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind people in the United States, today requested that the United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, investigate civil rights violations committed by New York University (NYU) and Northwestern University against blind faculty and students.  The NFB made the request because the schools have adopted technology that is not accessible to the blind.  Both universities have recently adopted Google Apps for Education as a means of providing e-mail and collaboration tools to students and faculty.  Google Apps for Education is a free suite of hosted communication and collaboration applications that includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, Google Docs, and Google Sites.  Each of these applications contains significant accessibility barriers for blind people utilizing screen access technology, which converts what is on the computer screen into synthesized speech or Braille.  A similar request for investigation has been filed against four Oregon public school districts that are using Google Apps.  The complaints allege violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.  For further illustration of this matter, please view a demonstration of screen access technology used by the blind and the accessibility barriers that a blind person experiences using Google Apps. ...

(my bold, and btw the videos linked in the demonstration of screen access technology page are great if you don't have a screen reader and want to know how it is to have to use one, especially with Web 2.0 apps (though they are about Google Apps, several issues illustrated obtain for other apps too). The press release continues:

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “Given the many accessible options available, there is no good reason that these universities should choose a suite of applications, including critical e-mail services, that is inaccessible to blind students.  Worse yet, according to recent data more than half of the American higher education institutions that are outsourcing e-mail to third-party vendors plan to deploy this suite, even though they know that it cannot be used by blind students.  Nor can these universities claim ignorance of their legal obligations, since the United States Department of Justice and the United States Department of Education have specifically warned all university presidents against the adoption of inaccessible technology.  The National Federation of the Blind will not tolerate this unconscionable discrimination against blind students and faculty and callous indifference to the right of blind students to receive an equal education.  We urge these higher education institutions to suspend their adoption of Google Apps for Education until it is accessible to all students and faculty, not just the sighted, or to reject Google Apps entirely.”

Now the warning from the DoJ and DoE to all university (and college, btw)  presidents mentioned by Dr Maurer arose from the NFB v Arizona State University case over the latter's adoption of the Kindle, which is inaccessible to the blind too. And it says - among many other things that would apply to Google Apps too:

...It is unacceptable for universities to use emerging technology without insisting that this technology be accessible to all students. ...

So rushing to follow the example of those Oregon schools might not be such a hot idea after all. Apart from other issues with Google Apps, like losing track of the real author when folks start making copies of a shared document to their own account, then renaming it and resharing it with someone who can in turn do the same.

So I was wondering whether the wikispaces offers  for K-12 and for higher education teachers might not cover the needs of some of you, if  combined with a free and for free OpenOffice suite. Wikispaces has inside messaging that might answer your e-mailing requests, and you can upload spreadsheets and slideshows made with OpenOffice (though, granted, you can't edit them online there). And the wikispaces pages themselves are quite decent for text editing - actually better than traditional office suites text editors, one might argue,  in that they encourage rational structuring over futile surface decoration.

One query remains: I am not 100% sure about the accessibility of wikispaces either. However, they have been offering at least the K-12 solution (as well as paid solutions for educational institutions - see their pricing page), for years now. And I haven't heard of inaccessibility complaints about them so far. Whereas there had been many concerning the inaccessibility of Google Docs and Google Apps for years before the NFB finally decided to ask the DoJ to investigate the matter this week.

Nevertheless, Derrick, I think schools using Google Apps should be made aware of the NFB's legal action against this use in education that I mentioned in my previous comment.

Moreover, students at schools using Google Apps should be made aware of the Google Apps privacy conditions, which differ conspicuously from the ones of normal Google /  Gmail accounts:

Google Apps is offered by Google in conjunction with your domain administrator and that administrator may have access to your account information including your email. Specifically, subject to your domain administrator's privacy policies, your domain administrator may:

  • View statistics regarding your account, such as information concerning your last login or data storage usage;
  • Change your account password, suspend or terminate your account access and your ability to modify your account;
  • Access or retain information stored as part of your account, including your email, contacts and other information; and,
  • Receive account information in order to satisfy applicable law, regulation, legal process or enforceable governmental request.

Thank you for your explanations about privacy in Google Apps Edu and other similar offers, Derrick. I had an unpleasant experience with a "free" course given by Didasca (incidentally, 3rd in the http://www.google.com/a/help/intl/en/edu/trainer_directory.html you mentioned in a previous comment due to their asking course participants to give them high ratings):   Didasca had no link to the Google Apps privacy policy in the sign up form. More about it in Beware of Privacy and Other Issues When Signing Up for Free Courses.

Re NFB's action about Google Apps, it is not a lawsuit yet: NFB is only asking the DoJ to investigate possible civic rights violations entailed by educational institutions' adoption of Google Apps due to the latter's accessibility issues.

In its press release about this action, NFB links to a page of  Google Accessibility Demonstration Videos, which illustrate visually and auditively the obstacles encountered by blind people when they attempt to use Google Apps with a screen reader.

Hopefully Google will choose to fix these obstacles, making this page obsolete ;-) One incentive for them to do so - beyond their declared commitment to accessibility - is that the NFB has backed Google in former occasions, for instance in antitrust proceedings concerning the Google Book Search Settlement.

 

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