Educators who have spent 3 or more years in the field know that programs come and go. I saw this to the greatest extent when I was working in Nashville, Tennessee at a school built for students who were too far behind to graduate on time. We were designed to be a smaller project based environment for these students who were disengaged with the education process, but wanted to try again and get a high school diploma. I and about 10 other educators came together to build this school. It was the pet project of someone in central office. The first year was good, but shaky as could be expected. We had a few of students who were able to catch up, leave us, and get their diploma. The second year we had four students graduate. There was an entire ceremony, families attended and it was one of the best moments I have ever had as a teacher. Year three never happened. The school was closed and a new program was implemented by the next person who took the previous individuals job.
This is somewhat the norm in education. Maybe not on this type of scale where an entire school was built and dismantled within two years, but teachers are used to seeing programs come and go. It's often a running joke (not a particularly funny one) when a district pays for a new initiative for everyone to say, "So how long will this last?"
As I was following the Google Fundamentals Training program again, I thought about the fact that this is another program that school districts have "bought into." Then I asked myself, is this one of those instances where we will just jump to something else in the near future? I don't think so.
But why? Why would this set of education materials have more staying power than some of the programs we have seen in the past?
1. Google Plays Well With Others
Every person who has more than one online account can understand the nightmare of forgetting a password. You come up with 5-6 variations of the same string of letters, numbers, and symbols, but darn it you cannot remember which variation you used. The fact that you can sign into Google and use your sign in to get into many, if not most, of the other types of applications you need is a beautiful thing. In fact, I have chosen one program over another specifically for that reason before.
2. Google Works Well Doing the Basics While Providing Choice to Educators
What I mean when I say this is that I can do just about anything within Google Apps for any specific content area or just for work in general. I can communicate via email, video chat, instant messages, voice, and I am sure in two or three other ways that I cannot think of right this second. Google focuses on the basics of what it takes to run a school, then you can have extensions and add-ons that provide the choice of how to run a classroom. Example; There is Google Classroom, but if you don't like that you can make a class website using Google Sites. Or you can do both and they will run seamlessly together along with your Drive, Calendar, and any add-ons you would like (A later blog post about how to run all these things together easily). In a world where teachers are losing more and more autonomy in the classroom, this is appreciated.
3. Google SAVES, SAVES, SAVES
I can change a document, slide, email, etc and it is saved. If I walk away from my computer, the power goes out while I am working, or I just forget to hit save before I click out of everything my material will be saved and ready for me when I return.
Google is just plain easy to use and it transcends all the barriers we usually see in education. It works for everyone from administration, to kindergarten teachers, and all the way to AP Chemistry teachers. It is just a good solid work flow management system.