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Misco: G Suite for education, the search for excellence

OpinionTechnology
By Heather McLean | 28 July 2017
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Create DateJuly 28, 2017
Last UpdatedJuly 25, 2017

By Terry Chana, workspace practice lead, Misco.

Collaboration is a central tenet of the opensource software philosophy. In the 1970s, when the software industry was first starting, academics, engineers and scientists freely shared and adapted each other’s code.

Subsequently companies such as IBM, DEC, Microsoft and Apple created proprietary software, which they commercialised. For decades these organisations ruled the roost.

Then, in 1991, a young Finnish student, Linus Torvalds, created the Linux operating system, based on an educational operating system, and the opensource movement was born.

While Torvalds claims that he never intended Linux to be a collaborative, opensource project, he did make the source code publicly available in order to gather feedback on the code from other software programmers. Linux rapidly gained popularity and became the basis of Google’s Android mobile OS and the Chrome OS.

Opensource technology is attractive to schools because it provides pupils with vital computing experience while reducing software licensing costs for schools.

Aware of the benefits of offering a lightweight, cloud-based operating system to the education sector, Google announced Google Apps for Education in 2007 (now renamed G Suite for Education). The suite comprises cloud storage, Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Slides, Drive and Hangouts, providing pupils with experience in literacy, word processing; creating, editing and collaborating on documents; undertaking online research; producing slide presentations; creating blogs and websites; understanding spreadsheets, flowcharts and scheduling; and collaborating online using Hangouts.

G Suite is well suited to the classroom environment. The suite offers a cloud hosted solution for creating lesson plans, distributing assignments and sending feedback all in one place, along with integrated communication and collaboration tools.

Computing devices based on the Chrome OS are affordable, intuitive and easy for schools to set up and maintain: ensuring that teachers can focus on pupils rather than device and OS maintenance.

In 2011, manufacturers including Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer and Samsung started making ‘Chromebook’ laptops that offered users the stripped down Chrome OS, a web browser and a limited amount of local storage. Three years later IDC reported that sales of Chrome OS-based computers had overtaken Apple iPad sales in the US education sector. Chromebooks are continuing to see rapid adoption in the education sector worldwide.

Light, portable Chromebooks work exceptionally well in an educational setting, where pupils move from classroom to classroom and are encouraged to use cloud-based apps to work collaboratively on focused assignments, with teachers using Google Classroom to distribute schemes of work; monitor pupils’ progress on assignments online; set usage policies and provide 1:1 assistance where needed.

The beauty of G Suite for Education is that it is free for schools and offers pupils and teachers round the clock support. The Chrome OS means simpler device management for school IT managers. Because it’s open source, G Suite for Education is also compatible with whatever device a child has access to at home, at school, or at their local library.

Almost three decades after Torvalds opened up his software code to scrutiny and improvement by fellow coders, it is fitting that pupils today are still benefitting from the collaborative approach that was fostered by the open source movement.

Misco is an educational IT supplier.


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