Oregon education officials announced today that it would be the first state in the country to offer Google Apps for Education to all of its K-12 schools. Although adoption at the school level is voluntary, the state is hoping to save $1.5 million each year on email costs. Cost savings, however, are secondary to the goal of providing students and staff with access to state-of-the-art cloud-based communication and collaboration tools.
According to State Schools Superintendent, Susan Castillo,
“Educators and students now have access to the same cutting-edge technology used in the business world with added federal student privacy and confidentiality protections...In a time of dwindling resources, I am grateful for Google’s partnership. Our students have a wonderful opportunity to prepare for the workplace by using workplace technology in the classroom.”
Interestingly, Google and the Oregon Department of Education partnered to create "a unique user agreement that met state legal requirements and provided adequate compliance around federal student records and safety protections." As with Google's Apps provided to schools and businesses elsewhere, schools and districts in Oregon will be able to have their own domain(s), provision roles and capabilities to students and staff, and manage user security with integrated Postini features.
This effort is part of a larger public-private partnership called Accelerate Oregon that has brought funding and technology from Google, Intel, SMART, Cisco, and others together with Oregon schools. The goals for partners include being able to
- Influence the developing skills of your incoming workforce
- Build out technology partnerships in our schools
- Open sales channels and demonstrate corporate social responsibility
Sounds like a win-win to me. Corporate partners get incredible exposure and help build a skilled, modern workforce while schools receive grant funding and technical assistance for everything from SMART board rollouts to Google Apps implementations. As federal and state funding become increasingly dismal, particularly for any schools not willing to buy into Race to the Top, such partnerships between industry and schools will become vital to ensuring access to technology and professional development.