Alis volat propriis: Oregon’s bringing Google Apps to classrooms statewide

Growing up in the late seventies in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan, technology wasn’t really a part of my educational life. My teachers graded printouts and the idea of collaborating with my classmates on a project anytime, anywhere just wasn’t possible. Not to mention, we didn’t have a computer at home and working on the Internet was still a pipe dream for a middle schooler.

Things have changed since I was in middle school of course, and there are people working hard to bring technology into classrooms to help students learn and teachers teach. Today Oregon is taking a huge step in that direction — they’re the first state to open up Google Apps for Education to public schools throughout the state.

Starting today, the Oregon Department of Education will offer Google Apps to all the school districts in the state — helping teachers, staff and students use Gmail, Docs, Sites, Video, Groups and more within their elementary, middle and high schools. School funding has been hit hard over the past couple of years, and Oregon is no exception. This move is going to save the Department of Education $1.5 million per year — big bucks for a hurting budget.

With Google Apps, students in Oregon can build websites or email teachers about a project. Their documents and email will live online in the cloud — so they’ll be able to work from a classroom or a computer lab, at home or at the city (or county) library. And instead of just grading a paper at the end of the process, Oregonian teachers can help students with their docs in real time, coaching them along the way. It’s critical that students learn how to use the kind of productivity technology they’ll need throughout their lives, and Oregon is helping students across the state do just that.

It blows my mind to think about how far technology in the classroom has come since I was in school, and how far we still have to go to make sure kids in classrooms everywhere have access to these tech resources. Cloud computing tools like Google Apps are one way teachers, schools — and now a whole state — are addressing the issue. Oh, and alis volat propriis? That’s the Oregon motto. It means “she flies by her own wings” — makes perfect sense for a state heading to the cloud.