Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Save Money and Go Green

Lately I've been reading quite a few articles in school technology magazines regarding cost savings measures in light of our current global economic crisis. I've also seen a huge increase in the number articles on green technology. All sorts of creative and innovative solutions for doing more with less are being implemented in schools around the world. Here are a few cost savings/green ideas that will not compromise effective instructional technology programs:

1. Create a Google Apps network for your school now. It is free and very easy to manage. While you certainly can use the google apps network as a space for document collaboration only, the real savings happens when you move your school email to Google Apps. Google Apps now offers offline access to word processing files and email. Depending on what email system you are using, a move to Google Apps could mean a realized savings of tens of thousands of dollars annually.

2. Broaden the use of open source client software and server software. On the client side, Open Office, while not perfect, is a suitable replacement for Microsoft Office, especially when used in tandem with Google Apps (I do 99% of my office work in google docs and have done so for nearly two years).

3. Use old hardware. Yes, I know, the old Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) calculators tell us that out of warranty hardware actually costs our institutions more to support. Jim Klein in Saugus Union School District is proving the traditional TCO model wrong. He is doing some amazing things with 6-8 year old hardware to create powerful learning environments for the students and teachers that he works with.

4. Implement a free and open source virtual learning environment (VLE) platform such as Moodle. The VLE will eventually become the "network," with users posting files, blogs posts, forum posts, images, audio and video to the space. Combined with Google Docs and other Web 2.0 edu-spaces, the need for expensive file servers that need to be refreshed every X-amount of years is minimized. Of course you'll need a computer to run your VLE on, but the hardware requirements for Moodle are quite minimal and all of the software needed to make it work is free. Because the VLE only requires a browser for users to participate, the need for everyone to have the exact same type of machine becomes less important. Finally, VLEs have the added benefit of allowing students and teachers to preserve their work in digital spaces, which will ultimately mean less printing.

5. Leverage student owned technology. Some already own cell phones, ultra mobile laptops, laptops, home computers. During the one computer classroom days there were a host of creative ways to make use of the single computer in meaningful ways. The same kind of inventive thinking can now be applied to personally owned student devices on campus.

6. Explore the use of low cost ultra mobile laptops like the ones from Asus and HP. These "light" devices cost a fraction of traditional "heavy" computers and can perform most of the tasks associated with working in the school's virtual learning environment.

2 comments:

  1. Bob Osborne1:55 PM

    Don't you think there are privacy issues at stake when considering switching an entire school or school system email system to gmail?

    I've kicked it around here for my organization because we are running Exchange 2003, and free is a powerful word, especially in today's economy. But I always stop to ask myself about security and the potential for Google to comply with a subpoena from the government, and you would never know.

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  2. Hey Bob,

    Thank you for the comment. I agree, privacy and security is definitely something to consider, but the google admin console gives you full control over the network. I'm fortunate to be in the K12 public/non-for-profit space where google gives us their enterprise level product for free...corporations have some sort of fee they have to pay.

    I've long been a fan of the google apps suite as a platform for collaboration, even before the current economic downturn. I much prefer the process of writing collaboratively with my colleagues via a google doc in comparison to cycling a word doc as an attachment via email (I know microsoft has sharepoint, but that is quite expensive). And when we get involved in global projects with students and teachers in other parts of the world, then an environment that is fully accessible via a browser alone becomes even more important (many schools around the world don't use MS Office).

    Northwestern migrated to google apps/email a while back and GE is now using Zoho (many other examples are out there as well).

    Great video here from Lee Lefeever titled, "Google Docs in Plain Enlish

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