Google: Too far out of the box for some? But now there's Presentation Apps.

In a couple separate meetings today the topic of hosting email versus outsourcing to Google was discussed. Many of my colleagues seem to have come to the conclusion that presently Google is not a good fit for our needs. While I feel comfortable with continuing to host email, I have a nagging feeling that we'll be back discussing this issue wihin the year. Looks like Google is now getting ready to bring a PowerPoint like web-based presentation application to their solution set.

Here's what Zdnet has to say about the new app:

Google Presentations…one more step in the right direction by ZDNet's Christopher Dawson -- Google's announcement of presentation software to be added to their existing Docs and Spreadsheets applications is welcome news for those of us in Ed Tech. Google doesn't pretend that this is meant to compete with MS Office or even OpenOffice and it doesn't represent a viable alternative to these products for us. According to Google [...]

The outsourced vs self-hosted issue is significant and is broader than just cost savings. It covers the entire productivity spectrum. Having word processing, a spreadsheet, and presentation software, with a good measure of collaboration capabilites mixed in, makes Google Apps impossible to ignore. Oh, and don't forget all those mashup capabilities. There's little doubt in my mind that by next year, Fall '08, entering first year students will be equally, if not more comfortable using Google Apps to do school work. Keep in mind, for the most part these are 1.0 versions of these applications, (yes, I know in the 2.0 world we don't talk about versions), but imagine them in 3,5,...years. Google Apps for Education is an opportunity to apply the integrated outsourcing principle. We are going to have to embrace and extend web-based servcies and continue to support the mission of the instituion and maintain a sense of community.

Of course there are the issues of security, data mining, and a general fear of a big corporate behemouth, but that's why a near-follower strategy might be the smartest bet at this time. But sooner or later...

Google, email, productivity, higher education

Digital Signage

It's always a weird sensation when you just start to ponder the implications of a new technology and you pick up an article or see a post in a blog and discover that someone else is thinking about that very same issue as well. That happened to me last week as I noticed a couple of our staff placing a new 42in LCD panel in our Arts Center. There's also a couple new screens in our Communications Studies Department and our Meteorology Department has had several for some time now. I am aware that our campus, like many institutions is struggling with an ever expanding list of communication modes and that it is having a significant impact on the institution's communication plan. It occurred to me that this effort by departments to replace their department bulletin board would be approached more effectively in a centralized architecture that also allowed for local control, i.e., a quasi network and affiliate approach, where the network could supersede local programming. Who could argue against the very real need to "get the word out" in an emergency.

In this article in "Campus Technology" a few schools are moving exactly in that direction. We should look into this as well before we spend to much more money without asking about the impact on campus communication questions.

FaceBook, Friend or Foe?

I was at a recent Facebook Forum on our campus where the overall message, was "don't put anything in Facebook that you will someday regret." That's certainly good advice and the very same advice I have given my own children. Unfortunately, the forum seemed to focus too much on the negative and not the postive - or at least not the reality of social networks and the Internet in general as our students prepare for their future. While Higher Ed. institutions are working to integrate ePortfolio technologies into post-secondary experience, the un-filtered digital footprint of our students is being created. I know, I know, I',m doing ePortfolios a disservice by equating them with just the results of search engines, but for the purposes of this post, let's just consider the areas of commonality.

An article by Mary Brandel in ComputerWorld, builds the case that digital natives or immigrants need to cultivate their digital profile. I couldn't agree more. Educational institutions, should be encouraging students to build their profile in a professional manner. If they don't who will? I would not want to be this student looking for an entry level management position.

Zimbra vs. Google

My colleagues and I have been discussing the direction of email at PSU, i.e., whether we should be using an outsourced model like Google or continue hosting an email application at Plymouth, specifically a vendor based solution like Zimbra. Of course the issues are larger than just the email "killer app." We've been following ASU's efforts to work with Google Apps for Education, with the Google personalized web page, SSO to the start page and other ASU resources. Particularly interesting is that ASU is using uPortal which is the core portal technology behind Luminis portal, which is what we are using at PSU. Here's what Adrian Sannier, CTO at ASU has to say.

So far in our debates, the tally below indicates our current thinking between the two possible alternatives. Our analysis will evolve as we continue with our present "near follower" strategy and engage in further research to develop a better sense of what the best fit for our environment is.

 Zimbra Google
Innovation Innovation
Community Community
One Account for life

google apps, uportal, luminis, zimbra

Email - Outsourcing the killer App... to Google?

Dwight Fischer our CIO, Ted Wisnewski our Manager of System Administraton and I had the opportunity to meet with some of our student leaders here at Plymouth to discuss issues surrounding email, particularly the problems they have had for the past several months because of technical difficulties that have been plaguing our integrated systems . Here's my notes:

  • Reliability - was their highest concern. The performance problems and the downtimes have forced them to seek alternative solutions, such as google.
  • M: Drive - students have problems mapping personal laptops to the m: drive and the web-based interface inside myPlymouth was too klunky.
  • Email file size - Students need to email larger file attachments then currently permitted.
  • Time out of myPlymouth - mixed feelings whether the time out provides security or inconvenience.
  • Students are not learning enough about the technical capabilities of the PSU community.
  • Some students are modifying and customizing myPlymouth. (yeah!)
  • Help Desk support is "hit or miss."
  • Students like gmail, google apps, etc.
  • Students have concerns about paying for additional printing.
  • Students like the "interactivity" of CampusLive

Here's some relative links:

Here's my thoughts from an earlier post:

Admissions - being hip.

There was a good article about Admissions Offices attempting to use technology in the March 16th edition of the Chronicle, Tangled up in Tech. It's sailent point.

....many admissions deans are racing to prove to prospective students that they are hip to the latest trends. They know that millions of teenagers log on to MySpace and Facebook every day and constantly use text messaging and instant messaging. Some officials assume they must use those channels to connect with teens — and to keep up with competitors....The biggest mistake admissions officials can make when experimenting with new ways to reach out to prospective applicants is to ignore their tried-and-true methods of disseminating information about their college, according to higher-education marketing consultants.

I couldn't agree more. Technology is not always the answer. Especially if it is a half-hearted attempt and potentially appears to be disingenuous. My oldest daughter has been accepted at several institutions. The most effective acceptance letter, in this parents opinion, was the one from the University of Maine, that included a brief hand-written note over the standard form letter that highlighted why they were impressed with her application. It made me feel that they new my daughter and took the time the time to really look at her. Now if their Financial Aid Office does as well for me....

He Wasn't Fired!

One of the several "whizkid" staff that I am fortunate to have reporting to me, Matt Batchelder, pulled a prank while several of us were off at a conference. He did want to come to the conference, and should have, but budget realities being what they are he had to stay behind. After hours, he and several other staff had some fun "decorating" the offices of those who went away. He's a blogger and apparently the story has taken on a life of it's own and has made it all the way across the pond and was covered by the Daily Mirror: