Nova Scotia

Google Apps for Education ingrains brand in kids early, says expert

A cloud computing expert at Dalhousie University believes Google's offer of free educational software to Nova Scotia classrooms will pay off for the company through students' exposure to Google products.

Cost per student, per year of free access is negligible for a company as large as Google: prof

Google provides access to Apps for Education for free, along with unlimited electronic storage on Google's servers. (Thomas Peter/Reuters)

A cloud computing expert at Dalhousie University believes Google's offer of free educational software to Nova Scotia classrooms will pay off for the company through students' exposure to Google products.

Two years into a pilot program, 20,000 Nova Scotia students are using Google Apps for Education, a suite of free web-based programs that allow students to collaborate on projects online and submit them electronically for grading.

"They're able to communicate and collaborate on the same document at the same time from multiple sources. So they could be at different sides of the room, they could be in the same group, or one student could even be at home," said Doug Ross, a Grade 9 teacher at École Five Bridges Junior High in Hubley.

The school was part of a pilot project last year.

This year, 600 students in Grades 7, 8 and 9 are using Google Apps at school.

Google provides access to Apps for Education for free, along with unlimited electronic storage on Google's servers.

No plans to add ads

Mike Smit, a computer scientist and associate professor at Dalhousie's School of Information Management, said the cost per student, per year of the free access is negligible for a company as large as Google. 

Besides, he said, programming and infrastructure are already in place.

"My guess is that no one at Google is saying, 'We need to add a new server, we need to add a new data centre for all of these new customers.' It's a relatively small number. So I'm guessing it's free for them," he said.

As part of its agreement with the provincial Education Department, Google has promised to give up two of its usual sources of revenue: online advertising and gleaning marketing insights from its customers' data.

"There are no ads in Google Apps for Education services and we have no plans to change this in the future," said Alexandra Hunnings, a spokesperson for Google Canada, in an email.

"Apps for Education services do not collect or use student data for advertising purposes… We do not scan or 'mine' Apps for Education emails or information [for] advertising purposes," she said.

Smit thinks Google is gambling students will eventually use the company's products in their professional lives.

"It's great for Google because they can get students familiar with their product, and they can make working in the cloud second nature," he said.

Student reaction

Grade 9 student Gillian Bridger said she enjoyed using Google products at school last year.

"It was fun. We got to do projects on it, and I find it took less work and I could take my work home with me. And it was a lot easier," she said.

Her classmate Logan Benner said online collaboration has saved him trips to other students' houses after school.

"If you had to do a power point [presentation] it would be easier… Because you can communicate when you're at home, and do that at home," he said.

Benner also seems to be developing an awareness around the Google brand.

"I learned that it's easier to use that than Microsoft Office," he said.

About the Author

Jack Julian

Reporter

Jack Julian joined CBC Nova Scotia as an arts reporter in 1997. His news career began on the morning of Sept. 3, 1998 following the crash of Swissair 111. He is now a data journalist in Halifax, and you can reach him at (902) 456-9180, by email at jack.julian@cbc.ca or follow him on Twitter @jackjulian

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