Oregon has become the first state in the country to adopt Google Apps for all its school districts – a move that Google said will save Oregon, which is struggling to reconcile budget woes, upward of $1.5 million per year. According to Google education manager Jaime Casap, Google Apps – including Google Docs, Gmail, and Google Groups – will be available to Oregon students and teachers as soon as this week.
If all goes smoothly, Casap wrote on the official Google blog, the Oregon experiment has the power to reshape the classroom experience. Students, for instance, will be able to access a range of documents from home; teachers will be able to provide feedback remotely; projects that once required hours in the library can be organized and executed via the cloud.
"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," Casap wrote. "Cloud computing tools like Google Apps are one way teachers, schools – and now a whole state – are addressing the issue."
Of course, Oregon students can already access the cloud, provided they have a working laptop and an Internet connection. The difference in Oregon is that the cloud itself will become institutionalized – a buzzing, whirring extension of the classroom. Apparently in an attempt to preempt criticism from parents, the Oregon state schools superintendent has said in a statement that the Google Apps program is entirely voluntary.
In addition, the program meets "legal requirements regarding federal student records and safety precautions," PC World reports.
Last Month, Google introduced the Google Apps Marketplace, a platform said would make it easier for business to buy and manage online applications. The Marketplace launched with more than 50 applications, including Intuit Online Payroll and TripIt, an organizational tool for business travel. No word yet on whether or not an educational Apps Marketplace is on the way. But hey, this is Google. We wouldn't be surprised.