Google Apps for Education

Perhaps someone can clarify this for me, but I’m a bit confused by the “free” Google Apps for Education offer.

My understanding is that the profit model behind Gmail accounts is that the content can be scanned by Google for market analysis reports (while still ensuring privacy of users, we are assured). Additionally, the content scanning means that targeted advertising can be integrated into the interface.

For example, my Net Admin and I set up two standard Google Apps accounts and started playing with them. He sent me an email saying “Let’s Chat” and we tried out the chat app. Then I noticed that the email was surrounded by advertisements in gmail to “Chat with Girls” and “Meet other teens online!” Good grief– is the contextual advertising still turned on in the Google Education set, or is it turned off? I’d find it hard to believe this type of content review would be acceptable in an official school email system.

In addition, what happens when a school is fully committed, and the system is upgraded to new feature sets that break investments in links and tweaks previously made? Worse still, what if the concept doesn’t play out and support dwindles. Like early Blackboard and WebCT users discovered, what is inexpensive one year may not be in a few years. Also, are there any content ownership issues if the service is used– does Google retain any ownership or use rights long term? For example, even if I delete 100 documents out of my account, are they stilled cached by Google for “research purposes?”

Despite all these concerns, there’s still something about the unified email, chat, calendar, web docs, word process, spreadsheet and other features all in one place, with a sophisticated system for sharing with other teachers for review or collaborative work. I like this concept in many ways– online digital portfolios would be the norm, and work could be done from any computer on the Internet. I know this had been done with Citrix web desktops, but that’s more of “sending an image” of a Windows desktop instead of making the applications fully net native.

As I think more of this, the more I find it interesting. In the meantime, I don’t really want all of my content scanned by third parties on “free” systems. Or is the Google Ed system advertisement and content scanning free?

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