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4/27/2010
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Oregon Public Schools Go Google

By moving to Google's cloud infrastructure, Oregon expects to save $1.5 million annually for e-mail alone.

The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) on Wednesday plans to announce that it has signed a contract with Google that will give the state's schools the option to use Google's online applications for their K-12 students.

The deal marks the first time that Google Apps for Education will be implemented on a statewide basis.

The ODE anticipates savings of about $1.5 million annually on IT costs associated with e-mail. It foresees additional savings by foregoing upgrades to hardware and software made redundant by Google's online applications.

Google Apps for Education includes Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, Google Docs, Google Sites, and Google Video.

"Educators and students now have access to the same cutting-edge technology used in the business world with added federal student privacy and confidentiality protections," said State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo in a statement. "In a time of dwindling resources, I am grateful for Google's partnership."

To secure the deal, Google, the ODE, and the Oregon Department of Justice crafted a unique user agreement to meet state and federal legal requirements related to student records, privacy, and security.

A promotion lasting until July 2010 that Google launched last year -- which makes the Message Security component of the company's Postini enterprise e-mail service freely available to Google Apps for Education users -- resolved some of these legal requirements.

In a conference call for the media, Steve Nelson, technology director of Oregon Virtual Schools, said that the ODE plans to make its agreement, the product of 16 months of negotiation, available to help other states that may be mulling a move to the cloud.

Nelson said that he expected about 50% of Oregon's almost 200 school districts to adopt Google Apps for Education in the next twelve months.

He also said that the primary users of Google's services are likely to be in grades 7-12, due to the laws governing minors' use of online services and the need for parental involvement when younger children are involved.

He expects that deploying Google Apps for Education will free school administrators from having to worry about maintenance and upgrades, which Google will handle, thereby allowing them to focus on improved functionality.

Jaime Casap, manager of Google Apps for Education, said that the collaborative capabilities of Google's online apps make them particularly appealing for educators.

As an example, he pointed to Google Sites, a wiki or group-editable Web site, that allows teachers to post projects for students and to easily interact with students.

"It creates that open collaborative environment, not only between teachers and students but between classrooms that are working on similar projects," he said.

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