Bus tour promotes Google Apps to colleges

September 8, 2008 7:10:24 PM PDT
Tech giant Google is using a 30-year old school bus on a 5,000-mile road trip to offer students something they may find hard to turn down -- free applications for their computers.

The Google bus is on a campaign, but it is non-political. It is a Google campaign to get college students and their faculty to use its suite of free applications. It goes first to USC and wraps up next month at Northwestern.

"Google's sexy these days. Everyone likes Google, so if this bus pulled up, there'd be a lot of people who'd be very curious," said Jackson Ratcliffe, chief technology officer for Dominican University.

Students and faculty will be invited on board to check out Google's e-mail, document program, spreadsheet, calendar and other features, collectively known as Google Apps.. It is free to the education community, and it is ad-free.

Google's Jeff Keltner says the education program started two years ago as part of a movement to wean users off software you have to buy and load onto your computer.

"So much of what's going on with students in higher ed today is focused on teamwork, on group projects, and that's something that current software doesn't really work that well with. What we've been able to do with this is just have a document. Writing a document with four of my classmates, I can four people logged into the same document at the same time, editing that together even if they're not at the same place," explained Keltner.

Students at Metroed's Central County Occupational Center in San Jose are two weeks into using Google Apps. Students already are using Google sites to create their own Web pages.

Multimedia design instructor Dale Poor is posting lesson plans and announcements online. Sixteen-year-old Briana Wallace says her teacher can interact faster with students.

"If he notices something that could be changed, then you can do it at home. He can actually tell us right away. And it's really nice and easy," said Wallace.

The Google bus, by the way, runs on biodiesel, and it is even solar powered.

Google estimates about two million faculty members and students are now using Google Apps. The number of schools is growing too, up 17 just this week.


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