Incredible Free Software for Your School!

As the administrator of a small Christian school, I am always on the lookout for ways to cut costs for my school.  One of the areas that can become quite expensive is software-specifically word processing, presentation, and spreadsheet software (think Microsoft Office).  As I noticed how licensing fees would add up from year to year, I began to search for a different option, and I found it: Google Apps.

Even if you are not a part of a small Christian school, it’s hard to pass up something that’s free! When considering Google Apps for your school, let me assure you that the old adage “you get what you pay for” does not apply here.  Let me share with you a few of the reasons I like using Google Apps at our school.

For those of you that do not know about Google Apps, I will attempt to succinctly explain what it is and how it works.  The “home base” of Google Apps is Google Drive, which is basically a place to store files that one uploads and documents that one creates.  Within Drive, users are able to create (among other things) documents, spreadsheets, and presentations.  Google has created their own cloud-based software, which is wonderful for our staff and students.  As long as files are stored in a user’s Drive account, they are able to access their files from any internet-accessible device including laptops (preferably a MacBook Air or Pro), iPads, and yes, even lowly Android devices and PCs.

On top of Drive, each of my school’s users (which includes all staff and secondary students) have access to a Gmail account that is “at” our school domain name.  As an example, a student named Joe Smith would have an email address of jsmith@vbainfo.com.  This address also serves as the user’s login credentials for Google Apps.

Ok, I could share more of the cool features, but allow me to share why I think it is something you should consider for your school.

  1. The Cost: ok, so I already mentioned that it is free.  Yes, you read that correctly, it is completely free for your school to use.
  2. Storage Space: each user gets 30 GB of storage space.  Think of having a 30 GB “thumb” drive (those USB storage things) that you never lose!  It’s awesome!
  3. Collaboration: this is one of the most powerful features of Google Apps-the ability to collaborate together.  In a nutshell, users can work on the same document, presentation or spreadsheet at the same time even if they are in different locations.  Now, just think how powerful that is for student projects, etc.
  4. Never lose another document: files are saved every few seconds.  So, even if you have a student whose computer crashed “just before he hit print,” it’s all good because you can open that file on any computer.
  5. Applications Available:  I’ve already mentioned the “Office” capabilities of Google Apps, but there are so many more features and applications that can be added onto Goole Apps.  As an example, our school uses Thinkwave, which is an online grade book (think RenWeb but with less features).  Thinkwave is integrated with Google Apps, which means  teachers can access their grade book right from their apps account.
  6. Administrative Control: password changes, adding users, deleting users, etc.  The administrative controls are powerful.  I’ll just leave it at that.
  7. Ease of Use: it may sound a bit overwhelming, but once you play with it for a little while, it is a breeze!
  8. The Calendar: I didn’t mention this above in my description of Drive and Gmail, but the Calendar is just awesome.  Users can share calendars, set reminders, and so much more.
  9. Did I mention the cost??

Google Apps has made life at our school much easier, and it certainly has been friendly to our budget.  I highly recommend it to you and your school.

To learn more about Google Apps for Education, check out this link.

Google Apps is powerful and free!  Do you have any tools that you use at your school or in your classroom that you want to share with FOCUS readers?  

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Matt is the Assistant to the Editor here at the Focus Blog. He also serves as the Administrator at the Victory Baptist Academy of Weatherford, TX, as well as the President of the Texas Organization of Christian Schools. Matt and his wife, Kelly, have three children that keep them on their toes!