Claim: Google Apps for Education inaccessible to blind students

A Google official pledged to make its applications more accessible to blind students.

An advocacy group has filed a complaint with the federal government accusing New York University (NYU) and Northwestern University of discriminating against the blind by adopting Google’s eMail program.

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB) said March 15 that Gmail and other Google applications used by the schools aren’t fully functional with text-to-speech technology, and their adoption violates the Americans with Disabilities act.

The Baltimore-based group is asking that the Justice Department investigate. It also wants colleges to halt adoption of such software until it’s accessible to everyone.…Read More

Google makes ed-tech splash with apps marketplace

Google's education app marketplace begins with 20 options.

Google opened an Apps Marketplace for educators Jan. 25, creating an online repository filled with learning management system (LMS) software, web-based grade books, and other content that can be shared among an entire school district or college campus with the click of a button.

The Apps Marketplace’s education category will start with 20 applications from 19 companies, according to Google’s official blog, and the applications can be integrated with existing app accounts, such as Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google docs.

Using free applications from Google’s new selection—which includes spelling and grammar tutorials and bibliographical management tools—could help educational technology officials avoid installing and updating software on dozens or hundreds of computers in a school or on a college campus.…Read More

The top 10 ed-tech stories of 2010: No. 7

The move is predicted to save Oregon schools over $1.5 million in software hosting and licensing costs.

In April, Oregon announced that it would give its 540,000 public school students free access to the online Google Apps for Education, a move that state officials said could save Oregon’s schools $1.5 million in software hosting and licensing costs over the course of the five-year deal. The announcement made Oregon the first state in the U.S. to announce such a deal … but not for long, as other states—such as Iowa, Colorado, and New York—stepped up to offer similar arrangements.

Kentucky, meanwhile, announced a similar deal with Microsoft to offer Microsoft’s answer to Google Apps for Education, Live@edu, to 700,000-plus school users across the state.

Kentucky’s announcement ratcheted up the rivalry between Microsoft and Google, both of which are competing to attract education users of their web-based eMail and productivity software. And while it remains to be seen how successful these statewide projects will be, and whether they’ll save as much money as state officials are touting, the deals have pushed the concept of “cloud computing” to the forefront of educational technology as an idea well worth exploring.…Read More

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Update: Google touts encrypted search fix

Google has changed its encrypted search domain name.
Google has changed the domain name for its new encrypted search feature.

Responding to concerns from education technology officials, internet search giant Google Inc. has moved its encrypted search feature to a new domain name, from https://www.google.com to https://encrypted.google.com. The move is intended to let schools block Google’s encrypted search feature without having to block the company’s other services, too—but some ed-tech officials say it’s not a viable solution to the problem.

Google in May released a new encrypted search feature, which lets internet users hide their search queries from third parties. The service uses Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connections to encrypt information that travels between a user’s computer and Google’s search engine, meaning that a user’s search terms and search results pages cannot be intercepted by any third-party software on the network. Searches also are not archived in the web browser’s history and won’t appear in the auto fill during a subsequent search.

Educators in school systems using Google services, such as Gmail and Google Apps for Education, worried that the new encrypted search feature would keep them from complying with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and put their federal e-Rate funding at risk. They said the service forced them to make a difficult choice: Block access to all of Google’s features, including Google Apps, or risk forfeiting CIPA compliance. (See “Google’s encrypted search creates problems for schools.”)…Read More

Google Docs upgrades storage to all file types

Users of Google Docs will have more storage ability.
Users of Google Docs will have more storage ability.

Google Docs users now will have access to 1 free gigabyte of storage in the online suite of word processing, spreadsheets, and other commonly-used programs, and each file can be as large as 250 megabytes.

Google already offered unlimited storage for files that were automatically converted into the Docs format. With the change, Google Docs also will store files in their original format, and only those will count toward the limit.

It’s the latest step in Google’s crusade to make it easier, cheaper, and more convenient to store information in its data centers instead of on individual computers in homes, schools, and offices. This remote method of storage has become known as “cloud computing.”…Read More

Top 10 ed-tech stories of 2009: No. 8

Google and Microsoft stepped up their student-oriented programs.
Google and Microsoft stepped up their student-oriented programs.

It might not be on par with the infamous platform wars between Microsoft and Apple that have spanned three decades–at least, not yet–but the rivalry between technology giants Microsoft and Google heated up significantly during the past year, with schools and their students as key beneficiaries.

Aiming to capture the loyalty of a future generation of computer users, both companies now offer cloud-based communication and productivity software to schools free of charge. It’s an offer that many schools and colleges acted on this year as they struggled to balance their budgets.

Microsoft’s Live@edu program gives K-12 schools and colleges a set of free hosted and co-branded collaboration and communication tools that include Windows Live Hotmail, a hosted eMail service, and Office Live Workspace, an online space to collaborate on Microsoft Office documents.…Read More