Thinking Out Loud: The Pros and Cons of Google Apps for Ed

At today’s annual conference for the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, I am presenting a workshop session around using Google Apps for Education for nurturing collaborative digital writing and reading skills in our students. Our key focus will be collaborative possibilities, and it will be a hands-on workshop. We’re gonna collaborate!

I’m no expert in GAFE (Google Apps for Education), having finally gotten our school district to push access to GAFE to sixth grade late last year after a few years of seeing it available in the district middle/high school (I am in an elementary school). But my students are neck-high in using their Google accounts already this year for all sorts of writing and collaboration, and Terry Elliott shared out this article with this stunning fact:

Google Apps for Ed now has 50 MILLION users in schools ..


Like Terry, though, I am hoping I keep a clear vision on the pros and cons of this development, and since I am no paid shill for Google (nor do I intend to be), I want to present some ideas in my workshop about both the possibilities and pitfalls of becoming a GAFE classroom or school.

You can’t help but notice the way Google is insinuating itself into the fabric of education, with GAFE and cheap Chromebooks. Yes, there is a clear gain for schools and students accessing technology and possibilities in the digital age. But yes, too, Google is not doing it out of kindness of its heart (disregard its ‘Do No Evil’ mission — it has already dropped that). Google wants a Google Generation (sort of how first Apple got itself into schools with early computers and then Microsoft followed suit). Google is clearly playing the “long game” here: Start them early and make them Google for Life.

Here, then, is a list that came to my mind about how to balance the pros and cons of using GAFE in a school system.

Google Apps for Ed- The Good, the Bad, the Collaborative

I am sure there are other ideas that I don’t even mention, and one that comes to mind already is the cost effectiveness of GAFE over other platforms.

And cost is probably the reason most school districts turn to GAFE, and then justify it with the “pros” that I have list here. That’s my impression, anyway.

Peace (in keeping an open mind about open systems),


  1. You note Apple and I note what Apple did in the 90’s–abandoned the education market. At some point we gotta have a plan B, an open source deal that schools can live with. Where is the Linus Torvalds and Tim Berners-Lee of education?

    Antispamitosity: A lame palindrome for our times: ? huh Panama huh ?

  2. Nice post Kevin. Although Google Apps offers many benefits, something I say as I write on my Chromebook, there are some negatives. I presented a few years ago on why I went with Google as my choice. I completed a SWOT analysis ( It is always important to keep in mind that maybe there is a better solution and I too agree with Terry that there really does need to be an open solution. However, as things currently stand, I feel that many open solutions still exist in the black market of learning, especially in K-12.

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