Bill MacKenty

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Transitioning to google apps for education

Posted in Educational Tech Design Leadership HOWTO google Text-based gaming on 02 - October 2010 at 12:37 PM (13 years ago). 326 views.

In four days, our school will be transitioning to google apps for education. I'm leading this transition, it's my first big organizational change as a director of technology.

When I started as the director of technology here, half the school was using google apps for education (using one domain) and the other half of the school was using Novell Groupwise (using a different domain).

Messages were being forwarded, pop'ed, filtered, and missed. It wasn't a great situation. Moreover, there was no school-wide calendaring solution; again, the result of two different systems.

Usually, when you want to create change in an organization, you really need to get buy-in. You know, all those buzzwords like stakeholders, collaboration, shared-vision, etc. All that stuff is important. If you don't bring people on board when you change, they won't buy it and the change won't work.

However, in this case, we just did it.

I believe the success or failure of this change will hinge on the professional development, training and support our staff receives. The actual technical change is minor (we are simply pointing the old domain MX records to google's MX records - not rocket science).

However for end users, this is a big change. Like any organization, we have a bell-curve of technical ability. Some uber-users, and some people who, well, aren't uber.


1. Setup a gmail moodle course chock full of resources, links, videos, PDFs, FAQ's, etc.

2. Recruited in-house gmail experts (calling them gmail ninjas). Out of 170 end-users, we have 30 people who will be walking around on "switchover day" ready to make a difference, offer assistance, and ask for help.

3. We have already moved all email, contacts, and cabinets from groupwise to gmail. I think this is a key point: users need to know what they don't know before you train them. This way, when training starts, they have a long list of questions.

4. We bought this fantastic video training from boost elearning. I'm no shill, but these guys do a whole lot right. My entire staff has a full year of gmail web-based training. From anywhere. And the courses are designed so users can just learn the part they are interested in; want to make a vacation responder? It's a two-minute video.

5. I met with each faculty and carefully explained WHY we are moving, and what benefits we expect to realize as a result of this switch. I listened carefully to concerns (what happens if the cloud blows up and data ownership). Based on these concerns, we purchased a backup solution for our school - all users have their documents, emails, and calendar data backed up on a third-party server.

6. Setup increased monitoring - monitors with outgoing / incoming status, monitors looking at every device in our organization (thank you Nagios), monitoring for our wireless status. We have a control center where everyone can see everything that is happening on our network.

7. I will be sharing our communication strategy on Monday - who calls who if a user cant access email, regular check-in times through the day. We've also setup a hot-support line with our external ISP. They will be on standby if we need anything.

8. Our in-house support help will be wearing t-shirts on the switchover day. I think it matters to actually see the people who are helping.

I'll keep my finger crossed, and of course look forward to any comments or questions as we move forward.