Students launch technology outreach
By ELIZABETH GOLDEN
From docs to drive, Google is "searching" to "hangout" at Fort Hays State University.
The College of Education and Technology at FHSU, along with a team of Leadership 310 students also known as "GOOPLERS (generate operational, opportunities for, people through, leadership, and education, relying on social media)" are organizing the first Wild West Cloud Fest.
The GOOPLERS have been working to spread knowledge of Google applications and free Open Education Resources to Kansas.
"Two Decembers ago, Dr. (President Edward) Hammond came to a department meeting," said Robert Moody, associate professor of educational administration. "We were showing a slideshow, and we came to a slide about service. He told us to stop and asked what we are doing for the state of Kansas. That caught us off guard."
Since December 2012, Moody and Suzanne Becking, assistant professor of advanced educational programs, have been touring the state, informing educators about Google apps.
"Instead of spending money on other programs, Google apps are offered for free," said sophomore Amanda Vosch, a member of the leadership team. "All the programs are basically the same, but just through Google. It's a great way for students to go home and work on the same project together (in Google docs) while cutting costs."
To date, they have visited 56 schools, spoken to 6,000 teachers, traveled more than 10,000 miles and potentially affected 60,000 students in Kansas.
"With the school budget cuts, when you cut back, you cut back on everything," Moody said. "One school said they were going to save $60,000 by going to Google instead of staying with Microsoft."
The six members on the GOOPLERS team all have been trained and certified in the various Google apps.
"This group's focus is sustainability for Fort Hays students," Moody said. "We've been working in K-12 environments for the past 13 months. But in order for us to make a connection with the university, we needed to get students involved."
FHSU went "Google" the summer of 2012 as a student email replacement. Currently, 19 courses are being taught only using Google products.
"We use Google products in a lot of my classes," said senior Jessica Zinser, a member of the leadership team. "But I never really had an understanding of how to use it."
Moody said the collaboration of the leadership project would have been more difficult without using Google apps.
"I couldn't even begin to imagine," he said. "If we had been using Microsoft projects, how would we have been able to collaborate?"
Google potentially could assist with international collaborations as well.
"We have been doing a lot of Google in China," said senior Dracula Xiaoguang Zhu, a member of the leadership team. "It's really cool for us as a team to help the community and the department. This isn't just for American students. This is for all students since Google is international. If more international students get involved in this process, we will make the whole world more connected."
The Wild West Cloud Fest will be from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. Monday in Memorial Union at FHSU.
The event will bring more than 200 educators, small-business entrepreneurs and administrators from Kansas to FHSU. More than 35 presentations will demonstrate Web-based tools that can be integrated into the classroom. Approximately 200 people are expected to attend.
"This project is going to help us for the rest of our lives," Vosch said. "We all plan on staying connected with this project and moving it forward."