Open Office, Office365 and Google Docs

I saw @dughall ‘s blog post about Open Offic, Office365 and Google Docs. I wrote this as a comment about our school’s story. There is one more section that I do need to add but I’m off to Anfield shortly so the new bit will have to wait until this evening.

Which one of Open Office, Google or Office365 would I/we use?

It’s a bit of a story. Things usually are.

The time but one that we spent money on new hardware we had the choice of Open Office or £2500ish Office. We went for Open Office (and subsequently OpenOffice4kids)

The children weren’t the slightest bit bothered that they were using OpenOffice and it meant that could have it at home for free as well. How many took up this offer I don’t know but when work was brought in from home done on Office by the children we had no problem importing it into Openoffice. It doesn’t work the other way.

The only problem we had was with staff. They wanted and liked Office and school paid for it on an individual basis. I don’t think I used Office for 3/4 years. Incidentally, my son Luke did his entire Law degree using OpenOffice. He couldn’t see the point of paying for Office when OO did everything he needed it for. He had Google Docs provided by his university but he didn’t use that either.

Google Docs came along and in my class OO just didn’t get used though in other classes and by TA’s using curriculum PC’s and laptops carried on it did. We became a Google school with our own google domain. It was mainly used by me.

Office365 became free for schools in July 2012 and we subscribed. As not all teachers made use of Google and their preference was for Office it seemed to be an all round ok solution. The version wasn’t bad but I found it difficult to get my head round stuff like Sharepoint and without the local version of Office on the teachers’ laptops they (the other teachers) didn’t use it. We bought Office licences and the teachers were happy (though the kids never get near it)

The use of Google in school by pupils increased through last year. One because our Y5 teacher used it in a live writing session for an observed lesson and our HT, who had never seen it before, was seriously impressed (so much so she forked out £6500 on Chromebooks)

The other reason was our fab HTLA who does ICT in quite a few classes and with iPads and Chromebooks delved into the world of Google, amongst a whole load of other things and had Y1 sharing and collaborating on lesson stuff.

Oh and another thing we have a regular supply teacher who loves doing Google stuff when she’s in,

As well as the curriculum thing we also had our Y3 class. Last year it was job shared by three teachers. Might sound tricky but it worked real well. End of year reports were tricky. Done on Office, stored on a pen drive – everyday present constant danger of losing or overwriting reports.

This year we tried to do things differently. Initially I returned to Office365 in March and set up a shared document. However that was too far away from report writing time and it wasn’t touched.

Nearer the time I logged back into Office365 and saw a huge change in the way it looked and, more importantly the way it worked. much easier and quicker. Another report format was set up. One of the two teachers of Y3 had a go but it didn’t quite click.

I did exactly the same with Google and my the end of the week the two teachers had fallen in love with Google. One has a gmail account but never really touched docs. The other, not techy in the slightest. They both raved about how easy it was. A side benefit was that in previous years the HT waits till each class reports are finished, checked, proof read, printed and then end of year comments added in the end of summer term scramble. This time she could add her comments as soon as the the reports were shared and before they were finished. Made her part of the job much easier.

I did my reports in the same way. One teacher said that she wouldn’t be using it because in the Google version text boxes don’t have borders (they may do but I just didn’t look).

We had a bit of an issue with Y6 writing moderation at the end of last year and in particular with digital writing. Not easily accessible to the moderator. So this year our Y6 teachers, who were our Y3 teachers last year, have now got the pupils to organise their Google Drives in subject areas and have one folder called “finished work” which is shared and then QR coded and stuck to their “Big Write” book. Bingo! They want to stick the QR codes on the class photographs which are stuck on the wall outside the classroom. Not often have I seen a completely no techy teacher excited about techy stuff!

I was in a brand new secondary Academy last week as part of my ICT Big Adventure training the teachers on how to use……Office365! I found it much better than before – improvements over a couple of months but not as quick, collaborative or intuitive as Google Docs. It does however have much more advanced features (but I don’t know what they are or how to use them) Mind you Google Forms are pretty advanced!

My kids loved Google last year. This stuff that Michael Gove comes up with about extending the school day sort of already happens with Google because they spend their time doing shared presentations and nagging me for homework on Saturday morning!

I guess in the end it’s what you like and what works for you. For the kids in our school we want them to be device agnostic(!). Thinking about it we want them to be tool agnostic (we came up with a better term in a meeting yesterday but I can’t remember what it was but @janweb21 will know.)
Hope it helps! (that’s if you managed to keep reading till the end!)

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3 Responses to Open Office, Office365 and Google Docs

  1. Mark Allen says:

    Spot on, Pete, and very similar to my own experience: kids don’t really care, so the extra collaborative benefits of Google Docs make that the obvious choice. Adults often claim that there are features in Office they can’t live without. I sometimes ask them what these features are, and of course they can’t name them, or I’ll ask them to tell me what those icons on the toolbar ribbon of Word are for, and they only know a handful. Nevertheless, whether it’s reluctance to change, or fear of the unknown, or a genuine preference for Word, it doesn’t really matter – the leadership decision is whether it’s worth the trauma of introducing that change, and sometimes the answer has to be ‘no – stick with what they know’, however frustrating I may find that. (Like you, I haven’t touched MS Office for over five years, and although I was a power user, I find there’s almost nothing I can’t do in Google Docs – and so much that I do that I couldn’t possibly do in Word.)
    It’ll be interesting to see what these same people say when the perfect Office-compatibility of QuickOfficemakes its way into GDocs. It’s already available on mobile devices, and works beautifully. I missed @dughall’s Twitter conversation the other day – too busy showing kids how to use GDocs – but found some of the comments slightly out-of-date in their understanding of the current state of affairs.

  2. Chris McWilliam says:

    Great post Pete. I am a fan of open office. When you consider the savings compared to MS Office it is a no brainer really. Also, Google Docs for me everytime. The collaboration is key.

  3. Amanda Bennett says:

    Interesting post – a useful summary and filled in a few of the gaps I had about what had gone on at GP, as well as the progress this year… Glad you found a Techie solution to the Y6 writing issue (and well done on including the Google Education Summit buzz word – twice!!!)

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