Jason Carroll

Google’s Global Reach in Education

Over 40 million students and teachers have access to Google Apps for Education (GAFE) in the world today. While Google’s popularity in schools can be seen clearly across North America, there is also a rapid international growth that is taking place.

Texthelp recently had the opportunity to see this first hand while attending Google Education events in Sao Paulo, Brazil and Taichung, Taiwan. While similar enthusiasm exists for GAFE in these areas, most users are just getting started with Google Apps in their setting. I’ve included a few key takeaways from both regions below for those curious about education in other parts of the world.


Students around the globe

Brazil

With a population of over 15 million, Sao Paulo is Brazil’s largest city. Included in the 15+ million people are 4 million students and 300,000 teachers. To put that in perspective, New York City has approximately 1.1 million students in just over 1,700 schools. Sao Paulo has 5,000 schools. The size of the city (and the traffic) really is something to experience.

Most of Brazil’s population lives in the south in cities such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, but money earmarked for education is divided evenly across Brazil’s 26 states. Because of this, schools in the north and other parts of Brazil will have more money per student than the more populated areas of the south. With public schools in the south being so strapped for financial resources, a large percentage of students (approximately 27%) attend private schools. There you will find much more access to technology.

Sao Paulo and Google are partnering to provide GAFE to all students in the region. This is one of the reasons that the EdTech Team’s Brazil Google Summit was held in Sao Paulo at the St. Nicholas School. I, along with Texthelp’s CTO Martin Mckay, had the opportunity to attend and present at the summit. About half of the summit was presented in Portuguese, which is the primary language in Brazil. English is not spoken by many people in Brazil at all, so if you plan to visit I recommended taking the time to learn basic words and phrases, or better yet bring along a translator.

Picture of Brazil Summit

Our primary goal while at the summit was to introduce our soon to be released Portuguese version of Read&Write for Google Chrome™, which was a hit with attendees. Educators particularly enjoyed experimenting with word prediction and the picture dictionary.

We know from studies conducted in North America that students who use word prediction write more, have fewer spelling errors and use correct grammar more often. It was great to see the light bulbs go on in people’s minds as they started seeing the potential for their students to achieve similar results.

The reactions were similar in schools and other meetings that took place across Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. While it is an understatement to say that schools have a long way to go before totally realizing the power of Google Apps in Brazil, it was encouraging to see the early excitement from those just getting started.

Taiwan

Texthelp truly is a global company. While Martin and I were in Brazil, our colleague Anita was attending a similar Google Education event and meetings in Taichung Taiwan, followed by Malaysia.

Map of Taiwan

The population of Taiwan is about 23 million people, with a little over 5 million of those being students. More than 90% of the population lives on the west coast, with more in the north and fewer as you move south. Taichung is located in the central part of the west coast.

Taiwan is almost the exact opposite of Brazil in many ways. The literacy rate in Taiwan was 98.04% in 2010, and there is little difference between resources available to public and private education. More than 95% of junior high graduates go on to pursue higher education opportunities. There are around 165 universities in Taiwan.

While in Taiwan, Anita delivered one Read&Write for Google Chrome presentation in English and a second in Mandarin Chinese (she is very talented!). Attendees really enjoyed learning about the supports available, and found Snapverter’s ability to make physical paper documents accessible in Google Drive to be a game changer. Using the highlighting tools to collect content was also a big hit.

For now, it is mostly international schools that have “gone Google” in Taiwan. This is expected to change however, as more public schools are starting to experiment with using Google in the classroom. In Malaysia however, the story is quite different as the entire country has adopted Google Apps for Education. While it will take time to provide appropriate training and roll services out for such a large initiative, it is further evidence of the rapid global growth that Google is seeing in the education sector.

To Summarize…

There is no sign that Google’s growth in education is going to slow anytime soon, and as a Google Education Partner, Texthelp plans to be alongside them continuing to offer reading and writing supports to the students who need it most.

Are you using Google Apps for Education in your school? If so, we would love to hear how you got started and pass that information along to others who just getting up and running with Google in their setting.

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