Primary schools in Sheffield are among the first in the UK to pilot Gmail - Google's free "anywhere anytime" email service. They are using it as an integrated part of their Studywiz learning platform.
"The vast majority of Sheffield primary schools are already using Studywiz and Gmail," says Andrew Bush, senior ICT consultant with Sheffield City Council. “This development will bring seamless integration of two key internet technologies, giving teachers personalised access to their communications and resources. It is a very exciting step in the development of e-learning for students in Sheffield schools.”
Studywiz works on PCs and Macs and is Apple's preferred global partner for learning platforms. It is being used in 26 countries, including the UK, US, Australia and China, and is noted for its technological sophistication which includes early, safe adoption of Web 2.0 services - blogging for example - and integration of handheld computers and mobile phones.
The partnership between Google and Studywiz was first announced at the BETT 2009 educational technology show in London in January, and coincided with the launch of the London Grid for Learning's free email service for 1 million learners based on Microsoft's Live@Edu collaboration suite of online services (see "Schools turn to free email from Google and Microsoft").
Geoff Elwood, boss of Etech Group, the Australian company which markets Studywiz, says: “We are very excited to be working with Google. The alliance with Google is a perfect fit for Studywiz as we share a similar philosophy in delivering the latest cutting edge innovations made possible by the Internet.
“Schools can now benefit from a robust, fully fledged email system within Studywiz and better still it automatically backs up all their email communication and data. Importantly, its web-based nature eliminates the need to download, install or maintain any hardware or software.”
While the Sheffield primaries will be using Gmail, they are also likely to adopt Google's popular "Apps" online software services - as long as the pilot is successful. Independent-minded and confident schools like Cottenham Community College in Cambridgeshire, and a number of universities, have already switched to Google Apps and email to give 24-hour access for learners and teachers wherever they are. Cottenham's use of Google along with Moodle provided it with a de facto learning platform at a cost of just £6 per month.
Mike Damiano, Etech's vice president for Europe, says that primary and secondary schools can now have "an integrated learning environment with single sign-on access to Gmail that enables them to learn and stay connected in new and dynamic ways”. He adds: “Using the Studywiz learning environment framework, our clients will be able to instantly create Gmail accounts, simply and easily, to support collaborative learning experiences whenever they are connected.”