The new school rules
Here's how a recent OP-ED at Mashable started:
"A few weeks ago, a school administrator shared a story about how he tried to block Google’s chat feature, but his students created a workaround. They opened up a new Google Doc, shared it with friends, and used the sidebar chat to talk with each other. Although the behavior (US spelling) was worrisome to the administrator, it was hard not to be impressed at how cleverly these 7th graders interacted with the software. These students literally grew up on Google’s products, and that’s largely thanks to Google.'
The article goes on to detail how prevalent the use of Google's Cloud-based services is across education in the US. "Nearly half of Gmail’s overall user base is under 25, a statistic mirrored by the student bodies of American colleges and universities. Of the nation’s top 100 universities 66 have already gone Google."
None of this is hugely surprising, given cloud's cost and convenience benefits. However, the key element for me is that it's thestudents, not the school driving change: At Northwestern, one of the first universities to move from legacy systems to Google Apps, students actually requested that the school implement the platform. At the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Arts and Sciences, it was found that more than half of their students were forwarding emails from the current school mandated Hotmail platform to personal Gmail accounts - a contributing factor to their decision to move to Google Apps this summer. At Princeton University, they're still swithering between Google Apps and Microsoft’s Office 365. However, in a survey of 150 students piloting the options, only two preferred 365.
- The choice is not about Google versus Microsoft.
- The choice is not about Mac versus PC.
- The choice is not even about Cloud versus on-site software.
The choice is now about what people find comfortable, usable, and convenient - not what IT administrators insist is good for them. People are choosing what they like, and their choices prevail because, through social media, they have a voice. Thanks to the Cloud, they may not know IT, but they do know what works best for them - and they can learn about it from their peers, and share that news. And the more mobile, social, pervasive, simple and just plain useful a service is, the more it's going to succeed.
Tomorrow's workforce, aged eleven, hack cloud apps so that they can communicate and learn their way. So do you think when they start their working lives, these people are going to want to use POP3 email, see Instant Messaging and Social Media blocked, and have to sit at a specified desk to do their work? Or do you think they're going to simply choose to work elsewhere?