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Tuesday
Apr242018

I still like free

Tim Stahmer in his post "The Hazards of Free" at Assorted Stuff warns that educators should not rely too heavily on "free" websites. He cites Edmodo and Padlet as two services that were once free but are now pay-to-play. He could have added Wikispaces as well.

A common concern I hear about Google Apps for Education, besides unwarranted privacy concerns, is that Google will start charging schools for the service. Like a drug pusher who gives the sucker free samples until hooked, Google will use schools' dependency on its product to be able to extort an annual user fee at some future date. I have seen no credible evidence that this will happen. 

Unlike Tim, I would urge teachers and techies alike to take advantage of free. I am happy that my schools have not had to pay for email - the program or storage - since 2000 thanks to GSuite. Those dollars were diverted to other needs. I was a happy user of Wikispaces for a dozen years or more, using it to share handouts for my workshops. And at Padlet, I still get 48 padlets to use until I decide to cough up the subscription fees or find a replacement tool.

I do not in any way feel like I have been cheated or that my efficacy has been jeopardized. Here a few things about free applications...

 

  1. Try before you buy. I test out a lot of programs and wind up using very few. A "free" version is a great way to see if a new program actually works as advertised and does what you want it to do. No risk, except, perhaps, for an unending barrage of spam from the company.
  2. Fewer features can be a blessing. Some of the free "stripped down" versions of programs are actually easier to use - you can get to the task at hand instead of figuring out the options.
  3. Even a savings for a few years is still a savings. Nothing lasts forever. Tools and tasks change. As sad as I am to see old friends leave the digital stage, I also am pleased that I got good use of these freebies for as long as I did. And you know, it's not a bad idea to change up tools now and then anyway.
  4. Open source is cool. Whatever happened to the open source movement? These collaborative initiatives have created free alternatives to commercial products like Linux and OpenOffice, Apache and Firefox. Open source software has empowered many a computer user who could not or preferred not to pay for commercial software.
  5. Not all remuneration is a subscription fee. As Tim argues, products need to be sustainable for them to be continued and improved. Subscriptions sometimes are the most visible means of support, but advertising is also a viable means of subsidizing a venture. (I am not sure why we fuss about this so much when it happens online, but accept it without question in magazines and newspapers.)

I suspect that economic model for GSuites is that by building familiarity and comfort with its product, Google believes that students on leaving school will continue to use a personal Google account - which it can then monetize through advertising or data mining. The long view.

Free is not the solution to every budgetary problem (see Getting the Most from Your Tech Dollar: Free is good), but use it when you can.

 

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Reader Comments (3)

My main requirement for free services is the ability to export my data. As long as I can get what I created out of the service, I'll use it.

p.s. Don't you mean 2007 for Google Apps for Education? :-)

April 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Collins

Hi Ryan,

Great point about getting data out of any service, free or paid. I did a lot of cutting and pasting getting stuff out of Wikispaces into GoogleSites.

Oh, we were "late" adopters of GAFE, not moving until our in house mail server dies in 2010.

Thanks for the note,

Doug

April 25, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hi Ryan,

Great point about getting data out of any service, free or paid. I did a lot of cutting and pasting getting stuff out of Wikispaces into GoogleSites.

Oh, we were "late" adopters of GAFE, not moving until our in house mail server dies in 2010.

Thanks for the note,

Doug

April 25, 2018 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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