May 18 2013 FAQ

FAQ for ONLINE COMMUNICATIONS: BUILDING COMMUNITY THROUGH TECHNOLOGY

What is the course content?
Two certified Google Apps trainers will be providing hands-on training on using several Google Apps modules. Topics include:

Google Tools Overview
Getting a Google Account
Google Groups
Google Docs
Google Slides
Google Calendar
…and at least 1.5 hours of hands-on play time to try out things that interest you.

Who in my organization should attend?
The person(s) responsible for communicating with members of your organization and the public using email, electronic calendars, websites, electronic documents, etc. would be a good choice. Who do you rely on to keep the electronic membership list up-to-date? Who does most of the word processing and spreadsheet preparation? Who just loves taking on a challenge and learning new stuff? Whose excitement is contagious so he or she will excite others to try a new way of using technology? That’s your gal or guy!

If you’ve never used email or word processing, then this seminar may be a little advanced for you.  The ability to use a keyboard, a mouse, and general computer navigation is assumed. CyberLynx offers beginning classes and you should attend those first.

Eventually, most active members will learn parts of Google Apps. For instance, do you write grant requests? The team that does that should all learn Google Docs and collaborate online to write and edit the document together.

What is Google Apps?
Google Apps is several software applications that reside in “the Cloud” (see below for an explanation of “the cloud” and “cloud computing.”) Google provides the applications as well as the servers (computers) that store your information. You only need a medium-power computer (laptop, desktop, tablet or smart cell phone) and access to the internet to harness the applications and storage offered by Google.

The applications Google provides for free online are many. Most are familiar with the Google Search. This is only the most known one of dozens. There’s Google Maps, Google Earth, YouTube, Picasa (photo management and storage), Social Media apps (Google+, Blogger, Google Groups, Google Voice) and Home & Office Apps (Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Sites, Gmail, Calendar, Translate). Click here to see the list Google provides with a short explanation of each.

What is “cloud computing”?
“The cloud” is the collection of servers (i.e. huge computers with lots of storage and processing power) connected to the Internet. Instead of storing your information on your relatively isolated individual computer, you hire or select a provider and put it on their server where, with permissions, you and those you authorize, can view and use it. Some providers (like Google) also provide applications like word processing, spreadsheets, etc. that you can also use. So, you don’t need to buy and install office and other applications software on your individual computer(s).

Think about the electricity grid. You don’t generate your own; you tap into the service and, basically, use the generating, storage and transmission capability of a variety of producers. In “cloud computing” you tap into technology services and use a connection to the internet to tap into the applications and storage capacity of providers.

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Is Google Apps stable and reliable?
“According to an announcement at the Google I/O conference in June 2012, Gmail now has 425 million users and 5 million businesses use Google Apps,” says the Wikipedia for Google Apps. There have only been a couple of reports regarding breached security; fewer than those reported by our banking systems and the defense department!

Where am I going to get help and follow up? After one day of training, how can I realistically start using this for my organization?
There will be local help. CyberLynx, your local computer training nonprofit, has committed to be available to help you. The Ford Institute for Community Building has also committed funds for second-level help from the network of certified Google Apps trainers – of which there are many. Did you know that several Oregon school districts are Google Apps organizations and their technical staff and many teachers have become experts in its use.

You will get the email and phone contact information for your local support people. They are dedicated volunteers who will make every effort to help you or find the help you need.

Why should we do this? Now we use a phone tree and send things out by email. Our membership is in a rolodex file. It works just fine.
Okay. But this free suite of communication and productivity tools can expand your current reach and capability. And, pretty soon you’re going to want to recruit young people to become involved in your organization. They just don’t work that way. Time to explore what’s out there that will make your organization more visible and appealing to those under 30! It can’t hurt to take a look and see what small steps you can take to bring your organization’s communication practices into the 21st century.