back to article How Google.org stole the Christmas Spirit

The dictionary defines charity as unselfish acts that benefit other people. Google boasts that it does a great deal for charity. So how come the biggest beneficiary of Google’s charity seems to be Google itself? Google.org is the charitable arm of the giant multinational, founded 11 years ago. It dispenses $100m in the form of …

Mushroom

Just a google bash?

From the Blog post:

<quote>In the U.S., Google.org is supporting classrooms in need by funding projects that have requested Chromebooks and other technology via the educational giving platform DonorsChoose.org.</quote>

No misleading they are straight out saying what they are doing, no where do they say any different.

The real issue here is DonorsChoose taking such a so much of a cut and Schools needing to beg for essentials like paper, colored pencils, etc.

Now a way to "game" it ask for lots of high price tech, sell some and buy the essentials.

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Re: Just a google bash?

Google deserve a bash, but in fairness here I'd be very suspicious of "DonorsChoose".

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Re: sell some and buy the essentials

Agreed. If DonorsChoose can't supply basics, ask for twelve ChromeBooks and sell off two or three, then buy said supplies.

It's a shame that so many "charity" companies seem to be based on taking a fat cut of things under the guise of helping out. I remember not so long ago being told in these very pages about a web site that took donations for earthquake victims in the last tragedy to hit Indonesia. Yeah, they were taking donations all right, and also taking $10 bucks off for "processing fees". Even my bank doesn't take that much for a transaction.

Something stinks in Charity Valley.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just a google bash?

Nah the real issue is why the USA ranks as "average" in the PISA / OECD 2015 education rankings consistently no matter how much access to tech. Rated beneath for example, Vietnam.

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Unhappy

Re: Just a google bash?

The clue is in the name. Donors choose. And it's corollary Beggars can't be Choosers.

How is this different to o any other donation where the item is goods or services not money?.

Agree they are dodgy as fuck but their money - their rules. If you don't like it dont use them. Whether or not the education system is sufficiently funded has no bearing on the issue.

Its funny that culturally people (particularly in the US and UK) are willing to whine about what their state systems are like but as soon as someone suggests a tax rise to pay for it they get voted out of office There are plenty of countries in the world that have a different balance of taxation and state funding (like France and the Nordics) so you pays your taxes and takes your choice.

/xmasrant

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Re: Just a google bash?

Just remember that 95% of all internet shennagians contain traces of Google.

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Re: Just a google bash?

The real issue here is DonorsChoose taking such a so much of a cut and Schools needing to beg for essentials like paper, colored pencils, etc.

This is the sad truth. I know of one school in Germany where the kids have to take in their own toilet paper!

All aid programmes reveal contradictions. Indeed foreign aid programmes are one of the biggest gravy trains for industrial contracts out there.

I'm not a fan of Chromebooks but the US non-profit set up invites this kind of self-serving "foundation" because of the favourable tax treatment. However, just because schools are asking for computers and basic materials, does not make the programme evil. It just highlights the general underinvestment in education. The programmes themselves are supposed to be complementary and provide additional resources.

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Thumb Down

@Snowy ... Re: Just a google bash?

The point is that they are not as charitable as they want to appear.

They are calling themselves a charity while their plan is to seed the use of Google's products, including their ability to track the users starting at a young age.

Google is evil. (Unlike Sun which sold lots of equipment in to Universities which led to their use in Business as students graduated.)

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Re: Just a google bash?

Chromebooks, seriously, give kids stuff adults won't buy so you can teach them that sending everything they do to Google is normal. The future's so bright you got to wear shades, preferably from Google.

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Paris Hilton

Re: Just a google bash?

Nah the real issue is why the USA ranks as "average" in the PISA / OECD 2015 education rankings consistently no matter how much access to tech. Rated beneath for example, Vietnam.

Look at who they voted in for prez. Look at the best the opposition could muster. That suggests much wrong with the mentality/mental capacity of the average USian.

Mystery solved?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just a google bash?

No option for proper laptops? That sucks a lot.....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just a google bash?

This story was not helpful. Google gives thousands of dollars of tech to schools, and the reporter made them the villan. I would argue that, if The Register disclosed their charitable giving, it is mostly "gifts in kind" (just like Google's giving), and at a much, much smaller value than Google's.

Go ahead and get mad at the practices of DonorsChoose, although it sounds like they have followed their published practices, and schools who receive batches of Chromebooks are still coming out far better for having requested them.

I agree with Snowy's points. The author's use of Google.org in the headline makes a more attention-grabbing headline, but I feel like The Register ought to be better than that.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Just a google bash?

Perhaps the story would have been more useful if the author spelt out what is really going on i.e. The tax deductions that Google is making:

E.g. Google gives $100m to google.org but most of that money finds it way back to Google in exchange for Chromebooks bought presumably at RRP. Meanwhile the $100m is deducted from their tax bill as it was a 'charitable' donation.

For those saying Google is being honest in the blog and explaining what they are doing. They are not. The blog should explain its all a big tax dodge that helps their bottom line at the expense of the country (and education system)

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F**k Google

Really. Hard and often.

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Re: F**k Google

That's just in the beginning, with time your libido calms down...

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Paris Hilton

Re: F**k Google

What? And have them sell your vital statistics to marketers?

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Pirate

A possible solution for getting the basic supplies

Request 18-20 Chromebooks, then sell 'em on eBay and use the cash to buy paper, staples, etc.

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LDS
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Childcatcher

Re: A possible solution for getting the basic supplies

You'd call that "education"?

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Re: A possible solution for getting the basic supplies

Possibly illegal.

Definitely time consuming.

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Anonymous Coward

In the UK several small charities have found that accepting donations via third party "Gift Aid donation" sites' services actually left them out of pocket. The handling sites usually take a percentage cut of any donation. Some also require the charity to pay them a regular subscription fee even if the donations aren't rolling in.

Yes it costs money to run the service and administer any Gift Aid with HMRC - but it appears some are in it for the profit as well as the apparent kudos to their brand name.

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I have never understood why any charity would choose to use the high profile commercial “giving” companies. It only takes a few minutes search to find (in the UK) at least one free service, run as part of a major corporation's community effort. The only fee incurred is the one that that the donors card company may make for a “cash withdrawal”.

It is also possible to minimise bank charges (in Europe anyway) by setting up a donations bank account and publishing the details needed to effect a direct funds transfer. If an email address is used as the donor's reference, it is possible to send “Thank You” acknowledgements as batch jobs.

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Try BT mydonate, it's free, and collects Gift Aid. Am using it with a couple of charities I help out. A £10 donation by credit card raises £12.37 after the 13p CC processing fee. No percentage cuts or monthly charges.

http://www.btplc.com/mydonate/Help/FAQs/FAQsforcharities/index.aspx

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This post has been deleted by its author

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Yes, we've been using BT MyDonate for years. Once you look at the fee's charged by the likes of Just Giving, for smaller (or any) charity, it makes no sense what so ever to use them. We even state very clearly why we use them and people are genuinely shocked when we tell them how much we would lose if we used the big name ones.

Don't even start me on the London Marathon.

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Headmaster

Chromebooks

Laptops and Tablets are secondary to good Educators.

Chromebooks are about the least useful sort of computer, as they are more limited than any other kind.

Exactly how does a Chromebook help education compared to smaller class sizes and better teachers? While computers can be a useful resource, in most cases primary and secondary pupils learn less if there is an emphasis on tablets/laptops. Apple iPads are daft too. Study after study with no connection to Apple, MS, Amazon, Google etc proves it.

What a waste.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Chromebooks

In an Ideal world I'd agree with you entirely, however, time and again the general population has proved they're not willing (or in some cases able) to pay for more teachers (smaller class sizes) or better trained ones (higher salaries) or even basic school supplies (the joke is that our school district commits to supplying toilet paper and that's it and we live in a rich area.

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Meh

Re: What a waste

The engineer in me wants very badly to agree with you. But the prosaic interpretation is that schools are simply after cheap web portals, and Chromebooks are just that.

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Re: Chromebooks

All a school really needs is teachers. Unfortunately such a school would not be capable of doing what the authorities say they must do.

Just think on this: Pythagoras taught geometry with a sharp stick in the sand, Euclid's Elements were taught without computers, without even proper pencils and certainly without a ready supply of paper.

That'll have to do can't type fast enough on this touch screen to rant properly.

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Re: Chromebooks

You are right in saying that it is the teacher and the teaching environment that is the most important thing to get right but part of that mix has to, IMHO, be the prudent use of technology. Blended and flipped learning can be great tools.

Having taught in MS based schools and Google Suite for Education schools the GSuite ones are far easier to use and to control what the students have access to etc. Of course there is always the need for a few more powerful PC's for Media work etc but for your everyday classroom work a Chromebook/box and GSuite every time.

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Re: Chromebooks

If portable personal computing devices are to be used, then Chromebooks can be a good choice provided that they are retro-fitted with a suitable stand-alone operating system (i.e. not dependent on an Internet connection to function). The hardware is relatively lightweight and cheap.

However I feel that the the most useful educational electronic technology is the monochrome e-reader. It can give a cheap, low maintenance access to an enormous library of written texts (downloaded/updated at school), and has sufficient interactivity to be used with self-testing material. A couple of years ago I repurposed (swapped the internal flash memory) a bunch of Kobo devices that were purchased retail for less than £30 each.

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Unhappy

Re: Chromebooks

> Exactly how does a Chromebook help education

Ah, but you're thinking of the wrongs sort of education!

These days it's not the ABCs of the alphabet that the kids should learn, according to Google it's Advertising, Buying and Consuming they must be taught!

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Re: Chromebooks

The evidence is obvious. We have gone from film strips in the 70s, VHS in the 80s, overhead projectors in the 90s and now online interactive multimedia experience - every year test scores get better.

Next year when all kids have a Google Glass(tm) augmented virtual reality transdimensional learning experience (tm) I predict they will all get at least 10 gradeA A-levels

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Chromebooks - my last reply never posted

In an ideal world, every school district could afford the teachers to reduce class sizes, most however can't as time and again people refuse to approve taxes to pay for them.

More teachers (to reduce class sizes) and actually funding the basic school resources are better solutions but clearly that's not happening.

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Re: Chromebooks

Could be a LOT worse.

MS could have given them Surface laptops... then charge for making them actually work... for a few weeks until they are taken over again... or broken by a patch.

Chromebooks actually work with little to no maintenance.

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Re: Chromebooks

I agree with all these points, and think that this solution is also a terrible idea for some other reasons.

Giving small latops rather than pens and paper is the worst idea. Much of my work is related to architecture and design of IT systems. I'm very IT literate and can type quickly, like most people who frequent this site. So the question here is : when designing something that needs diagramming and jotting down quck notes and doing quck revisions as the process evolves what would you prefer to use : pen and paper or a chrome book? When doing this sort of woerk as a group would you rather use a whiteboard, projector and chromebook or a whiteboard and marker pen? I'm pretty sure everyone reding this would go for the non-chromebook choice because it's obviously more efficient, flexible, and much less of a ain in the backside..

Therefore doesn't the same apply to education? I know I'd still prefer the old blackboard and paper to a digital eduucation, I suspect this has got traction bcause not too smart people have been dazzled by the new and shiny tech and think that using it in all circumstances like this will prepare kids for the digital future. But they have not learnt the lesson that we have : that a technical solution is not the answer to every single problem. But how do we educate them about this, when the giant tech companies are obviously raking it in from pushing this ignorant idea?

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Re: Chromebooks

"Chromebooks actually work with little to no maintenance."

But schools often need proper computers - that can run software people actually need to know to get a job - like Microsoft Office....

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Chromebooks

There we have it. Google are apparently evil but the schools should be spending their time teaching the children to use MS Office.

Seems a bunch of people have no experience of the Google suite for education, how it's actually quite good, very controllable and what the schools want rather than a bucket load of laptops that all end up with software broken in a variety of different broken ways.

Just the backroom work necessary to make a bunch of windows laptops running office reliably save and sync all the work to a secure place where teachers can access it all, search through it quickly, etc, etc, etc. would bankrupt most schools in this country.

A cloud solution is better for schools. A cloud solution that the students can't break or try and install Call of Duty on or steal and sell is an even better one. A cloud solution where the device that interacts with it can be binned and replaced with a different one that takes less than 5 minutes to set up and then behaves exactly like the binned one is a damn godsend.

Evil to him that thinks evil.

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Re: Chromebooks

But schools often need proper computers - that can run software people actually need to know to get a job - like Microsoft Office

What makes you think that by the time 14 or 15 year olds enter the workforce Microsoft Office will be recognisable?

The principles of word processors and spreadsheets can be taught with Google docs or Libre Office. If someone tells me that schools must teach the latest version of Office to ensure their kids are employable then they're shilling. Corporations out there are on various versions of Office for entry level jobs. The average child is not going to be going into a job where precise document design or advanced spreadsheet knowledge is required; they'll pick up what is done in-house or be sent on a course [in a more advanced world].

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Re: Chromebooks

To run Microsoft Office requires running Windows, and therein lies the problem. I've migrated a few schools from Windows-based networks to Google Apps with Chromebooks, iPads and a few Macs for the few tasks that require a proper computer, plus a Synology NAS to sort the local storage where needed and ensure the Macs are backed up.

Support calls go from weekly to annual as all the stuff just works without tinkering, and staff become able to perform day-to-day administrative tasks on the gear, so I only get called for 'hard' problems now (e.g. a network equipment failure). Kids get all their work done happily, teachers never look back, schools save tons of money (the cost of buying and supporting it all is literally reduced tenfold over the legacy Windows kit) and on top of that I get excellent referrals from it. Nobody misses Office at all.

It's amazing how necessary Office isn't when you don't have legacy requirements holding you back.

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Nothing new.

Read Judging books by their covers in the bestseller "Surely you are joking Mr. Feynman".

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It's not always a Google conspiracy, Andrew

I'm a repeat donor to DonorsChoose projects. This story's parenthetical note of DC's policies that raise costs are valid, but the emphasis on Google is not.

In my experience, plenty more teachers request iPads and Macs than Chromebooks. In addition, writing materials' costs are low enough that they can be self-funded by teachers or the parents/community, while technology is much harder to fund locally. Since Chromebooks are MUCH more cost-effective than iPads or traditional laptops, I see the request for a few Chromebooks as a fiscally-sound request by a teacher.

One aspect of many funding requests that annoys me is requests for new, full-price books in this era of easy availability of MUCH cheaper used books.

Finally, the "choice" part of DC's name is a key check -- donors themselves get to choose which projects to fund (or not).

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10-15 years ago schools were churning out idiots who could only use Microsoft products. Now they're churning out idiots that search on google for websites they know the URL to.

I weep for humanity.

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Childcatcher

Beware of Geeks bearing Gifts?

Sadly this is the way that modern business works - you give a "gift" whether it's a chromebook or a printer and make your money back on the back-end sales. HP could give every school in America a dozen free printers and make a profit within a couple of months on the ink (coloured pencils and paper, who need them with a colour printer). Google is just doing what every other company does - they are immoral, not evil ... yet.

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Re: the influence of Big Tech in education

There is more to this. The problem(s) run deeper and the long term effects are cause for concern. Because Big Tech, and in fact any other corporate "sponsor", are not interested in education. They are interested in training. What's the difference, you ask?

Education gives you knowlege, the ability to learn and, most of all, the ability to think.

Training gives you a specific set of skills to do a specific range of jobs; preferably (from the trainer's point of view) without any original or, heaven forbid, critical thoughts.

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Same old

Used to work in a school. Big IT regularly tried ti make out getting foot in the door was generosity.

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The usual

This is a very old and well established tax scam. Donate to a charity that spends its money on your products. Apple was big on this in the 80s and Microsoft followed in the 90s. Now it's Google's turn.

It could be worse. I used to work next to the Kochs' "Bring Me A Book Foundation." From the moments when I could peek inside, it appeared that about 1 square meter was a charity and the rest of the warehouse was storage for exotic cars and boats. People holding books would knock on our door asking why the charity didn't answer the door and I only had bad news for them.

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Re: The usual

Exactly! Remember in the 90's Microsoft would go into large school districts that were using Apple products for education and they would donate "free" hardware and software (Of course running all Microsoft products). This served two purposes, a HUGE tax write-off and switch the schools from Apple to Microsoft. It was very successful for them as in the early 90's most schools were using Apple, by the end of the decade that switched to Microsoft.

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Headmaster

Jesus Christ. These people are teachers?

"Daily my students are faced..."

"My classroom needs to be a safe place..."

"Daily I watch my students persevere despite their many life challenges."

"Each day I have to remind my students to put up their phones due to school policy then knowing that I could find more interesting web-sites to stimulate my teaching about different cultures and internet learning tools I have to break the rules..."

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Boffin

Re: Jesus Christ. These people are teachers?

Looks like they're doing pretty well for people with English as a 2nd or 3rd language.

How many languages do you speak to that level of fluency?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Jesus Christ. These people are teachers?

Jesus Christ. These people are teachers?

"Daily my students are faced..."

"My classroom needs to be a safe place..."

"Daily I watch my students persevere despite their many life challenges."

"Each day I have to remind my students to put up their phones due to school policy then knowing that I could find more interesting web-sites to stimulate my teaching about different cultures and internet learning tools I have to break the rules..."

Yes, and it seems that they've learned the lesson of applying for grants of any kind: You have to put your situation in the worst possible light in order to get the grant. If you simply say it how it is, you don't stand a rat's chance of getting anything.

Until you've actually been in the position of having to apply for grants or charity money, or been responsible for giving them out, you won't believe it, but the fact is that the grant allocation boards get tons of applications and every applicant is hyping up their problems to make sure they get to the top of the pile. Application letters like this are the natural end result from that race to the bottom, and if you don't follow the crowd and write like this, your application will probably fail.

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