Google Apps is versatile tool that can be used by individuals, professional organizations, and schools alike. Two years ago I started working with Google Apps in the school that I was teaching at. A year later, our charter school converted to a full-blown Google school. Our technology teacher became a Google certified teacher and we never looked back. Google Apps replaced our e-mail system without changing our e-mail addresses that made it seamless for our parents and families. We were also able to provide our students grades 3 to 8 internal accounts and e-mail addresses as well so that they could communicate with the teachers without worry of external solicitations. These accounts also opened up several other opportunities to our school. We were able to go essentially paperless within the school. Each teacher had their own site that parents could go to for classroom updates, homework, and newsletters. Teachers were able to post videos from their SMART Board lessons.
They were also able to message teachers via the websites so we could respond quickly and efficiently. Thursday newsletters were no longer printed and sent home, they were delivered electronically to the students and their parents and also available on the websites. Permission slips were also delivered and available electronically so parents were able to print them at home and return them to school. This eliminated the worry of students losing paperwork on the way home.
Homework became much easier to manage as well. Students were able to complete reading logs online and submit their reflections to their teachers electronically through Google Docs. No longer could students say that they forgot to bring their homework home or return it to school since it could all be completed on their computers at home and then submitted to the teachers via Google Docs.
Google Docs also allowed for more collaboration between the students within a classroom and between classrooms. They could work together on research papers and presentations and the teachers were able to monitor who collaborated and to what extent. Grading was also done directly on the Google Doc because the teacher could add the graded rubric right onto the document and then share it back with the student(s).
This was all possible because our school had approximately 4 computers per classroom, a working lab, and two rolling labs. This equated to almost one computer per student.
I am no longer at the charter school. I have moved on to a public school that has decreased access to computers at home. The Digital Divide is alive and well at the school that I currently work at. We have fewer computers in the school. Almost 20% less than at the charter school that I worked at. Many families do not have the necessary hardware or reliable Internet access that is necessary for Google Apps to be an effective tool. Therefore, my ability to use Google Apps with my students has been reduced but I am hoping that increases in funding, if they ever come about, could bring Google Apps back into the classrooms.