Google Apps for Education, should you change?

We switched over to Google Apps in our district two years ago and haven't looked back. The transition was more successful than I had hoped for, and the features we receive from Google Apps continue to impress me.

To be honest, our first year we started with student accounts. I wanted to see what kind of issues we would experience and students are much more flexible with their email accounts versus Teachers and Staff. Imagine my surprise when the student transition was without issue.

Last school year we flipped the switch by changing over all Teacher and Staff accounts to Google Apps. This was an enormous test for us, you don't realize how dependent users have become with email until you plan for a change as big as this. (For example, our payroll doesn't mail paper pay-stubs any longer, it's all electronic/email based)

Our biggest challenge last year was just converting the email and providing training to staff on the new system. I didn't dedicate a lot of resources to training staff on using Google Apps last year, some quick inservice meetings at the beginning of the year and watched as some tech leaders took off with it.

And that was it. We prepared successfully and it went extremely well.

This will be year three with Google Apps (year two for Staff), and this should be most fun part of the entire implementation. My plan is to hammer home how useful Google Calendar and Google Docs really can be. The sharing, the Cloud storage, the complete replacement of Microsoft Office, and the synchronization with mobile devices should all be extremely valuable to staff during this upcoming school year.

So should your district switch over from your current system to Google Apps? Absolutely!

Myself personally, I can't tell you how exciting the change has been. I've moved all of my work documents to the 'Cloud' using Google Docs, I have my documents, calendar, contacts, and email synched up to my Mobile Devices (Android Phone, iPad, etc) at all times wirelessly, and I'm more connected than ever thanks to Google Apps.

I say, if you can, go for it.

And don't forget the best part, Google Apps is completely free to all public school districts, including public universities.

Matthew W Prichard

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