Fifteen years ago, when I first began teaching, the division I work for gave all of their teachers Apple laptops. Schools were piloting Apple computer carts for a short term lease. As an Apple product user in my private life, this felt like a dream. For those first few years, I was very creative with my students using the apps that Apple provided on those laptops. But alas, the lease ended, the pilot project was over. Our Apple laptops were suddenly gone and replaced. And replaced again and again.
Soon we entered the Chromebook generation. For better or worse. As the Chromebooks were first introduced, teachers were not instantly in love as they were with Apple. The first round of Chromebooks were glitchy and were easily broken. Students had difficulty staying connected to the internet. These were not a suitable replacement! However, as the Chromebooks were rolling out, so was G Suite for Education. I have to admit, that while I might have complained about the Chromebooks initially, I was hooked on G Suite!
I instantly loved that students could collaborate on documents and access them from home. This immediately changed how I assigned work and communicated with families about school. As I gained more experience and familiarity with the rest of G Suite, such as slides, sheets, and calendar, rumblings of a new app were being talked about at my school. Google Classroom was so exciting for our students and teachers. A group of us began using Google Classroom and supporting each other as we figured out how to best use this new app.
As G Suite continues to grow, I continue to integrate the new apps into my daily routine and planning. All of my students, even those that move from other schools, school divisions and other countries, are familiar with G Suite Education. They know how to navigate Google Classroom, have a GMail address (they are assigned one at school), can easily complete tasks on Google Forms, Google Slides, Google Docs, Jamboard, and check the Google calendar. Google is a part of their everyday lives! So much so that several students have bought their own Chromebooks. They are familiar with Chromebooks and teachers can help troubleshoot if there is a problem.
When our division initially moved to G Suite for Education, we sent home letters to families explaining how the platform worked, where information was stored and also asked for permission for students to use this platform. In reality, parents did not have much choice, our division did not offer an alternative. The biggest hiccup at the moment was that all information collected by G Suite for Education was stored in the United States and they have different privacy laws than Canada. This hiccup is just overlooked now as school divisions K-12 have become so reliant on G Suite for Education.
As an educator, I appreciate the way I am able to reach more students, how flexible G Suite is, and how easily I can differentiate programs for students that need it. As our classrooms grow in size and complexity, G Suite has made it possible to offer entirely different math programs to students by simply creating a Google Classroom with their material in it while maintaining their privacy. Or let students use Google Read & Write to adjust the reading level of a piece of text.