In an effort to get with the times, the Sequoia Union High School District will be implementing Google Apps for Education, netting it $15,000 in savings a year switching off of its old email system.

Students, teachers and administrative staff will now have access to Google Calendar, Google Docs and Google Sites. In addition, all students have Gmail accounts to allow for collaborative sharing using Google Apps for Education. The transition over will happen in late July and will likely go live Aug. 1. These accounts will be used for school-related projects inside and outside of the classroom with the signed permission of their parents or guardians. Additionally, the students may use their email addresses to sign up for collaborative Internet tools.

“It was time for an update on our internal email services — it’s pretty old stuff we’ve been using,” said school board Trustee Alan Sarver. “We need to bring the district forward into current technology. A key priority is modernization.”

With a switch to the new Common Core Standards, there will be more emphasis on technology in the classroom, along with more group projects. Additionally, adding a director of instructional technology was one of the key moves the district made after the Great Recession, Sarver said. Robert Fishtrom took over this role in July 2013. The old email system cost the district $15,000 per year and with the transition, the district is paying $6,000 for software migration that copies emails and calendar items over.

“The current system we’re on is somewhat antiquated,” Fishtrom said. “Novell GroupWise was not friendly for the web and mobile interface. Many schools are now going Google Apps for Education.”

The San Mateo Union High, Milpitas Unified, Portola Valley and Las Lomitas school districts all use the free Google Apps service. The Redwood City Elementary School District is looking into adopting the service. There are 35 million students, teachers and administrators using the education platform.

“Teachers and students can collaborate a lot more online and offline,” he said. “Change is never easy. The younger teacher population was really excited and some didn’t care. We’re hoping the passwords and everything sync. I hope people will stay the course and see the long-term benefits.”

In addition to the increased collaboration capabilities, the lower cost, more familiar interface and ease of use will benefit the district, he said.

Other trustees are backing the new Google Apps system.

“My own experience with Google Apps, albeit limited, has been quite good,” said Trustee Chris Thomsen. “I think Stanford [University] contracted with Google Apps about two years ago and things appear to have gone well. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve spoken with a variety of education technology professionals who are developing new educational tools that run on the Google Apps platform. That work is quite promising.”

All students who have access to Google Apps for Education need to sign an Acceptable Use Policy.

For more information about Google Apps for Education, go to google.com/apps/intl/en/edu.

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