Since Dr. Swift became Ann Arbor Public School’s (AAPS) Superintendent last year, the district has begun to emphasize technologies and expand programs already in place. Under the direction of Executive Director of Instructional Technology and Data Systems, Ms. Merri Lynn Colligan, hired under Dr. Swift, Google Apps for Education for students will be implemented for student use at Pioneer High School starting at the end of this fall semester.
Google Apps for Education is a free program offered through Google which allows educational institutions to host their email and many other important programs in an effort to integrate communication and collaboration. The program aims to prompt and ease collaboration amongst users in a cummulative effort to embrace the technological world of the modern era.
Google Apps provides many conveniences for students such as autosave on a cloud and the ability to interact with other students on the same interspace as one another. As many high schools, including Pioneer, are beginning to increase group project assignments, students are given easier access to collaboration with this program, as it is available at any time and to any number of people.
Ms. Kellman, an AC Geophysical Sciences and AP Environmental Sciences teacher at Pioneer, will admit that she is not the most technologically savvy- but will also admit that Google Apps has “helped [her] feel more comfortable with all the technology.” Kellman believes that with the addition of student accounts for Google Apps, students “will hopefully notice an ease with projects” and be able to collaborate more efficiently.
When the expansion of Google Apps to students was announced this past September, some students reacted in a concerned manner over their privacy rights and some opaque pieces of information. Pioneer Junior Courtney Fulcher expressed concerns over if the accounts would be monitored, while some others were confused because many students already use Google accounts for their personal accounts. To address these concerns, Mr. Skiba, class principal for grades 9 and 11, says that “not every student has a Google account at Pioneer, so this simply creates a way for more students to become involved.” He comments that “the district will do minimal, if any monitoring” of these accounts, and that the little done will be mostly to control spam mail. Also, GMail through the Education sector provides its own filter of spam protection.
Other students were concerned with the longevity of these accounts and wondered if they would travel with them. Colligan remarks that as of now, “students will have an accounts available to them while they are active in the Ann Arbor Public Schools” and that “one they have left the district or graduated, their account will be disabled and removed.” For students who would then like to save their cummulative high school work, “AAPS will work to provide directions for students to transfer their data to a public account.”
Just as in the professional world where a majority of adults hold a personal and professional email account, the same will be expected for students. Skiba stresses that this “collaboration resource” is a tool for those that find it useful and is “not a requirement.” However, for students that choose to use it, “this is the account that they will use while working on a school project or school subjects.” These accounts are “not meant for personal stuff”- that is what personal emails are for. With the URL of “.aaps.k12.mi.us,” emails sent to employment opportunities and colleges also will appear to be much more professional.
For students who opted out of taking part in the Google Apps program there will be no negative consequences. However, Skiba believes that “technology works better for some kids” and that the district strives to “always (be) moving forward” in an effort to “stay up to date in order to maximize the resources available to students.” He continues that “not all students find technology as useful for themselves,” but will still be able to reach the “same amount of curriculum” without the program.
Almost five years ago, Saline Area Schools implemented the Google Apps for Education program in their district and have continuously seen positive signs. AAPS is hoping for a similar trend and believes that it is possible.
With many new innovations constantly taking place in the technology world, “it seems fitting to open up this program,” comments Skiba. Colligan remarks that she hopes Google Apps will “provide students an opportunity to collaborate and showcase their learning in creative ways.”