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The Effectiveness of Google Apps for Education in a K-12 Setting Julie Hagaman Wright State University



Google Apps for Education are being used by schools all around the United States. Their gain in popularity has stemmed from their ease of use and their low cost. The question then arises, does Google Apps for Education make any positive gains in classroom engagement or achievement? In this article, we find that when the tools are used appropriately, positive gains are seen in the classroom setting.

3 What is Google Apps for Education?

Google Apps for education is a free suite of hosted email and collaboration tools and applications that were designed especially for schools and universities. Google and Google Apps have been around for a long time, but now they have introduced a whole new side of their company that deals solely with education. According to Google (2014), Google Apps for Education includes dozens of critical security features that make it safe for schools to use. Data is stored by Google, but remains the property of the school. The school can get email addresses that contain their school name, and do not need to have Gmail accounts (Google for Education, 2014). One of the big selling points for Google Apps for Education is the way it can be accessed from anywhere in the world. A student can log on at school and work on a report, and then log on at home and finish the report there. Everything is done online, and there are no programs they have to download or install in order for it to work. Another big part of Google Apps for Education is their collaboration tools. Through their websites, students from two different parts of the world could work on the same project in real time. Students can work in groups at school, and collaborate on the same projects at home. In addition to all this, Google Apps for Education is free for schools to use, which makes it very popular in schools today. Because all of the Google data is stored in the cloud, schools can spend less money on electricity and infrastructure (Google for Education, 2014). Included with the Google suite are a huge variety of Apps that can be used by both students and teachers. Google Calendar helps the students and teachers organize their time and collaborate on scheduling. Google Docs allows you to create rich documents with images, tables, equations, drawings, links and more. Google Sheets works like a spreadsheet program. Google Slides allows you

4 to create presentations that support videos, animations and even personalized slide transitions. With all of these tools, collaboration is a huge factor. Students and faculty are able to work with any of these tools on their own, or in a group (Google for Education, 2014).

Do These Tools Work?

The main question, when working with any new technology tool, is does it actually make a difference in a child's education. I wanted to know if Google Apps for Education actually increased student engagement or made a positive influence on academic success in the classroom. Many tools say they make a difference in the classroom, but how do we really know if they work? First of all, I was able to talk to Kenny Moore, who is a district Technology Coordinator for the Belbrook/Sugarcreek school district. They have begun using Google Apps for Education in their elementary and middle schools. According to Kenny, they have seen a very positive response from using the Google Apps for Education. The teachers have reported that the students are much more engaged and on task while using these tools. One problem, he did explain, was that the level of implementation of Google Apps was totally dependent on the individual teacher. Some teachers were using it much more than others. The best results were seen by those who were using it on a day to day basis. (K. Moore, personal communication, March 20, 2014) Henry Thiele, Maine Townships Director of Technology, started using Google Apps for Education after he saw how behind the times his school was in technology. According to Thiele, not only has using Google Apps for Education saved them $35,000 a year, but it has also allowed teachers and staff to divert time they used to spend on hardware and software problems, and now use that time for teaching and learning (Main Township High School, 2009). Littleton Public Schools in Colorado reported that since they started using Google Apps for

5 Education, they have seen a big improvement in student's writing skill. They recorded last year that students were creating about 20,000 new Google Docs each month. Students were able to collaborate with their classmates on writing assignments both at home and at school. One parent commented that after using Google Docs in the classroom, his daughter now loves to write (Littleton Public Schools, 2013). A case study done by Warschauer, Zheng, Farkas, and Arada (2012), at that same school, found a 14% gain in writing achievement vs. pencil/paper from the 2010-2011 year to the next (Warschauer, et al, 2012). Does using technology in the classroom make a difference in classroom achievement? It definitely depends on how it used by the teachers. David Loertscher, author of Does Technology Really Make a Difference?, says that research always points to the central idea that how the technology is used predicts the effect it will have in the classroom (Loerstscher, 2009). This is equally true of Google Apps for Education. If they are used in a way that increases student collaboration, higher order thinking skills, and student learning, then we will see an increase in student achievement in the classroom.

What Types of Training Would be Most Beneficial to Teachers using Google Apps?

What type of training do teachers want the most? I was able to search through many Google Apps for Education teacher forums during my research project. What I found was that teachers do not want more technical training on Google Apps, but they want more training on how to implement the tools in their classroom. Many of them found that the tools themselves were quite easy to use, but they wanted to see more ideas on how they could get their students using these tools every day.

6 What Types of Training are Available for Teachers Now?

On their website, Google Apps for Education has a multitude of training materials available to teachers. If teachers would just like to learn more about the Google Apps themselves, each application has a specific training guide with videos. Not only that, each application also has a section entitled Apply in Class, in which teachers learn ideas on how to use the application in their own classrooms. Google Apps for Education also offers a certification process where a teacher can become a Google Educator, a Google Trainer, or a Google Certified Teacher. Because Google Apps for Education rely so much on collaboration, I was not surprised to see areas of collaboration on their Google Apps for Education training site. They have set up Google+ Communities that allow teachers to communicate and collaborate on projects all over the world. In this way, teachers can find out how classrooms all over the United States are using Google Apps for Education successfully in their classrooms.

What Types of Training are Still Needed by Teachers?

The amount of training available on the Google Apps for Education site is phenomenal. I cannot see anyone needing more training or resources than have already been provided. Perhaps if a teacher is new to Google Apps for Education, an introductory course, that would outline all of these great training materials, would be beneficial. I would recommend that Universities begin adding Google Apps for Education training in their pre-service teacher technology training.

7 Summary

Just like any other good tool, when used in the correct way, Google Apps for Education has the potential to be a positive influence on student engagement and achievement. It has also been found to lower technology costs within the district. Google has created a wide variety of training resources for teachers, that if utilized, would help any teacher use these tools successfully.


Throughout my years as a technology coordinator, I found that the age old adage, You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink is still true. Many teachers embrace new technology and are excited about using it in the classroom, while others are happy with the way they have been teaching and are reluctant to change. You can put a Interactive White Board in a classroom, but that does not mean it will ever be utilized. Teacher buy in plays a huge part in the success of any educational initiative. Sometimes we put so much focus on the tools themselves, that we forget that the tools must be put into someones willing hands in order to be effective.

8 References Google for Education (2014). Retrieved from

Google Apps Education Case Study (2009). Maine Township high school district migrates 7,000 to Google Apps, reclaims $35,000 from budget, and reaches students in new ways, Retrieved from

Loertscher, D. (2009). Does Technology Really Make a Difference? Teacher Librarian, V 37, no 2, p 48-49.

Warschauer, Zheng, Farkas, & Arada (2012). Final Evaluation of Inspired Writing in Littleton Public Schools. University of California, pp 1-10.