Our school system completed its conversion to using Google Apps this past week. Like any change, there were those individuals in our central office who experienced a bit of frustration with the change. I have been an enthusiastic supporter of our conversion since I heard that it was a possibility. Our small school system stands to save financially with the conversion. By using Gmail, much of our email infrastructure costs and support have been eliminated. We are paying Google to help with the archiving, but no longer will our already taxed tech support department be responsible for making sure the email server is operational. Secondly, by using Google Apps, our educators now have several tools at their disposal: Google Sites, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Chat, Google Video, and Google Wave. I realize much of our staff does not yet know the added functionality these tools bring to their jobs, but I honestly can’t wait to share that with them. Finally, Gmail itself is actually an email upgrade for our staff. Its email search feature is much stronger than what we had with Outlook. The gadgets offered by Google labs add even more functionality to Gmail. Our staff is just now learning how our move to Google Apps is the right move for our system.
Friday morning, I walked into the office and our receptionist was undecided regarding our conversion because there were several features she enjoyed when using MS Outlook. She liked the “You Have Mail” message that appeared in the lower left-hand corner when she received an email under the old Outlook system. I immediately showed her that by installing Google Talk, she could receive the same kind of notification. She excitedly showed other office staff how to install this application to get the email notifications. Then another office staff member said she liked to be able to preview her messages with a preview panel that was available in Outlook. I immediately showed her a Google Labs gadget that offered this same capability. Before I left the office, they were all experimenting with the settings and gadgets in an effort to make the application their own. There was a clear level of excitement regarding their new email tool.
When school systems convert to new technologies, it is most important that we show them how those new technologies offer greater advantages than what they had. The excitement of our central office staff after I showed them a few of the added features of Gmail was an affirmation that our system has done the right thing in converting to Google Apps.