An exciting initiative at San Marcos Academy over the past two years has been a transition from local email services to a Google hosting of our email @smabears.org. Everyone at SMA, including students, faculty, administration and staff, have google accounts through our Google Apps for Education (now called G Suite for Education).
There are so many more tools to G Suite than just email! If you have a Gmail account and want to explore all G Suite has to offer, just log in to your account and click the “Checkerboard” grid on the top right hand side.
Once you click the Checkerboard, you’ll see the different applications available in the G Suite of Applications for Education.
G Suite for Education: Gmail
The most commonly used application for G Suite is Gmail. As you can see in the example above there is another version of Gmail called Inbox that arranges your email via conversation groups and has some different options. Most users will need to install Inbox separately, but this particular app is not something I would recommend for new Gmail users. The standard Gmail app is renowned for its security and reliability and should be adequate for the needs of most users.
G Suite for Education: Google Drive
The second most commonly used Application in our G Suite for Education is Google Drive. Besides its reliability and the option to access one’s files from any computer for work or school, Google Drive for Education has unlimited cloud-based storage for every single user @smabears.org. That’s right! Not 10 gigabytes 50 gigabyltes but unlimited free storage. Graduates from SMA are allowed to keep their @smabears.org account for as long as needed so they can access their previous work for college!
G Suite for Education: Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides
Google Office Applications such as Docs, Sheets and Slides can provide all the functionality of a basic office suite without needing to install anything. All files are saved automatically to the user’s Google Drive for access anywhere on nearly any internet connected device. Besides the option SMA provides for office applications through G Suite, there are many great Office Suite programs that are Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) such as Open Office or another free suite called Polaris Office. Microsoft Office can be purchased as a software suite or as a subscription service. Those office suites are more suited towards advanced users or those with specific tool sets.
G Suite for Education: Things to Try and What’s Next?
As you look through the other G Suite applications, you will notice Contacts, Calendars and other useful tools. As SMA migrates the services that make sense for the school and business office to the cloud, we’ll be using these applications more and more. The Academy has migrated its network data to the Google cloud as a backup, and in the future, we plan to do more with Google Calendar and Forms. However, one of my favorite tools, and probably one of the faculty’s favorites, is Google Classroom.
If you scroll down on your G Suite grid and click “more” you’ll find Classroom. Although this is great for teachers and students to use for communication, I’ve found it can also be used as a great management tool to keep track of all sorts of projects and ideas. Try it for yourself! Open Google Classroom, start a “class” on Birthday Gift ideas for friends. Then you can open that class and populate it with ideas for gifts, reminders for dates, links to the internet, etc.
The best thing about G Suite for Education has been the cost and overall ease of implementation. It provides so much, at no cost, for services that some business have to pay tens of thousands of dollars each year to maintain and update their storage and office solutions. Don’t be afraid to explore that “Checkerboard” and try out some of those applications. The more you practice these applications, the more comfortable you’ll be using these services as we deploy them campus wide. Plus, you get the added benefit of telling all your friends that you do most of your work “on the cloud.”
Matt McNeil, Director of IT at San Marcos Academy