GFS Enters Gmail Era

Ellen Rothman, Data Systems Manager, and John King, Director of Information Technology.

This fall, GFS students have noticed something different about their school emails: everything has changed. The idea to move on from the old FirstClass system was officially decided upon at the beginning of last school year, and Google Apps for Education was finally implemented over the summer. So far the transition has been smooth, and while some might mourn FirstClass’ obsolescence, others are singing Google’s praises.

As for why the administration decided to move on, IT Department member Emanuel Pirvulescu put it best when he said: “We had outgrown FirstClass and [we had to] decide whether we were going to upgrade that or move to something a little more dynamic. . . the fact that Google Apps for Education is a free product helped us make that choice.”

The new system isn’t just about email. It also gives GFS unlimited storage on Google Drive, Google’s cloud-based hub for creating and storing documents, spreadsheets and photos, as well as Google Classroom, which Emanuel cites as a definite positive to come from the switch.

“A lot of teachers, especially in the Middle School, moved over and started using that platform… that was definitely a feature that we were looking at.” Classroom allows teachers to assign homework, post announcements and upload documents that students can see and/or download onto their personal or home computer.

Google also gives students the ability to share documents with each other, or even to work on a document simultaneously. The most impressive part of all is that because the system is cloud-based, all of these features can be accessed from anywhere, on nearly any device.

So far, reaction to the new system from students and faculty has been almost entirely positive. “We get comments all the time that [the faculty] have fully embraced it.” says Emanuel. “The biggest issue is just getting everybody trained with Google.” Many students have come to appreciate the system as well. As one freshman put it: “I like it. It’s an organized system and it’s helpful to have everything in one place.” When asked how Gmail compares to FirstClass, another student said “It’s a lot nicer, [and] it’s more modern and up-to-date.”

Perhaps the biggest upshot of using Google is the potential for students to become more creative with their work, and the administration will certainly hope that the new system will allow students to take that creativity to a whole new level.