There’s an app for that

Google Apps for Education is one of the keys to homework help

By Elwin LeRoux


[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hat could make students in Grade 6 actually want to do their homework?

According to Shelly Bembridge, it’s Google Apps for Education (GAFE). (Find Google Apps at

“After introducing Google Apps in my classroom this spring, homework completion rates jumped from just 40 per cent to 92 per cent in a matter of weeks,” says Ms. Bembridge, a Grade 6 teacher at Bedford South School.  

Bembridge says it has removed barriers for students who previously found excuses for not doing their homework.

“Whether they’re at school or at home, they can no longer say ‘I forgot my homework.’ With GAFE, students can access their work any time, any place,” Bembridge says.

GAFE is a collection of tools that includes Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Sites and more. These apps allow students and teachers to access files from cloud-based storage from any device with an Internet connection. They allow for live collaboration on any file, simultaneously, from anywhere. Collaborators can see one another’s work on their screen, they can review the entire revision history and saving happens automatically.

Nova Scotia’s Department of Early Education and Childhood Development is introducing the GAFE suite of tools to support Nova Scotia’s Action Plan for Education 2015.

Many schools in the Halifax Regional School Board (HRSB) have begun using Google Apps for Education. Just a few months in, the reviews from students, teachers and administrators are overwhelmingly positive.

“I find that it has really increased the quality of student work because I don’t have to wait until the product is finished and submitted before providing qualitative feedback,” Bembridge says. “Because I can edit, comment and review the work as it is crafted by the student, there are so many more teachable moments to help guide student work. GAFE supports a more differentiated model of instruction.”  

Students can also spend as much time as they want reviewing concepts and using resources that have been shared on GAFE by their teacher. GAFE is also helping to connect teachers. 

“Teachers are using GAFE to support students and work with them as if the student were sitting next to them,” says Ramona Joseph, principal of Five Bridges Junior High School. “I am also able to be part of Professional Learning Community (PLC) meetings and not even be in the room by using GAFE. It’s not changing our work, it’s changing the way we work,” Joseph says. 

HRSB’s Technology Integration Lead Team (TILT) is providing the professional development for GAFE. Alexander MacDougall and Mario Eleftheros have never seen a demand for technology-related PD as great and as enthusiastic as it is for GAFE.

“Google Apps is the biggest single technology-related game changer for our schools since computers were first introduced,” MacDougall says. “It enables teachers to more easily reach beyond the classroom and provides a smooth and virtually seamless platform on which everyone can share ideas and information, be creative and get organized.”

MacDougall believes that HRSB will see GAFE change the way students work collaboratively and independently, both in and out of the classroom. “It takes learning, sharing and collaborating to a whole new level,” Eleftheros says. “It is true collaboration using tools that are accessible to everyone.”

As superintendent, I’m excited to see how Google Apps for Education will enhance the way we work at the board level, the way we teach and the way students engage in their learning, in school or at home. It is, however, important that we don’t lose sight that no technology can be successful without a teacher who is using it in meaningful ways to support the learning of all students.