Rest in pieces

Students and staff can kiss Microsoft Outlook goodbye

Eddie Ruprecht

Mr. Lance Hertlein, Science teacher, says goodbye to the new email address. Teacher will be moving to accounts, July 1.

Students no longer need to worry about sending emails to a teacher through their account and never hearing back from them.

After two years of testing the program with students, the district’s staff email provider will be changing from Microsoft Outlook to Gmail, July 1.

“I think it will give everyone a better chance to keep track of everything that’s going on in their class. It will also give teachers a better way to communicate with students,” Cole Reat (11) said.

Students like Reat and staff will have to make the adjustment from Outlook to Gmail very quickly. This is because when the 2015 fall semester starts, teacher’s will be using Gmail for the first time.

All students began using Gmail and other Google Apps two years ago. Since then, the district has been planning the transition for all staff members.

Well, the discussion began almost two years ago,” Mrs. Deborah Ketring, coordinator of technology support services, said in a phone interview conducted, May 2. “We knew that we had issues with our exchange environment that would require either upgrading and replacing hardware or moving to a different platform.”

The upgrades to the Outlook program would take manpower and skills that the technology department does not have and would cost around $100,000. Making the switch to Gmail is free.

After the district made the decision to switch to Google, time became the main factor.

“In August and September. we started pursuing what all it would take for us to make the switch. Once we saw that it was definitely something that was possible and something that a lot of other districts had done, we decided we were going to go,” Mr. Will Blaylock, chief information officer of the technology department, said. “In October and November, we developed a project plan for that and we started working on it.”

Administrators such as Mr. Blaylock and Mrs. Ketring, along with Dr. Knost, have been facilitating the change since August of 2014.

“On-one-hand, it will be good that we are on the same suffix of what the students have,” Mrs. Kari Smith, fine arts teacher, said. “Outlook made using Google Drive hard because students thought that they were sending things to me when they were really not.”

Throughout the past two years it has been a problem for students to email their teacher’s address, thinking this was their teacher’s email. In reality the address is only a Google Drive address until the district makes the switch. Giving staff the same email provider as the students will eliminate this problem.

“Now, my teachers will actually respond to emails. I’ve sent them emails about my grades and stuff, but they never respond to me and i’ve always wondered why,” Caleb Berkaw (9) said.

The change from Outlook to Gmail may be for the better because it has been difficult for staff and students to email one another and share assignments from separate email providers.

Gmail is also fully searchable; anyone with a Gmail account can be found by simply typing a name into the “to:” bar when sending an email.

“If you wanted to email a student within the last year from your Outlook account, you had to know their email address,” Mrs. Susie Allmendinger, theater production teacher, said. “With Gmail all you have to is type in the students’ names and their addresses pop up. It’s awesome.”

Students will also benefit from this feature.

“It will make things easier because we won’t have to remember to use a separate email address to email a teacher,” Natalie Budd (10) said.

The switch will not only also make it much easier to email back and forth with staff and students, but also make it easy to turn in assignments to teachers from any computer.

With Gmail, students and staff also get access to all Google Apps, such as Drive and Classroom. Here teachers connect with all students and students receive feedback, share things and turn in assignments.

“I use Google Presentation, Docs and Drive, which keeps track of my stuff,” Reat said.

Students have already began to use these apps to save documents and presentations throughout the past year.

Since then, the technology department has been working on moving each staff member’s information to Google.

“For all the emails that are currently in the staff’s inboxes, we’re using a migration tool and were pulling them to Gmail,” Mr. Blaylock said. “So, all of their emails that are currently in their inbox will be transferred over to Gmail along with their contacts and their calendar appointments.”

Teachers will have to check their Gmail Spam folders for those migrated emails. However, they will have to clean up all those emails students have been sending to their accounts for the last two years from their inbox.

Although students have been using Gmail for two years now, staff will be using the provider for the first time come July 1. The district held a brief training seminar for each school. EHS faculty attended theirs, April 2.

Staff  have yet to explore the full functionality of the provider.

“They haven’t really trained us on it so I don’t know,” Mrs. Smith said. “They kind of introduced it, but it was like a big gloss overview.”

Since students were the first to receive Gmail account two years ago, they may need to help teachers adjust to the new system after the fall semester begins.

“I think it will take some getting used to, but I think we’ll be fine once we figure it out,” Mrs. Smith said.

Even with this concern, students and staff are looking forward to becoming a Google Apps for Education district.

“It’s a good change,” Reat said. “Gmail has a lot of good opportunities that allow students to get connected in the  classroom.”

Students can connect with their classmates by using features from Google Apps, such as the share feature on Drive or having the capability to comment and ask questions on the Classroom stream.

Whether Google Apps will be a reliable factor in educating students, or separate them from hands on learning, is still being determined.