Monday, February 27, 2012

Reflection on the process

For this project, after reviewing all of our research options I chose to use the I- Search Model. This simple research outline allowed me flexibility, and I was able to successfully find an answer to the question that I chose to do. During my research time, I made sure to reflect on what I was learning, and also how I could implement this research model in a school as a librarian. I think that the I-Search model would be a good one for older students to use, after they have some research experience under their belt. Originally, I thought that this would be a good beginner’s model for research, specifically good for younger students who are just beginning to learn how to do research but my opinion has changed. With the amount of flexibility that this model allows, I think that it would be difficult for a new researcher to find a conclusion. But, luckily I have quite a bit of research under my belt and was able to find a good answer to my question. This was my process.

Selecting a Topic

After perusing the questions that we were given, I knew immediately that I wanted to focus on having schools switch to gmail. Personally, I have been utilizing all aspects of the google suite for several years now and have greatly appreciated it. When I was working full time, the calendar allowed me to keep track of due dates and appointments, the google documents let me easily transfer information between my home computer and my work one, and I was sending out emails constantly. I definitely gave google a workout! Because of this, I knew what a fantastic resource it is and thought the concept of putting it into schools was an interesting one. I could also see how this choice to switch to gmail would affect a school librarian, and wanted to see what other people’s opinions were about the topic. So, after selecting this interesting subject, I was able to quickly move forward with the next step.

Finding Information

This part of the research model was probably the most time consuming. It was necessary for me to weed out unhelpful and outdated information, all while trying to create an idea of what I wanted to find. By using my chart, and keeping an outline of my thoughts, I was able to check out the list of places where I hoped to find valuable information. I listed sites like the UB databases, tech websites, the google site and all of its cohorts, personal pages of school librarians, education websites and the listserve information that we were provided. At this time, I also began the blog that I used throughout the research period. The blog was extremely helpful with organizing my thoughts and pinpointing the most important information that I found. There, I posted about the different steps of the research model and also put up links to vital sites that I discovered. The blog, combined with a google document full of links, was where I kept all of the links that I found that pertained to my subject. During the “finding information” part of the model, is when I also started to generate questions that I wanted to answer with my research. Questions like, “what are some of the things that google offers to schools?”, “what are some of the competing programs out there, and how do they compare?”, “how popular is this program in the k-12 bracket?”, “what might be some of the drawbacks to making the switch?”, “what grades are using email?”. With all of these questions in my head, I began to look at the resources that I had listed and thankfully, found some results. Once I found an adequate amount of resources, I could move onto the next step of the model.

Using information

As I mentioned in my blog, I think that one of my favorite parts about the I-Search Model was that though I may be doing to different steps of the process, It was easy to cross and multitask between them. I personally am a little scatterbrained, and continue to search for sources to the last minute of writing a research paper. With this model, I am able to search, but also simultaneously analyze the materials that I find. With other models, the steps are more restrictive and a little more difficult to move back and forth between them. But with the I-Search Model, I easily picked sources and pulled the information that I needed for my research. While I am analyzing materials, I find it important to pull important quotes and make note about the general idea that I had gleaned from the source. I did this with all of the sources that I found, and placed a lot of the information I found into my blog and into my personal notes to utilize later when I was making my final paper. This method of research seems to work for me, and the I-Search model allowed me to organize the information that I found any way that I saw fit. With this flexible model, I could control my thoughts and organize them how I pleased, and was able to produce some valuable information, which I could present in my findings.

Developing a Final Product

With a list of resources and some points of information from each, I was able to construct a final answer to my research question “Should schools switch to gmail?”. I first made an outline of the different important things that I wanted to mention to solidify my argument and looked back at my resources to find appropriate quotes and facts. Because I already knew what I wanted to talk about and what important information each resource held, I was able to answer my final question with ease. I made sure to be honest, have facts to back up my answers and have a solid answer to my question. I was satisfied with my conclusion, and thought that my final product was one constructed with thought and was thorough.

In Conclusion…

I am glad that I chose the I-Search model. I think that it fit my personality the best, and also helped my stay organized during the daunting time of research. As I said at the beginning, I originally thought that this model would be good for a younger student who was doing research but by the conclusion, I had changed my mind. I think that because it is so flexible it may be difficult for a younger and more inexperienced student to stay focused during research. It may be better for older students who understand how they personally work best, and are able to keep on top of the different steps of the model. I enjoyed using this model, and hope to use it in my library someday!

Final Answer: Should schools switch to gmail?

Through my research process, I have met many road blocks, had some success in finding information, struggled with my question and even wanted to throw out the entire question a few times. But, I think I finally came to a conclusion with a little editing to my original question. The question should really state, “should schools switch to “Google Apps for Education?” instead of just focusing on gmail. And though there are some issues which I will mention, I think that schools would benefit from utilizing “Google Apps for Education” and should consider making the switch.

I quickly found out that google offered something even better than just rudimentary email to participating schools, but rather the company has a slew of programs that schools can utilize. By making a contract with google, a school can have access to applications like google documents, which allows students and teachers to collaborate on word documents, powerpoint presentations, spreadsheets and tables. The program also allows students and teachers to create personal sites, which can be an asset for projects, communications and organization. Another application that is provided is an interactive calendar which can help keep parents and students informed about due dates, programs and extracurricular activities. The program also has a chat feature, which would be helpful for teachers to communicate with each other. The program is also extremely easy to use and popular! Many people are choosing to use gmail for their personal email, and are already familiar with the site.

From an administrator’s stand point, “google apps for education” is a good choice for schools. By using the “google cloud”, the school frees up extensive amounts of server space which would be reserved for email. Instead, the space needed for email is provided by google. Teachers would no longer worry about utilizing too much server space, and the tech department can focus on more important things. The site also offers its services free of charge. With the monetary weight of an expensive email system off of a school’s shoulders, the school is able to spend more money on other projects. The site also promises that the program is advertisement free, and also has strict protection policies in place.

While doing my research I did come across some issues with the google email service that needs to be addressed in order to make an informed decision about the program. Across a few sites, I saw that there were concerns with the privacy policy that google is implementing in the next month. In an article discussing this change, the author stated the fear that “ a student will log into a school account and access non-core services that don't fall under the Apps for Education agreement, and then Google will use that as a backdoor route to also reach in and look at the FERPA-protected data as well.” (Schaffhauser, 2012). This weariness to policy change was evident in several of the articles that I read, and I think is an important thing to consider when making the decision to switch to google mail. Though there are a multitude of barriers that would protect students and teachers from having their personal information found, people must be educated on how to properly utilize them if they feel it is appropriate. An education about how to use the program is pivotal in protecting students and teachers.

Another issue that was mentioned is the monitoring of students when they utilize the site. Some schools choose not to offer the chat option to students; some make sure that students do not have access to outside email addresses. Another tactic that I found mentioned in a list serve discussion was that any unusual activity like the use of profanity or attempt at signing up on other websites using the email is flagged and reported to a monitor. One teacher stated “We tell the kids that it is like being out in the hallway. You wouldn't say or do anything you wouldn't want teachers or other students to hear. So far (one year in) we have had no major problems.”(lm_net listserv). I think that many schools are weary of using “google apps for education” because monitoring will be an important aspect of maintaining the site. Though it may be frustrating at times, I think the benefits of the program outweigh the inconvenience. Google also offers the school that sets up the program the option of limiting what the students are capable of using. Some schools chose to block the chat feature; other schools chose access depending on the age of the student. The program is flexible to fit the needs of the school.

What makes me think that the Google Apps for Education program would be a good one for schools to choose is the amount of happy clients that I found across the internet. On an interactive spreadsheet which allowed for teachers to contribute their experiences with the cross over, many people had good things to say about the program. Chad Fairey of Washington International School in Washington DC stated, “We have had Google Apps for a few years and it has been really great. Moved from Exchange, haven't looked back since. (It) is a fantastic email client, the best cloud based doc environment, a decent calendar system, and products are well integrated so users are automatically signed up for other google apps (youtube, flickr etc)” and another teacher in Maine at the Waynflete School said “We were a FirstClass school but don't miss it at all. Saw a big increase in collaboration with Google Docs, Calendar, & Sites. It's been a great move.” (Demetri, 2011).

“Google Apps for Education” offers much more than just email to its clients and I believe, after careful research, that students and teachers alike would benefit from the switch. I think that in a time where we rely heavily on technology it is important to take advantage of programs like gmail and its fancy applications to enhance the learning experience. If administrators and teachers are prepared to monitor and maintain the program, I think it would be a great asset for a school.


Dawes, A. (2011, January 5). [web log message] Retrieved from

Demetri, O. (2011, November 11). Independent schools using gmail [Interactive Spreadsheet].Retrievedfrom

Dunn , J. (2011, May 12). How becoming an official "google guide" can help graduates. Retrieved from

Gagne, Y., Vigeland, F., & Gittelson, B. (2012, January 30). Cubmail to transition to gmail. Columbia Spectator. Retrieved from

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Greenspun, P. (2011, February 25). Guest post: Google docs for classroom instruction. Retrieved from

Oregonian Editorial Board. (2011, October 10). Google in our schools. Retrieved from

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Keep on going!

I am nearing the end of my research, and I am still not sure if I have a definitive answer. Currently, I am trying to find different email options for schools and have spoken to a few teachers about what they have their students use and also trying to find more opinions on the gmail system.

Its a little frustrating because I am nervous about my references, because they are mostly opinions found in blogs and forums! I am trying to find facts hiding between personal experiences and opinions. We shall see!

I am still happy with the I-Search model because it is flexible. As I am going along with my research, I am making sure to reflect on how a student would use it, and I think it would be an excellent research model for students. Younger students who are just beginning to do research may find this model especially useful, because it is simple and flexible! I will be sure to have a more thorough reflection for the final product, but for now, I will continue to work toward an answer to my research question!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Looking at the Google Site

I thought it was important to check out the google site and see what Google has to offer for schools. I checked out their site as was impressed by what "Google Apps for Education" really meant.
The program includes
  • email
  • collaboration on documents
  • the ability to create google sites
  • interactive calendar
  • voice chat & video
  • google groups which allow teachers and students to communicate easily
from the website I also found that the program is free, has good security and does not have any advertising.

I know that it was important to check out the actual website, and see if I could find some opinions on the program. From the google site I found some success stories.

I am continuing to try to find some opinions, and I hope I find more information!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Continuing my research

Right now, I am right in the middle of two different parts of the I-Search research approach. I am currently between the first 2 stages, called Selecting a Topic, which is a focus on finding resources and Finding Information, which is here I being to explore the resources and begin to generate questions about my topic. I like that I am able to be doing two different steps at once, which is why I chose the I-Search approach in the first place. I am currently scouring different tech sites, checking on some of the databases that are available to UB students and starting to look for different opinions. I think for my next post, hopefully I will be able to have some more solid evidence to report!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Concept Map

I have never used before and I am loving it! I may have to use it for every project from now on. It is a fantastic way to organize my thoughts and I am excited to keep improving and changing it!

Selecting a topic and finding information

The first two steps to the I-Search model are "Selecting a Topic" and "Finding Information", and I think that these two steps go hand in hand. In order to decide on a topic question, it is important that I can find information on the subject!

After deciding to focus on gmail, I began to scope out the their website and explore what they have to offer. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they have a whole education program! I wasn't really sure how google would be able to incorporate an education system into gmail, but it seems like they have a lot organized.

Personally, I didn't have a ton of experience with email while going to school...I can't even remember if I had a school email account that I utilized! But now, most schools are beginning to focus on technology and how it can supplement a student's education and I can see that email is a great way to do that. I am excited to get into a school and see how they utilize email and other technologies.

After seeing that gmail does offer an education package, I am going to explore what it has to offer, as well as see how many schools are already using it. One thing that I have already seen is a public spreadsheet about switching to gmail in schools (using a google spreadsheet) and I am excited to check it out!

I think this is a great start to the project!