(Editor's Note: Alma Garcia is a senior at North Plainfield High School and intern for TAPinto North Plainfield, Green Brook & Watchung.)

NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – As of January 2016 the North Plainfield School District transitioned students and staff to Google Apps for Education (GAFE) to integrate 21st century technology tools into the curriculum. GAFE is a cloud-based learning platform that allows teachers and students access to a core suite of productivity applications that Google offers to schools and educational institutions for free.

The transition into the Google platform at North Plainfield is secure and does not share any data or user information with any other source, unlike other Google products such as Gmail. Access to the Google platform is available to grades K-12, however, the features are determined by grade level; grades K-12 have calendar and documents while grades 5-12 have email, calendar and documents. In the transition to Google apps, the North Plainfield Board of Education provided students and parents with an overview of the new digital programming that was going to manage it all and permission slips were sent home.

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GAFE features a set of digital tools that can help students’ complete assignments, store files, communicate, and collaborate from home and at school on any device. GAFE also plays a major role in enhancing learning opportunities, allowing fast and easy collaboration to help bring students and teachers together and help students learn more effectively.

According to Dr. Jerard Stephenson, principal of North Plainfield High School, GAFE also provides a better way for students, teachers and staff to communicate and also provides the district with a more efficient way to manage files and assignments.

Students in North Plainfield also have Google Classroom, an innovative tool that helps teachers create and organize assignments quickly, provide feedback efficiently, and easily communicate with their students. Students are given a code, which they use to access their Google account to keep up with files, assignments and other important and pertinent information.

“Google Classroom is pretty helpful because we are using technology now and, at the same time, it helps us complete assignments and maintain organization,” said North Plainfield freshman Alveiry Zarate.

Classroom also enhances what students and teachers already know about Google programs such as docs, slides, and sheets and allows teachers to upload videos and create surveys as well as utilize other various tools. Additionally, each student has a North Plainfield High School email that can be used only within the Google platform set by the district.

"The majority of the students as well as the teachers love Google classroom/ It cuts down on preparation without having to make copies; [all you have to do is] upload docs, sheets, slides or PDF files,” said Charles Henriques, financial literacy teacher. “I blend my classroom, the students do more thinking, and I have more videos and student driven work."

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