Editor's note: Millions of students across the United States and around the world head back to school this week, many returning to schools using Google Apps for Education to help them work - and learn - better together. We asked 5 educators to share how they use Google Apps to meet their leaning goals and be more productive. If you're interested in using Google Apps for Education at your school, please visit our site.

Who we interviewed

Tia: How do you use Google Apps for Education and what impact have you seen? 

Sandy: My school serves a large population of students who are newly-arrived to the US. As a teacher of students still learning English, I am constantly doing check-ins and quick, informal assessments using Google Docs and Google Forms. The results of these assessments give me valuable information about student understanding and helps inform future lessons.

Andrew: Google Apps was a game changer at my school. Once we brought in the tools, collaboration between teachers and students increased dramatically. Immediately we began using Google Sites for digital portfolios — students could document and reflect on their work, and teachers could easily view and comment.

Susan: My students also use Google tools to publish and share work throughout the year. In Digital Photography class, students save and organize photographs in Drive, reflect on and discuss their work in Blogger, and share important and current resources using Sites. Animation and Art students build Online Design Journals using Presentations, inspired by the work that Karen Brennan at ScratchEdu is doing at Harvard.

Blanca: I've been using Google Docs to support English Language Learners for years. In one program we have been involved with, Building Family Literacy, students use Google Docs to write about their journeys to America and receive immediate feedback from teachers. Being able to share feedback in so many different formats - through chat, text and voice comments - is incredibly valuable in helping my students improve their writing.

Kian: This technology is an efficient entry point to reach young people. Most students are familiar with smartphones, but there is still a digital divide in how they use other technology. They may know how to share a photo, but not how to do research or craft a professional email. With Google Apps for Education we are helping our students be more informed individuals who ask questions and explore the world through technology.

Tia: What is the biggest time-saver you’ve noticed since using Google Apps for Education? 

Andrew: I can't say enough about “single sign on”. When students sign into Google Apps, they sign into a host of other educational apps. Once students and teachers had one login for EVERYTHING, we spent less time troubleshooting low level issues. It gave back time to teach and work.

Susan: On a school level, programming, room assignments, teacher schedules, student schedules and even locker assignments, are now built with Docs and Calendar, (an underused, amazing Google App) and shared with all faculty on a private Google Site. Before Google Apps, everyone called the office to find information. Now, as our principal says, we are all playing on the same team.

Kian: With Google you have the space to store things and the capacity to seek and find. It is so easy and user-friendly. With Gmail, the internet and apps, there are tons of ways to empower students — you give them access to the entire world in seconds.

Tia: What are some ways that teachers use Google Apps for Education to work together

Sandy: It really just keeps everyone organized and on the same page.

Andrew: The School at Columbia prides itself on an integrated curriculum, where students study the same concept throughout their day. Therefore it was imperative that teachers in all disciplines were coordinated. Google Apps allowed us to independently contribute ideas to a planning document and conduct face to face meetings more effectively.

Kian: For teachers, Google Apps brings the world a little closer. If you are a Social Studies teacher whose students are learning about Abraham Lincoln, you can use Google Classroom to easily send a YouTube video on the former president to students. Then a teacher can easily send a quiz made in Google Forms. All the communication happens efficiently and immediately.

Blanca: Giving and receiving feedback is critical in the learning process. But it's not just the feedback that a teacher gives a student that impacts learning- it’s the feedback the student gives back to the teacher that creates the loop where learning happens on both sides of the desk. This is one reason why using Google Apps for Education as an administrator working with teachers can be so powerful. The tools enable the feedback process from which learning, trust and capacity building can begin.