Twenty thousand Nova Scotia students are now using free computer software from Google as part of their classroom activities.
Provincial education officials expect Google Apps for Education to be nearly universal by the end of next year.
The cloud-based suite of programs can be accessed on any electronic device with an internet connection and a web browser.
It includes email, word processing, the social media network Google+, and assignment management software.
Some school boards have chosen to issue students $200 devices called Chromebooks to let them access Google products at school and at home.
Ramona Joseph is the principal of École Five Bridges Junior High in Hubley. Her school piloted Google Apps for Education last year.
This year, all 600 of her students in Grades 7, 8 and 9 are using the system.
"The children will have their own technological device and the teacher and they can communicate back and forth just by typing," she said.
"The teacher can see what they're writing. They can see what the teacher's comments are back to them."
No more homework excuses
Joseph said the setup spells the end of one age-old homework excuse, "because it's on Google Apps. When the children go home, it's on whatever computer they open up because it's Google."
"So the children can't say anymore, 'I left my writing project at home,' because you can bring it up. It's on Google."
Lisa Frizzell is acting director for learning resources and for the Department of Education and chair of the Google Apps for Education committee.
She said the department registers every student with a Google Account, which requires submitting the student's first and last names, but nothing more.
"Simply us sharing first and last name, their email address and encrypted password is all that's required to do that, and all that we would share," she said.
While student work is stored on Google's servers, it remains student property.
"Google Apps for Education users own their own data, not Google. And the data that schools put into our system is theirs, and we believe it should stay that way," said Alexandra Hunnings is a spokesperson for Google Canada.
Frizzell also said Google Apps for Education is free of advertising.
"They cannot use our students' information and share that for advertising purposes," she said.
"They do collect information based on such things as what device you may be using, or your language, or your search history. But mostly it's just to provide the service in a better way to users. But it's very basic information that's being used in that respect."
Google Apps for Education 3-year plan
Google provides Google Apps for Education free of charge, including unlimited hard-drive space for storage.
Frizzell thinks the payoff for the company will come in the future.
"I think that they're certainly getting people using their products. And from there, people may purchase their products in their private lives, and so forth," she said.
"It's really just a win-win for everybody. They provide a platform that allows us to be creative in that sense, and in return they have users using those products."
The Nova Scotia Department of Education plans to implement Google Apps for Education over three years.
Frizzell said because of excitement from teachers and students, the system could be fully adopted sooner than that.