This year, our school agreed to let me give each of my students an account through Google Apps for Education. I've noticed that not all students use this account because many of them already have their own accounts. Using the Apps for Education, students are no longer responsible for creating and maintaining their own accounts. I no longer have issues with parents who don't want their kids to have e-mail addresses (really?!) or students who forget their login credentials. I manage everything, from creating the username to having full control of the password.
The only downside to this is that students won't be able to use this account forever. As an institution, we are limited to 500 accounts and we will have to purge our students as they graduate. Still, for the purpose of teaching students how to use the tools and encouraging them to use cloud-based software and storage, Google Apps for Education is practical.
They can use their login to access any applications that I set up for our domain. We use the basic ones (sites, blogger, igoogle, etc.), but there is also a directory with thousands of user-created apps that we could explore. I haven't tried too many of these yet, but there are a lot of possibilities! The single sign-on is also nice because I am able to create class lists and share them with my students. With two clicks, they can share documents, folders, and blogs with their classmates and take steps to keep other information private.
The reason we took this step this year was because of our one-to-one ipad program. We wanted students to have access to word processing, and Google Docs is one of the best free, cloud-based options. They use an app on the iPad called Office2 HD. In class, I help them link their Google account to Office2 and create a folder to place class-related documents. My students are still struggling with this setup, so I think additional practice is needed before we start giving them assignments.