Gmail is a free, advertising-supported webmail, POP3, and IMAP service provided by Google.
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As a teacher, I created a special Google Mail account to use with my students. This allowed me to offer them something truly invaluable. First and foremost, my students could submit their work to me electronically. This meant that they didn't need to print it out and didn't need to worry about forgetting it at home (no more of "the dog ate my homework" either). I also appreciated it for the simple reason that when the kids submitted on GMail, I didn't need to worry about unreadable fonts or worse, unreadable handwriting. If the font looked funny, I just popped the thing into my word processor, selected the whole thing and changed it to standard Arial.
In addition to this, having this tool allowed me to tell my students they could contact me with whatever questions they wanted to ask me. If something wasn't clear, if they weren't sure which piece of homework they missed, if they simply didn't understand something and wanted extra help, they could always contact me.
Now I know that pretty much any e-mail service will do the same job, but the nice thing about GMail is that the massive amount of storage and excellent search capability meant that I didn't need to store my student's work on my home computer. I could simply call it up from the cloud and reference it whenever I needed it. This meant at a parent teacher conference, I wasn't stuck lugging around 120 book reports. Instead, I just took out my netbook, popped up a student's work on Gmail and then showed it to the parents in order to discuss it with them.