One thing that I have come to realize in the last few years is how hard it is to get students to check their email (and this just as I'm finally starting to get the hang of it and make use of it regularly!) But I have discovered that one thing that they really will do - almost obsessively - is check their texts. With this in mind, I think the Chat feature of Gmail is going to be a real boon, because if I can get them there, it gives them that instant feedback they crave, the shot of "attention is being paid" endorphins that used to come from email, before that process became so painfully slow compared to instant messaging.
A use for the Groups feature that I am definitely going to steal from a poster in here is the idea that not only can I form a student group and remind them of their readings and assignments electronically (it never hurts to tell them, tell them again, and tell them yet AGAIN what is due and when) but I can form a parent group too and help keep them up-to-date on what is expected of their children. At first I was thinking that this would be useful for rehearsals and practices, but then I thought, "Homework...why not?" It makes it easy for the parent to check in on what their child should be doing - instead of taking their word for it - and as a bonus just for me, when I sit down at the inevitable conference and get the "well he never has any homework, how can he be failing?" snark of death comment, I can very sweetly ask if they have seen my emails. Go ahead, I'll say, take a look right now, I'll wait :)