Google Apps for Education

Posted: March 31, 2009 in pedagogy, technology
Tags: ,

In case you aren’t aware, Google offers schools free access to its Google Apps Suite.  This means your students could have access to Google Mail, Calendar, Chat, and Sites.  Well, they always could, but now it could be part of a domain you control.  For example, if you manage a domain for your school called jameswoodshigh.edu, students could have email addresses like “john.doe@jameswoodshigh.edu” or “mr.smith@jameswoodshigh.”  The back end of the services run on Google’s servers.  I think this could add some streamlined collaboration between students if implemented and directed properly.

Pros:

  1. Easy to manage
  2. Gives great collaboration tools
  3. Ability to control addresses.  Only an administrator can create an address
  4. Ability to allow only “yourdomain.com” addresses to be received by other “yourdomain.com” addresses
  5. Keeps information private, there are nor worries of students accidentally sharing their calendar
  6. Helps prevent cyber-bullying from anonymous addresses

Cons:

  1. Board policy – As far as I can tell, my board states something along the lines that any information saved on, or sent from a board computer is owned by them.  As far as I can tell at my board there is no official policy against this
  2. Maintenance – while IT maintenance is limited because Google takes care of the work, someone still needs to be in charge of creating addresses and groups, and other minor maintenance

Your thoughts?  Please comment! I would appreciate some fresh perspective on this idea as I am thinking of taking it out for a test drive.  Maybe creating an address for each of the students in my class, or just for some students involved in collaborative extra-curricula rs like yearbook, newspaper, student council, etc.  I’ve already heard some mixed opinions from some colleagues.

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Comments
  1. Steven Hall says:

    We’re using GApps for Ed at my school and love it, though it’s taking awhile for some teachers and staff to catch on or “trust” it. It’s been in place since October 08, and it’s use is still “optional” at this point. Currently, we have the gmail option turned off for teachers (I am still working on convincing our IT manager to make the switch to staff gmail), but teachers have access to calendar, docs and sites. Students can join teacher-created class wikis using their school email accounts or outside addresses.

    Our school’s teacher start page is: http://start.rism.ac.th

    Alternatively, a teacher can create a domain and “attach” GApps to it for free, allowing the teacher to administer his/her classes only. The teacher creates student accounts, i.e. johnny@missjenny.org, jane@hitechhall.com, etc.

    here are two examples of this type of set-up: http://missjenny.org
    http://partnerpage.google.com/hitechhall.com

    Good luck!

  2. mryantho says:

    Thanks Steve. I’m also concerned about the level of staff adoption. How has administration of the accounts been?

  3. drezac says:

    I have signed up and added the domain, but we haven’t started using it yet.

    I’m a little hesitant on the email because there’s really no email moderation, like say what Gaggle.net offers.

    Daniel

  4. mryantho says:

    drezav, I am assuming you are planning on using it at elementary?

  5. drezac says:

    Yes- I actually am starting to believe that email is not a necessary tool. It certainly isn’t for kids. They seem to communicate online and with text very well.

    So before I implement email, I might wait a few years to see how well the social networking movement plays itself out in education. Methinks that a tool like http://edmodo.com or a similar ed sponsored social network will fill that gap.

    DR

    • mryantho says:

      Yes, certainly in our HS there are plenty of kids that just use facebook, and rarely use their “primary” email at all. Edmodo does look interesting – thanks. I know we also looked at a Ning network and others. One of the reasons we think email is important at HS is so students learn how to use it effectively for “real” emails. This way they get practice as they will need to communicate with professors and employers. And for some students the ability to communicate beyond school boundaries is important.

  6. Dan says:

    Microsoft also has a free email solution for students called Live@edu: http://livecampus.net/. Most schools already use Microsoft products, so Live@edu can be easier to deploy with what you have. Microsoft also offers students 25 GB of online storage space, something that Google doesn’t offer.

  7. Pete Wood says:

    In my last position, I setup Google Apps to replace Exchange, email anti-virus, and add spam filtering. It took all of one afternoon to setup accounts for the staff.

    The staff took to it in no time as well as the administration. Its been running without a problem for almost 3 years. Before I left, teachers were just starting to collaborate with DOCs.

    One thing to consider is archiving emails, Google offers a solution, however it can get expensive fast. We were looking into setup a local smtp server. But I left before we could get that in place.

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