Sunday, June 14, 2009

Google Apps for Education overview

I receive lots of questions and see lots of posts about the effective use of Google Apps for Education in the K-12 environment. Following are some of my thoughts.

  • We used a separate domain for the staff and students since staff mail had to be archived (as per the eDiscovery regulations) and student email does not. We purchased staff email archiving from Gaggle who have a Gmail API that makes it simple. We do not use Gaggle for email accounts, however.
  • Google Apps for Education works the same way as Google Apps Premier, with a tad less online storage space per user. The wonderful things about it is that any user can limit any publication to just those who are on the domain, if they wish. We use this when we are publishing something for only district staff. In addition, users can always selectively choose outside users (like our students on the other domain) to see their Docs, Calendars, Sites, etc.
  • When you administer Google Apps for Education, you can chose to allow access (or dis-allow access) to the suite of tools -- Email, Calendar, Docs, Talk, Sites, Video, and Web Pages -- for all users. Google Groups and Blogger are not in the suite, but, of course may be easily used.
  • We received explicit permission from our parents in grades 6-8 to give their students email accounts. Here is the permission slip we used for this special purpose. If I were to set this up again, I might simply create three domains-- one for staff, one for the middle and high school students with email turned on, and one for the younger students with email turned off, but with log-in access to Docs and Sites, to allow collaborative work to take place in a closed environment. You do not need to have email turned on to use these tools.
  • We used the last two digits of YOG-last name-first initial for the student accounts. In addition, so their real name did not show up in the header of mail they sent, when setting up the accounts, I used the YOG-last name for the last name of the student and their first initial for their first name.
The use of these Google Apps has moved technology ahead rapidly in our district. Between shared calendars for school-based meetings to internal Google Sites acting as mini-Moodle packages, both teachers and students have made good use of the apps for communication, collaboration, and creation.

Here are some links to Nauset Google pages:
  • Superintendent's Newsletter : this is coded to look like one of our Web pages, but is a Google Doc that the Superintendent's assistant updates each month. This is an easy way to distribute some of the updating of Web page info to others. She simply overwrites the content in the Google Doc each month and republishes, thus the hyperlink on the Web page remains the same.
  • Cache the Wave: this is a summer professional development announcement and sign-up Google Site with embedded Google forms
  • Google Goodies: this is a Google site with three parts-- a round-up of a weekly tip I sent to all staff and students, embedded screencasts for the basic Google Apps usage, and an RSS workshop I created for our adminstrators.
  • Middle School Newsletter: although dated, this can give you some idea on how to distribute the work involved in your school-produced newsletter since each user can update their own pages of the shared Site. There is one thing different about Sites than Docs, though. When you make a change to a Google Sites page, it automatically goes live and with Docs you can choose to do it that same way or manually publish it when you are ready.
Updated information 10/11/09
  • We continue to use Google sites inside the domain for teacher/student sharing.
  • Many teachers have begun to create resource pages for their students using Google docs.
  • We make extensive use of the calendaring functionality in Google Apps for Ed for staff purposes. IEP meetings, vacation schedules, literacy meetings, couselors' student meetings, etc. are scheduled with invitations to staff on non-public calendars.
  • With the addition of Google video, which provides internal-only storage and access to videos, we have been able to post some school-wide items that we would not have wanted outside.
  • Students are beginning to use Google Sites as a personal portfolio, attaching their work to the file cabinet page and embedding those items that are embeddable.
  • We are using Google Forms for all types of data collection-- everything from registering for workshops to survey data of parents and community members, and much more.
  • We have changed the student naming convention to start with the entire 4 digits of the year of graduation. The administrative sort and search is easier that way.
  • We have made use of the offline capabilities of Google Calendar in a school that was having Internet-connection problems. Although the calendars are static on the machine, at least they are accessible.