As a Google Apps Certified Trainer, I often get questions about how we have used Google Apps or how we have managed the rollout within school so I thought it would be sensible to share some of the questions I have been asked recently and a few answers too. Feel free to share these if they are useful. If you have any questions, please contact me and I’ll add them to the list.
Is it possible to track emails that are sent using Google Apps?
Yes. But there are a few words of caution. All email that is sent can be seen by the administrator. They can do this by going to Reports> Email Log. This will show that person A sent an email to person B but will not reveal the contents (although the email subject is shown).
To track actual messages, there is a way of doing it using the Content Compliance tool. This is accessed via Settings>Gmail>Click an organization and then content compliance. We set this up in school but, apart from during the testing phase, we have not used it at all. The way that this works is that any email sent to or from our domain (@stjohnsapps.co.uk) that contains the “@” symbol is forwarded to an account called “firstname.lastname@example.org”. If there was ever a need to find out the exact details of a message sent between two people, this email account could be accessed and the emails could be found. As I said, we have not done this and this has been in place since early 2012.
This obviously then has implications as the administrator may be a teacher or network manager and could then access emails that are sent by pupils, but also by the senior leadership team. It is therefore worth pointing this out to all users before they use the email. However, this could, and should, form part of your training and policy documents when you start your Google Apps use within school.
In reality, the best way to monitor emails between pupils is to involve them in the process and teach them to be safe. So if Child A sends an inappropriate email to child B, it will be in A’s sent items and B’s inbox. A may try to delete it from their sent folder and their trash, but B will still have a copy. They should be taught to show this or, better yet, forward this to their teacher or the appropriate adult in charge. This can then be dealt with as necessary.
In my experience, it is often head teachers and governors that want to know if gmail can be tracked. So the answer is yes, but with some effective teaching, you won’t need to use those tools very much at all.
How do I make email safer?
There is a way of “locking down” the email so that it can only be sent between users of your domain. This is done via Settngs>Gmail>Click the organization and then restrict delivery. Simply add your domain e.g. @stjohnsapps.co.uk to the list and then that chosen organization (year group) can only send and receive emails from users with email addresses that end in @stjohnsapps.co.uk
This can also be used to enable emails from certain tools. For example, we use Popplet in school but when the children forget their Popplet password, they can click a link in Popplet and it will email them with instructions to reset their password. This is possible because I have enabled emails from @popplet.com too.
The Settings link here has more information.
Can I just use Google Apps with 1 class if I want to try it out?
Of course but I would still suggest asking permission or at least informing others within your school. It will work just as well with one class as it will with all of the classes but you need to check with senior leaders first so that they are aware in case there are any parents that have questions or concerns. One other thing I would suggest is to set it up as if the whole school will come on board soon. For example, don’t set-up a domain called “Mraddisonyear4.com” as you will have to choose another domain name if/when other teachers decide to use it too.
How do we manage passwords for pupils and staff?
Every pupil from Year 3 upwards has an account and they are given a default password (usually password) when their accounts are created. In one of their first lessons using Google Apps, they are taught how to change it and manage their password.
For teachers, they are also given a default password when they start and they are also shown how to change it. I tend not to get them to “force change at first login” because I think it is better to show them how to change the password at all times, rather than just the first time they log in.
I also have this link: https://www.google.com/accounts/EditPasswd saved on our main page so that users can change the password at all times.
Do I need to ask permission from parents before I start using Google Apps?
The Google Apps terms to state:
Customer acknowledges and agrees that it is solely responsible for compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, including, but not limited to, obtaining parental consent concerning collection of students’ personal information used in connection with the provisioning and use of the Services by the Customer and End Users.
We do allow parents to remove their children from using Google (or any service) if they wish, but we haven’t had to do this yet.
How should I inform parents about Google Apps?
As with blogging and a a few other things in school, I suggest telling them via a short note in the end of week newsletter saying that you are using Google Apps and your children might mention email addresses etc and tell them that you will let them know more later. Then 6-8 weeks later, hold a parents meeting to showcase what you’ve been doing. Some schools want to do the parents event first, but I think that it is better to wait a while and show what you have been doing rather than show them when you haven’t done anything yet.
How do I make a homepage (like this one – www.stjohnsapps.co.uk)
I simply used Google Sites and made a page. On this page I put links to the tools that we used within school and then made this page available to others. You could make it so that the site was only accessible for users that are signed in to their gmail account, but I have decided to make it public so that others can see it too.
I also put a link to it on our school website here.
The techy bit is directing the domain name “www.stjohnsapps.co.uk” to the google site. This isn’t necessary, it’s mainly just for me to access it quickly. Most traffic comes via our school website.
What happens if the children email everyone?
It is possible, and probably suggested, to setup a group called All Users so that you can inform them of updates and changes. I also have groups for staff@ and different classes and year groups, all with email addresses that can be used by anyone. Therefore, there is nothing to stop a child emailing staff@ and sending a message to all teachers. The way around this is to educate the children. Does the message need to be sent? Even if it is to a small group, such as a class of pupils, does everyone need to see it?