Starting your school on Google Docs Ed

Google Docs is an invaluable tool for your students to have in the classroom. We’ve had it at my school for almost a year now and it has enhanced our curriculum immensely. After setting it up at my school and consulting with others who’ve set it up or are working on it, I’ve come up with some tips for anyone interested in getting it going at their school.

1. Your students do not need an email address to get on Google Docs Education Edition. As long as you have access to your school’s web hosting space, you can set up G.D.E.E. for free and no emails are needed. Once you’ve got the service set up, you can upload a list of accounts for your students. This is where you’ll create the usernames, passwords, etc.

2. Create a random password for your users and leave it static. Don’t set the users to change the password after log-on (unless they are teachers).
It might take students a while to learn a random password, but it’s easier to look it up then reset it again and again. This also provides you access to a student account in the event they didn’t share something with you or you suspect something inappropriate on their account.

3. When creating usernames, I would recommend choosing a unique username.Instead of jdoe, do something like jmsjdoe2012 (initials of school, name, graduation year). While you’ll be able to choose any username you want for your users, the unique username comes in handy if you want your students to register for other sites. I have my students use their google docs username and password to register for other sites. Since it’s unlikely jmsjdoe2012 is taken as a username on most sites, it will be available. This way students won’t forget their username/password if they don’t use the site very often. It also makes it easy to monitor or check their work.

4. I recommend choosing the setting that only let’s users share things within the domain.Though this may be somewhat limiting if your students want to share things worldwide, it is handy to make sure they share things with the right people. Fairly often, my students type in the wrong address when sharing with a classmate or myself. If they don’t type in the domain name correctly when sharing, docs won’t let them share it to that address. It’s like having a built in check to make sure people share it to the correct place.

5. Be weary of the start page. There are some inappropriate widgets that students could put on their start page if they wanted to. You can turn off the start page or make a whitelist of widgets that you’ll allow (laborious process). I’ve kept ours on, but the students don’t use it.

6. Setting up the email function on google docs requires a little bit of web mojo. You need to change some settings with your current email/web hosting provider to get it up and running. Even though you’ll be able to access the mail page, you won’t be able to send or receive anything from that address (within gmail) until you change the settings. I ended up just putting in a request with our web hosting company and they took care of it for me. It’s not rocket science, but you could seriously mess up your email if you do it wrong. If you don’t want your students to have email, don’t activate it. Once you do decide to set it up, you won’t regret it.

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