Thursday, October 2, 2008

Student Email Accounts: Why Don't More Schools Provide Them for Students?

Providing high school students with email addresses certainly is nothing new. What college or university doesn't use school email accounts with its students? When I taught in Texas between 1996 and 2006, our students had email addresses. I don't know that having email addresses for students more than ten years ago was incredibly progressive. I do know it was invaluable, though. After spending a year without student email addresses last year, I moved to another school with no student email addresses. I am pleased, though, that I have rectified this situation for our 500+ students.
Beginning in the next few weeks, all our high school students will be given an email account through Gaggle provides safe, secure email accounts for students. Some of Gaggle's best features include anti-porn filters, filters that alert administration when inappropriate text appears in emails, a line embedded at the bottom of every email sent that says, "This email was sent by a student at Insert Name of School Here," server storage space for students, and more.

The obvious question for those who have never used student email addresses in conjunction with school is, "Of what use are student emails in the process of educating kids?" To help shed some light on this, here are just a few ways we will use Gaggle to enhance our students' educational experience:
  • the teachers and administration can teach students to use email responsibly

  • students can register for (another great service we use) using a school email address rather than a personal email address
  • students can register with and log in on blogs (like those found on Blogger) using safe, school email addresses rather than personal email addresses to help protect their identities

  • students can use school email addresses rather than a personal email addresses when they begin creating and building digital portfolios
  • teachers can quickly and easily add entire classes to Outlook address books and send communications to their classes (I'll be out of class on Friday but I would like you to... or Please don't forget the Unit Test covering... or I found a great website you should check out before class tomorrow... or Please remember that parent consent forms for the field trip are due...); possibilities here are endless
  • teachers can communicate easily with individual students (I'm sorry you were sick today. Please get class notes from a classmate and please read pages 88-102 before class tomorrow); teachers can be encouraged, not discouraged, to communicate with students because Gaggle can be monitored and because inappropriate dialogue will raise red flags

  • students can communicate easily with teachers in a safe, secure way (I'm sick and won't be in class tomorrow. Will you please email me tomorrow night's homework? or I'm having difficulty with the proof on page 99. Can you help?)
  • students can communicate with adults outside of school (college admissions correspondence, volunteer opportunities, interviewees, etc.)
As I speak to parents and students about what we can do better this year than we have in the past, the overwhelming majority of answers include something about better communication. By providing students with email accounts and then communicating with our students via email, we will be able to make major strides toward increased customer satisfaction. Additionally, we will give our teachers an additional tool with which they can reach their digital native students, thereby making it easier for our teachers to be more effective.

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