Tag Archive for googleapps

Class Maps in Google Apps

Maps has been one of my favorite Google Apps to use in fourth and fifth grade. Students conduct research on a topic, create placemarks, and add descriptions, images, and sometimes links. The collaboration feature allows the class to quickly create a visual guide to any topic, for example the agricultural products of Oregon. The work environment is media-rich, collaborative, and fast. The mapping skills are very transferable to other subjects.

View Map Of Oregon in a larger map

In the following map, each student designed a fruit salad from a list of ingredients and then mapped the distance to the place of origin of each fruit.

View Fruit Salad in a larger map

Underage Students on Google and Facebook

Google is cracking down on underage accounts. Young students who accurately reported their age when creating a GMail account are finding themselvesĀ shut out without warning. The account closure is swift and complete. With a parent’s help, a child can reactivate an account. At this point, child and parent face a choice: comply with Google’s action to shut down the account or falsify the child’s age in the account and keep it open. I suspect that many will choose the latter.

Students who have their account within a Google Apps domain are better off. The Apps domain administrator creates accounts, does not report user age, and bears responsibility to ensure the privacy of student information. Google expects schools to secure parent consent for under-13 use of Google Apps. At a minimum, Google stores each student’s name and email address, but of course the account will also include content that the student has uploaded in the course of their work.

Google Apps domains are not just limited to schools. Any domain owner can set up a free Google Apps domain, though these are limited to 10 user accounts, and advertisements are displayed. Buying a domain and setting up free Google Apps allows a family to take greater control of the services and comply with parent consent requirements. Low-cost web hosts make it easy to buy a domain name for the family and use GMail.

What about Google+? Google has just added Plus to Apps, but only for higher-education institutions.

Google provides a form to request access but state that this is not for elementary and secondary schools.

Facebook requires users to report their age when setting up a new account.

Many students falsify their age, often with the support of their parents. Both children and parents want to gain access to the social networking platform in order to keep in touch with each other, relatives, and friends. Companies routinely do not create a way for parents to provide consent for a child to create an account, and in turn for the company to collect information about the child. Facebook also does not provide the option for a school to to administer student accounts with parent consent. I also wonder what lesson students are learning from their parents’ encouragement to falsify their age.


Opening Faculty Meeting Presentations

These slides accompany my presentations to our divisional faculty groups. What did you roll out to your teachers this week?

Which Google Apps Support Group Sharing?

We launched a Google Apps domain for our school with the promise that it would offer more value than using personal Google Apps accounts. In reality, some apps offer terrific collaboration features for domain users, and some apps operate no differently from personal accounts.

Docs: +++
Docs has the most powerful network features. It is fully group-aware: share a doc with a group, and the system sends each user a group invitation. Edits are marked with usernames in real time. Revisions show who wrote what. Group members can participate in chat and discussions about the document. One may share a collection just once and then place documents within it, rather than sharing each document separately. One may also make a document available to everyone at one’s school but not visible to the world.

Chat: +
Administrators may assign Chat privileges to different organizational units in the domain. Authentication appears to work, and directory search will find people within one’s organization. Otherwise, there’s not much to report here for this one-to-one communication tool.

Calendar: – – –
According to Google’s documentation(1, 2, 3), one can easily share a calendar with a contact group, organizational group, or Google Group. The only problem is that email notifications for group sharing do not work, meaning that you actually have to send your group members instructions to manually add an incredibly long calendar email address to their calendars list. Do you think that all group members will do it? Me, neither. This problem is acknowledged on Google’s “known issues” page.

Video: –
Video may contain group sharing features, but it does not much matter, because only faculty and staff may upload video, the number of uploaders is limited to 100, and an administrator needs to individually specify who can upload. Go figure. Video staff should go talk to the people who own YouTube.

Sites: + +
Sites gets high marks for network features: you can make a site private, share with a network group for presentation or collaborative editing, publish it to the school community, or make it public. School users can browse sites made available to everyone at the school, but most sites end up in “uncategorized.” The most serious limitation is the Sites tool itself, whose editing features and templates feel dated compared to other freely available tools.

Blogger: + +
Better blogging systems exist, but none have such easily usable network group features as Blogger. One user can create multiple blogs without administrator assistance and invite others as contributors to create a group blog. The blog owner can limit the visibility of the blog to the authors or to specific people or groups. The group selection tool is itself not network group aware, but click “select from contacts” to gain access to network groups.

Maps: + + +
This should be a big winner in schools. Maps is a multimedia authoring environment. Click on a placemark, and you get a mini WYSIWYG editor that can insert text, links, and photos. Maps supports group features, so you can share a group with others for the purpose of presentation or collaboration. Combine these two feature sets, and you get a powerful geographic multimedia authoring tool for your class. Maps distributes sharing privileges by URL, which is not technically full network group support butĀ  is still functionally sound.

YouTube: – – –
YouTube is hardly integrated with Google Apps for Education at all. YouTube requires a dedicated username linked to one’s Google account — you cannot just log in with your domain credentials. Once you are logged in, YouTube in an education domain functions just like an individual YouTube account. I was hoping for network-specific features such as listing favorite videos within our school and collaborative playlists.

Reader: – –
Items you add to Reader are private by default. You can mark specific items “shared.” It is easy to share items publicly, difficult to share items with built-in Google Contacts groups, and very difficult to share with network groups.

Bookmarks: – !
Google Bookmarks appears to be network group aware. Items you bookmark are private by default, but you can create lists and then share them with individuals, your own groups, or school network groups. You can even grant editing privileges so that others may add to shared bookmark lists.

The only problem is that the group sharing feature appears to be broken! Share with a network group email address, and you get the following error. You cannot even share with custom groups in your contacts list. Is this feature finished?

If this works, the bookmarks feature may become a better tool for documenting research sources than we have had before. Students could create bookmark lists and share them with teachers to assess their progress. A class could build a list of shared resources together for a research unit. Teachers could set up shared lists with each other for professional development purposes. A school could build shared lists of resources together. The only feature missing is a way to search all of the shared bookmarks within the organization. Wouldn’t it be great if students first searched the school’s bookmark collection rather than heading straight to Google search?

Picasa Web Albums: + + +
Picasa offers working network features very similar to those in Bookmarks. One can set up a photo album and open it to others for the purpose of sharing or contribution. The only downer there is the 100 photo limit on each album. I also wish that one could conduct a search restricted to the photos shared within an organization.


What else have you learned about group sharing in Google Apps? Is any of this information inaccurate or outdated? Please leave a comment below.

Assessing Group Work

Google Apps will make it easier for students together in groups. The Google Docs revisions feature will make it possible for a teacher to see each student’s contribution to the final work. That’s useful, but how else may we teach and assess collaboration?

Teaching the skill of collaboration and using varied assessment methods provides a more complete learning experience. Individual contributions tell only part of the story. What else should we consider? What expectations did we communicate for how they would work together? Did we teach collaboration or just put students together in groups? How did we structure the groups to maximize student success?

Preparing to work
What group norms did students establish before starting project work? Did each group member adopt a definable role? Did students identify a way to ensure equitable distribution of work?

Doing the work
How did students coordinate tasks and keep on schedule? How did they communicate with each other during the project? Did they do their work gradually over time or all at once? How did students resolve disagreements during the project?

After the project
Ask students to write about the project after completion. How did the experience go for them? Was each person’s input included? Did the group stick to the norms they chose at the start of the project?

Further Reading
Designing Groupwork (Elizabeth Cohen)
Enhancing Education (Carnegie Mellon University)
Assessing Learning in Australian Universities (Centre for the Study of Higher Education)

Google Apps, Right Side Up

I offered our first Google Apps training to faculty and staff members yesterday. I was really pleased with the questions from our workshop participants:

  • How do students keep attention on their own writing while others are editing?
  • When should we use Moodle, Google, or Word?
  • What does it mean to be in the cloud?
  • How can I invite others to edit a survey?
  • When should I use the Outlook or Google calendar?
  • How can I subscribe to the Catlin Gabel calendar in Google Apps?
  • Could students use Docs for lab reports?
  • How can I edit our daily bulletin from home?
  • What security and privacy issues exist?

We are launching Google Apps primarily as a collaboration platform, not necessarily a replacement for our Office productivity suite and Moodle course management system. It will be the obvious choice when people want to work on a project together and a less obvious choice for online file storage, personal calendaring, and class websites. I have tried to keep the focus on learning and operations management rather than the tool itself, and so far the approach is working.

Moodle 2.1 – Google Apps Integration

I installed the fine Google integration plugins for Moodle today. We are only interested in single sign-on and repository integration, so I did not tackle the GMail block or user synchronization. The Moodle instruction page is excellent. The related Moodle discussion forum is also good. The corresponding Google Code page is out of date for Moodle 2.0.

It took me a while to navigate the git repository and download the latest packages. I learned to click “snapshot” to download actual files I wanted from a portion of the tree. Generating certificates and configuring the Moodle and Google single sign-on settings went quickly.

We are using Google Apps Directory Sync to create user accounts on Google Apps. That way, any teacher, staff member, or student with an AD account automatically gets a Google Apps account. Our Moodle installation only creates user accounts the first time that the user logs into Moodle.

We have a few small issues to resolve. Redirects do not always work, so that it is more convenient to start at Moodle and then go to Google Apps than the other way around. We need to modify the terms of service to account for student users and the “binding contract” requirement. Also, the account conflict data migration feature fails on login at the moment. That is, users who have a personal Google account with their school email address cannot automatically migrate that data into their school Google Apps account.

Here is more information about the data migration question. Will you let me know if you have encountered it before? When a user has a personal Google account using the institution’s email address, Google presents the user with options to resolve the conflict. One option is to migrate data from the personal account to the institutional account. The process fails at this step when it attempts to auth via Moodle SSO. The error is “Notice: Undefined index: RelayState in /home/web/inside/html/moodle/auth/gsaml/auth.php on line 295.” When the user returns to Google, the message appears “The required response parameter RelayState was missing.”

Next week, I will hold two trainings to orient the first batch of interested users to Google Apps. We will focus on Docs, Calendar, Maps, Sites, and YouTube. It will be exciting to enable teachers and staff to take advantage of the new collaboration features we will now have! We had considerable use of Apps last year without a domain. I anticipate a lot more use with everyone on the same system and some schoolwide communications on the topic.