GMailed

The past couple of weeks has brought about some major changes to way we are administering our email and calendering systems within our school. We have taken the step to switch our email over from being administered on our own server to the convenience and power of the mighty Google.

The switch happened seamlessly, only requiring a phone call to Inspire to change our MX records to point to Google not to our school’s server. Everything else was completed online, and once Inspire flicked the switch over our Gmail was up and running within a couple of hours once the domain name change had propagated around the globe. After Google had authenticated us as an educational institute, which took about 10 days, we were upgraded to the Education Edition and now have add free services, more comprehensive admin features and the ability to create and manage 100’s of users, all for zero cost. It is very easy to administer the services and like any Google product, there are discussion forums on any conceivable problem you may encounter.

The change has meant some new learning for staff as they have shifted from using Apple’s Mail, to the web based Gmail. Email addresses have remained the same. Those already using Gmail welcomed the transition but others, as with anything new, questioned the need to do it. Managing this change is always the key to making it work.

So why did we change? Here are some of the key reasons.

  • Google apps becomes a one stop shop for school admin. Our existing set-up was a mish mash of systems that meant going to a variety of places to view calendars, check email, shared contacts, chat, video conference, book facilities etc. Google apps gives us that under one log in.
  • Anytime anywhere access. While previously available, the ease of the new system makes the old method seem very clunky.
  • Collaboration! Collaboration! Collaboration! The Google Apps package is built around the notion of sharing, participation and working together.

The one disappointment I have with the Google Apps package is that Google Reader is not part of the service. To access this, you needs to have a separate Google account. Having Reader as part of this service would really make it the hub for all your professional learning network needs. I would also love to see Google’s Custom Search function put in the package.

The biggest challenge I can see is the dependence of staff on using Word or Pages to create documents and then emailing them as attachments to the recipients. While there will always be a need to do this, a huge amount of this documentation can more simple be shared with users. This is a huge change in thinking and approaching how information is shared and worked on among multiple users. Something to keep modeling throughout the school.

5 thoughts on “GMailed

  1. The problem though is when the internet fails you and some idiot runs over the cable and you need your stuff and you are cut off from it. As happened today.

  2. @AllanahK

    This is not really a problem at all. Both GMail and Google Docs both utilise the power of Google Gears which enables automatic syncing of both email and all your documents for offline use. This works without a hitch. You can access everything offline, edit, compose emails etc. which automatically sync next time you are connected. Google gears is a separate download but once you have it, it is a piece of cake to set up offline access.

  3. Hey Nick,

    Watch out for the ‘Add This’ feature for adding in gadgets to the start page for users. MANY are inappropriate.

    You can disable the start page while you wait for the 5 day switchover to be able to whitelist those gadgets that are approp.

    Email me if you want the link for this information.

    Rob

  4. Hi Nick

    Good to see a school do this and post about it. It is something I have been comtemplating for our school. It would be great if you could post an update or two in the coming weeks and months with your experiences. In particular things you have learnt about the service and issues around adpotion.

    Ben

  5. @Ben
    Hi Ben,
    Thanks for the comment. Will be posting updates over the next few months or so as we progressively implement more features. Had a PD session with staff last week and need to blog some thoughts about this soon.

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