As we move toward using more online learning environments and Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, forums, course management systems (Moodle, Elgg, etc) the need for student email accounts becomes obvious. Many of these applications require an active email account just to allow a user to register. Most offer teachers the ability to send email to students, either individually or as a group, enhancing communications functionality. There are, of course, many other arguments in favor.

Do any of your districts provide email accounts for students?

* Beginning in what grade?
* Does your IT dept manage them?
* Do you use a subscription service? Which one?
* How do you monitor use?
* What are there legal implications?
* Does your AUP address email?

Thanks for the feedback.

Tags: blogs, email, forums

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The teacher or district can "set the limits" for email accounts in ePals. It can be:
* classroom only (one teacher and her students)
* within the school (if set up that way in advance)
* within the district only (if set up as a district account)
* ePals SchoolMail users worldwide
* members of the ePals Global Community (more than 600,000 teachers and their students)
* anyone with an internet account.
In addition, the teacher can change the filtering levels by student or by assignment as she wishes. I live in a conservative area, so I advise teachers that if they allow "full internet" emails (for example, students writing to a scientist or author to ask questions) that they also turn to "filter level 1" -- which means that the teacher sees all incoming and outgoing email for that assignment for that student. Teachers have ultimate flexibility and control to set the limits of the communications universe and also the level of monitoring they prefer. Differentiation occurs here as elsewhere in educational assignments!
Since Sept. 2007 the ePals SchoolMail has been offered for free.
If you are interested in having students communicate with students in another country, there is automatic language translation and a huge global community as well....200 countries and territories.
The international search function is very good in ePal, but I tried to start an email exchange to Germany with my students using Gaggle and ePal did not allow the Gaggle messages to get through. To get a hold of anybody there is a challenge too. It takes for ever before you receive a canned answer for your questions. Our school district uses Gaggle and they are very flexible with allowing emails from other services to come through - your district or technology admistrator can arrange that with them. I was really dissapointed with ePals inflexiblilities and my email exchange was very, very frustrating because I had to copy and paste all the emails to my ePals account in order for the German students to recieve their answers.
we are starting a statewide pilot project with Microsft next year. its called live@edu.com They are providing it free for our state and schools to use with massive online storage capabilities and social networking components. However we at the school and district level are conserned with AUP and who will be monitoring usage and liability and legal issues. I dont have a lot of information on it because we actually wont start till August 2009 but i believe you can set up an account now for free. Microsoft is feeling the pinch from google and other social learning networks so they are trying to get into the game by reaching out to schools to get students signed up and using their product.
Shea, thanks for the information. I've heard good things about live@edu.com and it is being looked at by districts close by. We have decided on Gmail, which will run as part of our domain. We're going to use it with students (grades 6-12) and staff. We will limit the middle school kids to mail within the domain.
Our division has been using gaggle with a laptop project that we have been doing. It is really good (to begin with) you can choose your keywords and then it will send the administrator the flagged email if those words or if a combination of words are in an email. It also scans documents for those words as well, so words like murder, kill, a**, nazi all are flagged. This is not so nice when you are doing a report on WWII. You can have a different admin for each school that is involved. I will warn you that I have recieved over 500 flagged emails for a group of 60 kids. Out of those flagged emails I might have had 5 that were inappropriate. The rest are keywords that were flagged from projects that students are working on (ie. WWII). I think gaggle is a great way to start out and then once digital citizenship is created one can move to the gmail or live accounts.

Hope this helps,

Jody Watson
We use Gaggle too. I expierence the same issue with my students emails :) Another benefit from gaggle is the option for blogs and live chats with the students. You also can have a blog that has an url and it is password protected so other students who don't have a Gaggle account can comment on your blog. That is great for collaboration with another school.
I've used the free version of Gaggle in my classes before. Our district does not have an email for students, but we try to find ways around it in trainings. Most blogging platforms require email addresses. Many wiki sites do not. It's not as much of a problem in the lower grades, but when you get to middle and high school, you want that sort of control. Our district uses Zimbra as our main email client, but there are no student accounts as of yet. Epals also offers a free email system for students (last I checked). Gaggle was pretty satisfactory for me. It was a bit slow at times, but the controls and features were more than sufficient for my needs. I imagine it would work on a large scale as well.
ePals SchoolMail is indeed free. Unlike Gaggle, it doesn't have ads in the free version. (Both are for-profit companies but with a different financial structure. National Geographic is an investor in ePals and also provides some content.)

ePals also provides a pre-screened global community to communicate with. Want to do a project to "update the textbook" when studying Africa, or "ask questions beyond the textbook" when students are learning Spanish? Send a set of questions to a teacher in another school, or match up your students for pen pal projects. In the non English-speaking world, lots of teachers just want a native speaker to match their students with. China is huge market, Korea, Japan, where they are serious about learning a second language (English) starting often in gr. 1.
ePals has a worldwide presence in 200 countries and territories, with a reach of about 18 million users. That's a pretty big group to be able to communicate with safely.
ALSO look at any site you are considering to see whether they meet the standards to receive TRUSTe certification. ePals has TRUSTe certification. Gaggle doesn't. eChalk doesn't. That issue concerns a lot of tech directors. Look in lower left corner of any page in www.epals.com.
See this article from Sept. 09 ASCD journal: How to Learn in the 21st Century
I have been using ePals and like it much better than Gaggle. I have been impressed with their service and they are prompt about answering any questions I have had.

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