My district is about to switch to using First Class email. The process of getting people to move from QuickMail to FirstClass is a long and arduous one. The techies have switched first. Next come the adminstrators and their secretaries. Finally, next year the teachers will come on board.
I'm wondering why we are spending all this money for an e-mail system that isn't very easy to use, lacks a lot of functionality and requires a lot of training. We could get everyone to open a gmail account for free. Along with their e-mail, we could get them using google docs, and set them up with a reader. Can someone explain to me why school systems don't do this? Do you know of any school systems that are using gmail or yahoo mail?

Tags: email, gmail, google

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I know in our division, emails are logged because they may be monitored by administrators and may be required later as evidence in court cases, or under the Freedom of Information Act since we're government employees. We actually have an email guidelines document that we're supposed to follow, and using Gmail or something like it for school communications would mean the admin had no control over it.

I'm curious, though; in searching for the requirement I've heard we have to log emails, I'm not turning anything up. Can someone either support or refute this reason that we're given for having to use school email accounts?
Good question Elizabeth - I 've used the FirstClass system and every user I know would rather not use it. It has been around for some time and has many add on features in an attempt to modernize itself. It has collaboration features built in that at are difficult to use, and web and blog features that are difficult to use. Most of the free blogs and gmail, as you said, are quite easy to use, not to mention being at no cost. My school uses GroupWise. My thoughts ...
I agree, I think it is about being able to monitor and archive people's e-mail. First class is pretty expensive per user account. Think how much better use we could make of that money! All so they can play big brother.
You can still bypass using gmail, which is what I do currently. Go into your gmail settings and click the accounts tab. You can then add your school account to your gmail. Gmail will then fetch the email for you, much like outlook, and you can even send through your school address using gmail. it's dead simple and nobody will even know you're doing it. it even helps you avoid "read reciepts" and other annoying features that administrators like to use against the faculty.

I like it so much that I am working on getting a gmail address for the entire local association. They offer them free for nonprofits as well as education. Everyone gets their own email account with our association name as the domain. The best part, there's nothing that the admins can do about it.
When you use gmail, it retrives the message from the server for you, much like outlook does. Because of this, people using outlook can't tell if you read it or not because it has been opened off the network's servers.

Gmail may still be able to retrive the messages even if it is blocked by your browser firewall. Then you just need to read it at home. I began using gmail as a backup system. My school email storage is pitiful and I needed a bigger filing system.
I started using gmail like you are, then thought better of it. There are many implications to taking your school information and putting someplace your administration doesn't want, or know about. Especially if it is relating to students. I finally decided I didn't want that personal liability. I personally wouldn't suggest anyone do this without permission from IT staff or admin.

Be Careful.
Greg,

I have to diagree with you. If you check your work email from anywhere off campus, and i don't know anyone who doesn't, then you're exposing information in the same way. The only reasons i would avoid doing this would be if the district had a solid written policy expressly prohibiting it or if the district had a robust and user friendly system. Otherwise, i think that we all have the right to use the tools that we need to better facilitate our teaching.
I work in Maine where many schools use First Class. It is a strange tool, but with the latest upgrades has a lot of functionality for schools. These are a few:

Quick and easy teacher webpages (with built in podcasting)
Webserver built in
Nice collaboration and conferencing - with the ability to make anything available on the web
Easy to setup groups and lists
Form builder with workflow capabilities
Archiver - as mentioned above

I am a number one open source advocate - but this is a tool that we continue to support as teachers find it easy and educationally sound.
Cynical answer: the students need separate school and personal email accounts so the important stuff (party invites, smutty jokes, gossip about friends) doesn't get diluted by unimportant stuff like homework reminders and timetable updates.
We used First Class at my previous school and I have to say that I loved it. The features beyond e-mail are wonderful communications tools. Teachers created conferences to which they posted class notes and resources. We used shared calendars to indicate when projects were due and when tests were being given. We were only allowed 2 tests/projects per day so teachers could look at the shared calendar and know when other teachers were giving major assignments. Teachers created chat rooms within First Class and had their students communicating via chats. Every student had an e-mail account (I should note here that it was a relatively small, private school so much easier to manage) and there was a common parent log-in so that parents could see calendars and information that was pertinent to them. We had a conference setup for homework assignments and homework was posted there. Parents could use their log-in to see homework calendars, tests calendars, and all school calendars. Whenever a student said, "I lost the handout you gave use the other day," it was common practice for the teacher to respond by saying, "It's posted in First Class." Gmail certainly does do much of this, but it is less secure.
We created documents that were only visible to teachers and we used them to create a dialogs about student progress. I think once you give it a shot, provided you have good training, you will love it.
I think it's exactly what Jeremy said. I wanted to use Ning.com with my staff this year and wasn't allowed to. Our administration wants and needs to have control over what is put on the internet. At first frustrated, when it was explained to me I completely agreed. Unfortunately we hear too often teachers crossing professional lines they shouldn't and getting into trouble. The last thing Teachers need right now is negative press. IMO.

Bottom line, it's about the kids security, not the teachers ease of use. If school email isn't as great as what it could be, it's more important that it's secure.

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