Friday, January 8, 2016

Making Gmail Safe for Schools

It is important for our students to effectively and appropriately communicate and collaborate with others, and email is a valuable tool, among many, to help students do this. Schools can, and should, be an ideal environment where students can learn how to communicate digitally, which is a skill they will need for the rest of their lives.

However sometimes schools can be hesitant to turn on Gmail for their students. They may worry about who students are sending email to, and who they are receiving it from. Schools may be concerned about the content of the messages as well.

Thankfully Google Apps for Education provides several tools and features to help schools provide a safer, more controlled environment for students to use Gmail. I recently did a one-hour webinar that takes a close look at these options. To learn more you can view the recorded webinar below, check out my detailed help guide and help resources, and read through the summary in the rest of the post below.

Two quick notes though…
  • First, the level of the content in the webinar and help guide does get quite advanced. You will need administrative access to your Google Apps admin console to make the changes being described.
  • Second, some of the content is mature in nature, especially my list of “bad words”. I am providing these as a helpful resource though to make it easier for schools to roll out these settings.

Video Tutorial

My Help Resources
 Help guide - "Gmail Safety and Security for Schools"  - Google Document link
 Slideshow - "Gmail Safety and Security for Schools" - Google Slides link
 Sample Objectionable Word List - Google Document link

Quick Overview

Here are some of the more common things schools are able to configure for student Gmail:
  • Custom Gmail themes can be turned off.
  • Forwarding to personal email accounts can be disabled.
  • A bad word list can be enabled and emails with matching words can be rejected, modified, or quarantined.
  • Email can be limited to and from certain domains, such as allowing student to only send email within your school, or just with another school they are collaborating with.
  • Email can be limited to and from certain student groups, such as just within buildings or just within grade levels. For example you may choose not to allow 12th graders to email 1st graders.
  • Students can be blocked from sending email to your email distribution lists (your Google Groups) including groups they are members of themselves (such as a group with all middle school students).
  • Google Vault can be used to search and retrieve emails from any user in the domain, even if that user has deleted the email from their account.

And all of these rules and features can be adjusted differently for different grade levels. For example a school may want to give more email privileges for high school students than for elementary students.

With Google Apps schools have the tools to customize Gmail to best meet the needs of their students, while providing a safe environment where they can learn to responsibly use digital communication and be encouraged to collaborate with others. Now there’s no reason we can’t say to our students, “You’ve got mail!”

Post by Eric Curts. Bring me to your school, organization, or conference with over 50 PD sessions to choose from. Connect with me on Twitter at and on Google+ at