Gaggle Speaks

Ideas, news, and advice for K-12 educators and administrators to help create safe learning environments.

Written by Corey Tutewiler
on March 22, 2017

Last week, Google announced that users will have the ability to access Google Classroom from personal accounts, as well as from accounts on entirely separate G Suite for Education domains. G Suite for Education administrators can already see updated Classroom settings that provide new controls over who can join classes.

Initially, it looks like this change was made with higher education specifically in mind, due to the greater prevalence of university partnerships, abroad studentships, virtual classrooms and other multi-site programs. This will obviously benefit a handful of K-12 environments as well, especially those with students who, for one reason or another, participate in classes or programs at schools or districts on separate G Suite for Education domains.

Moreover, Google’s decision is quite unsurprising given historical precedent. It generally champions openness and possibility over closure and restriction in order to benefit the greatest number of possible customers. Historically, we’ve also supported openness and possibility when it comes to student communications by speaking out against the walled-garden approach to student safety.

Seeing as how our focus at Gaggle is on protecting the lives of students, I spoke with our System Support Manager, Jason Livezey, about the potential issues this could pose for K-12 schools and districts. Here is what you need to consider as an educator or administrator before opening the doors of your Google Classroom to personal accounts and accounts on separate G Suite domains:

Is your school or district liable for the data in personal accounts and responsible for archiving them?

This is not a question that I can answer for you, but it is a question you need to ask. It’s best posed to the legal counsel for your school or district, because you might have special considerations that need to be taken into account (either in your data retention policy or from local or state governance).

If you allow student teachers, mentors or other individuals to use personal accounts in your organization, it’s very possible that you will need to find some means to archive their data. Fortunately, any email communications or shared files involving members of your organization will be archived, assuming you already have an archiving service in place for those Organizational Units (OUs). You will not, however, archive communications between multiple external accounts that have been added to classrooms or any data that they don’t directly share with users in your organization.

Are you comfortable with the lack of visibility/access into personal accounts and accounts on a separate G Suite for Education domain?

You currently have the ability to drill into Gmail and Google Drive for users in your organization, and this can be greatly helpful when you need to perform an investigation into a reported or disputed matter, whether legal or not. It’s worthwhile to consider the negative aspects of losing this privilege for personal accounts or accounts from a separate domain. We recommend, as a best practice, to work this consideration into your acceptable use policy, any end-user agreements and even into agreements with schools or districts with which you have a partnership.

These are just two of my concerns regarding Google’s newly added features that allow personal accounts and accounts on separate G Suite for Education domains to have access to your classes. Be sure to comment here or tag us on Twitter at @Gaggle_K12 if you have additional concerns of your own.

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