One year into a plan to provide students with Office 365 email accounts, staff members at Georgetown Independent School District (ISD) were running out of ways to get a pilot program started. What seemed like a natural fit to extend staff email on Office 365 to students had become a project that seemingly had no end.
“I think teachers are always more comfortable with students using the same tools that they’re familiar with,” said Mary Mitchem, the district’s Systems Analyst. “We had been on Office 365 for a couple of years, so when it was finally time to provide students with email, we chose to continue down that path.”
To help get things going, Georgetown ISD hired a consultant who specializes in Office 365. While the consultant understood the Microsoft product, the school district wasn’t convinced that Office 365 could meet the needs of students.
“We were trying to implement all of these rules; everything from bad language filtering to locking kids down, prohibiting who students could email and who could email them,” said Mary. “It’s a great product, but it’s just not designed for student safety, it’s designed for professionals.”
Throughout the yearlong process, Kim Garcia, the district’s Educational Technology Coordinator, also had concerns about giving email to students without the proper safeguards. That’s when she learned about Gaggle Safety Management for Office 365, which provides behind-the-scenes content analysis and review to ensure students can use Office 365 safely and appropriately.
Marcie Lindsey and Mike Sprinkel, district educational technologists, were tasked with launching the pilot, which included a small number of teachers at all grade levels. “We chose teachers who would be dedicated to making sure the pilot went well,” said Marcie.
After waiting a year to get the program off the ground, the school district saw very fast adoption, including the use of email for assignments and teaching lessons in digital citizenship. “Gaggle is a huge plus for the teachers,” said Mike. “There’s nothing for them to do and they can integrate the use of email knowing that their students are safe.”
The staff at Georgetown ISD is also quick to point out some additional benefits of working with Gaggle, including the frequent updates to its technology. “Without Gaggle, we’d have to review the bad language words and try to keep up with the new and interesting ways kids say things,” said Kim.
Now that student email is gaining traction throughout Georgetown ISD, the goal is to roll out student email to the entire district, which is made easier by the ability to create different settings at both the school and grade level as well as restricting user access to just inside the school domain. The district also hopes to extend its use of Gaggle Safety Management to reviewing files in OneDrive and take advantage of the built-in email archiving options included with Gaggle Safety Management for Office 365.