iPads can email photos, PDF’s and a few other file types. This makes it possible to email items from student iPads to teacher email accounts. It is fairly straightforward to add a single email account to each student iPad. In fact, you probably already have an account that you used to register the iPads iTunes account. The problem is that every email will appear to have come from the same sender.

It’s possible to set up an iPad account so that each email will appear to have come from the device from which it was sent. In this blog, I’m going to explain how to adjust an iPad’s email settings to make that happen. I’ll also show you how to shut down the iPad’s inbox and finally how to monitor the emails that students send out.

To make this work, I recommend choosing “other”. You’ll see later why this is important.

When adding a mail account, you’ll always be asked for both a name and a description. The description is just for you, so it doesn’t matter what you put on that line. The name is for whoever is going to be receiving an email from that account, though. So, on the first iPad, you would enter the name “iPad #1”, or “Washington High iPad #1”.

The recipient of any email coming from that device will see that name in the from section of the email. This way, you can be sure of knowing the origin of anything sent out from one of the schools’ devices. You can rest assured that any prank email can easily be tracked down to the student who signed out the device using the date stamp and the name on the email.

The next step is to make sure your students don’t get access to the iPad account’s inbox. When you first set up an email account on an iPad, the device is supposed to start showing you any emails you’ve received. Normally, that’s exactly what you want. In this case however, you want each iPad to send email but not recieve it. This is going to take two steps.

First, delete the account password and enter in something random. This is going to prevent the iPad from receiving any emails from this account.

Second, enter in the account username and password in the “Outgoing Mail Server” section. That will give the iPad the ability to send mail through the iPad email account.

The last step is going to allow you to monitor the emails that students send out. In the student iPad email settings, turn on “Always Bcc Myself”. This the only way you’ll be able to keep a record of which email was sent from which device. While you do have the sent folder in the email account you set up, that cannot tell you from which device it came. That bit of information is only going to be recorded if the student account receives a copy of the email. Be careful here. In many cases, you’ll have a email account quota. If you have hundreds of students emailing from these devices, you’ll reach that quota pretty quickly. It would be wise to get an account with a substantial quota limit like Gmail.*

That’s it. You should now have a set of devices that can send out pictures, PDF’s and other items while still being relatively secure.


Digital content distribution and collection

One of the basic decisions any educator has to make is how get materials (notes, handouts, lectures) to students and how to get assessments (tests, homework, projects) from them. Here, I’m going to write about two general technology options and then talk about two specific products.

Two general options

One of easiest and most simple ways to work with digital material is a website. The most basic sites simply consist of lesson plans and contact information. Just a little more work will produce a site with a class calendar and homework downloads.  
Make a site for free:
General site builders

K-12 specific

This acronym stands for “learning management system”. This is a place to store all of your course content, online assessments and interactive tools like blogs and instant messaging. It works well to track student progress and guide participants through a course. Be warned-  there’s a bit of a learning curve for instructors who have never worked with an LMS. However, once a teacher or trainer understands how to use these online tools, their students benefit tremendously.
Create an LMS for free:
Blackboard coursites- https://www.coursesites.com

Two specific products:

You won’t get anything free here. It’s popular enough and powerful enough to include it in a post that’s primarily about free resources for content distribution and collection, though.
With Gaggle, you’re going to get safe student emails, online file storage and great teaching tools. For a school district, this is going to be one of the safest ways to provide your students with email access. Emails and any attachments are filtered for inappropriate words and images. If something is caught (like “breast”), it gets sent off to a human who reads the word in context and decides to let it go through or flag it and assign consequences to the student.
One great thing about this company is that they will go into action if there is a threat to the student (think suicide, abuse or violence). They will contact authorities and get help for potential issues.
In terms of digital distribution, Gaggle is a powerhouse. They provide space to store documents of all kinds and have partnered with Zoho to allow students to work on documents together, just like Google Drive. They also provide a class calendar, assignment creation and social tools like blogs. The most interesting thing tool they have is for grading. After a student submits a document, his teacher can digitally write on it, highlight words, comment and grade that document. No need to hunt for a pen. No more worrying about papers getting lost. Its all online and works beautifully.

You need Safari to create and manage courses through iTunesU and students will only be able to access courses on iOS devices (iPads, iPods, iPhone). If you use iPads for your students, you should sign up for an account. If not, this really isn’t for you.
That being said, this is a great way to distribute your digital material. Please note that it isn’t meant to assess your students’ learning. It is only a means of providing them with fantastic learning opportunities. Some of the great features include task checklists, interactive iBooks and the ability to take notes on specific sections of videos.
Aside from being able to create beautiful, interactive and effective content, this is probably the best way to conduct lessons involving an iPad. Your students will need instructions, explanations and tasks to complete for any lesson you do. They’ll also have to be able to find the app you’ll be using. With iTunesU, you can quickly and easily create a lesson which includes all of these elements. Teachers will find it easy to use and students will have clear instructions and an engaging lesson.


More control over Google Apps... for a price

The latest Google update alert gave us the exciting news that Google Apps administrators can now define how long your various suborganizations will retain emails. You’ll be able to say that deleted teacher emails are kept for ever, but deleted student emails are only retained for a year.

This would be some very exciting news if it were free. It isn’t. You’ll need to have the Google Vault app which costs $5 per month/user. For a school, that’s pretty pricey. For now, administrators will still have to manage accounts manually.


Google’s not Narcissus after all

Google is usually seen as a selfish search giant. Common public opinion is that Google will serve up whatever is going to bring the company maximum benefit. Type in “maps” and you get Google maps; “images”, Google images; “books”, Google books. I’ve always thought that Google searches were a bit biased, though I still use them to bring me the best results.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered a hidden gem in the depths of Google’s digital interior. Try searching for “dead sea scrolls”. The top five hits have nothing to do with Google. A little more looking will reveal a couple of blog mentions on Google. Finally, you’ll notice the following link: Dead Sea Scrolls – Cultural Institute. This is a simply amazing site allowing you to read through these ancient texts without the need to study Hebrew.

While this little gem is awesome in and of itself, the implications are important. Here is a Google product with a relatively low search ranking. There is good evidence to infer that the biggest search business in the world isn’t focused totally and completely on itself.


Log on and let them mold you

Two of the most powerfully formative forces for our personalities are our memories and the people with whom we surround ourselves. Until recently, that statement would have simply referred to the stuff in your head and your neighbors. For better or worse, the internet has changed that.

First of all, many of our memories have become externalized. To-Do applications, cloud services and search histories are some of the ways in which we record information so that we don’t have to worry about storing it in our most fallible human minds. Whether you see this as a miracle or tragedy, there is no doubt its all part of our modern world. What you may not have considered are the ways in which this could mold your personality.

“This is where I come from. This is who I am.”
Let’s start with how your search history influences your future searches for information. Google (and other search companies) really want to be able to help you find what you're looking for. To do that, they track you. Got a GMail account? Youtube? Drive? I do. By their own admission, Google scans all of your emails and searches for keywords and trends. They don’t care about your dirty laundry. They want to know what kinds of results to give you. In a way, that's great, since it can help you find what you want more quickly. It’ll bias you though. People who click on left-leaning news links will get more left leaning commentary. Conspiracy theorists will get more fodder for their fantasies. Essentially, when you’re signed in, you allow Google to exaggerate some of your beliefs.

“Truth are us.”
The other issue here is that we are what our tribe tells us to be. There is great documentation that the best way to change public behavior is to convince people that everyone is already doing the thing you want them to do. When you log onto your favorite social network (Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Edmodo, etc...) you’ll be submerging yourself into the culture of that network. The trends that you notice there will drive some of your behaviors. Unless you actively oppose a way of thinking or an attitude, it will almost inevitably make its way into your psyche.

So consider staying offline for certain chunks of time, like each weekend. Spend that time reading or chatting with family. The memories you get from those experiences will serve to balance out a lot of what’s going to creep into your mind while logged in.


Blogger plus Drive = Awesome

One of the great things about Google is that it uses largely the same platform for all of it’s services (Drive, Sites and Blogger). That means that you can use one service to create your content and publish it using the other service. I’ve mentioned this before here, but I thought it was worth mentioning again.
This post was not written in Blogger, but in Google Drive where I compose all of my posts. When I’m finished, all I need to do is copy and paste everything into Blogger and hit publish. The big advantage here are the editing tools that Google provides for you in Drive that are missing in Blogger. Specifically, I can add tables, move text around easily, change line spacing and format my document in ways that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. Google drive also makes working with images a breeze.
If you’ve been using Blogger for a while and would really like to have more functionality, try creating your work in Google Drive and just using Blogger as a publisher. I think you’ll be really pleased.