8:20 pm Google
Google being the behemoth that it is means that it is constantly under attack from many forms of spam. Newsgroups (Google Groups) get flooded with ads for Nike shoes, their email servers are pummeled with spam (hooray for good spam filters!), and when it comes to user creation for services like GMail, lots of bogus accounts.
So, one thing Google does to fight back is cap the number of Google accounts that can be created from one location in a short amount of time. This prevents someone from maliciously creating lots and lots and lots of accounts from one computer. Unfortunately for those of us in education, this means that we can’t have our entire class sign up for Google accounts all at once. Yes, we can have them create accounts t home, but it certainly would be nice to have total control over when and where the accounts were created.
Both Delsie and I ran into this problem and it got me to thinking about using Google Apps. Simply put Google Apps are all the key Google web applications (Mail, Docs, Calendar, etc.), setup so that you can use your own domain for email and have control over user accounts. You can create accounts individually or in big groups with spreadsheets. At first I didn’t think it was going to be worth the hassle for SJA, but then I remembered it can ONLY help tech integration to make easier from step 1. If some students can’t create Google accounts when everyone else already has these, they can’t do anything. So, I went ahead and setup Google Apps for the stjlabs.com domain.
This is what I’ve learned so far:
1) The setup process is pretty dang easy. You fill out the form, verify you own the domain, tweak some domain settings, and you’re all set. Overall the whole process took me less than an hour, although Google is fond of telling you at stages that certain things can take up to 48 hours.
2) You can verify you own the domain by placing some html code in a specific place or by editing your domain’s CNAME record. I used the HTML code and it took Google about 15 minutes to confirm that I controlled the domain.
3) Modifying my domain’s setting to handle the GMail system wasn’t that easy, but it wasn’t that hard. All I did was go to my web host’s support system and search for “Google Apps”. Sure enough there was a wiki page and many threads in their forum to guide my way. Sidenote: Site5.com, the host for this site, has been FANTASTIC. I needed to email them to get one last thing setup and their support staff emailed me back with a solution in less than 5 minutes. Cool beans. (I’m going to post more later next week about web hosts.)
4) I decided the best way to setup a slick domain pointer was to setup the google.stjlabs.com sub domain. I set this sub domain to point to the main login page for the Google Apps setup.
5) The dashboard control panel for Google Apps is, as you’d expect, simple, clean, and to the point. Here’s what it looks like (click to enlarge):
6) You can set Google Apps to three different share settings. One setting is to allow all users to share their work with anyone in the domain our outside the domain. The second is to allow users to share outside the domain but be prompted with a warning when they try to do so. The third is open sharing with now warning. This is pretty cool because Google Apps could be setup for schools that don’t want their students to be able to share outside the school site.
7) You can customize the launch page (What I’ve setup at google.stjlabs.com) quite easily.
This is just what I’ve discovered in a couple hours of usage — I’m sure I’ll have more to say in the coming weeks as I run the system through its paces in my classes and in others.
Teachers: If you’d like me to set you up with an administrator account, let me know.
ps. In case you want more info about Google Documents (our primary reason for using Google Apps) check out this YouTube video.
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