School Emails: Why every school needs it

May 28, 2018

I can remember sitting in a staff meeting in 2012 when the principal announced that all teachers will get a school email account. There was an almost confused silence and then somebody asked the question that was on everybody’s minds. Why? We all have an email address, why would we need another one?

Six years on, we can no longer image a school where every teacher and learner does not have access to school emails.

Advantages of school email accounts

Since that meeting in 2012, we have come a long way, and if you ask any teacher now, they will tell you that they cannot imagine how we ever managed without it.

  • Our Gmail accounts gave us access to G-Suite for Education which sparked a whole movement towards using more technology in the classroom. Six years later and we are now a complete 1-to-1 school and can’t imagine not having access to Google Classroom.
  • Every person, both staff and learners, in the school can now be reached via email.
  • It changed the way we communicated. All-Call announcements have been replaced with a daily email containing all the announcements. Having email groups also make it easier to get information to any group in the school.
  • At the start of the year teachers no longer have to waste time reading of a timetable to learners, they just email it to learners.
  • Since all the email accounts are standardised, it is easy to work out what somebody’s email address is.
  • Learners have learned how to communicate with teachers via email.

Email has changed the way we communicate, here are some tips to prevent your Inbox from becoming your boss.

Keeping your private life private

But the question still stands: Why do you need a second email account? If everybody already has an email account, isn’t that enough?

For a start, having a work email account is more professional. Teachers often complain that they are not treated like professionals, but no professional will ever send you a work email from their personal account. Having a standardised email with a signature at the bottom just gets taken more seriously.

Once you start using your computer more often for teaching, you will also realise the value of keeping your private life private, or in this case your private email private. With cookies and targeted advertising, an email address is no longer just an email, but rather a record of who you are and what you are interested in. Do you really want an ad for the shoes you were looking at online last night, to pop up in the middle of your lesson? The other side is also true, you are going to use your email account, to sign up for a number of apps and programmes for your class, no reason to give out your personal email every time.

Separating your personal and professional emails also give you more control over who can intrude in your private time. While I do access my school emails on my phone, I do not allow it to push notifications from my work emails. So when I am at home, or on holiday, work emails don’t get my attention.

But there is also a big consideration from the school’s side. Lots of important and often confidential information gets shared with teachers via email. Once a teacher leaves the school, you no longer want them to have access to that information. If you send that type of information to a private email account, you have no control over how it anymore. Sticking to a school an account for email pertaining to the school means that when a teacher leaves, they no longer have access to the confidential emails.

How to manage school emails?

The first thing the school should do is decide on naming conventions. We decided that all teacher’s email addresses will be name.surname@school.co.za and learner’s email addresses will be surname.name@school.co.za. This had the advantage that at first glance you know whether an email comes from a learner or a teacher. It had the added advantage that a when you sort a list of email accounts alphabetically it will be similar to your class list.

When we got our school emails, everybody linked their personal and school accounts. Learn from us. DO NOT DO THIS!! Linking your accounts has the advantage that you only have to look in one place for emails, but you lose almost all the benefits of having a school account, and you add a massive amount of confusion. You cannot read your personal emails without being interrupted by work, confidential information still gets shared with personal accounts, and everybody gets frustrated by “Request for access”. Since Google files are shared with a specific account, you will have no access from your personal account if it was shared with your school account and most of the time you will not know which account you are working on.

The best way to deal with multiple email accounts is to create two separate Chrome profiles. Each profile has its own homepage, bookmarks and extensions. When I am at school, I do not even open my personal account. That way my school things are all together and my personal information stay private.

Where to start to get school emails

The best news is that getting email accounts for everybody in the school does not need to involve a lost of expenses. To be honest it can be done for free. The most common options are G-Suite for Education provided by Google which is completely free for schools, or Office 365 for Education by Microsoft, which is also free. Just keep in mind that Office 365 for Education includes access to Office online, but not the desktop versions.

Before you make a decision between these options, you should do your research. Each product has its advantages and disadvantages, but it will have a significant influence on the direction technology integration in the school will take.

If you have read some of my other blog posts you will not be surprised that my suggestion is to go Google. While Microsoft has made huge leaps in catching up when it comes to education, they still do not offer everything G-Suite for Education offers schools and teachers. If you would like more information on signing your school up as a G-Suite school, send me a message and I will bring you in contact with the right people.

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