Monday, January 23, 2012

Google Apps For Education And Blogger

Some technology is hard to test in advance, especially when it is "outside" what the Campus supports.  Going into this semester, I "thought" that while Blogger wasn't part of the Google Apps set of applications, students could access Blogger using their Campus Gmail address.  I thought I read that somewhere a couple of years ago. (Who knows if I read it or not?  Memory and wishing it were so have merged so much for me at this point.)  But in a quick search for this today, I found this from Helen Barrett of ePortfolio fame, which conveys to me that the same login and password for Google Apps should work for Blogger. 

I'm requiring that my students blog this semester.  And I suggested that they use Blogger, though I did offer the alternative that the students use the class Moodle site so only class members get to see the posts.  One student opted for that.  A different student said that Blogger would not accept their Campus login and password, though the student can access Gmail that way.  I will have to verify that.  If it is really true, it is a limitation in using Google Apps for instruction.

I've been told that the contract with Google allows for faculty access of Google Apps, but given the big push here on Unified Communications, the Campus has not yet rolled out the service, so I can't test this myself.  However, even if it did I wonder if it still would be better to use my own Gmail account.  I don't know, for example, whether the Campus account remains active even when I'm not teaching for them.  And while I've got not intentions at present to teach elsewhere, the possibility exists.  My prof.arvan account has YouTube and Google Docs content that could readily be used for instruction elsewhere.  People around the globe access that content now.

On Campus media specialists want instructors to use Campus supported applications for branding reasons.  There is some point to that view.  But lots of instructors are adjuncts and there are also faculty without tenure who might end up at another university in the not too distant future.  How would they best be served?  If they used a Campus Google Apps account, can they readily port the content if necessary to do so?

Blogger does integrate completely with regular Gmail accounts.  So from the instructor's point of view it is unclear to me what the advantage is in teaching using the Campus account.  I do see the advantage in student's using this account - particularly so that instructors know who they are.  The Campus provides students with a NetID that is unique at the Campus level.  It need not be unique globally, however.  A personal Gmail address that does not relate to the Campus NetID makes it harder for the instructor to identify the students.  Many students have figured this out and have personal Gmail that clearly identifies them.  It's a discretionary matter to them. In small classes, that's fine.  In very large classes, however, where there can be a handful of outliers, that would create a nightmare.

I should also note that at the Campus level we never embraced ePortfolio applications, not because we were opposed to them at an intellectual level, but rather because it would have been an additional resource commitment, one we could ill afford.  I don't know what the specialists in this area think now about blogs as ePortfolios, but students might come to this on their own if they were exposed to blogging in classes early on.  It's something to ponder.


Kassissieh said...

Our fifth grade students use Blogger with their school-provided Apps accounts. Aside from logging in, integration provides no additional integration features. Your Apps administrator has the ability to enable or disable blogger for students. One downside: students still have to send you their blog URLs. There is no automatic index as exists for Google Sites.

Lanny Arvan said...

Thanks for the observations. What seems like no benefit for you is rather a large issue from my perspective. The question here is whether the campus sanctions the use --- for instruction, for student organization use, perhaps for instructors to publish updates about their research, and for other such purposes. It will probably be a couple of years before that decision comes front and center.

One aim in my class is for students to comment on the work of other students. So I have the student blogs accessible from the sidebar of the main blog. They certainly need to send me the addresses of their blog, to get that set up.

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