District assigns Google accounts to teachers and students to comply with privacy standards, brings…

District assigns Google accounts to teachers and students to comply with privacy standards, brings tech into classroom

By Ophir Cohen-Simayof

Originally published on October 3, 2014

Illustration by Stephen Xie.

This summer, SFUSD assigned new Google mail accounts to all teachers and students to comply with federal standards of privacy.

As classrooms incorporate online technology more often, students and teachers had previously used personal gmail accounts to access educational apps, such as Google Drive and Google Docs. However, since personal accounts do not meet the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act’s (FERPA) and the Common Core’s standards of privacy, the district gave students and teachers district specific accounts. “This is so that teachers are not emailing out student grades or inadvertently emailing out private information,” Chair of Lowell Technology Committee and chemistry teacher Bryan Marten said.

“We wanted to provide a tool to be able to be proficient with it, but some teachers decide not to use it.”

Since SFUSD controls every aspect of the account, the new Google Accounts are more secure than normal ones, according to SFUSD Supervisor of Educational Technology Michele Dawson. “The environment is secure, meaning that we can control on a centralized level what students can or cannot do,” Dawson said. “The agreement is that all of our privacy rights and data belongs and are the property of SFUSD.”

SFUSD students from preschool to 12th grade can keep all their information and work in their new district accounts. “That is another thing that we are so excited about, because now you have this electronic portfolio that follows you through your time in SFUSD,” Dawson said. “You will never lose your documents or information.”

Besides offering more security, the accounts offer Google Apps for Education, which includes Google Classroom, a new educational storage app that allows students access to their classroom materials and assignments wherever there is internet.

Along with convenience and mobility, SFUSD hopes that Google Classrooms will bring new teamwork opportunities that allow for simultaneous, real-time writing and editing among multiple users. “The reason we got Google Apps for Education was because of the collaborative tools that allow students to interact together,” Dawson said.

“It is revolutionary, and it is going to change the way schools operate.”

In August, SFUSD sent over 130 teachers from the district to media classroom events at Google to teach teachers how to operate Google Apps for Education. “We are trying to build capacity,” Dawson said. “We wanted teachers to become proficient with the tools, but it is not mandated that they use it.”

Despite the new contract and its benefits, not all Lowell teachers use Google Classrooms. For some, Google Classrooms create issues with organization and efficiency, such as making it difficult to locate student rosters and assignments, according to Life science teacher Mark Wenning. “Google Classrooms is a time sink,” Wenning said. “It is harder to use Google Classroom, because the screen and settings are so spaced out. Whereas on regular Google Drive, it looks really nice as a compact display on your screen.”

Though it does have its glitches, other teachers find Google Classroom useful. “Google Classrooms just came out, so it is not perfect,” English teacher Samantha Yu said. “But I always use it. I think the interface is really simple, and it is nice that it only a takes a click of a button to pass out digital assignment instantly.”

SFUSD hopes that all teachers will take advantage of this new technology, as it is what the future of learning looks like. “This workflow is huge,” Dawson said. “It is revolutionary, and it is going to change the way schools operate.”