Almost all online tools and web applications not to mention blogs require you to register an account or at least give an email address before you can use them fully. This causes a problem when you want to use one of these services with pupils and they either don’t have their own email addresses or you don’t want them to use their own addresses for whatever reason.
Google Mail provides one option to work around this. If you don’t know anything about Google Mail, it is one of a number of web applications that are provided by Google and are free to use. Google Mail is an email account and webmail program (a bit like hotmail or yahoo mail). Google Mail has several advantages including a large amount of storage space (several gigabytes) and advanced search and filtering capabilities, making it easy to find messages. It is free and straightforward to sign up for a Google Mail account and you can sign up for as many different accounts as you want.
Google Mail is useful in overcoming the requirement for lots of email accounts because once you have signed up for an email address, for example email@example.com, you then get more than just the user name ‘mrtdolan’. You can add a ‘+’ to the username and then anything after it and it will be delivered to the same account. So email sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org would all end up in the same place. Although Google Mail treats these as the same account, anywhere else they would be considered different addresses and so could be used separately to sign up for a service multiple times.
For example, say you were setting up a class blog and you wanted each student to have their own login so you could keep track of who wrote what. You could set up a new google account (e.g. email@example.com) and then use varations on that address to sign all your pupils up to the blog, e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, etc.
Obviously there are always issues to consider when using online tools with students where they have to register for accounts, but by following careful procedures, only using first names, not requiring them to use their own email and having clear rules and guidelines it is possible to make the most of some of the great tools out there.
You can find out more about Google Mail and sign up for an account at mail.google.co.uk