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Why don't my Google Docs work?

Earlier this calendar year, Google made a change to the way their services are provided to their users. The change requires that in order to use Google Docs users must also have full access to Gmail. It took us some time to track this problem down, but it is now well documented. I do not see Google reversing their position on this requirement so if we want students to have access to Google Docs, we would have to allow them to access Gmail as well.

The district has for many years blocked access to web-based e-mail both as a way to enforce the provision of the AUP that prohibits students from using unmoderated e-mail and as a way to keep students focused on instruction. In recent years, we have looked for solutions that would provide students access to e-mail while maintaining the teacher supervision mandated by the AUP and desired by so many teachers for classroom management purposes. Many schools now use ePals for this purpose. ePals provides our students with what many would describe as a "walled garden" solution. It simulates many of the concepts of e-mail for our students without exposing them to the open world of e-mail exchange.

Our district has pursued a "walled garden" approach to other types of Web 2.0 tools as well. Our use of Moodle has been primarily driven by teachers' desire to encourage students to collaborate electronically. Many teachers are now using Edmodo as a social networking tool. The educational technology community has viewed these separate systems with skepticism. Although many districts such as ours are using them, many educators believe that our students need the authentic experience of the real world tool instead of the closed environment that the separate solutions provide. The answer probably lies somewhere in the middle with a separate environment for younger students transitioning to a real world experience for older students.
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