Why Student Email?

I just recently setup up Google Apps + Moodle single sign on. Now that we can provide email to all students, should we?

Why Student Email?

  • Students need email in order to practice electronic communication.
  • Our tech plan says we will teach students about electronic communication.
  • Almost all modern workers have a work email.
  • All universities provide a student email (Most require students to use the student email for school business and require the student to check the official student email with a certain frequency).
  • Almost all students get personal email at some point (some classes require students to have an email address).

Why Not Student Email?

  • Students could misuse the email (bullying, attaching malicious files)
  • Students could get SPAM
  • Concern about liability (proving nexus becomes easier when it is a school provided system)
  • Parental choice (we might consider opting out kids, just as we have certain parents opt out of student work/photos online)

How I Think We Should Approach The Issue

  • We know kids are sometimes misusing electronic communication now outside of school.
  • Instead of saying “Whew, glad that is not our problem because it’s not on our system” we should be looking to educate the kids.
  • We have an “educational nexus” with electronic communication.
  • However, just because we provide it and expect it to be used does not mean we need to monitor all messages (we don’t not screen every note children write in their binder paper).
  • We need to teach kids to report cyber bullying and save copies of emails that disturb/threaten them.
  • We need to talk to parents about the role electronic communication plays in education (think about the importance of parent-teacher email, shouldn’t students start learning about self advocacy via email?)
  • We need to create an AUP that says very clearly that if an incident does happen using our email system we are not responsible (we are responsible for educating about email use but not for monitoring student email messages).
  • The alternative is to be hypocritical-to expect students to have email and to use it in instruction, but to not provide it out of fear.
  • The other alternative is to not provide email and not push the use of student email in instruction, which means our students miss out on a chance to use these tools in an academic setting.

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2 Responses to “Why Student Email?”

  1. Stehpan says:

    Email is great for students, but instead of using a 3rd party like Gmail, Yahoo, or MSN. There are a number of open source mail server solutions, as well as built in Linux solutions that can be used specific for the organization and can be monitored / controlled more easily (I believe). Also, the student would get an email address specific to their organization. I’ve been thinking about it for our project since a lot of underserved kids don’t have email addresses.

  2. Tom Clifford says:

    E-mail is becoming an essential tool of communication. Students use e-mail a lot, to their teachers and increasingly to members of the community. Providing them with an e-mail account (especially a carmelhigh.org domain) increases the legitimacy of the message. When a professor receives an e-mail from poohbearluver@gmail.com, she might not take it as seriously from our own domain.

    I think the “something bad could happen” is a shallow argument. Students can write bad messages with paper and pencils. Recently a CHS staff member was stabbed with a pencil. But we don’t take these tools away from students. And why not? We don’t because the benefits of paper and pencils far exceed the damage caused by something bad happening. The same is true with e-mail. Yes spam and flame e-mails are possible, but the benefits of e-mail far outweigh these concerns. Further, the “something bad could happen argument” overlooks the fact that kids already have e-mail accounts, which they use daily during the day for both school and personal business. Providing them with an account gives us greater oversight on student e-mails rather then none at all which we have currently.

    There may be a couple of parents who wouldn’t want their children to have an e-mail account, although outside of the Amish, I’m not sure what their reasons might be. I require all of my students to get e-mail accounts, and I haven’t had a complaint yet. Should a parent not want this, then OK, let them opt out. Lastly, I know using third party providers is less desirable than doing it in house, but similarly I think a cost-benefit analysis shows that using Google is so easy and straight forward that would be lost if Calvin had to set up and maintain a mail server for students.

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