Category Archives: Online safety

My Kids has GAFE



My student has GAFE? Is it contagious?

Whether you are a teacher or parent you might not have heard of GAFE (long A, silent e). It stands for Google Apps for Education, and it is sweeping the nation.  A school/district creates google accounts for their students, which gives them access the basic Google apps such as email, documents, slides, and spreadsheets.  While anyone over 14 can create their own free account, these basic programs can help districts narrow the “digital divide” between families and schools, by providing quality resources for FREE! However, just like with free apps there can be a few things to watch out for.

With these Google accounts, students have access to word processing programs and other important software. Even students as young as second grade can learn to type and use the presentations feature to present digital information.  Also, these accounts allow schools to manage devices like Chromebooks and tablets which students find very helpful.

While there is great debate about the benefits for students under 3rd grade spending too much time digitally, and not enough time with a pencil, scissors and glue, most people will not argue that as students learn to author lengthy paragraphs, writing skills improve.  When students use digital editing tools such as Google docs to plan and revise their writing, skills improve exponentially.


Ask Questions

So, if you have been notified that your student has a Google account and you are not sure how you feel, consider talking to an administrator. Ask a few key questions:

  1. How do I get my student’s log in information?
  2. Are my students in a Walled Garden? (*For more information on restricted domains*)
  3. What is your Acceptable Use Policy (AUP)? (AUPs vary by district: some provide a simple sentence asking about internet access and others have a clearly defined policy.)
  4. Does the Acceptable Use Policy clearly address cyberbullying and the discipline actions?
  5. Is there a plan in place to emphasis digital citizenship?
  6. Does the district scan all documents for offensive words and phrases? What are they? What actions are taken when these are discovered?
  7. What web filters are in place at the school?

Walled Garden: A google word for a sub-organization where the users in this organization can only email within the domain (the other users with in the sub organization or the parent domain). Generally, this is a good thing for young children. This means that Suzie cannot email you or Grandma. Fortunately, it also means that strangers cannot email your children.  Even in a walled Garden, you want to keep an eye on your child’s email account. Other students can email your student, if students are collaborating this is a great opportunity for 21st Century learning. It also means that other children can share inappropriate links to websites you may not want your child to see. These sites maybe filtered at school, but maybe not at home or any other public location.

AUP: A document stipulating appropriate uses for using the school network or the internet. The document will often contain clear guidelines regarding inappropriate behaviors and the consequences.

  1. Set up their account on your mobile device and review it often. Whether they have gmail or just google drive, monitor their account.
  2. Android : how to set up additional Google accounts
  3. IPhone: How to set up additional Google accounts.


Take advantage of the Google Account: consider a Chromebook, where you can set up your student as a supervised user, then you will have access to their web activity at home.

Be involved

Like everything in your student’s life, it is important to be involved. Ask to see what they are doing on the internet. Chances are that they can’t wait to show you. Also consider the Keyboarding Without Tears app if your students are not receiving instruction in keyboarding.


Coming up soon:

Fourth Grade National Parks Pass Activity

Getting Creative with Desmos Calculator

Twenty First Century instruction should be relevant, involve an authentic audience, encourage collaboration, and develop essential research skills.  Students today must learn to navigate the internet and use information to create projects which demonstrate depth of understanding.

The Graphic Math Art digital learning experience is designed to meet math standards, art standards and technological standards. Beginning with the essential question: “How can I use Geometric shapes to create a logo? students use the resources found on the internet to explore conic sections as they design a logo for a company in a foreign country, then audio record instructions to recreate the logo using digital resources and mathematical discourse. Other students will play the part of the company receiving the logo and recreate the logo on appropriate materials.

As students reflected on the project they remarked on gaining deeper understanding of interval notation, inequalities and writing functions. One student graciously allowed their logo to be included.  This student created a logo for a Japanese company. In the creating of a fan, they used linear functions and parabolic functions with interval notation.  Later, they realized by using absolute value functions, they could have decreased the number of functions. Listening to students discuss the projects and evaluate and analyze their work has been an exciting part of the process. Although the project was written as a digital learning unit for conic sections, it could be adapted for multiple levels of math.

In a effort to explore a different learning tool, I used wiki spaces to create this project rather than Google Sites, Weebly, or my own website. While wiki spaces does not offer the creative imagery that using a personal web site affords, it does offer predictability.  For students with special needs or who are new to digital learning, straight forward navigation is essential.  Additionally,  wiki spaces provides the ability to embed all materials into the space and often is allowed in schools with strong filters.

Click the link below to go to the Graphic Math Art wiki space.


graphic art

Setting up a Family Google Account

googleMy student’s teacher suggested I sign my child up for a Google Account so they can write papers, create presentations etc. My first concerns are about safety and legality?

As a parent we are always concerned about our children’s safety. It begins the minute they are born and doesn’t end even when they move away from home. However, when it comes to the internet and to technology we might not know how to keep them safe. Some people err on the side of naivety and think “Everyone is doing it, it must be OK.” On the other hand, there are families who choose to avoid the internet because they do not feel they know enough to keep their children safe.

I want to address Google and how it can benefit your family.  As you may know, there is an age requirement to have a Google account, unless you are a child in a school which has created Google accounts for their students.  This an enormous responsibility and it is important to implement Google Apps for Education with careful consideration. At one time, Google was just associated with Gmail, but Google has many other resources. For example, Google offers free word processing, similar to Microsoft Word, as well as other resources that students of all ages will find useful.  As a parent, you can create a Family Google account, where you are the primary name on the account. This allows your children to share a google account that is monitored by you and by keeping it separate, they don’t have access to any important documents you may own.

Having a family account is also a good practice when setting up Android tablets and Chromebooks.  One of my children received a Samsung tablet. When I took it out of the box, it asked for my Google account, so I entered my work account. A few days later, I noticed that my child’s picture appeared on another contacts profile. This made me very uncomfortable and I wondered if my child’s picture was appearing on the web.  It wasn’t until a few days later, I realized my child was accessing my contacts and making the changes.  Needless to say, we created a family account.

Another reason to consider a Family Google Account is the access it provides for children to have Free word processing technology to begin to meet the technology standards for English Language Arts. Technology standards begin as early as 1st grade:

W.1.6 Use a computer or tablet to publish writing.

By Third grade

W.3.6 Use a computer or tablet to create and publish writing and to communicate or work with others.

In fourth grade the standards includes the ability for students to write 1 page in a single sitting then each year it advances. By 7th grade students should use computers & internet to create and publish writing, link and cite sources, and collaborate with others (W 7.6).

While there is still debate regarding these standards, I believe students should become familiar with using technology. By having these state standards all students are guaranteed access to the technology to meet these standards, not just those who can afford it.  The beauty of Google, it that it is FREE! And it is possible to get reasonably priced devices which allow young children the ability to produce high quality work.

To create an account, follow these steps:

  1. Go to
  2. Create a username- consider something appropriate for your family
  3. Create a password – consider something easy for young minds to remember if necessary
  4.  Birthday – Use your birthday, remember this is your account for your students to use.

Once the family account is created, I recommend adding the Gmail account to your mobile device, Android or Apple.  This will give you peace of mind and the ability to check if your child is sending or receiving emails. Many families choose to use iPads and tablets for their students (See Keeping children safe online). These devices allow parents to choose which APPS are installed on the device. These apps have many of the same functions as the full browser version (i.e. Chrome), but are not as robust. One main feature that is not supported in most of the App mobile versions is the ability to add images from the Web.  Although this is a limitation, it also is an added protection for your child’s minds and eyes.  Remember, when setting up the apps on these devices, use the family Google account.

Directions for adding apps to iPad

Directions for adding apps to Android

Happy Googling!