Setting up Postini filtering to use with Google Apps (Education Edition)

Last year we started to get to grips with Google Apps, managing to use some of the collaborative tools for entering experiment data, and writing reports as a team.  We hadn’t enabled the email because of the lack of filtering.  With Google now offering free Postini message filtering to education edition customers, I decided to sign up and see what it had to offer.

The filtering I set up is quite basic.  I’ve limited emails to internal emails, and implemented an offensive word filter.  I’ve detailed the steps I followed below because I haven’t found a similar guide on the internet.  Note that the postini interface could do with a little work to make it more user friendly.
Log into the admin dashboard for your domain.  Once you have enabled Postini filtering you need to go to ‘Postini services console’ and then the “System Administration” option.  This brings you to a complicated looking screen.
Click the ‘Orgs and Users’ tab as shown below.
Capture2Locate your domain and find the entry that ends in ‘Users’ and click on ‘Add sub-org’ to add a group called pupils.  This will allow us to apply separate filtering rules for pupils to the staff that use the service.
Next you need to move all the pupils into this group.  If you do not move the pupils into this group, they will not get the specific filtering rules.  To do this click on ‘Orgs and Users’ followed by users.  You then click on the ‘move users’ option.  This should bring up a screen like this:
Capture3
Enter the email addresses of the pupils into the top box (if you have a lot to move you can export the email addresses and then paste them in).  This will move the pupils into their own group so you can apply specific filtering rules.
You could also add another group if you wish for pupils who are barred from using the email service, or pupils who you wish to have different filtering rules.
To apply specific filtering rules click on ‘Orgs and Users’ and then select ‘pupils’ from the ‘choose org’ drop down box.  This should bring up a busy-looking screen that looks like this:
Capture4
You will need to enter some rules for inbound services and outbound services.  You can change attachment rules, message size and add custom footers (e.g. one with a message explaining the email came from a pupil with an admin contact).
You can find a list of swear words here if you don’t know many!
I inserted the following rules (remember to turn them on when you’ve entered the rule!).  In all instances I’ve set the filter to let me know if they are triggered by setting the ‘Copy to quarantine’ option – more on this later.
Inbound services

  • Delete (black hole) email where the sender doesn’t include yourname.org
  • Bounce email where the entire message matches any word in the list of rude words

Outbound services

  • Delete (black hole) email where the recipient doesn’t include yourname.org
  • Bounce email where the entire message matches any word in the list of rude words

I also turned off spam filtering in Postini, preferring to let Google handle it all for ease of use.  I disallowed pupils access to the message centre in the ‘User access’ settings – again for ease of use.
If pupils do send or receive email from outside the domain it disappears into a black hole.  A copy will be sent to the admin quarantine box where the admin gets the chance to deliver the email to its original recipient or delete it.  By using this system it is possible to hold all external email until it has been verified by an adult.
Adding another rule deleting all email to your domain but quarantining it would allow you to vet every piece of email passing through your site if you need this kind of accountability.

You will get a daily email from the system if you have any emails that have been quarantined.  Log into the admin account but this time select the ‘Message Centre’ or just go to the Postini site.  Any quarantined email will be under the junk tab.  From here you can either deliver the email (to where it was originally sent) or delete it.  You can view the email to check suitability and print out a copy if necessary.

Unfortunately none of the filtering options available allow you to copy email to another account, so keeping a record/copy of email sent isn’t possible without paying to upgrade the service from Postini. 

Have you got any useful rules or comments you would like to share?  Leave a comment below.

Using Google Documents to work collaboratively

I’ve used Google Documents in class before but the need had never arisen for pupils to write on the same document at the same time. With collaborative working being an important skill in science, I decided to get my year 7 class to work collaboratively on the same document. Their task was to write a press release detailing their lab test results for their CSI topic. With all the pupils having SEN (we are a special school) , the amount of text was going to be small which makes the process a little quicker.

I created the document with a table to be used as a writing frame or scaffold for the pupils, giving them the basic structure to complete. I asked the pupils to complete a different section of the press release and colour coded the boxes so they knew which section was theirs.  I shared the document with the pupils and invited them to complete their section.

Pupils were fascinated by seeing the text of their classmates appearing as they entered their own.  The flicker you see as the page updates didn’t seem to bother any of them, in fact they didn’t notice it.  Pupils entered their text and we reviewed the completed document.

Not only was this approach far more productive than writing their own reports, pupils had to communicate with each other and tie their contributions together.  This wouldn’t have happened working individually.

Science demonstrations

I was at the Nottinghamshire Subject Leaders’ conference lately and one of the sessions looked at impressive science demonstrations. I’ve taken some of these back to school and rehearsed them. Methane soap bubbles were fun (even after burning all the hairs off my arm!) and this week I blew the bottom off the water cooler bottle whilst doing the whoosh bottle. For those who have never seen these demonstrations before, have a look at these videos on teachers.tv. You will have to register with the site.

http://www.teachers.tv/video/20295

http://www.teachers.tv/video/20297

Assessment for Learning

afl

It’s amazing how many people I meet on my travels who struggle with the concept of assessment for learning (AfL). Some people think it’s a new invention, others think that it is something that must be shoe-horned into schemes of work in a formulaic way along with a 3 part lesson. Some people get obsessed with the idea of tests.

The cartoon explains simply the AfL cycle. It’s a simple process of assessing where a learner is now (that’s the assessment part!) and looking to see where the next step is. Knowing how to get there is an important step and completes the cycle.

So what does AfL look like in action?

  • Marking of work: Comments that tell pupils what they need to do to improve their work, so the pupil knows what they have to do next
  • Oral feedback: Do comments given to pupils in lessons deliver the 3 steps above? (telling them where they are and what they need to do to improve and how to go about it?)
  • Self assessment: Pupils assessing themselves against a set of levelled learning outcomes. They can see how they are performing and where they need to focus their efforts.
  • Peer assessment: Pupils are very good at assessing the work of their peers. I’ve worked in mainstream schools with pupils who have been very good at assessing each others work and setting a target for improvement. Even at a special school level the pupils are very good at recognising success and giving helpful advice for improvement.
  • Level assessed tasks: These have suddenly become very popular in science amongst other subjects. Free and commercial tasks are given to pupils which have a set of levelled outcomes, so pupils are able to see what needs to go into their own work, they can assess each others work and see how to get to the next level. (This is classic AfL and also very good for getting pupils working together).
  • Target setting: IEPs are a classic idea of setting targets that are not only achievable but give the learner an idea of how to reach that target.
  • Learning objectives in lessons: If you’ve heard of WALT (we are learning to/will all learn today) and WILF (what I’m looking for) when you’re doing this already. Setting learning objectives at the start of lessons and then checking pupils have reached this learning objective is nothing new. Good teachers have always done this – but it is still good AfL practice.

I hope that this overview has been useful. Feel free to get in touch (contact us) if you have any comments or questions.

Science lessons now on YouTube

My pupils wanted to watch some of my experiments over again – so I decided to video the good ones as I do them in future. For those of you that haven’t seen this before – it’s called the screaming jelly baby. If YouTube is blocked by your filter, you can also watch the video here. Details of the experiment can be found on the RSC website.

del.icio.us

I’ve just discovered del.icio.us – a way of storing, tagging and sharing bookmarks on line. I was using google bookmarks but that didn’t give you the facility to share bookmarks.

I’ve uploaded and tagged all of the useful bookmarks in my address book (firefox addons ftw!) and replaced the bookmarks module of Joomla with a link to my del.icio.us links.

To cut a long story short you can browse my (shared) bookmarks by clicking on the ‘Weblinks on del.icio.us” link (you can also see my 5 most recently added bookmarks) – hope some of my links are useful to you!!

Promethean Interactive Whiteboard

I had a Promethean Interactive Whiteboard fitted to my classroom over the holidays (on Valentine’s day actually!) and I have to say I’m loving it already. The photo shows my whiteboard showing Freeview – handy at breaktimes! I did have an ancient Cleverboard which had stopped working reliably years ago – and the governors approved a new board when my projector died as well. My old cleverboard was basic (6 years old-ish and based on outdated Mimio technology. It didn’t come with any software and functioned as a glorified mouse – not a great teaching and learning tool (and the pupils couldn’t work it properly either).

The Activestudio software that comes with the PC is extremely powerful and a huge leap forward on what I had before. Although I’m only just starting to become familiar with the software, the board does everything my dry-wipe whiteboard did (with bells on – like highlighting, handwriting recognition, fills) and more. I’m already starting to lift diagrams from worksheets that the pupils are working with – so that they can be highlighted and annotated on screen.

I will upload my Activestudio flipcharts as I create them and add them to my resource bank.