“Mom,” began Melissa with fear rising up in her eyes. “I shared my GoogleDoc with Uncle Mark while he was helping me with my homework, and he wrote something….” she pauses, not wanting to say it aloud.“He wrote you what, Carmelita?” asked her Mom. A moment later, they stood in front of the computer.“Where is what he wrote you?”“I closed it, I was scared.”“What is a GoogleDoc?”“It’s where I do my homework for class…it has this built-in place where you can write back-n-forth with other people. Uncle Mark offered to help me out and….”

Ok, maybe that’s an unlikely scenario (I think it is), but another scenario could just as easily involve two or more students who have shared a GoogleDocs. Whatever the scenario, are schools obligated to log all chats that occur in the context of school-sponsored tools, like GoogleDocs and GoogleChat available via Gmail? If you grant students access to these tools, should you be worried about restricting access?

Could we avoid some of the problems if we just turned on GoogleApps for age 13 and above students and left the rest in the cyberdark about email and docs?

It’s not an unusual topic, as a quick look at GoogleForums (Thanks, Calvin!) will reveal:

Edition: Education 
Affected Users: All students 
Issue Description: Chat service is turned off for students; however, students are still able to chat using the “now viewing” feature of shared documents. 
Steps to Reproduce (if applicable): Share a document with someone, then have both users access the document simultaneously. The “is viewing” button on the top right and instant message the other user(s) viewing the document. 
Additional information: Real-time chat and Instant Messaging is for students is not allowed in our school district by school board policy.  We must turn this feature off for students.  Right now, it appears we have to disable Google Docs completely in order to be in compliance. 
I am looking for a way to do this without having to disable Google Docs.  I do have the students setup in an organization and have the chat service turned off for them, but this particular chat feature appears to ignore that setting.  I also tried to turn off the sharing feature for google docs, but the only option I found let me turn it off outside the domain, but not within the domain.

Will a simple response like just adjusting your policy address the issue?

There is no issues with CIPA and google docs, or chat in general.  The only thing you need to have in place is a POLICY and PROCEDURE that your school follows regarding internet use, and protecting student from inappropriate material.  You do not have to actually log or monitor everything that is going on, but make an effort to do so within the policies and procedures you setup within your school.
If your school has a policy that says ALL electronic chats are prohibited, then you can not use Docs, because you would be violating your own policy.  Now if it says all non-school related electronic chats are prohibited, then you have some more wiggle room… You could also say all electronic chat is prohibited, except when used for document collaboration within google docs, etc…  You can be a specific or broad as you like, but it is all based on your schools policies and procedures.

What’s the right question to ask? It’s one I’ve been pondering all afternoon after a colleague–Marguerite Lowak–shared her findings on GoogleApps for Education (GAFE) domains. The fundamental question that we started with was as follows:

Should we create a different domain or organization for students so that we could have more control over features like Chat in our GoogleApps for Education implementation?

Before we could understand that question, we had to wrestle with the vocabulary of GoogleApps for Education, which means different things to folks who may be familiar with the concept of a “web site domain” (e.g.

Defining Terms – Vocabulary

  1. Organization – This is the top level of a GoogleApps site. Example: districtname
  2. Domain – This is a unit that exists below the organization. Some sample domains include and as shown in the example above. This use of the word domain should not be confused with a web subdomain. The word “domain” refers to the options you can set for a domain.
  3. Sub-Organization – This is a unit that exists below the domain

Below is the chart Marguerite–with a few modifications by me to highlight the differences and anonymize the district–made to explain everything:
View the spreadsheet in GoogleDocs
Note that in the chart, the orange items denote what can be said at the organization level. This means that if you want to prevent students from participating in a Chat or sharing GoogleDocs (which also has a chat) or restrict chat/googledocs conversations to their own domain–which is useful to keeping others out–you would have to setup your own organization. 

One of the challenges is that “chat” is now a part of GoogleDocs. Should safety be a concern if students can share a GoogleDoc with anyone?

Get Blog Updates via Email!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure