There is a little-known trick in Gmail (and in turn Google Apps users) that will let you delegate multiple ‘virtual’ Gmail addresses to a single account.
In Gmail, account names with periods anywhere in them are ignored. Also, and more importantly for schools, Gmail will ignore anything following an account name appended with the ‘+’ plus sign.
Yeah, it took me a second as well to grok what that can mean for teachers….
I have worked with a few different elementary schools, and they would really love to have their students be able to use Gmail, along with some of these new, amazing Web 2.0 tools such as Animoto and Prezi. These services require that you have an email account to create an account. The problem is that Gmail requires (by mandate of federal law) that account holders be at least 13 years of age. If the school/district does not have a student email solution, or if their solution is that students can use Gmail, that leaves anyone under 13 out of luck.
If I would have known about the Gmail addressing trick, the problems would have been solved for these teachers and students. Now I know that 1 Gmail account can be managed by 1 teacher, but have as many unique ‘users’ delegated by using the + addressing trick.
Let’s explore… Let’s say that you teach 5th grade, and you create a new Gmail account called ‘tanners5th’, so your address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, if you wanted your students to use any web services that require an email address, you allow them to sign up as:
…and so on using whatever naming convention you want. The email@example.com account will receive any and all messages addressed to any of these delegates – Gmail ignores the + and what follows, but keeps it in the address so that you can easily use filters or can see what message was directed to whom in your class.
One account for the entire class, but as many unique email addresses as you need to sign up for these excellent Web 2.0 tools. A very neat and clean solution!