Over the next several posts, I will discuss many of the tools available free through Google. Although Google Gmail is not required to utilize these tools, Gmail will enhance your ability to take advantage of all extensions of the tools. If you are not interested in giving up your current email service, Gmail offers a couple of options. You can forward your Gmail to your current inbox, or make use of your current email with the Gmail account.
Follow this link to set up your Gmail account. If you are sharing this with students, this is a good time to let them know that email addresses are in the form of lastname.firstname are preferred over soccerstar98, etc. Note that our Acceptable Use Policy permits the use of email for educational purposes. Encourage students to keep an email that they use only for school.
Once you have set up your Gmail account. I suggest you set up an iGoogle start page. You can get to it from any computer (and many handheld devices) with Internet access. My homepage includes a view of my Google Calendar, my email, my Google Reader (I address the Google Reader in a separate post), the local weather forecast, quotes of the day, the latest sports scores and blogs about my favorite teams. Add features to your start page by clicking on the Add Stuff link. You can quickly access your start page by clicking the Google icon in the Google Toolbar (and signing in).
This is also a good time to download the Google toolbar at home. I will discuss this feature in yet another post. The Google Toolbar is loaded on all of the computers in our district, and allows quick access to information held within your Google tools.