Wednesday, April 29, 2015

GAFE and Chromebooks Admin Console Best Practices and Tips

Updated March 2017

Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks are very popular with education for many reasons, one of which is the ease of management and deployment. The Admin Console allows staff to manage apps, user settings, devices settings and much more. Here are some tips and best practices for settings in the Admin Console.

The Admin Console is relatively easy to use, although some settings can be hard to find. Remember to use the help features by clicking on the question marks throughout the console.

The icons on the console can be moved and arranged via drag-and-drop so you can put the ones you use most up front. Typically, Users, Device Management, and Apps are the most used. 

Below are some of the main tips and settings to consider. Most of them are under Device Management. This is not a complete list, but one to help you get started. 

Admin Accounts: ("Admin Roles")
You can designate users at different levels of admin access. There are preset roles and you can create your own. You should have at least two Super-Admins in case one is out. Help Desk admin can only reset passwords for non-administrators and are good to have in each school. 

User Settings:
Organizational Units (set under Users) - you will want to have at least the following OUs setup: Admin, IT, Faculty, K-8 Students, High School students. This allows you to customize the settings for each one. K-8 students cannot use Google+, so you will want Google+ turned off for them. You can also turn off outside email for them. 

Under Apps, Click on Additional Google Services, click on the three vertical dots next to Google+ and click Turn Off or On for some Organizations and make sure it is off for K-8. 

Device Management > Chrome Management > User Settings
These settings apply to the Chrome Browser also (when a user logs into it)

Force-Installed Apps and Extensions: you can push out apps and extensions to all users. There are a few I recommend, including Office Editing. Here is a list. 

Allow or Block All Apps and Extensions: you can either allow users to install any apps except the ones that you block, or block all apps except the ones that you allow. It is a local decision on how to manage this. Blocking all means your IT staff have to handle requests from staff. Allowing all means that some students might find some unsavory apps to install, but you can block them as you find them. 

If you want to allow all except the ones you block, here is a list of some that you should block

Allowed Apps and Extensions: create a list here if you are blocking users from installing them. Here are some lists of app recommendations. 

Make sure you are saving Browser History if you want to track what users are doing. 

I recommend turning on Safe Browsing, but that is a local decision.

You can also set up web pages to auto-load when a user logs in. Most schools set it up so that the district or school home page loads. 

Another nice feature is the ability to block websites by user OU. You can enter as many URLs as you like. This means that those users cannot get to the site, even if it is allowed through your filter. This can be useful for more granular control. 

You can also push out managed bookmarks, which is a great feature. You can push the district homepage, Google Apps page, student SIS system, etc for quick access by your users. 

Turning off Outside Email for K-8:

Device Management > Chrome Management > Device Settings:

Definitely turn on Forced Re-Enrollment. This will prevent users from factory resetting the Chromebooks and then taking them out of your domain. Even if they do factory reset the device, it will force them to re-enroll it in your domain and not allow them to use it.

Guest Mode - allows a user to access the Chromebook without an account. I recommend against this if you have GAFE accounts for all of your users.

Incognito Mode - turn this off for students also.

Sign-In Restriction: this allows you to restrict which accounts can be used to login to a Chromebook. Most schools do set this to restrict logins to their GAFE accounts only. It is one more feature that makes Chromebooks less attractive to thieves.

Kiosk Apps - this is where you would install testing apps for PARCC and SBAC. Kiosk apps run without a user needing to login to the Chromebook itself.

Auto-Updates - allow this unless you have concerns about a new version of Chrome OS causing an issue with an app. For example, SBAC is only setup for Chrome OS 41, so while auto updates are turned on, you can limit the version to 41 and it won't update to the latest version which is 42. 

Device Reporting - enable this and user tracking so that you can see the device info when you select a device. You can also see who the last user was, which can be helpful in tracking a missing device. 

Do Not Erase Local User Data - this will keep the user account on the Chromebook which speeds up logins. Shared Chromebooks can support a lot of users (I've seen up to 20 different users on a single Chromebook). 

Disabled Device Return Instructions - if you disable a device, it will show a message on the screen asking for it to be returned. You put in the address and contact info. 

Device Management>Network:
Network Settings - you can, and should, put in your network settings here so that the Chromebooks automatically connect to your WiFi. You can even put in a hidden SSID and all of the security and passwords here. 

Hopefully you find these tips useful.


Google for Education Resources (Google Apps, Chromebooks and more)

Chromebook Deployment Help Resources

Tips for Troubleshooting Chromebooks and some typical issues

Note: I oversaw the successful deployment of over 11,000 Chromebooks and 26,000 GAFE user accounts in my home district and have assisted over 300 school districts successfully deploy GAFE and Chromebooks. I am also a Google Certified Administrator and Deployment Specialist. I use lessons learned from my own deployment experience, research and conversations with other administrators. Contact me if you would like help with deployment, setup or training in Google Apps and/or Chromebooks.



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