How to Set Up Gmail for School iPads and iPods

One challenge for teachers with students using devices like iPad and iPod touch is collecting student work. Unfortunately, there is not one consistent way for apps to export what a user creates. Some apps connect to Dropbox, some share through iTunes, some export to a website, some share through an IP address, but most apps email content as an attachment.

In order to send images, movies, and documents as an attachment, email must be set up on the device. Logging in through web-based mail won't work because you cannot attach files when using web mail in iOS. Email has to be set up in iOS's Mail app in order for an app that shares through email to actually be able to send.

I think the best solution is to give each student an email account and teach them to use it responsibly. I understand this is not an option in some places and doesn't work so well on shared devices. So, what's a school to do when students do not or cannot have email addresses but they want students using school-owned devices to be able to email their work to the teacher or to a blog?

The answer I've seen many schools use is Gmail. They set up free Gmail accounts for their devices. These email accounts aren't for receiving emails--they are used so that iPads and iPods can send. Without an email set up in the Mail app, no messages can be sent from the Mail app or any other app that shares via email.

It's time consuming to create email accounts for each and every device. Instead, I suggest creating one Gmail account for every 10 devices. You probably could use one Gmail account for a whole class set, but I've seen this cause problems at times.

After creating the Gmail account at, you'll have to do this on each device that will use that account:

  1. Launch the Mail app or go to Mail, Contacts, Calendars in the Settings app on iPad or iPod touch to add the account.
  2. Choose Gmail.
  3. Enter a name, Gmail address, and Gmail password. The name is what will be shown in the From field. On a shared set of devices, I suggest putting the device's assigned number first and then class, cart, or teacher name. Starting with the number allows emails to be sorted in a teacher's inbox.
  4. On the next screen, turn off Calendars and Notes and tap Save.
  5. Email is ready to use!

Chances are that if your school doesn't supply students with email accounts, they are probably concerned about what students may receive via email, either from each other or from spammers. To put those concerns to rest, I suggest adding a filter to each Gmail account that deletes all incoming email unless it comes from the teacher. This prevents students from sending messages that would appear in all devices' inboxes, prohibits spam, and still allows teachers to send messages and files to the devices via email. 

Here's how to set up a filter that will delete all incoming email unless it is from the teacher:

  1. Log into the Gmail account.
  2. Click Create a filter near the top of the screen.
  3. Enter the teacher's email address preceded by a minus symbol in the From field. Enter more addresses by separating them with commas and having each address preceded by a minus.
  4. Click Next Step.
  5. Check the box next to Delete it.
  6. Click Create Filter and now all incoming email will be deleted unless it was sent by the teacher.

Note that because many devices are sharing one email account, once one student deletes an email from the teacher, it will be deleted on all devices using that account.

Additional Tips
You can use email services other than Gmail. Some use district email addresses or email. Filters probably work differently when using different email services.

Do not give students the email account's password. You only have to set up email on a device one time. After that the device remembers the password, so students will not require the password.

Teachers may not want to clutter their inbox with emails. One option is to have students send emails to a unique email address provided by Send To Dropbox. This will place email attachments directly into a Dropbox folder on a Mac or Windows computer without taking up space in an inbox.

Add the teacher's email address in the Contact app. This way when students begin composing an email, the teacher's address will auto complete.

Instruct students how to use email appropriately, including subject line etiquette. Instructional technology coordinator Terice Schneider wrote about how middle school students sent teachers foolish and silly messages, and they changed email signatures:

Teachers report up to 120 emails a day with such intoxicating content as “Go  Tigers!” and funny cat faces. Their signatures are “PB&J Time!” and “Rangers Fan.” Teachers could just delete them in the inbox, but the students are not using the SUBJECT line, so teachers must open each one to know if it’s class related.

If you receive an error when trying to set up the email address by tapping the Gmail option on the device, try setting up the account as Microsoft Exchange. Here's how: 

  1. Launch the Mail app or go to Mail, Contacts, Calendars in the Settings app on iPad or iPod touch to add the account.
  2. Choose Microsoft Exchange.
  3. Enter the Gmail address for the Email and Username. Also enter the Gmail account's password.
  4. On the next screen, enter for Server.
  5. Cross your fingers that the account is verified.