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New communication and collaboration tools for educators

Gaggle offers alternatives to Google Apps for Education that can be easily monitored or filtered.

A system that lets school districts deliver seamless access to online services through a single sign-on process, and the addition of parent accounts to a free online learning network for schools, were among the new products aimed at improving communication and collaboration for educators and featured during recent ed-tech conferences.

Aspen Learning showcased OpenClassroom, a safe communication tool that lets students collaborate through wikis, blogs, and forums; allows for messaging and polling; offers quizzes, assignments, grading, and a calendar for learning management; and supplies file storage.

eChalk demonstrated its fully integrated network of services that include websites, social networking capabilities, and learning management features—all in one safe and secure place. The company’s resources aim to help school leaders, teachers, students, and parents safely use the web to connect to the people and information they need to make learning successful. eChalk also emphasized the need to support its technology properly with open communication among administrators, IT staff, and eChalk representatives.

Edmodo, an online social learning network for educators and students, announced that it has added parent accounts to its array of free services. That allows school districts to use the website as a portal for distributing emergency notification and other messages to parents, the company says. The site has 1.4 million members and counting.

Gaggle displayed its communication suite for schools, a scalable system that enables access based upon the unique needs of diverse student populations and stakeholders. Tools include Gaggle Email, Gaggle Blogs, Message Boards, Gaggle SMS Texting, and Parent Accounts. Last year, Gaggle offered a suite of apps similar to Google Apps for Education, but the Gaggle Apps can easily be monitored or filtered to ensure that students are using the tools safely, the company said.

JDL Horizons promoted EduVision, a complete online video portal and management system. EduVision’s features include an affordable annual subscription with no hardware, training, hosting, or distribution fees; simple administration; and a safe, embeddable video player, says the company. A free trial is available.

Lightspeed Systems demonstrated Big Campus, which lets educators create an engaging online environment, manage users and groups, view reports on user activity, give users cloud-based file storage, and access help. Users can post and share videos, photos, and files. The company’s Campus Mail service offers safe and monitored eMail addresses and unlimited file storage in the cloud.

Moodlerooms, which provides services and support for schools using the open-source learning management system Moodle, discussed the latest generation of the software, version 2.0. Moodle 2.0 “puts the user at the center instead of the course,” Moodlerooms said. It’s compatible with the IMS Common Cartridge format for online courseware, and new features include “community hubs,” or course directory networks for public or private sharing; the ability to define when an activity is “complete” and view progress reports along the way; and a comments block for leaving notes on any page where the block exists, which can help facilitate student feedback.

Schoolwires, a provider of website and community management solutions, announced PassKey Manager, a turnkey solution that gives districts the ability to deliver seamless access to online services through a single sign-on process. Districts can build a library of single sign-on PassKeys that provide secure access to popular web applications, creating what the company says is a unified user experience for all stakeholders to essential online services.

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eSchool News Staff

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