Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Is "safe e-mail for students" nuts?

Posted By on Tue, Nov 3, 2009 at 2:13 PM

computerkids.jpg
Memphis City Schools is going to start providing student e-mail accounts and message boards through a company called Gaggle.Net.

The first guinea pigs will be middle schoolers, notorious for their maturity, thick skins, concentration, and tech savvy. This is either (a) a green, paperless way to connect students and teachers with the conveniences of the Internet or (b) as crazy as giving each student a firearm, cell phone, squirt gun, an unlimited hall pass, and a six-pack of Coke.

Having no children in MCS, I don't know. But I have heard of very rare occasions in which email and social networks have been used for non-serious purposes as well as a tiny number of accidents and technical glitches. I would like to hear from parents and teachers on such Gaggle.Net reassurances as "the teacher is in charge," "safe, productive email for your students," "easy for the teacher to control unwanted SPAM, pornographic mail, etc."

Here are some more:

On hidden costs: "The basic advertising supported version of Gaggle is free to schools. However, you should remember that all advertising is designed to distract students."

On the anti-porn scanner (APS): "The APS analyzes on the fly all URL's included in the email message body. This ensures that the web sites acccessible by the students do not contain pornographic content."

On storing homework: "Students can upload files to their own Digital Locker. Files can be made public or private."

On message boards and chat rooms. "Teachers can easily limit student access to certain levels of chat rooms."

On making email safe: "Teachers can easily stop all of the following kinds of messages: teasing and threats, racial attacks, hate messages, sexual harassment, vulgar speech, gang language , outsider predators, other intruders."

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