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From COSN: Blogging in schools

Two companies are here with tools to facilitate blogging in schools. Of course, this is pretty tricky to do right. In a world where authorities are blocking access in a CYA fashion, it’s nice to see these tools here to allow kids to blog and email in a safe and controlled way.

ePals has a nice looking system, and a good team here at the show. ePals is cool because it allows kids to interact in a safe environment – but interact with other schools around the world. They are approaching this as a world-wide linking thing rather than the simple and lame approach of just blocking access to blogs. Their UI is nice and clean, friendly, easy and even includes a translation feature – this is a REALLY cool idea. It’s nice to think of kids being able to communicate with other school kids in Spain, say. They are doing the same with email, and appear to be leaders in this  field.

Tim from ePals

The other company here doing similar stuff is Gaggle.net. They have a blogging component, but seem to be focused on email. They offer the same translation options, but include some anti-pornography stuff, and monitoring.

In San Francisco – at COSN

I’m down in San Fran for COSN – a networking show for school teachers, and adminstrators. Mitel has a booth here, showing a cool school telephony app we put together, and a broadcast app that the Mitel Custom Apps group put together that uses IP speakers to broadcast throughout a school.

Feedback is along the lines of:

  • “COOL” you can take attendance using a phone.
  • OR, uhm, WHY would I want to take attendance using a phone?

Really, the coolest stuff we’ve done is the broadcast alert using the phones themselves. You can go to a web page on a PC, select a broadcast alert message, click “Send” and the alert shows up on every phone in the school – complete with blinking lights, a message on screen, including an evacuation route map, and an audio announcement that plays an alert sound, and says what to do. What’s cool, is that this uses the built-in voicemail system in the 3300 for the announcement – so no extra hardware required. Very cool.

One company with some cool stuff here is Promethean – they have a very nice looking educational application, with lots of interactive stuff, and these really cool little remotes that let the class interact, vote, and contribute to what’s going on. Their UI looks REALLY good – very clean and easy to use, yet powerful.

Promethean Activote

My brother is flying down tomorrow – we’ll be touring the town, including dinner at Chez Panisse, one of the best restaurants in the US! I’ll let you know how that goes…

Here are some pictures from San Francisco.

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