Child-friendly social networking tools

Privacy and security concerns are among the many barriers holding back the use of social networking tools in schools, new research suggests–but a number of child-friendly applications have emerged. Among these are…

ConnectYard: ConnectYard’s Enterprise Edition for K-12 allows schools to establish private learning communities that are integrated with popular social networks such as Facebook. Students and teachers can access the ConnectYard platform and begin interacting with each other without the requirement to join a social networking site or add each other as a "friend." Only users approved by the school are permitted to join the community and interact with other users. Teachers also can audit student walls, groups, etc.

eChalk: eChalk provides a customizable social networking tool for individual schools or districts. It is a public web presence where the school or district can decide what multimedia they would like shown to the public. It is password-protected, and parents can have visibility as well. Options include being able to sort by specific groups within the classroom, school, or district; a lesson planner, eMail, and file storage; and filtering for everything from blogs and wikis to student eMail.

ePals: ePals is a provider of K-12 eMail, blogs, wikis, and shared workspace tools, enabling students and teachers to share and access their work. ePals’ social-networking tool reaches 16 million teachers and students in 200 countries and territories for project-based learning, cross-cultural exchanges, and literacy and language learning with other ePals classrooms. All tools are safe and protected, and they enable a school or district to "predetermine the user environment." Recently, Maine’s Department of Education announced that it will be using ePals statewide in schools to connect students to each other, as well as to foreign classrooms, as part of the ePals social learning network.

Saywire: Saywire is a learning environment consisting of several tools, including blogs, wikis, embeddable media, eMail, and more. Both students and teachers can log on and be a part of the community. According to Saywire, some teachers use Saywire’s miniature communities within their own school’s communities for professional development. Saywire does not allow for nicknames or handles, and every feature or activity that a member engages in within Saywire will be stamped with their first name, grade, and photo ID. According to Saywire, this is monitoring, not filtering, and students learn that bad behavior will be noticed, which curbs truancy.