Across California - and the country for that matter -- educators have gained a wide range of technological tools to assist in teaching and learning. One such tool, the Internet, has developed into a critical source of knowledge and information. In addition to being an information resource, it has also become a place to contribute and collaborate with the world. Tools such as blogs, wikis, podcasting and video hosting have emerged, making it easy for anyone to publish their personal thoughts, messages, and information to a global community. These tools are often known as Web 2.0 tools.
As the web grew in popularity and ease of use, teachers took note and developed ways to use these tools in an educational setting. Though extremely valuable as teaching tools, accessing and using these tools in the school environment poses several challenges.
Most Web 2.0 tools are hosted in public domains. There, anyone and everyone is able to access content. Anyone and everyone is also able to publish content. In K-12 education, schools are expected to prevent access to inappropriate content. Because of the challenging nature of content filtering in these public sites, the tools are often blocked from access within school networks. This often results in teachers being blocked from using the tools that they consider useful to teaching, student engagement, and learning.
The K-12 High Speed Network (K12HSN) has been working to address this challenge. The goal: to encourage educators to utilize the latest web technology and tools, while simultaneously addressing concerns about appropriate content and providing access with risks minimized.
To meet the challenge, the K12HSN leverages the "trusted community" of its registered users to create a sheltered environment for the use of the tools.
The solution has two significant features that separate it from many others. First, the K12HSN hosts and provides the tools at no cost to educators. The tools include some developed by K12HSN and some that are developed by others with proven track records. Next, the program controls those who are given access to create content. In cases where we know that a person or entity wants to create content and they have agreed to abide by program rules, they are then admitted to the "Trusted Community." Those interested in using the tools are verified as a member of California's K-12 educational system. Once they have been verified, they become part of the trusted community and are allowed access to author content. The resources are accessible at districts and schools throughout California.
Calaxy is available to the California educational community at no cost.