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"The Noise You Hear, is the Sound of FREEDOM."
Gaggle.net offers students a way to communicate with parents home, overseas

By Sgt. Lukas M. Atwell | | April 12, 2007

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Laurel Bay Schools are taking advantage of an Internet program called Gaggle.net that provides students a safe way to stay connected with their parents whether they are at work or overseas and offers an extra edge to success in school.

Gaggle.net is an Internet communication system used by Department of Defense Education Activity schools across the globe to improve the learning environment for their students. It also allows children the opportunity to get online without using popular sites like My Space and Facebook, which offer features that often concern parents.

The program allows students to e-mail selected parties, save and display their school work, maintain a profile and keep their parents connected to their daily lives, according to Joe Guiendon, the superintendent of the South Carolina/Fort Stewart School District.

Educators have the ability to monitor all content before it leaves or enters a student’s account through Gaggle.net’s Anti-Pornography Scanner.

The scanner decompresses zip files, inspects embedded images, scans linked photos and addresses and has a customizable word finder that locates any suspicious words or groups of words found on sites or in e-mail, according to Wendy Wekenmann, an educational technologist at Bolden Elementary. Messages with offensive language, questionable domains, banned file types or pornographic images are automatically rerouted to the student’s educator for review.

“Any questionable material will be automatically sent to the teacher’s ‘blocked’ folder,” Wekenmann said. “The teacher has the opportunity to review the message before deleting it or allowing it to be sent.”

Students may also maintain a digital locker they may access from anywhere.

“The digital locker is a place where students can upload homework documents and download them at their home to complete,” Wekenmann said. “They can also display a profile in the locker including their hobbies, artwork, school assignments and progress.”

Students have used the digital locker recently to communicate and share video messages and photos with parents deployed overseas.

“The best thing about (the digital locker) is that you can come to school and send photos and messages to your parent in Iraq,” said Jeffrey Hooks, a student at Bolden. “I was able to see my dad and hear his voice with the (equipment) the school has.”

Gaggle.net is a powerful tool for communication between parents, home and school, according to Guiendon. Parents can see how their children are doing and observe their interests.

“Students across DoDEA have a safe place to share their thoughts, ideas and creativity,” said Wekenmann, “Parents can stay up-to-date with their children, monitor their progress in school and can even check up on them from Iraq.”

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