Product: Gaggle Apps

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Web Retail Price: $3.75-6/account


Gaggle Apps is a suite of online software that gives students access to powerful communication and communication programs along with filters and monitoring options designed specifically for the classroom. Most of the Apps mimic other useful resources that are available online. Students can create email accounts, make blog posts, and keep up with school friends on a social-networking “wall.” Other Apps have more school-specific functions, such as “digital lockers” for uploading files, drop boxes for homework assignments, and a phone-texting service specifically for students and teachers. These services are integrated into a student’s account, and teachers, administrators, and even parents can monitor all activity on these accounts.

EASE OF USE: Gaggle Apps provide users with a highly intuitive interface that should be easily accessible to nearly all students and teachers. A list of apps is provided in a toolbar on the left side of the screen, and individual apps are opened in “tabs” similar to those commonly used in Web browsers. This makes simultaneously navigating among a multitude of Gaggle Apps a simple process. Visually, the interface is fairly bare-bones, lacking the sleek veneer of some popular social networks. Still, the interface is easy to navigate and never distracting or confusing. The company offers more than four hours of tutorial videos, ranging from instructions on managing accounts as an administrator to setting up an email account for a student or a teacher.


CREATIVE USE OF TECHNOLOGY: While many of Gaggle’s individual components (calendars, word processors, email, etc.) are available elsewhere on the Web, Gaggle Apps’ real utility lies in its classroom-security and filtering functions. Gaggle Apps centralizes external sites for email, social networking, and blogging into a single, easily monitored service.

SUITABILITY FOR USE IN A SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT: Gaggle Apps are clearly designed with the classroom in mind. Students are able to share their documents with other students, submit work to teachers, and easily collaborate with others on their Gaggle network. These features not only are easy to integrate into a curriculum or a classroom routine but will save teachers valuable time and paper.

The GaggleTube App proved a bit underwhelming. The app claims to filter inappropriate content from YouTube; however, GaggleTube does not provide nearly enough filtering to satisfy parents or administrators worried about students’ access to inappropriate material. While the vast majority of offensive videos are effectively blocked, there are lapses in protection. A search for bikini, for example, effectively blocked all offending videos. Another search, for drunk, however, allows a student account access to footage that is hardly school appropriate. Even Gaggle acknowledges this limitation, asserting that it “is not currently recommended for students.”

—Samuel B. LaMonica IV

OVERALL RATING

In all, Gaggle Apps delivers on its promise to provide a “suite of safe online learning tools” for the classroom. Students will enjoy being able to access the socialnetworking and communication programs, while teachers and administrators can feel secure with the company’s effective filters and monitoring options.

Top 3 Features

1 Provides students, teachers, parents, and administrators with a suite of safe, integrated online educational tools.
2 Gives students valuable experience using online resources and social networks in a productive, academic manner.
3 Allows teachers to individually monitor and control students’ online activities rather than simply block potentially useful resources.

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