Emphasis: Data Sharing
Grade level: Secondary, collegiate, also administrative
Platform: Mac (OS X Panther or later)
Price: 1-10, $49.90 each; 11-100, $39.95 each; more than 100, call for pricing
Publisher: Near-Time, (919) 612-8003; www.near-time.com

Educators are becoming increasingly dependent on technology to share information, and Near-Time has been paying attention. Flow, its collaborative server-based program, is a powerful tool that lets the user create content, search the Web, organize information, and publish work online in a multi-user environment. Flow’s common workspace makes it a catalyst for a collaborative, which could be the solution for educators wanting to streamline the exchange of information with students.

Flow’s common workspace, or Folios, let teachers create and share class documents and Web sites in real time with students. The program’s hypertext environment allows users to link their work to other documents or to Web sites with a simple drag and drop, therefore eliminating the need to know any programming language. Flow’s numerous authoring capabilities make the feedback process easier, too. The Comment feature lets teachers make notes on a student’s document without changing the original work. Teachers who encourage peer review will also enjoy Flow’s Smart Copy feature The program remembers information that is copied and pasted from Folio’s document to another and creates a link to its original source—a perfect solution for students when quoting another classmate’s work.

Flow shows much promise for schools developing distance education programs or those that want to improve workflow and project management for administrators and staff. However, being robust and edgy has its downsides. The latest version is designed for Mac OS X Panther or later. Non-Flow users can access the content made available on Flow’s user’s Web sites and blogs, but fully integrating the tool might be frustrating for schools running multiple platforms.

Robyn Viloria is an instructional technology specialist.