Safe social learning environment offers Facebook-like platform

Schoolwires is launching Nimbus, a safe social learning environment that is designed to foster student engagement.

Many districts are struggling to find a way to integrate interactive technologies into the classroom for more engaged learning. A significant barrier to providing the engaging social media technologies that students are accustomed to is doing so within a safe and secure environment. Currently, numerous districts are discussing limiting access to, and interaction on, social media sites like Facebook because of concerns with internet safety and potential improper teacher/student contact.

Nimbus combines three kinds of connectivity that exist in a school community: social networking, instructional networking, and community networking through easy-to-use tools that extend learning safely beyond the walls of the classroom. The solution is designed to increase teacher interaction, break down communication barriers, increase student participation, support curriculum and professional development, and increase community participation. It also supports emerging standards like Common Core State Standards and ISTE's National Educational Technology Standards for Students.

"Nimbus will provide the middle ground we need to develop 21st century readiness skills in our students in a controlled environment," said Mike Shuman, Director of Technology, Beavercreek City Schools in Ohio. "Schools need to control their learning environments, whether it is in the classroom or online, and Facebook is too wide open. With Nimbus, we can control and see who is joining learning communities and what is being done within them. Yet the interface is similar to other social media platforms that the students are used to. This is a strong tool to engage students and support our anywhere anytime learning initiative."

Project Tomorrow's most recent annual Speak Up Survey of more than 380,000 K-12 students, parents, teachers, librarians and administrators found that one-third of middle schoolers and almost half of high school students are currently using Facebook to collaborate with their peers on school projects; triple the number from 2007. In the study, students repeatedly stated their desire for schools to incorporate more collaboration and communications tools into teaching and learning. At the same time, the majority of parents and administrators stated their concerns about ineffective filters and exposing students to cyber bullying and other internet dangers.

Nimbus is designed to ensure that district networking activity is structured and secure. District administrators can manage users, access and settings; monitor network activity; and apply filters to ensure that all networking is productive and safe. Network usage data and reporting tools also help ensure safety and accountability.