Collaboration | News

Lightspeed Offers Facebook-Like Portal for Collaboration

Lightspeed Systems has added a new feature to its Web filtering software that allows K-12 users to do "safe" sharing and collaboration. My Big Campus is part of Web Access Manager, which performs Web filtering for educational environments. The new component addresses the dynamic nature of social networking content and lets educators and students collaborate while still keeping the district's network secure.

My Big Campus is a portal that provides a searchable collection of user-submitted online resources and a suite of tools integrated with the Web filter to help streamline IT administration, protect the network, enforce acceptable use policies, and maintain regulatory compliance. Educators can post, share, and access online videos, Web sites, documents, and other content for students, groups, or other teachers. Lightspeed Systems CEO Joel Heinrichs described the new feature as "a secure version of Facebook designed for schools.... The navigation and activities are very similar."

A district in Mamaroneck, NY is using My Big Campus to enable teachers to collaborate, set up classes, and post assignments. "We need to give teachers and students the best possible learning tools and environment to enhance their education, and we believe that Web 2.0 is that environment," said Steven Halper, technology coordinator for Rye Neck Union Free School District. "My Big Campus gives us the safe resources and safe social networking we need."

The teachers at Rye Neck have also used the utility to enable students to communicate and connect with each other about schoolwork outside of class and to let them publish and share their writing online. "English teachers are having students create 'digital portfolios' using their My Big Campus blogs," Halper said. "Students also are using this area to evaluate and discuss assigned readings."

Content posted to My Big Campus can be limited to viewing within a class, a school, a district, or other Lightspeed customers.

The Hendrick Hudson School District in Montrose, NY piloted My Big Campus during the 2009-2010 school year. "Our pilot group of teachers and students used it successfully for a wide-variety of projects, and we plan to introduce it to all teachers next school year through professional development and training sessions," said Mathew Swerdloff, the district's technology director. "Projects ranged from kindergarten students using it at home with parents to boost learning, to high school students using it for discussions, assignments, and test review. At the middle school, My Big Campus was used as a starting point for a discussion of netiquette and social networking."

The program integrates with an existing Active Directory or LDAP group to simplify network management, administration, and policy enforcement.

Web Access Manager itself is available as standalone software or as an integrated component of Lightspeed's Total Traffic Control network security and management suite.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.