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Ask James Klein to describe his latest pet project - a Web-based social-networking application for teachers and administrators at his school district - and he jokes, "It's like a MySpace.com for grownups."
Klein, who is director of information services and technology at Saugus Union School District (SUSD) in Santa Clarita, Calif., used an open source social-networking tool called ELGG to create the site. The tool joins his open source arsenal, comprising Linux servers, Apache Web servers, MySQL database servers and the PHP scripting language.
"We're always seeking new ways to eliminate the traditional social and geographic boundaries that hinder communication and collaboration," he says, adding that most districts with geographically dispersed schools end up with islands of creativity rather than a unified platform.
The district receives a 2006 Enterprise All-Star Award for creating this social network, an easy-to-use, technology-rich environment for more than 1,800 teachers and administrators - and departmental users and students, too. The site is proving to be a great SUSD community-builder and tool for enhancing education, at no cost but the time Klein spent on development.
About 150 teachers and administrators across the district's 15 schools use his homegrown application for blogging, file sharing, posting videos and podcasting. They've been busy since January putting the site through its paces, churning out MP3 files for student downloads and posting lesson plans. Over the summer break, teachers used the Web-based site to collaborate remotely on classroom portfolios and enhance their curricula, Klein says.