We are looking at piloting Gaggle with a middle school team (approximately 120 students). I am looking for information to send home to parents. Does anyone have any suggestions or possibly a sample to view?
Any suggestions for those parents who are fearful?
I thought I would answer your question a little more thoroughly about whether you should use gaggle.net in the classroom.
I have been using it for two years now I am mostly pleased.
The biggest downturn are the ads. If your school/district does not care which browser you use I highly recommend you use the firefox browser with an extension called adblock plus. If you are interested in seeing why and how let me know. Not only do the web pages download faster (because they are not downloading the heavy bandwidth ad) but also you get beautiful white space on the web page where there otherwise would be a very annoying ad).
Additionally, some of the ads in the past have been a little racy--Pamela Anderson type stuff. I emailed gaggle about this and they said they actually have very little control of the ads. I actually believe them because they usually don't handle advertising, but just try to make money through a 3rd party company.
Other bad news:
Only 2MB of space. This can fill up quickly. I tell students to delete old messages on a regular basis. There is a warning when a student is about to run out of space.
The limited space makes the digital locker meaningless. Even a large powerpoint can be denied, much less a picture or sound file.
Now for the good news:
The built in control for teachers is awesome. If a student uses a bad word, the email is sent directly to you. You can update the "bad word" list as well. Not only does this work on the email, but also in the Message boards and chat room (should you decide to have them up).
For students to send an email they only have to type in a few letters of the recipients first or last name and it is autofilled the rest of the way. Great for low students.
The directory is great. Students can see who has an email account.
For basic email, chat, and message boards, I would recommend gaggle.net for it's awesome control. I do not use the blog on gaggle.net so someone else will have to tell you if it is any good.
If you are interested in using gaggle, call the company up. They will want to verify that you are a teacher/ admin at the school (nice security feature). Then create a few student accounts and have those email from one account to another. Throw in a few bad words, and watch them end up in the admin (your) email box.
We used Gaggle for a while on our campus but ditched it recently because of the ads and the slow downloads. It could have been an issue with our network, but our students actually spent more time waiting for their inbox to show up than actually using the site.
We started using Oracle's think.com site. This provides e-mail, blog, web space and a lot more. It also is a network of classes and schools so your students can participate in gobal projects. It does have some social networking tools with it as well.
I do not know all of the ins and outs of the program, but our tech loves it. Her students have not had any problems with it.
If you would like more info, you can go to think.com or I would be more than happy to send you more details.
Although I am a fan of gaggle, I concur with David. It can be very slow and tedious because of the ads.
It is easy to circumvent this though. We use Firefox with adblock plus. It not only blocks ads from showing, but from even downloading! Gaggle.net runs 10 times faster.
Additionally, FireFox with adblock plus will make every site you visit much faster. You will never see ads again.
I have been a Firefox user since 2004, and it is a much better browser. In fact, it is considerably better than IE. Use it for 1 month, and try going back to IE. You will wonder why things seem so much slower.