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School Town

By Susan W. Hixson - Posted May 1, 2010
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Company: School Town, LLC, 1340 Shermer Road, Suite 270, Northbrook, IL 60062. Phone: (877) 755-8696; Internet: www.schooltown.net.

Price: Contact the company directly for price information.

Audience: K–12 teachers, students, and parents.

Format: Internet-based program.

Minimum System Requirements: A computer with internet access and a browser such as Internet Explorer 7, Mozilla Firefox 2.0, Safari 3.1, or Google Chrome.

Description: School Town is an online collaborative learning resource that enables educators to design and present internet-based lessons. Students can use the program to manage homework, set goals, and interact with their teachers and peers in a private online learning community. Parents can observe and track student assignments.

Report Card

Overall rating: 5 stars

Installation: A

Content/Features: A

Ease of Use: A

Product Support: A

 Reviewer Comments:

Installation: School Town is accessed with a username and password. No installation is required.

Teachers register student users by name and assign passwords. All student work is private and can be accessed from home with an internet connection. Installation Rating: A

Content/Features: The School Town platform offers a variety of online tools that enable teachers to create assignments, work with digital learning content, share information about classroom and school events, interact with students, and inform parents.

Educators can develop web-based learning assignments using text or digital materials. The lessons can feature multimedia, internet links, downloadable work sheets, and interaction with other learners. An HTML editing tool is included with the program.

Bookmarks enable easy access to digital content or online subscription services. Files can be stored with digital instructional materials, work sheets, quizzes, rubrics, and other material that may be added to assignments.

Data-driven lessons can be created with research and writing components that empower students and encourage learner participation. Students can work on hard-copy pages printed from the online materials, or they can work on-screen and submit the results electronically. Assignments can be as far-ranging as multifaceted research projects or as focused as a page in a math textbook with questions that must be completed online for grading.

School Town can be used to distribute information about important dates and classroom and school events such as parent conferences and field trips. Global or targeted announcements can be sent to potential participants. An online map can be created to provide directions to important gatherings.

The Calendar feature can be used to track assignment due dates, special events, and activities. Students can use their own online calendars to schedule tasks related to their assignments.

Parents can log in to see the classroom calendar, announcements, assignments, and due dates. This “one-way” access is designed to enable parents to help their student(s) with time management and the completion of the required work.

Students and teachers can communicate with electronic messages sent to selected individuals or to everyone in a class. Chat rooms provide opportunities for real-time discussions and increased student participation. Quiet students can be encouraged to respond and “speak up” with written text.

Teachers can individualize lessons by turning on or off features such as chats, forums, messages, or content links for some or all of the students. Each student is invited to join an activity by the teacher.

To begin working with the program, students set up a profile that includes their name and email address. From the start, learners are encouraged to set attainable goals with action steps.

Teachers can generate real-time reports on student performance and participation. The reporting features are designed to help teachers direct students toward the achievement of learning goals. Content/Features Rating: A

Ease of Use: The program makes it easy to design lessons. Teachers can create links to online resources, design student work sheets, and assign material to be completed by a certain time or date. The ability to provide individualized feedback and assignments can enhance students’ strengths and help build a learning community. Ease of Use Rating: A

Product Support: Help is available via a toll-free telephone number and an online FAQ file. A user guide is provided online; the printable PDF files offer step-by-step details on ways to use the program’s many options.

A School Town subscription includes product training with customized teacher workshops. The training focuses on best practices and curriculum integration. Product Support Rating: A

Recommendation: School Town offers many resources that can aid in the development of teaching materials that integrate content from textbooks, multimedia, online resources, and much more. This collaborative platform can help educators take advantage of the growing amount of material available in today’s explosively expanding world of knowledge.

I highly recommend that schools try the 60-day free trial to see how this platform can benefit their classrooms. Highly recommended.

Reviewer: Susan W. Hixson, Educational Consultant.


 
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