Indiana schools test Web tools

Indiana has decided it's not enough to simply encourage schools to take

advantage of technology in the classroom.

The Indiana Web Academy is piloting two Web-based services that students,

parents and teachers can use in their daily work, even outside the classroom.

E-Locker, an online storage system for students and teachers, and E-Parent,

a Web site where parents can check on their children's progress at school,

are the latest additions to the state's education portal, www.indianawebacademy.org.

The Indiana Web Academy, which runs the portal, was set up by the state's

Intelenet Commission and its Education Department to promote the use of

technology in schools. Until now, the academy has used the Web site to point

people to the wealth of educational material available on the Internet.

The new services, announced this month by Gov. Frank O'Bannon, take it another

step. "Not only are there resources to find on the Web, but there are tools

for you to use," said Ken Scales, director of the Indiana Web Academy.

E-Locker provides students and teachers with 10M of data storage they can

access from home, school or anywhere else they are working on school projects.

The password-protected system eliminates the need to carry floppy disks

or printouts between home and school. And academy staff members take care

of data backup, antivirus checks and other management tasks as part of the

service, which costs $6 a year per user.

With the pilot under way, Indiana has set up about 200 accounts, but the

academy believes it could have as many as 2,000 users in another month and

200,000 by next year when it's available statewide, Scales said.

E-Parent, which is starting out monitoring 9,000 students, taps into existing

systems that schools use to track student grades, attendance and homework

assignments, so the state was able to set up the system without asking teachers

to enter any more information.

The Web service includes e-mail so parents and teachers can exchange messages.

But the real boon has been better communication between parents and their

kids, Scales said. Parents now have a better idea of how their kids are

doing, and the kids, who can log on as well, know what the parents know.

That tends to spur a lot of conversation, he said.

Future plans include E-Store, where parents can buy school supplies online.

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