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Web posted Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Technology robs students of a pet excuse

By Donnie Fetter
News Editor, Twitter @DonnieFetter

Columbia County pupils might soon need a new excuse other than "the dog ate my homework" for failing to turn in assignments.

Officials implemented an updated school system Web site this month and many area schools followed suit. Those that didn't must upgrade their sites by Monday, and teachers should all have new sites by Sept. 1.

School system Technology Department Director James Van Meter said the new site from education software company Edline is much more user friendly for the public and teachers.

"The previous system ... was just very difficult to use; so much so that many of the teachers opted to go with a different product for their teacher Web sites," Van Meter said. "Some of them were developing their own HTML code and hosting it somewhere else."

Through Edline, teachers can more easily create Web sites that are linked to the schools' Web sites, which in turn are linked to the system's site at

"Each school and teacher has their own Web space," Van Meter said. "The big difference is that the teacher's Web space are actually tied to classes."

That means teachers' Web pages are customized based on the subjects they teach. Eventually, those Web sites will include digital dropbox systems where pupils can turn in their homework, Van Meter said.

The new sites now include reverse communication systems in which teachers or administrators can send notes to students and parents using e-mails, texts and voice messages.

For now, Parent Portal will remain as a link on each site and will allow parents to review their children's grades, attendance and class schedules.

The new system costs $44,000 each year to maintain, but a grant from the Universal Service Administrative Company reduced that to $23,000, said school system Controller Pat Sullivan.

Because Edline is a Cloud-based program, Van Meter said the new sites require no servers and little maintenance from school officials.

"We don't host anything here," he said. "There's no management of it from us from a technology perspective."

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