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SCC students help pilot new program

A screen shot of a stripped-down version of Microsoft Word, just one of the features Live@edu provides.

A couple weeks ago the St. Croix Central School District began piloting a new program to promote student and teacher communication and collaboration over the Internet.

Half a dozen students in Nicholas Haug's business class began using Live@edu, an online Microsoft communication and collaboration program that is free to K-12 educators.

According to the Microsoft website, "Live@edu is more than just email--it includes access to other services that enhance the school's ability to collaborate and communicate, including calendars, document sharing, instant messaging, video chat, mobile email and more."

District Network Administrator Chad Konsela said after learning of Live@edu he thought the program had the potential to be successful in the St. Croix Central School District.  

"I like the idea of the collaboration of students and staff and also a very nice feature of it is that they automatically get a Skydrive account which gives them 25 GB of space online that they can access from anywhere over the Internet," he said.  

Currently students grades 9-12 are provided an email account through a company called Gaggle.

District Technology Coordinator Joanne Sanders said the free online service Gaggle provides restricts students by having a low file size limit.

"If a student sends a file with a PowerPoint presentation attached, it is likely to use up all their available storage space. When that happens, Gaggle locks their account. Often students do this as a means to get files back and forth from school to work. They email themselves and pick up the email at home. It eliminates the need for a flash drive," Sanders said.

Konsela said the Skydrive feature has an online version of Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, which enables users to work with a "stripped down version" of Word, Excel and PowerPoint; The Microsoft Office "Web Apps" allow students and staff to access view and edit their online documents from virtually any location.

Much like Google Docs and other online document editing programs, the Microsoft program gives students and staff the ability to view documents online and perform basic editing functions in real-time without needing Microsoft Office installed on the computer. Users can control who has permission to view or edit documents and individuals can simultaneously edit documents with their peers.

"I think that (Live@edu) opens up a lot of opportunities to kids that may not have (Microsoft Office features) at home," Konsela said. 

Although the program has some of the Microsoft Office features, Konsela said the programs are limited and he doesn't consider the program a replacement for the Microsoft Office Suite.

Konsela said he hopes the program will give SCC students the ability to work together much easier.  Rather than sharing documents via flash drives, disks or meeting in person, Konsela hopes students will find the new program to be an easy and effective tool in completing group projects and communicating with teachers without needing to meet face-to-face.

Konsela said the pilot classroom seems to be enjoying the program so far.

The district will test the program for the remainder of the school year. If the program is deemed successful, the technology department aims to make the program available district-wide next fall.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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