Digital collaboration tools for teachers worldwide

Teachers Without Borders rolls out easy to use, open source software to facilitate open courseware, content authoring and collaboration.

Collecting and disseminating information is often the province of developed countries, but Teachers Without Borders hopes to bridge the Digital Divide by allowing educators worldwide to share information and teaching materials, reports All American Patriots.

The organization will offer a software suite, TWB Tools, which covers a lot of territory. On theh one hand, it's a networking tool to share information. Educators can create groups and share galleries, blogs, forums, news feeds and bookmarks. TWB Tools also provides a K-12 classroom management model that "will allow teachers to enroll students, create assignments, journals, portfolios, and course materials themselves, along with grading and case notes so that we can provide a secure system in which education follows the child," said Fred Mednick, the president and founder of Teachers Without Borders.

It's flexible software that "allows for easy content authoring and collaboration, classroom management, the adaptation of texts to meet local contexts - in print, PDF, CD-ROM form, available across all platforms. The offline reader (TWB Reader) can allow versions of digital textbooks, allowing users to highlight, bookmark, and create notes that can be uploaded when one is back on the Internet. It also handles various languages and includes a universal keyboard," Mednick said.

Thus far, this type of software has been only available to teachers in developed countries with access to high-speed Internet connections and elaborate computer networks and platforms.

"The new digital divide is not between the east and west or even rural and urban; it is between those with platforms and networks and those with none," said Mednick.

The software is relatively easy to use and require no programming skills. Teachers can import material from other open-source platforms that offer free courseware, as well as to export content from TWB Reader, he said. Interoperability and "a climate of sharing" are very important, Mednick emphasized.

"We expect to reach hundreds of thousands of teachers, to continue to develop the platform so that it is more and more accessible," he said, adding that he wants to form partnerships with NGOs, universities, ministries of education and agencies such as the State Department, the United Nations and the World Bank.

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