A new Web site taps a variety of online communication tools to allow educators, philanthropists, government officials, and business leaders to discuss topics in education.
Education Bridges, found online at www.educationbridges.org, combines the formats of live chats, Web logs, and podcasting to host conversations on ways in which philanthropy and technology can improve the quality of learning.
The site offers weekly online chats that users can listen to or participate in, using Skype, a peer-to-peer voice service that lets people talk over the Internet as if they were on the telephone.
After the chats are over, they can be downloaded and listened to on a computer or portable MP3 player. In addition, people can write comments, either during or after the chat, in a discussion forum on the site.
The Web site has been up and running since mid-January, and it had received 20,000 visits to the site as of Jan. 24, according to John J. Mullaney, the executive director of the Nord Family Foundation.
The Amherst, Ohio-based philanthropy is the sole funder of the Web site, which cost less than $5,000 to create because it uses free software, known as freeware. According to Mr. Mullaney, the only advertising Education Bridges does is by word of mouth.
So far, all of the chats have centered around the possibility of so-called Wikibooks replacing traditional textbooks.
Wikibooks are free online textbooks that are written collaboratively, so that teachers can update and adapt them to students’ needs.
Mr. Mullaney said Education Bridges is designed to explore issues from a variety of viewpoints.
Mr. Mullaney’s ideas for future discussion topics include charter schools and gaps in achievement between students of different demographic groups.