CoolSchool - a Safe Israeli 'Facebook' for Kids

CoolSchool is the first social networking platform designed for elementary students - teaching them online safety.

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Unless you plan to keep your kids computer-illiterate forever – and maybe not even then – chances are that one day, probably sooner than later, they will dip their feet into the world of Facebook-style social networking. Once that cat is out of the bag, there's no putting it back in; tougher and more experienced parents than you have tried, and failed.

The question nowadays is not if your kids will be going on Facebook, but will they be ready to deal with social networking when they do. Will they know what pitfalls to avoid? The proper behavior and etiquette? How to stay safe? Unless someone teaches them those things, then no – they won't be ready.

Radu Shefler, a computer programmer from Modi'in, was concerned about those things – and decided to build a system that would let his kids have a Facebook-style social media experience, under the supervision of parents and teachers. The system he developed for his kids' school, called CoolSchool, proved to be so popular that it has spread like wildfire to schools all around Israel. The platform is free and is open only to students and teachers who are members, and is available to any school.

“I wanted to give the kids the experience of social networking in a safe environment,” he says. “The structure of CoolSchool is much like the Facebook wall, where kids can comment on things, link pictures and videos, and 'like' other peoples' posts. Teachers can insert homework assignments and messages – and actually, studies have shown, it makes it easier for kids to stomach assignments when they are given when they kids are having fun.”

The supervision aspect also ensures that the environment remains safe. “The chats and messages are accessible to everyone with the class password, so when something goes wrong – bad language, or bullying – an alarm goes off, and the teacher can contact the student privately and correct his behavior. Thus they learn the proper way to deal with online situations, an education that will come in useful later on,” says Shefler. Not that kids from kindergarten through sixth grade – the intended audience for CoolSchool – need social media. But they do need guidance, and that's what the platform provides, says Shefler.

Shefler created CoolSchool because he couldn't find anything similar – in any language. Thus it is a unique Israeli creation, ripe for export. Which Shefler would love to do, if he is able to attract investment. “So far all the work I've been doing with CoolSchool has been voluntary; primarily that means setting up the system for schools and training teachers and administrative staff in how to use it. I was working full time, and recently have come down to half-time in order to deal with the requests for help.” Shefler recently made an arrangement with IBM Israel, which will provide volunteers to help install systems and train staff in new schools.

And, says Shefler, he would like nothing more than to translate the platform and enable Jewish schools in the U.S. and around the world use it as well – creating, in essence, a “Jewish Facebook” for schools around the world. “One day soon I hope to be able be doing this with teachers around the Jewish world,” he says. “We are waiting for an investor with the foresight and wisdom to realize how important this is.”








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