Twitter users are a loyal bunch and few would argue that it's a useful networking tool. The one thing Twitter is not, however, is private. While that's not a big deal for most people, it certainly is in the world of academics where it's ill-advised to have children using communication tools that anyone can view. It's a good thing someone thought of Edmodo.

Like Twitter, Edmodo is a free microblogging site, but without the subsequent privacy issues. Students and teachers are able to share notes or links to one another, send short messages or alerts, and otherwise communicate with each other in Twitter-like fashion. The difference is that everything is private, secure, and safe. While it's possible to share messages with users outside the Edmodo community, that is not the default method of delivery.

Jeff O'Hara and his business partner Nic Borg know a thing or two about what schools need in a communication tool. O'Hara, a network administrator in a suburban Chicago school district contacted Borg, a Web developer for a neighboring school district at the end of 2007.

"My initial idea was actually to start a video sharing site for educators," recalls O'Hara. "I had known of Nic's work that he had done at my wife's school district and was impressed with his programming skills so I approached him to see if he wanted to work on some things. I had become so involved in twitter, we thought a microblogging site with private groups would be an excellent e-learning tool."

Built with a standard LAMP stack, it took O'Hara and Borg about 10 months of working nights and weekends to get Edmodo ready for this week's launch. To avoid service outages, the pair say they will constantly monitor load capacity and are ready to move to a dedicated server if and when the need arises.

Though there are other communication tools on the market, O'Hara points to privacy as the number one thing that sets Edmodo apart from similar services. "It's created solely for the teacher and privacy of their students, but also bridges the gap between privacy and being public by the teacher having sole discretion on if they want to make any post public."

O'Hara and Borg are busy working out kinks and addressing any bugs that crop up during Edmodo's first week as a live service. "We wanted to get Edmodo out the door for the school year so we scrapped a few features in order to launch. After that, we have some other ideas for some other web 2.0 tools for use classroom," says O'Hara.

Services like Edmodo often sound great conceptually, but their value doesn't often take shape until users have a chance to check it out for themselves. Response so far has been very positive. Indeed, one teacher's response -- on Twitter, natch -- may have inadvertently provided the company's new tagline when he proclaimed Edmodo "Microblogging designed for education."