As school districts began their 1:1 initiatives, one of the primary issues teachers had to work through was classroom management. Every student in the room now has a device with unlimited possibilities at their desk. The urge to check social media, watch a YouTube clip, look up fashion tips, or play a round or two in an online game can be too tempting ignore, for even the best students. Let’s face it. Even as adults, it is not uncommon to get off task in a long meeting or when a notification pops up on your computer.
In those early days of 1:1, there were are not many options for teachers to help keep their students on task. One option was to rearrange the room in rows so that the teacher could see all the students screens. The problem with that is that it limits mobility, removes eye contact, and forces the teacher to teach from the back of the room. The other option is to walk around the room while glancing at screens to see what tabs a student has open. Walking around is a better solution than the first, but most students learned how to close out of a tab very quickly to avoid being caught off task.
For the first few years of our 1:1 Chromebook program, I did not see value in GoGuardian Teacher. I had a fundamental disagreement with the reason students were off task. I believed that if the classroom teacher were more engaging and passionate about what they were doing, students wouldn’t be distracted by the virtual world at their fingertips. I still believe that this to be true at some level, however, after speaking with educators and making some classroom visits, I’ve changed my attitude toward this software. Even the best teachers have students that struggle to stay focused at times.
Enter GoGuardian Teacher. GoGuardian Teacher is a classroom management tool for Chromebooks. The application provides teachers with the ability to see what is on the screen of every student in their classroom. Educators can see the active tab (i.e., what the student is looking at) as well as the open tabs in the browser. Those open tabs are made up of sites, documents, games, etc. that are open but may not currently be in use.
The timeline view provides a quick glance at what each student in the class is working on. It is a unique way to visualize student engagement. The active site for each student is displayed in a real-time bar graph. Sites are color coded to make it easier for the teacher to spot potential concerns. Google Docs, for example, is a shade of blue. YouTube is dark red. When a teacher checks the graph, he or she can easily see if a student is watching YouTube instead of working on an assignment. Teachers can access this information after class as well through an auto-generated report. The report attempts to measure student engagement by calculating how much time the pupils spent on task.
Teachers have a variety of options for tackling the problems of off topic Internet browsing, playing games, post social updates, and working on school work for another class.
- Close a tab – An educator can close out of any site a student has open with the push of a button.
- Send a Message – The send a message feature comes in handy after closing a tab. Teachers can send a private message to a student redirecting the child to get back on task. Students can also message a teacher if they have a question that they do not want to ask out loud. All messages are logged for security purposes.
- Lock Screen – The instructor can choose to lock all the screens in a class. This can be used to ensure they have the full attention of the class before giving instructions or making an announcement. Teachers can choose to lock individual student screens if need be. For example, Johnny continues to be off task and doesn’t want to follow the rules after repeated warnings. Locking his display for the remainder of class and asking him to work with a friend may be a necessary consequence.
Instructors have the option of creating scenes for their classroom. Scenes are a collection of sites that students can or cannot access during that class period. A scene for discussing current events in class might limit students online access to dedicated news sites such as CNN, FoxNews, and MSNBC. Students would not be able to access any other websites until the scene has ended or the bell rings. Scenes are a fantastic tool for online assessments as well. A teacher creates a scene that only allows access to the quiz and nothing else. Using Scenes this way prevents learners from merely googling the answer to a question. Scenes can be used in reverse as well. Imagine a scenario where a teacher does not want students to access a site like Wikipedia or YouTube during a classroom discussion. Scenes can be set up to allow all sites except a select few.
As stated above, GoGuardian Teacher is designed as a classroom management tool. Concerns have been raised around when a teacher has access to what students are viewing. There are a few points that need to be made clear here that should help alleviate these concerns.
- GoGuardian Teacher does not provide teachers with access to the camera or microphone on the Chromebook.
- When a teacher begins a class session in GoGuardian Teacher, all the students in the class receive a notification via a message in the top of their screen that a session has begun.
- All chat sessions between a teacher and student are logged. Students cannot message other students, only the teacher.
- The district’s IT Administrator can control when GoGuardian Teacher sessions can be active. Typically, these settings closely mimic the school day. For example, in my district, the system is configured only to work M-F from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm. No teacher sessions can occur outside of that time. Open sessions are automatically closed as well.
What does this mean for teachers?
GoGuardian Teacher is a phenomenal tool for any district using Chromebooks. It puts control of the classroom back into the hands of the teachers. I highly recommend this tool!
What does this mean for parents?
Teachers or schools using this program are trying to keep kids focused in a world filled with distractions. We already discussed the 8 second filter of Generation Z in an earlier post. There’s an excellent quote from the GoGuardian website that sums it up: “With GoGuardian Teacher, you can focus on helping your students instead of policing their devices.” The naysayers of the world see tools like this as “big brother.” The first-hand experience with this software proves just the opposite. The teachers in my district have commented time and time again at what a positive impact GoGuardian Teacher has had in their classroom.
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