The use of technology in the classroom provides many benefits to our learners, allowing them to access a wide variety of research materials, collaborate with their peers and learn professional software programs and applications. Tecumseh Public Schools participates in a one-to-one technology program for learners in grades seven through 12. Learners are issued a Chromebook that they may use at school and home to complete their classwork.
“Individual Chromebooks and other electronic devices are typical in today’s classrooms, but it’s still a relatively new concept for parents who never had access to that kind of technology in school,” said Deidra Thelen, West STEAM principal. “Understandably, they want to know that their child is safe online and is using that device appropriately during the school day.”
While the district’s web filtering and security functions help to ensure that learners are protected online, Tecumseh Public Schools also uses a monitoring software called GoGuardian to provide an extra layer of protection and allow school personnel to monitor the learners’ technology use. Principals, mentor teachers, facilitators, office and security staff to can monitor all learners’ Chromebook activity from their own devices.
“We get regular reports about all flagged activities and can see what the learners are doing in real time and send messages to them,” said Melanie Nowak, East STEAM principal. “It provides a great opportunity to not only correct learners when necessary, but to ask questions about their work or send a note of positive reinforcement.”
If necessary, the GoGuardian software allows staff to send a message directly to a learner, close out browser tabs or shut down the Chromebooks. If a learner is repeatedly off-task, a learner can be placed in the Penalty Box.
“The Penalty Box limits a learner to only a few pre-determined websites that they need for their work,” Thelen said. “The typical time-out period is 24 hours for a first offense, but repeat offenders could be placed in the Penalty Box from anywhere from a week to permanently.”
The principals said most learners have used technology at school for a number of years and understand the guidelines for device and internet use and most learners only need occasional reminders of the expectations.
“The learners know we can see what they are doing, and as a result are usually on-task and well-behaved,” Thelen said. “If they stray away from their work, we can redirect them or add them to the penalty box to help correct chronic distractions.”
Learners may also request their account to be added to the Penalty Box, particularly if they know they struggle with remaining focused on classwork. Parents interested in learning more about how this may be helpful for their child should contact their building principal.
An added feature of GoGuardian is the Smart Alert notification system. Tecumseh administrators are notified immediately if a learner searches for keywords and phrases that may indicate explicit material or self-harm.
“These alerts give us an instant notification that a learner is looking for material they shouldn’t online,” Nowak said. “We can receive these alerts 24/7, and often see the peak time for inappropriate searches being between 8 p.m. and midnight.”
That’s why it’s so important that parents also help monitor their child’s online activities. Thelen and Nowak offer the following tips for supervising teens’ internet use:
- Talk to your child regularly about responsible online behaviors
- Set your home internet safety monitoring to filter potential inappropriate content
- Restrict Chromebook and smartphone use to common areas of the home
- Periodically check your child’s internet search history
- Determine a cut-off time for internet use and require all devices are turned off and charging in a specific location outside the child’s bedroom
“Even with clear expectations, curiosity can get the better of teens and it’s important that we work as a team to help teach them what is appropriate and not appropriate when accessing the internet,” said Nowak.