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Hands-On Favorites: Monitoring Software

In today’s one-to-one laptop computing environment, you need a way to control the flow of information on all of those students’ screens.

September/October 2008

Angel Learning Management Suite

• The problem: “We work with 28 school districts in Orange County, and we saw a definite opportunity to help support the district’s online learning initiative. We needed to find the best way to support district implementation.”
• The results: “Previous initiatives hadn’t gone very well, because they weren’t user-friendly. With Angel we got the support we needed.”
• The reaction: “The great thing is how widespread it’s become, and how quickly it’s taken off. We have teachers who chose to start really small, who just wanted to post some of their lectures. But when they saw how easy it was to navigate, their use quickly expanded. When we started this we had roughly 10 teachers and 150 students committed to it, and now, within two years, we have 16,000 users. It’s in all classrooms from second grade to high school now. We use it with every subject from the youngest kids learning social studies to high school students learning AP calculus. We have quite a few districts who are using it for professional development for educators as well as clerical and administrative support staff. If there’s an issue, however big or small, we pick up the phone or e-mail Angel, and the problem is solved within a matter of minutes. That’s how it’s been the entire time we’ve been working with them, and that differentiates their product more than anything else.”
• Next challenge? “Districts are looking at this as a district-wide solution to deliver curriculum, both online and in face-to-face courses.”


NetSupport School

• The problem: “We were looking for monitoring software. In a classroom or in public places such as a media center, we wanted to make sure we could monitor students and block certain websites.”
• The results: “Teachers can set up their daily plans, allowing students to visit certain websites during the day. Some teachers block certain students who want to surf the Web; that way, teachers can focus more attention on the curriculum and less on disciplining students. Some of our teachers use it to chat with students during language classes. Some use it for video or student presentations to the class without projectors.”
• The reaction: “The students were initially shocked: ‘Who’s watching me?’ In one of our schools, the students started telling each other, ‘You’d better go to the places you’re supposed to be going [online], because people are watching.’ It decreased our number of discipline problems, because even though it wasn’t being used all the time, it made the students wonder. But it’s not there to spy on students. Mainly, it’s there to help our teachers keep their students on task. The basic monitoring is very easy; it’s not much of a learning curve at all. But NetSupport is powerful, and for some parts we have some district professional development.”
• Next challenge? “It’s on a school-by-school basis for now. Due to the size of our district, it’s difficult for us to purchase it for the entire district. We started with three or four schools, and now many use it. I personally think that this is the way schools will go in the future.”

More ways to round up your out-of-control digital herd.

CrossTec SchoolVue

• The problem: “We’re a vocational institute, and we’re very invested in technology. Not all of our classrooms are computer labs, but more than half of them are. Our students are poor and minorities, and we have an ELL student population as well. Most of our students haven’t done well in traditional academic environments, so we looked at alternative learning tools. ”
• The results: “SchoolVue allows instructors to communicate with the students in a more individualized and personalized way, which is important for students who have self-esteem issues.”
• The reaction: “The software wasn’t difficult to install, and we haven’t had a single technical problem. When we instituted it, the instructors were very positive about it. After a little training, they found it fairly easy to learn and use. But some students grumbled because their instructors could monitor what they were doing on the Internet, including their activity on social networking sites such as MySpace. Our new students who started the following quarter accepted SchoolVue much more quickly. They found it normal—just something we do.
• Next challenge? “One of the things we’ve thought about and discussed with CrossTec is that we see this as becoming a vehicle to help our handicapped and special needs students. We’d also like to use it with single moms who stay home when they can’t get daycare. Maybe there could be a feature that would allow us to use the CrossTec system remotely, in the same vein as distance learning. But in order to do that, we’d need a live video feature.”


SynchronEyes

• The problem: “With 38 lab stations in my classroom, I was spending way too much time each day making sure students were staying on task. I needed every student to see and hear the same thing. It also took too much time to gather all the students’ files. To collect 38 documents, pictures, or spreadsheets, I had to stop class early and run around the room with a thumb drive and stick it into every computer.”
• The results: “With our new SynchronEyes, students just press a few buttons and their files get sent straight to my station. Collection time takes approximately 10 to 15 seconds, so it lets me give students more time to work on their projects. The SynchronEyes software lets me allow or disallow individual or group access to the Internet. I can do the same with specific programs. I can say, ‘You can work on anything you want today, but no games,’ or you can say, ‘You can only work on Microsoft Excel,’ and I can manage this with just a click of a button. Another great feature is the private chat room for the classroom. Feedback is enthusiastic and instantaneous.”
• The reaction: “We’re a relatively new school, and I’m fortunate to have one of the most beautiful and modern labs in the district. Many teachers come in to observe. They always leave saying, “That was so cool!”
• Next challenge? Because we do so much professional development and so many teachers in San Marcos School District get to see how SynchonEyes works, they all want it. So we want to get it to all of them as quickly as possible.

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