By Madison McCann, Editor-in-Chief
In a step towards reducing student use of Chromebooks for non-school purposes, several teachers have adopted GoGuardian into their classrooms this semester to control and monitor their students’ use of the internet during class time.
GoGuardian is a computer program used by teachers around the country in order to filter the web inputs of Chromebooks.
“A couple years ago we had something similar called LanSchool, so in the [digital lab, the teacher] could see what everyone was up to,” Director of Technology John Stanton said. “As we get more Chromebooks in classrooms, they start to become more like the digilab. The difference is in the digilab you can see everyone, so some teachers have asked for the ability to see what all the kids are up to, especially to bring them back to the lesson at hand.”
This is why the school originally introduced GoGuardian.
Thus far, the only teachers to have attempted to use GoGuardian are English teachers John Rees, Steven Denlinger, Stephen Floyd and Dee Draven and math teacher Andrew Callender.
“I pretty much stopped using [Chromebooks] part way through this year,” Rees said. “It was the first year where I really noticed a lot of students really distracting themselves with the Chromebooks. Now I’ve gone back to using them, and I really understand that students are using them for learning, and that’s what they’re for.”
GoGuardian gives teachers the ability to monitor student activity online and restrict students to specific websites when they are signed in to Google Chrome on their school accounts. However, many students are troubled by GoGuardian’s website blocking effect, which limits them to one specific page during a work period.
“I get the point of [GoGuardian], but I also feel like if you’re slacking off, it’s your fault and it should be your responsibility because you’re in high school now,” freshman Amber Fairbanks said. “For the people who actually do their work, it’s kind of frustrating that [teachers] don’t trust you.”
The program also has sparked some debate between teachers.
“I’m really troubled by what is going on with GoGuardian,” Spanish teacher Harris Levinson said. “I feel like we have an opportunity to cultivate a culture of respect and trust — students trusting teachers, teachers trusting students — but we don’t do that by implementing this ‘Big Brother’ software. You’re already going out into a world where our police don’t trust us — where our technology doesn’t trust us. I believe that education still needs to be founded on a human relation, and GoGuardian has no place with that.”
Rees disagrees. He considers GoGuardian a way to remove assumptions about what students are doing online during class.
“For me, it gives evidence that people can be trusted,” Rees said. “Because the world is the way it is, I think it’s important to build the trust first and then assume that the trust is there — and have evidence that the trust is there.”
Many students have expressed concerns that teachers may be able to monitor students’ computers after school hours.
However, Stanton confirms this is not an option.
“Teachers cannot see what you’re doing at home,” Stanton said. “The teacher part of it ends at the end of the school day, so if a teacher were like ‘oh, I want to look at student x, y, z,’ they couldn’t do that.”
The high school began its trial period of GoGuardian on April 28 and will decide whether or not to keep it by the last week of June. GoGuardian costs approximately $6.50 per student per year, which would whack around $3,900 per year out of the technology department budget should every classroom acquire it.
“The teachers have to say to us: ‘This has made my life as a teacher so much better that we think it’s worth the money it costs to get this,’” Stanton said. “It has to achieve the ends we want and … satisfy the culture of the school. If six teachers loved it but the [other] 18 teachers hated it, then we probably wouldn’t buy it again.”