Savannah-Chatham Public Schools are testing HP Classroom Manager, which allows teachers to control what websites students can access on their digital devices. The goal is to reduce distractions during lessons.
(TNS) — Savannah-Chatham County public schools are piloting use of a software program that allows teachers to control the electronic devices students use in the classroom.
Teachers wanted a way to manage how students were using electronic devices in the classroom, said Wendy Marshall, instructional technology program manager at Savannah-Chatham County Public School System.
"Teachers see the value of having their students use technology tools for learning, but they have been asking for a tool to help them better manage what the students are doing on their devices to ensure they are using their educational time wisely," Marshall told the Savannah Morning News.
The district is piloting HP Classroom Manager in six schools: Coastal Middle, Godley Station K-8, Hesse K-8, Hodge Elementary, Islands High School and West Chatham Elementary, Marshall said. If the pilot goes well, the district could expand use of the application.
The licensing fee of $3 per student is bundled with the district's HP Chromebook purchase, Marshall said. In addition, HP provided 10,000 licenses at no additional charge for other devices, she said. HP said the district has licenses for about 18,000 students from fourth grade and up.
By allowing teachers to tap into each student's device, HP Classroom Manager helps remove distractions, encourage student engagement and provide new teaching tools, such as polls that could facilitate discussion, said Gus Schmedlen, head of worldwide education for HP.
"It allows students who may be shy to ask that question without having to raise their hand," he said. "It invites participation and provides more feedback to a teacher so that he or she can guide the lesson in the appropriate way."
The software provides a control measure so teachers can limit the websites students have access to and the applications they can run. "One of the biggest challenges is technology can be a distraction. This removes the distraction," Schmedlen said.
HP Classroom Manager only works on students' devices when they are in school, Schmedlen said. When students take their devices home, they are not being monitored. "That's really important," he said. "We do not want to empower the school district to overstep their boundaries."
"Parents know this software is not tracking their child outside of school," said Charles Radman, global business development for HP Education Solutions.
Students are alerted when the software is being used. "When they log into HP Classroom Manager, they're notified. The student is notified on their screen they're now part of an HP Management Classroom," Schmedlen said.
Marshall said parents are notified of the district's ability to monitor students' computers through the Code of Conduct Manual that includes a reference to the "IFBG-R Internet Acceptable Use" policy. "There should be no expectation of privacy when using SCCPSS technologies. SCCPSS reserves the right to record, monitor, review and report all activities, including emails or text messages," the policy says. For more details, see the policy at bit.ly/2uYMcvF.
By notifying students when a teacher is using Classroom Manager, it affects how students decide to use their devices, Schmedlen said. When Classroom Manager is deployed, students' behavior often improves because they're aware the teacher is engaged with them and their device.
"There's an evolution that takes place," Schmedlen said.
The program, which works with Chromebooks and other Windows and Android devices, was developed about nine years ago, Radman said. Apple Computer also provides SCCPSS with a classroom application that allows teachers to remotely view, control and transfer files to students' iPads, Marshall said.
Use of the program is optional. "It's a free app that teachers who have iPads can download and use, if they choose to do so," Marshall said. "Some of the teachers at the STEM Academy use it because they are one-to-one with iPads there."
According to the product information, the Classroom app for iPads allows teachers to use an overview that shows every screen in the classroom at once. It can help teachers group students for projects or specific lessons and it allows the teacher or students to easily share information with others using the AirDrop feature.
The Apple app also provides teachers with a way to pause a lesson or to lock students' screens on a certain app to prevent them from being pulled away from the lesson to other apps or sites. Like the HP product, Marshall said, students are notified when the teacher is using the Apple app. "They are given a code in order to join, so the students know when they join that the teacher is able to monitor their work," Marshall said.
Marshall said the HP Classroom Manager provides a real-time assessment feature that indicates how well each student has learned the subject material. Because teachers can observe every student as they work, the software enables teachers to assist students who are struggling with a lesson but don't ask for help. "Teachers harness the power of formative assessment and student engagement for every single student, and that's really what it evolves into," Schmedlen said.
HP is doing a "staggered rollout" of the program with Savannah-Chatham County schools, with plans to have more teachers trained to use the program by next fall, the company said. The company provides training for SCCPSS' instructional technologists, who then train the teachers.
©2019 Savannah Morning News (Savannah, Ga.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.