Technology growth

GCR-2 Improves Classroom Computer Security and Provides Technology Growth

By Roxie Murphy, Editor

Gasconade County R-2 Chief Technology Officer Casey Fisher explained the GoGuardian security feature at the September 19 Board of Education meeting as part of his quarterly report.

Fisher also proposed additional technology that will need to be purchased as part of the district’s next major tax-free bond issue.

“I would like to give you all a quick demo,” Fisher said during the board meeting as he set up three Chromebooks between board members and controlled them through his own device as if he were a teacher. from the program. His screen was hooked up to the two televisions in the council room to help explain the program.

The teacher login allows the instructor to see a mini version of each student’s screen.

“What I mainly want to talk about is a tool we use called GoGuardian,” Fisher began. “You’ve seen that name before. This comes with a big bill that you pay every year.

Fisher explained that the tool is imperative for helping teachers know where students are, especially when everyone has a device.

“At the admin level, that’s what we use for content filtering, so that’s what we use to set parameters for what kids can access on the internet,” Fisher said. “It also gives me reports and notifications when kids search for things they’re not supposed to.”

The program provides a resource for teachers to monitor and control their Chromebooks and keep everyone on task.

“Sometimes people get caught up in the fact that it’s a security tool and think that’s the only reason we use it – so we can spy on kids while they’re using it. their Chromebooks,” Fisher said. “I want to be able to show you how teachers can use this in the classroom.”

Fisher explained that GoGuardian is not vetted by teachers after 5:30 p.m. to allow children some privacy at home. This does not mean that the district cannot see the search history and the content filter is still running.

However, the screens are constantly monitored and recorded during the school day. Teachers can see a live stream of everyone’s screen. They can also go back to see what the student was doing and if they were on task during the class period.

“Teachers have full control over Chromebooks, they can lock screens, open and close or limit tabs and lock websites.

“GoGuardian records what kids do in the classroom,” Fisher said. “So even if the teacher doesn’t see it in real time, they can go back.”

GoGuardian can also take screenshots of what’s on the student’s screen to show parents if needed. A control setting called Scenes will allow teachers to block the entire internet except where they want students to go.

“They can also configure SCENES to force open things,” Fisher said. “If I apply a scene, like I want the kids to just focus on IReady, it prevents them from trying to switch to another task or open another tab.”

The software also has a distance learning feature for students who may be away from the classroom long term. The added functionality was developed during the COVID-19 pandemic but can also be used during other illnesses or extended remote learning.

“Sometimes it’s great, sometimes the kids work in groups and everything can be shared on a bigger screen,” Fisher said.

Online safety is also a concern the technology department has focused on this year, for both students and teachers. In addition to helping teachers identify phishing schemes and emails, they also introduced two-factor authentication.

“This will create an additional layer of security for all staff accounts,” he said. “As ransomware and phishing programs are on the rise, we want to remain proactive in protecting our district.”

The technology that secures the building needs to be updated.

“We have an aging security system that will need to be fixed in the very near future,” Fisher said in his report. “Security cameras and remote control entry doors are beginning to lose functionality and require repairs and replacements.”

The district recently replaced five outdated cameras, costing an average of about $200 each. “A major component of bond issuance,” Fisher said in his report. “The new security door has also been installed in the administration building.”

Fisher said his team provided all staff with a three-hour technology training session during the back-to-school training week. They focused on Google Classroom, Chromebooks, GoGuardian, and several other resources teachers have access to.

Fisher said middle and high school students bring their Chromebooks home every day.

“We continue to promote and accept the protection plan,” Fisher said. “It’s a great investment for parents, as the cost is less than the cost of a repair.”

Since the start of the school year, five Chromebooks have been repaired, two of which were insured.

Additionally, all first, fifth, and ninth graders received new Chromebooks at the start of the school year. However, with new purchases, the district turned to HP Chromebooks due to shorting issues with the second-generation Lenovo Chromebook 100.

“We’re about 15% of the fleet that’s been replaced,” Fisher said. “We were able to replace about 40 devices that were under warranty.”

Since Lenovo does not provide support outside of the warranty period, the district was able to offer students the surplus devices they had on hand while working on ordering a brand of different device.

“If devices continue to decline at this rate, we may be forced to purchase additional devices.”

Fisher estimated a large order in 2023.

“We can expect to need to purchase approximately 450 Chromebooks and cases to deliver Grades 1, 5, and 9 in the summer of 2023,” he said.

A third project the technology team has been working on is installing televisions in every classroom on campus.

“We have installed 35 televisions across the district since July 1,” he said. “We should be able to complete this project next summer and all classrooms will have televisions.”

At the Gerald Campus, the Gerald Elementary School Fiber Project has begun.

“Show Me Technologies has already begun installing the fiber that will allow the GES campus to increase its bandwidth,” Fisher said. “We do not have a completion date for this project as it is funded by a grant.”

Overall, Fisher said the biggest problem he sees is that tech equipment is reaching the end of its lifespan. “That’s what I know at this point, but the list will likely grow as we start evaluating equipment throughout the school year,” Fisher said.

Outdated equipment means that available technology will no longer receive updates from the manufacturer or will no longer be under warranty, making it unsafe to use devices on the district network and causing problems with websites and applications that teachers and students use.