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Monitor & Control: Kentucky Teacher Keeps Students Focused with Classroom Suite

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Keeping track of a classroom full of students, each in front of a computer, is a teaching challenge. Jorge Romero knows that from experience, as school technology coordinator and an information technology teacher for grades 9 through 12 at Franklin County Career and Technical Center in Frankfort, KY.

To keep track of who is doing what, he uses a classroom monitoring product that allows him to keep tight control over what each of his 24 or so students is doing and to take control of one or all computers in the classroom at any time. Among other things, the software allows him to:

  • Check to see whether students are instant messaging or visiting Google instead of the approved classroom site;
  • Send a message to an individual student that he is shutting down access to a particular site;
  • Show his own or any student's current desktop to the entire classroom for discussion, either on the classroom's interactive whiteboard or on each student's screen; and
  • Freeze everyone's keyboard and mouse and blank every screen when he wants to address students without distractions.

It's all done with NetSupport School 9, classroom management software from NetSupport Inc. that Romero told THE Journal he can't imagine teaching without.

The instructor module of the software is installed on Romero's computer, with a client piece of software running on each classroom computer. Because he is Franklin's technology coordinator and well versed in computers, Romero monitors not only his own classroom, but all of the classroom computers at the Franklin County center. About 850 students a day attend the center for vocational training on a variety of subjects.

While walking around a classroom full of student computer users is always important, Romero said, no teacher can be everywhere. Students can easily turn their monitors away from the instructor and use them for non-school activities at any time. The school filters its network to block specific sites, as mandated by the federal Children's Internet Protection Act, but Romero pointed out that there are "still [inappropriate] sites out there that they can get to." Now he can block any site he chooses, adding to the list at any time.

"Students aren't bad, of course, but ... they will do anything in their power not to do schoolwork," Romero said. "They'll surf, do e-mail, anything and everything other than their work." He said he values the software so highly that "I would have paid for the program myself" had the district not footed the bill.

Although Romero said he's comfortable with technology and teaches classes on networking, PC repair, and Microsoft certifications, he described the product as easy to use. A less-technical user shouldn't have trouble, he said, and will find the payoff tremendous in terms of classroom control. "It's invaluable," he said. "There's no comparison to the kind of control you get." Wizards, help pages, and easy to use icons make NetSupport friendly enough for an average teacher, he said.

Romero was familiar with the product from a previous teaching position, and although he said he's seen other classroom monitoring products on the market, the extensive feature list in NetSupport School sold him, including the ability to allow or block students from accessing specific computer programs or Internet sites by computer, by classroom or group, or for the entire school.

Another powerful feature: a testing module that allows him to design a test, then present it on all student screens at once, to be taken individually. NetSupport can tailor the test to each student by scrambling questions, making cheating more difficult.

Through NetSupport, Romero maintains a list of his own and other classrooms at Franklin on his screen, showing him which site every computer is currently visiting. "When you see one that doesn't make sense, you can click on it. A right click [then] immediately blocks access," Romero explained.

When students have questions, he can queue them up individually in NetSupport from his desk, then visit each student's desktop remotely and address their questions. "It gives me a direct line to each student," Romero said. "I don't know what I'd do without it."

A free 40-user 30-day evaluation copy of NetSupport School 9 is available for download from the company's website.

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About the author: Linda L. Briggs is a freelance writer based in San Diego, CA.

Proposals for articles and tips for news stories, as well as questions and comments about this publication, should be submitted to David Nagel, executive editor, at dnagel@1105media.com.

About the Author

Linda Briggs is a freelance writer based in San Diego, Calif. She can be reached at lbriggs@lindabriggs.com.

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