Van Dyke PS Computer Labs Combine Instruction with Monitoring


Kathy Zainea, a teacher at Lincoln Middle School in Detroit, has had access to interactive classroom tools for about two years now, but it wasn't until a couple of months ago that she was exposed to a new lineup of options that she could use for instruction. The expanded choices came when Van Dyke Public Schools upgraded its computer lab software through existing vendor NetOp Tech, the United States marketer of NetOp School.

NetOp School enables instructors to both monitor class activity and teach at the same time and works by showing student computer activity in a thumbnail display on the instructor's screen, giving the teacher a quick overview of who is paying attention in class and who is not. The instructor can then send messages to remind students to stay on task, block certain programs, shut down the Internet or freeze the computer altogether.

"I use NetOp School for so many different things," said Zainea. "Everything from displaying the class agenda and monitoring student activity to chatting with students to helping them better understand certain concepts or doing a demonstration using my own system. I even distribute my tests using the software."

With more than 4,000 students and nine schools, Van Dyke Public Schools also use the software's advanced features to better interact with students. Using the chat function, for example, students can ask questions both in a public portal, enabling the entire class to view an answer to a common problem, or in a private message to the instructor. To distribute tests and grades to their classes, teachers can click their computer mice and have the exams sent simultaneously to all students.

"I can even set up the class into groups and distribute tests or assignments that way," said Zainea. "If a group or individual is lagging behind, I can use the chat function or take over their computer to get them up to speed without the stigma of constantly walking up to their station."

In upgrading to the latest version of NetOp School, Van Dyke Public Schools gained access to features like a recording function and "offline" capabilities. The "offline" mode of NetOp School enables teachers to take the software home to prepare class materials and lesson plans. Instructors can discuss class activity with students, remind them about computer lab policies, and deter them from improper computer use in the future.

According to David Auwarter, education sales manager for Chicago-based NetOp Tech, the school system came to the vendor two years ago in search of a better way to interact with its students. "They wanted a way to be able to control things that were being done in the classroom and provide more interactive and collaborative instruction," said Auwarter. "They realized they could do this through technology."

During the update process, the school system also added several new licenses, according to Auwarter, who classifies VDPS as a "super-user" in terms of its user volume (4,000 by this summer) and the many different functionality that it's currently taking advantage of.

"This school district uses all of the features, even the offline capability, which enables individual teachers to download future applications onto a memory stick and create tests," said Auwarter. "When they arrive at school the next day they can upload the data and get to work."

Get daily news from THE Journal's RSS News Feed

About the author: Bridget McCrea is a business and technology writer in Clearwater, FL. She can be reached at [email protected].

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 [email protected].

About the Author

Bridget McCrea is a business and technology writer in Clearwater, FL. She can be reached at [email protected].