When we started talking about a 1:1 computing initiative, one of the biggest concerns we heard from administrators, community members, and parents was, how were we going to monitor students digitally?

After all, it’s one thing to know what students are doing when they’re sitting in a classroom, but giving them devices—and online access both in and out of school—presented a whole range of new challenges.

Related content: Student safety management is more important than ever

Once at home, for example, those devices become “personal devices,” and are used for everything from web browsing to writing notes (via Google Docs) to sharing photos with one another.

While we’d like to think all of our students understand how to use those resources responsibly, there are some clear concerns and situations that can arise when you put this kind of power into the hands of young students.

Rather than take our chances with problems such as cyberbullying, we decided to implement a student safety platform three years ago. Here’s why:

1. Students aren’t passing notes around anymore. Now that activity takes place online, where they collaborate with one another using tools like Google Docs, we needed software to monitor that activity and let us know if someone was amiss—from the use of profanity in a document or the sharing of an inappropriate photo to the threat of suicide or self-harm.

2. Keeping kids safe is a top concern. There are students in our district who are alive today because of the student safety solution. Thanks to the platform, we quickly reached out to parents based on conversations that were either taking place with friends online, or via journal entries. Social workers and/or administration have gotten involved when there was a legitimate concern

3. Time doesn’t stop for life-threatening situations. We’ve had to call parents at 2:30 a.m. to explain that something was flagged that needed immediate attention. We don’t care what time it is; we’re calling home to mom and dad and then following up on the well-being of the student.

4. We can be proactive. Before we had our student safety platform in place, we handled issues reactively: something would happen and we would react to it. If a child told a principal that he/she was being bullied, the bullying itself had already happened. So the threat is still there, but now we’re getting out in front of it—before it spirals out of control. We can “see things as they happen” and intervene, versus getting involved after the fact.

5. Data is empowering. The ability to pull information as needed (i.e., on how many incidents are happening per building) and create reports around that data has been invaluable. It helps us pinpoint where there are areas of concern and gives us feedback we can actually use to change behavior and outcomes. If you were to cut my budget tomorrow and tell me that I can only have one piece of software in place, 10 out of 10 times, I’d say it would have to be Gaggle.

6. It’s up to us to teach good digital citizenship. All students in our district take some form of digital citizenship/internet safety courses—from kindergarten through high school. We treat every grade level differently, but the end goal is always the same: teaching good digital citizenship to youngsters. Our student safety platform helps us do this through 24/7/365 machine learning technology monitoring coupled with trained safety experts – and then gives us the information we need to modify behaviors and help students make the right choices in our digital world.

About the Author:

Ryan Adkins is director of technology at Yorkville Community Unit School District 115 in Illinois.


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