Remote Control: Classroom Management Software Makes It Easy to Keep Students on Task. but Is It Necessary?

Article excerpt

It's no secret that the combination of young people and computers can equal aimless Web surfing. In the classroom, teachers incorporating computers into their lessons need to make sure students are using technology in productive ways. To do this, many schools have turned to classroom management systems. Does your district need to invest in this technology? Are your teachers ready to embrace it? Read on.

1 What are classroom management systems?

Much like the video surveillance system in your local convenience store, classroom management systems provide educators with a bird's eye view of their students' computer screens, enabling teachers to have total management over their classroom environment. Teachers can even select one screen to view in greater detail. If a student is surfing the Web or playing solitaire when he should be studying algebra, a teacher can use the software to block certain applications, take control of the student's machine, and force the pupil to pay attention by sending the appropriate screen or lesson to that student's computer. Teachers can also use the software to lock down a student machine--a way to keep students focused during lectures or screen demonstrations.

Classroom management systems have other functions, too. Teachers can use them to administer tests, distribute or collect files, or magnify part of a featured screen to highlight a lesson. The system can also be used as a real-time assessment tool, empowering teachers to monitor progress and quickly assess how well students understand concepts as they are taught. Based on what they see, educators can determine whether to adjust their lessons and linger on a challenging topic or move forward. Finally, teachers can use classroom management solutions to send students private instant messages or take control of student computers with their own machines, just as if the educators were seated next to them.

2 What are the benefits to this approach?

Classroom management systems come in handy for a variety of reasons. First and foremost is keeping students in a one-to-one computing environment on task. With classroom management, teachers know exactly what every student is working on. Many products, including SynchronEyes from SMART Technologies (www .smarttech.com), NetOp School from Cross Tec Corp. (www.crossteccorp .com), DyKnow Monitor from DyKnow (www.dyknow.com), [Vision.sup.6] from GenevaLogic, and LanSchool (www.lanschool.com), offer teachers the ability to view as many as 32 thumbnails of every student computer from one screen, a great way to make sure every student is literally on the same page. Having this control enables teachers to focus on teaching, not worrying about babysitting students to make sure they're using technology the way they're supposed to.

Classroom management systems can also empower teachers to help students who are having trouble with a particular program or application. With solutions such as Apple Remote Desktop from Apple (www.apple .com) and NetSupport School from NetSupport (www.netsupportschool .com), teachers or network administrators can seize control of student machines remotely and troubleshoot glitches without having to waste time removing the student's computer from the learning environment. Less time shuttling computers between the classroom and the lab means more time students can spend using the computers to learn. Of course, there's a cost savings as well: Without having to physically touch every computer in need of repair, districts can keep maintenance costs down.

Finally, teachers who like to deliver lessons in presentation format can use classroom management software to broadcast slides and other images to every student computer simultaneously, eliminating the need for a digital projector. With the help of this feature, teachers essentially reverse functionality of the system, sending the image from their screen out to the screens of every computer in the classroom. …