September 15, 2017

GoGuardian & Denton ISD: Opening Doors While Keeping Kids Safe

GoGuardian Team
The front of the Denton Independent School District building

Dr. Jamie Wilson is the Superintendent of Schools for Denton Independent School District. He’s also had a 24-year career working in public education advocacy, growth management and instructional innovation. We were fortunate enough to sit down with Dr. Wilson to talk with him a little about technology in education, and how GoGuardian has made an impact in his school district.

The Denton Independent School District is currently experiencing incredible growth: they have opened a school a year for the last ten years. Denton ISD currently has 29,000 students, and the district is growing at a rate of 800 kids a year. When we asked Dr. Wilson about his experience rolling out technology in their expanding school system, he attested, “For us, the key is to ensure every student is getting both opportunity and safety through their devices. Technology has allowed us to transform how kids learn, and has given them tools to innovate and create. It has also allowed us to ensure kids stay safe while exploring their passions and innovating. And that’s where GoGuardian comes in…”

Staying Connected to the Students
One key GoGuardian feature that has been very impactful at Denton ISD is Smart Alerts, which leverages A.I. technology to help administrators and educators monitor online activity, and alerts education professionals if there are red flags such as potential self-harm or suicide. Dr. Wilson said, “When our school system gets an alert that a student is looking into something violent or unhealthy, we can connect them to a caring, trained professional who guides them and talks about the issue to see what’s really going on. If a child is being bullied, we can be made aware of the fact so the child isn’t left to handle a situation alone. Once alerted, a team of educators and counselors can bring in the parents and the child to get the student on track and start a conversation. GoGuardian allows our schools to be ‘connected hubs’, where we’re constantly communicating and aware of what’s going on with our students, and better able to help them if they need it.”

Digital Citizenship
Another area where GoGuardian has been particularly helpful to Denton ISD is in teaching students digital citizenship. GoGuardian helps students make good choices online, and gives them access to knowledge with safeguards. Dr. Wilson pointed to this, “If a student’s online activity is problematic or potentially dangerous, we can send them a gentle reminder or an alert. This reminds them that they’re not alone online, and their actions have an impact on the online community they’re part of. It also teaches them digital citizenship: being a good online citizen is more than being a safe Internet user—it’s about being smart, aware, and having respect for yourself and others.” At Denton ISD, teachers make a point of teaching the students that online, students are part of the chatrooms, platforms and communities they interact with… and just like real-life communities, there are rules to follow that will ensure safety and respect. GoGuardian helps support these values, and helps bring these principles to life for the kids.

Preventing Self-Harm
GoGuardian has also helped Denton ISD protect the emotional and social well-being of their students. With GoGuardian’s Smart Alerts, the school is alerted if a student has suicide ideation or is looking into self-harm, and can then intervene. By using Smart Alerts, Denton ISD has been able to prevent more than one catastrophic event. Said Dr. Wilson, “One particular example is when we were first getting the technology started, I was in a district-wide board meeting. In the middle of the meeting, we received a Smart Alert that a student was looking into suicide. By the end of the meeting, the Sheriff had been notified, and had gone over to the student’s house to help. You never know for sure what you would have prevented, but in this case, we were able to intervene at an urgent, dire time for the better, and avoid a tragedy. Without GoGuardian technology, we would never have known about this student’s struggles or been able to help.”

Dr. Wilson added, “Mental health and well-being are still very misunderstood issues in society - and can have a huge effect on a child’s learning. When it comes to kids and mental health, we can all do a better job in our communities, non-profits, school districts, churches and organizations to become more aware of the issues and better understand how to help. The power of technology lies in the fact that we’re able to better understand our kids and their needs as they learn and grow.” By helping educators be more connected to their students, prevent self-harm and suicide, and teach digital citizenship, technology like GoGuardian can help kids not be just be consumers of information, but be creators and innovators themselves. Dr. Wilson said it best when he remarked, “We want to open doors for kids as well as protect their emotional well being. And that’s what great technology like GoGuardian can do.”