This piece originally appeared on EdSurge on October 26, 2021 as part of the guide How Is Technology Shaping the Future of K-12 Education?
Since education technology first arrived in classrooms, security has been a primary concern. How do we protect our children from harmful material and distracting non-academic content while embracing the many educational benefits that technology can provide?
Mike Daugherty, Director of Technology and Information Systems at Chagrin Falls Exempted Village Schools in Chagrin Falls, Ohio and the 2020 ISTE Technology Coordinator of the Year, has a few ideas about how to address this concern. Daugherty has spent 21 years working with education technology and currently oversees the management of 1,800 student and 300 staff devices. Here, he shares his thoughts on cybersecurity and appropriate use of technology in the classroom.
EdSurge: What security challenges or needs did you uncover as you were growing your district’s one-to-one device program?
Daugherty: Back in 2011, the district knew that we wanted to go one-to-one. We piloted classroom sets of devices while working through what that would look like for us. In 2014, we went from one-to-one devices in one grade level to nine grade levels—third through twelfth—in a single summer. Within two weeks of rolling out all of those computers, we started experiencing network outages for about 20 minutes each day.
In investigating the cause, we discovered that a middle school student who didn’t like history class had paid $30 to a company to attack the network every day before history. It took us six days to uncover the source of the attack. We realized then that we needed a more robust system for protecting the network and the teachers and students who were using it.
I did a Google search for Chromebook management programs, and GoGuardian immediately surfaced. I was able to do a demo that day. With GoGuardian, we were able to pull the internet logs and quickly trace the source of the attack. If we had been using GoGuardian from the onset, we could have tracked down the source of the problem in about 30 minutes.
How did that experience shape your approach to addressing other security challenges within the technology program?
Once we had GoGuardian Admin on board, it allowed us to build a more robust security system for our fleet of 2,400 devices. We were finding holes in the network security that I thought I had plugged as an IT director, and it’s given us data that is actionable for building security parameters.
I’m not a big fan of filtering out content. I believe in giving students an authentic learning experience, but in a modern age where we’re going to one-to-one, you need a tool to manage these devices and know what is going on. GoGuardian uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to detect inappropriate content, so we don’t have to wait to discover a site to block it when needed. GoGuardian looks at search terms, as well as content on the screen, so it’s able to better keep up with the ever-changing content being published, saving our team time.
In our classrooms, GoGuardian Teacher allows our teachers to see all of their students’ screens and see their work in real time. This helps our teachers know who is on track and who is struggling, and they have options to connect with students to steer them back on course. If a student is struggling to focus, the teacher can close out individual tabs or message the student to check in. They can also establish parameters ahead of time where only certain websites are available. Even during the pandemic, they were able to check on students to ensure they were following along and understanding the material.
What other benefits have you seen from your district’s use of GoGuardian Admin over the past seven years?
Despite the fact that an attack inspired this change, there have been several unexpected benefits. Once we had GoGuardian, we could demonstrate to our school board and our community how our students were using the technology. The insights are phenomenal. We’re able to gather accurate data to ease any misperceptions or technology hesitancy. We have consistently been able to show that our students are primarily using their devices—both at school and at home—for academic work.
When we were paper and pen, we often had no idea where students were in their learning journey. But now, teachers have a real-time understanding of what their students need and where they are. We have also used GoGuardian to demonstrate which of our technology tools are being utilized by our staff. As a result, we could identify building or district licenses that no one was using.
Finally, GoGuardian in general has moved our teachers forward in their edtech journey. Many teachers are now more willing to deploy new tools and resources because they feel more secure and able to try something new. I have looked at other solutions. I feel that GoGuardian is the best product out there for what we need. I feel like I’m getting the best service with this product.