November 1, 2018

Teach the Whole Child: How Technology in Education Leads to Incredible Learning

Anne Bianchi
A group of students smiles at the camera holding tablets

At our school, we believe in one thing above all else: You must teach the whole child. All day, every day, no exceptions. It’s like Maslow's hierarchy of needs: If children don’t have their financial, emotional, or basic human needs met, they won’t be able to learn. At least not in any meaningful way.

This is the way we approach learning at Seatack ES, An Achievable Dream Academy. We have what some might call a unique approach to education. Kids in our program are given opportunities and access to certain extracurricular activities that, along with remediation, they simply wouldn’t receive within a regular public school program.

All of our students wear uniforms, and there is a code of affirmations they have to adhere to every day. They also attend a monitoring program, during which they recite these affirmations. Sometimes we have sailors and other military personnel come in and do uniform checks, all in the name of holding kids accountable.

Based on points they earn throughout the day, students are given the ability to shop in our school store. Here, they learn basic life skills, like balancing a checkbook or writing a check. Our students also have a social rotation, where they focus on subjects like etiquette. We teach them things like business language, ethics, STEM, and other important qualities that will be hugely beneficial later in life. We’re able to put more focus on these basic life skills due the role of technology in education at Seatack.

The Importance of Technology in Education

In my role as an Instructional Technology Specialist at Seatack, I’m tasked with bridging the gap not only between technology and teaching, but also teachers and students. Technology is not a replacement for teaching—far from it. Instead, I see technology as a way to complement both parties so they can learn from each other. The relationship students have with their teachers catalyzes their success when using technology.

When I first joined Seatack in July of 2017, I was immediately struck by the prevalence of computers in the classroom, particularly Chromebooks. But from the moment Chromebooks were rolled out across Seatack, a lot of the teachers realized they had a problem on their hands.

This generation of students was already more tech-savvy than the one that came before it. This was a benefit when kids were engaged, but it also worked against us when they weren’t. The Chromebooks were an incredible way to create a better learning environment, but they could also lead to a lot of mischief. We didn’t want to take away the devices and impair their learning, but we needed something to help us supervise their activity.

A Technology Solution for Educators

Then, some of the administrators came to me and said they had found a solution called GoGuardian, technology for teaching that might be the answer to all of our problems. They asked me to evaluate it since technology was already such a big part of my day. I happily agreed.

I knew what criteria I needed in a management solution: It had to offer real-time information and superior visibility. It must have a chat feature to help empower and increase collaboration. I also needed to be able to see a student’s individual tabs and close them out if they got off task.

If a student went in and cleared their browsing history, I needed a solution that would give me the ability to go in and take a closer look around. Even something as simple as seeing all screens at once proved to be a major challenge in most options that were available.

I was skeptical at first that a solution like GoGuardian would be able to do everything I needed at the same time, but I’ve never been happier to be wrong.

I put GoGuardian through the rigors and quickly saw that it was able to check all of my required boxes—and more. Initially, I rolled it out to just a few teachers. I vividly remember a meeting we had with some teachers shortly after our GoGuardian trial was running. We had about six teachers in attendance, and as we showed them what GoGuardian could do, they literally cheered for joy. At that point, old-fashioned word-of-mouth took over.

That elation, optimism, and the thrill of massive instructional gains quickly spread throughout Seatack. Soon, teachers couldn't get on board fast enough. Once we saw how successful GoGuardian was with the initial trial and the way it proved to help instruction overall, we knew we needed it at the whole school. We got a quote and had Achievable Dream Academy approve it so we could bring the platform to everyone.

Digital Citizenship Creates Better Citizens

The rest of our teachers appreciated GoGuardian from the beginning. They liked seeing the students’ activity without needing to walk around or position the class in a certain way. They were overjoyed they could close tabs. But more importantly than that, they loved the communication benefits they suddenly had access to. Now, they could talk with their students if they were in the class or not. They were able to address any student’s needs within seconds.

GoGuardian has also helped us hammer home something that is particularly important in the modern era: digital citizenship. The internet isn’t written in pencil—it’s written in ink. Everything you write online is not just there for all to see; it’s there forever. Now, with GoGuardian, we can take screenshots of certain posts or activities and say to a student: "What does this tell you about what you put out into the world?"

We don’t use GoGuardian to come down hard on kids who aren’t doing what they’re supposed to. Instead, we use the platform to turn every one of these moments into the true teachable opportunity it was meant to be.

GoGuardian also turned out to be the missing piece for one teacher looking to flip her classroom. She has a gifted cluster class that can easily handle instruction independently, with the exception of instruction in smaller groups. Since she can watch kids’ screens without leaving the front of the class, she is able to facilitate their learning on a much deeper level than ever before. This is the type of power she didn’t have access to even two years ago. Now, she can give students the consistency and structure they crave.

Even the reporting features have made it easier to deal with a consequence issue or even just prepare for a parent/teacher conference. The teachers at Seatack truly feel like GoGuardian has their back in more ways than one.

I feel the exact same way. I see far more benefits of technology in education and accountability at Seatack now than it was in the pre-GoGuardian era. If I see that a student isn’t on track, I can put them in what the platform calls the "Penalty Box” on their Chromebook right from my computer screen. This lets me limit their access to only the sites and applications I’ve approved. They aren’t able to get into the Chrome Web Store, they can’t look up a different game or even waste time Googling random items.

GoGuardian has given me and all teachers an extra level of support when we try to drive a particular point home to a student. Students now understand that technology is here to be used appropriately. If it’s not, they know I can take action.

GoGuardian has been so successful for us that other schools in the district are starting to ask questions. To be honest, I haven’t even pitched anyone. The platform—and our results—speak for themselves. It’s exciting to think about the limitless possibilities of what we can collectively accomplish with technology in our classrooms.

Why Use Technology in Education?

Personally, the biggest benefit is that GoGuardian has allowed me to strengthen the bond between teachers and technology, giving them access to the powerful benefits without the potential downsides. Technology is no longer an afterthought in our education. It’s an access that’s built right into the way educators think, feel, and act about learning and instruction every day.

This, in turn, allows those teachers to create stronger bonds between themselves and their students. It has broken down a range of barriers in what they can do with their lessons and, more importantly, how and why they’re able to do it.

Suddenly, the classroom is not a limitation. If anything, it’s the beginning of a much larger journey that kids take every day. They’re able to now go outside the four walls of the classroom and experience their education from the perspective of the larger world around them. At the same time, they’re improving the experience in a way that still allows educators to maintain the structure and control they need. This lets them make every minute of every day as productive and as enriching as it should be.

Open up the learning potential of the internet