GoGuardian is a powerful tool for many things in the digital classroom, but have you ever wanted to just set it and forget it? GoGuardian Teacher™ can be configured so that you can set up a learning environment that is balanced for digital creation, safety, and student choice. Here is the system that I use, and possibly with your own adjustments it can work for you too.
Set up Your Schedule and Classroom
To make this work, you will need to have your classroom set up and your times of instruction scheduled so they end and begin in a way that is seamless for the start of your instruction. Because I teach middle school, students are in my class for specific periods throughout the day, Monday-Friday. I have my GoGuardian Classroom start with a default Scene about two minutes before the actual start of class, during passing time. The reason for this is because students often want to try and get on their devices right away, and it would be a great time to push digital boundaries. This limits them to sites that I have made available, and I don’t have to worry about student technology use while I am greeting students.
When scheduling your sessions, I recommend (highly) that you check in to GoGuardian on the first day the classroom/Scene combo is set to begin. If you sync with Google Classroom to roster your students, your classroom Scene won’t start without students. So if no students enroll before the Scene starts, you may find that GoGuardian is not yet running and you may have to start a session yourself on this first day. Also, there are very detailed training videos on GoGuardian’s website.
Another way I keep tabs on my GoGuardian sessions is through the automated emails sent when a session ends. If you don’t like to clog up your inbox, you can turn this off in settings, but I keep it on and quickly archive or delete the emails as they come in. It gives me peace of mind that when I’m not actively monitoring the students’ screens, everything is working.
Creating Scenes in GoGuardian Teacher
My default Scene, the one that starts with my scheduled session, is the most restrictive. To create this, I began curating a list of sites that students may need for their use, that are also appropriate for school use. Because this Scene is scheduled as I mentioned above, it starts every day, even when a guest teacher is in the room instead of me. And now I do not have to worry about putting that responsibility on another teacher’s plate in addition to all the other responsibilities that guest teachers have.
When curating sites for students, I often make a list of links to the available sites. Next, I create the Scene. I create a block Scene, and I add the sites in as exceptions. Some examples of sites that I add as exceptions are google.com, our district website, school website, class websites, our video editor, and other sites that we use often such as scratch.com and code.org.
If you are creating your own Scene with similar settings, know that some district, school, and classroom pages are part of different domains, so they need to be added separately to make this work.
Avoiding Issues During Sessions
Consider one issue students may face during your session. Suppose a student is having difficulty getting to one of the sites for the lesson, one that you have left open by providing an exception in your block Scene. What do you do? One way I deal with this is by using Google Classroom and posting the most important links in an announcement or an assignment and have students bookmark the site. We spend the first 3-4 class periods touching on this at the beginning of the year as students add the class and others may be absent or otherwise out of the classroom, so this is a normal part of the routine. This avoids students typing in any individual URLs and then getting blocked due to a small error.
As class moves on, there are specific times students are online. It varies, but during discussions and presentations, I have students in what I call “listening mode.” This is so that we are engaged with each other and not our screens during that time. Often that is a very small part of the time we have together, so I work to keep it focused. One bonus aspect of this setup is that even if a student chooses to disregard my policy by opening their Chromebook, they can’t visit any sites that I disallow. In this case, I could choose a number of interventions to redirect as I would in a non-digital setting.
After our face-to-face lesson time, we get moving on our projects. During this time, the Scene I have as default may be too restrictive for the activity. An example would be when students need to conduct research for our YouTube Channel videos or choose to use online graphic editors that I’m not familiar with.
To address this, I have built other Scenes that I can switch to that are less restrictive, and when using these Scenes, I may give students a time frame that those options are open as I switch to the other Scene. I may even turn off the Scene and address it as a trust-building activity. I may say something like, “Students, for the next few minutes, some additional sites will be available. Some of you have mentioned that you would like more freedom when working online, so here is a chance to strengthen our trust by working within our technology guidelines. Good luck!”
If you are a GoGuardian user, I hope these ideas help you to increase your focus on teaching and relationship-building with your students. Once you get it up and running, it will need some tweaks here and there, but once you see it working, you may have a number of days where you ‘forget to look.’ Maybe it will also help us all set up a structure that increases trust, skill, and student engagement!
Using Scenes and classroom configurations in GoGuardian Teacher can also be helpful during a remote learning environment. For more information on using GoGuardian Teacher for your e-learning needs, read this article on how to best use GoGuardian Teacher for remote learning.