Forest Hills supports better teaching with technology using LanSchool Air
Easily deployed among 10,000 students and 600 teachers, this cloud-based classroom management platform helps educators monitor students’ progress, promote collaboration, and engage them in learning more effectively—regardless of what device students are using.
“Our teachers can now control the learning environment for students more effectively, which has led to better instruction.” —Deb Schaalma, systems engineer, Forest Hills Public Schools
Forest Hills Public Schools in Michigan has been using Google’s G Suite for Education to power teaching and learning since 2012, and the district has about 6,000 Chromebooks—as well as some Windows and Mac devices—for its nearly 10,000 students to use while they’re in school.
Teachers in the district are using Chromebooks and G Suite tools to foster more active and engaging learning environments, in which students aren’t just consuming content but are also creating their own. In the process, students are learning important 21st-century skills such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creative problem solving.
However, teachers wanted a tool to help them manage instruction with the devices—something that would enable them to keep students on task, monitor what their students were doing, and allow students to use their Chromebooks more efficiently for learning.
For instance, “trying to get all students on the same website can be time-consuming, especially with younger students,” says Deb Schaalma, systems engineer for the district. “Teachers were wasting valuable time that could have been spent on instruction instead.”
The fact that students were using shared devices instead of their own dedicated Chromebooks made this task even more challenging. Because it was not a one-to-one school system, Forest Hills needed an innovative classroom management system that would allow teachers to manage students’ technology use not by the device they were using, but by their Google accounts.
Forest Hills found the perfect solution for its needs in the LanSchool Air classroom management platform from Lenovo.
LanSchool Air is an innovative, cloud-based version of Lenovo’s LanSchool classroom management software. It enables teachers to monitor students’ progress, keep them on task, and increase class participation in a safe online environment.
Designed to integrate with the Google Classroom, LanSchool Air operates as a software-as-a-service solution, which means there is no hardware to maintain—and teachers always have the latest functionality. Best of all, LanSchool Air’s cloud-based architecture allows teachers to manage students’ technology use through their Google accounts, unlike software that is tethered to specific devices.
Forest Hills chose to pilot LanSchool Air with a small group of four teachers initially. “They were very impressed with it,” Schaalma says. Based on the feedback from this pilot, the district decided to roll it out to all 600 teachers across 17 schools.
Benefits of a cloud-based system
For Schaalma, the fact that LanSchool Air is a cloud-based solution fully hosted and managed by Lenovo is a significant perk.
“It was simple to deploy,” she says. “We didn’t have to set up another server. And when we decided to move forward with using it throughout the district, it was easy to roll out to all teachers and students.”
The first step in deploying the solution was to push out the LanSchool Air native Chrome app and browser extension to students’ Chromebooks using the Google Admin console. “The app installs and runs in the background automatically the next time students log into their device,” says Dan Verwolf, senior technology sales engineer for Lenovo Software.
Then, Schaalma invited teachers to create a LanSchool Air account by adding their email addresses to the system.
This action sends teachers an email message with a link to the class setup page. If teachers use the Google Classroom learning management system, they can sync their class roster right from this platform, which takes only seconds. If teachers don’t use Google Classroom, they can populate their class roster by choosing their students from a full list of students running the app.
“On the teacher side, there is nothing they need to install,” Verwolf says. “They can control everything from a simple web browser using any device.”
Schaalma appreciates that LanSchool Air works with students’ personal Chromebooks, too, as long as students are logged into their Google account and using the Chrome browser. “That isn’t always the case with other classroom management products, so that’s a big plus,” she says.
And because the software is cloud-based, updates happen automatically. “I don’t have to do that on my end, which is yet another advantage,” Schaalma notes.
Impact on instruction
With LanSchool Air, teachers can spend more time leading high-quality learning, instead of struggling to manage students’ use of devices. As Forest Hills teachers have seen their colleagues benefit from the solution, use of the platform has quickly spread across the district.
“Teachers like being able to blank out students’ screens to get their attention,” Schaalma observes. “Technology can be very distracting for students, with the wealth of content at their fingertips. LanSchool Air helps teachers keep their students focused on the task at hand. Teachers can see what students are doing online and pull them back into the lesson if their attention wanders.”
The platform also makes it much easier to communicate with students and push out websites, ensuring that every student is using the same resource. “It’s a time saver for teachers, so their time can be focused on teaching,” she notes.
Shortly after adopting LanSchool Air, one teacher wrote to Schaalma and said: “I absolutely love this! It has made a big difference in my classroom by keeping kids focused and making instruction more efficient.”
The bottom line
Using LanSchool Air, which was easy to deploy among nearly 10,000 students and 600 teachers, Forest Hills is helping educators become more successful in teaching with technology—even though students don’t have their own dedicated device. The district has found that LanSchool Air is the perfect solution for managing students’ devices, whether schools have a shared-device environment or a one-to-one learning initiative.
“Our teachers can now control the learning environment for students more effectively,” Schaalma concludes, “which has led to better instruction.”
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