LanSchool Air enables Washington Elementary faculty to reclaim teaching time
Editor’s note: Washington Elementary implemented LanSchool Air in its classrooms two years before the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to begin teaching remotely. When the pandemic struck, Washington’s district, Waterbury Public Schools, chose to roll out LanSchool Air to most of its other schools as well in order to facilitate distance learning.
Challenge: Teachers struggling to keep students focused with devices in the classroom
When Washington Elementary, based in Waterbury, Connecticut, began introducing computers into its classrooms two years before the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers found themselves with a host of new challenges to deal with.
“The drama that came from computer use alone during academic learning time — it was out of control,” Mallory Brito, Washington Elementary grade 2-5 Language Arts teacher, said. “We needed something to help teachers refocus from managing computer time back to learning and teaching.”
Because Washington Elementary serves many students with advanced needs and families where computers are not always available at home, classroom computers were often the only digital devices students could access. That meant they were maximizing their opportunity to use devices while in class, and they were often good at circumventing the school’s security measures.
“Students were finding YouTube settings we didn’t know existed to get around our security. They were using incognito windows, hiding tabs, downloading Chrome extensions, and sometimes introducing viruses,” Brito said.
All of these challenges got worse when a substitute teacher was left in charge.
Moreover, the school was having trouble realizing the benefits of digital device usage, including student self-directed learning. Brito knew if the school wanted to enable self-directed learning and get a handle on student device usage, they would need to leverage classroom management software.
But implementing classroom management software came with its own set of challenges. She needed it to be easy enough to implement that her school district would agree to help. And she also needed it to be user-friendly enough that even her less-tech-savvy colleagues could easily learn and use it.
Solution: LanSchool Air makes classroom management easier for teachers and admins alike
Brito’s colleague recommended LanSchool because it had helped her regain control of her classroom and also “flip the classroom” to enable better self-directed learning. Working with LanSchool enabled that teacher to launch three software programs built for self-directed learning and give students individual guidance as they completed their lessons, without having to worry that the other students would get off task.
When Brito learned about the suite of features LanSchool Classic offered, she was sold. She soon discovered that cloud-based LanSchool Air would be an even better fit for her needs, as its delivery model meant Brito’s school district would not have to be responsible for any of the ongoing administration, storage, or management of the software. With LanSchool Air, hosting, security, and feature updates are all handled by the software’s providers.
Brito’s principal loved the idea of incorporating the software into the school’s classrooms, and other Washington Elementary teachers were interested in participating in the trial.
Seeing the opportunities ahead of them, the school administrator submitted — and qualified for — a technology grant that enabled Washington Elementary to provide 1:1 Chromebooks to its students. Suddenly, LanSchool Air became more necessary than ever.
“The LanSchool Air team was super helpful in guiding the entire process as we were updating our infrastructure,” Brito said. “I felt so taken care of. I felt so often that I was being a squeaky wheel or a thorn in the behind, but the team never made me feel that way. They called to check on me, and it validated the effort I was putting forth.”
Results: LanSchool Air transforms Washington Elementary classes by enabling productive online learning
Brito’s efforts paid off rapidly. After launching a 60-day trial of LanSchool Air with 10 teachers, Washington Elementary immediately saw the benefits of the software.
On day one, Brito showed each of her classes her LanSchool Air management dashboard so students could see how she would be monitoring their success and interacting with them on their digital devices going forward.
“I made it clear that this was an environment where we were all responsible for each other’s success. We would take a group approach to how we were going to be responsible,” she said. “I didn’t want to frame it as me watching them, although that’s how some teachers have chosen to use it, and that may work for them. For us, it was about transparency and teamwork.”
After that, Brito said, students simply adjusted their behavior to meet that expectation. “I don’t even have to send a reminder to any of my students about sites they should or shouldn’t be on. They don’t even bother trying,” Brito said. “Responsible device use is in the air, in the environment — it’s part of the culture now.”
One of the earliest benefits Brito and other teachers noticed was how approachable the software was, even for teachers who were less comfortable with technology. “So many things you want to do on LanSchool Air just take one or two clicks of a button. The user interface is very old-fashioned-teacher friendly,” she said.
One of Brito’s favorite classroom management features quickly became the Limit Web feature. “Web limiting is hugely important, because the first thing our students want to do is look up a video their friend was talking about or activate a chat on Google Chat. With LanSchool Air, we can block all of that,” Brito explained.
She also appreciates the Monitoring and Push Website features, particularly because online exploration plays an important role in English Language Arts. Because of these features, Brito can give her students the freedom to conduct research without having to worry they’ll engage in off-topic work.
Moreover, her innovative use of the Messaging feature foreshadowed the way LanSchool Air would be used during the pandemic. “I was absent one day because I had a sick kid, but I was able to sit at home in my bathrobe with a cup of coffee chatting with my students and watching them complete an assignment I created on Google Classrooms,” Brito said. “It also helped the substitute teacher because I was able to answer a few questions she couldn’t. I even spotted a video error popping up and was able to message my students the correct link, so class could go on uninterrupted.”
This gave her confidence that productive learning would continue even when she wasn’t able to be present. “It doesn’t matter where my students are learning; I can still see them on one screen from wherever I am,” she said.
Continuing Success: Washington Elementary faculty gets to focus on teaching, not just managing student behavior
After completing the trial, Brito became a strong advocate for using the product in other schools that were facing challenges in digital device management in the classroom. “LanSchool Air is really transformative. You get to be a teacher again,” she said. “The focus shifted from constantly circling through the classroom to check screens. It went from management to instruction. No one wants to manage all day. We want to teach; that’s our job.”
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