Computer technology is a cat and mouse game. Parents and children, employers and employees, government and citizens are always trying to stay one step ahead of each other. And until this year in Flagler County schools, savvier students were usually capable of busting through firewalls, filters and restrictions placed on their district-issued devices enough to use them in class to their hearts’ content, without necessarily following what’s going on in class.
That started changing quite seriously this year as teachers at all levels were given the kind of tool that can lock any school issued device in their classroom to what that teacher wants students to see. For example, a teacher can keep the device from straying to an unapproved app, or an app not being used in that particular class. The teacher can monitor what’s happening on each student’s device, literally watching in real time where a given student might be surfing. The teacher can lock, or freeze, that device.
And now, the district is about to pick 100 parents from five elementary schools to test-pilot the same program before making it available to all parents at all levels, at no charge, come next fall.
The program is called Mosyle (pronounced MOE-zl). It’s commercially available. But the district is licensing it for a flat fee of $72,000, which Ryan Diesing, the district’s IT director, says is $30,000 cheaper than current control programs.
The app will extend teachers’ controls to the home for parents, allowing for oversight of what their children are doing whether the child is at home, at school, at a friend’s house or at a shopping mall. Parents had conveyed a sense of frustration with the district over their children’s devices because they felt they could not control what was in their children’s hands.
Since the district implemented its one-to-one initiative, which places an iPad or a laptop in every student’s hand from the lower grades through high school, some parents have been opting out because of lack of controls: they did not want their children having free rein with their device. While the district distributes devices with filters already installed, the filters are not all-catching, and they don’t control such things as when the device may be used and when not. The new app will enable a parent to ensure that, say, come 9 p.m., the device is not usable until a set time in the morning.
Diesing first presented the new controls at an August workshop. Today he gave the School Board an update, with the next step involving the principals at each of the district’s five elementary schools recruiting 20 parents each to participate in the pilot program. The parents must have children in 4th through 6th grade. Those parents must agree to attend an informational orientation night at the school where they’ll be trained on using the new app. They must also participate in two follow-up meetings and a wrap-up meeting, all between January and May. The parents essentially form a focus group from each school designed to give the district an idea of how effective the app may be, where the shortcomings are, and whyat to expect once the app is made available across the district next August. (For students, the near-certain expectation is that they’ll test weak spots and vulnerabilities in the app.)
The sum total of the pilot program will be a Frequently Asked Questions document other parents will be able to read. (For example, the apps works the same way whether the user is on an iPad or a Macbook.)
School Board member Colleen Conklin wants the information about the program shared earlier than next May, even to parents who are not part of the pilot program. “This is a topic that is super-important to a lot of parents, even though they’re not participating,” Conklin said. That sort of information will help send the message that the district is “taking the next step in helping to develop responsibility.”
At School Board member Maria Barbosa’s suggestion, the district may develop a YouTube tutorial on how to use the app.
The app is currently available to anyone for $2.50 a month, “but the app for parent control of the district devices is free,” Diesing said.
It’s also the first of two control devices to be rolled out by the district. Another is called Securly, but it won;t be piloted until next March. That program goes further than Mosyle, giving parents the ability to more directly monitor such things as email and whatever else a user is writing, and giving the district–or parents–the ability to flag certain words in real time that may indicate instances of bullying or self-harm. Diesing discussed that program last August but not today, though he said that program should also be available to all parents next fall.
And so it begins.. this is exactly what we have feared all along with this new age of computers for children. I never understood how any parent could go along with children using mostly computers for all their school work. Now there will be monitoring apps making it even easier for outside entities with unknown intentions to hack our children’s lives
What ever happened to pen and paper, boy the future looks dim
a tiny manatee says
Claire Iffacation says
This isnt for allowing monitoring of childrens computers by outsiders, this is so parents have the ability to monitor their own children. They have had a long list of excuses why they couldnt until now. Its been so bad we could pull up a child-trafficking sex site while at the Superintendent’s office!! Even though we have shown them that they can restrict many of these sites, they still havent. Having spoke with some teachers, they are happy they now have means to double check what the students are watching. Its not a distraction for the teachers, it has always been part of their job to ensure students are actually doing their work. Considering the students in middle school are using the computers to talk about sexual role play, suicide and meeting in the bathrooms to have sex, I thinks its absolutely vital parents have the ability to monitor thier kids use of school computers. Especially given the school board and administrators were doing so little to keep our kids safe. This needs to be implemented sooner, or wait to issue computers until they can fulfill the expectation of keeping our children safe…
@MAGA – not really, just kidding
Another lock that does nothing but encourage lock picking.
Claire let’s try not to be nieve, of course that’s not the intention of the app, but it will of course be what occurs, hackers and identity theifs are running rampant and we are handing our children over on a silver platter, Remove Personal computers from our schools !
Just me says
GOOD parents should have CONTROL over what THEIR kids can use them for along with how long and when while not at school.
Ima waiting says
After all that happened last year, I was hoping to see this app sooner. I was “promised” that I would be on this pilot team…let’s hold our breath.