From Classroom Monitor to Classroom Teacher: Giving Control Back to Educators


Everyone gets into teaching for different reasons. Some people just feel drawn to it—they can't help themselves. Others want to help make sure the younger generations have access to every last resource they did, if not more. Others love being in school—they always have and always will. Personally, I suppose it was a combination all of these things that led me to my current position at Arkansas Arts Academy.

At the Arkansas Arts Academy our motto is "Aspire, Achieve, Advance." Located in the heart of Rogers, Arkansas, we hold the distinction of being one of the oldest charter schools in the state. We're also a public institution, which means anyone and everyone is free to come and learn. 

With an average enrollment of about 1,000 kids in grades K through 12, we believe a true arts-based approach to learning not only promotes creativity, but also self-expression. We've seen first hand how it enhances the academic experiences that students have every day. 

Even classes like science, which I teach, bring art into the equation. We feel art helps kids become more well-rounded as students, which, hopefully, will make them well-rounded adults. 

A major part of blending these different learning approaches, and developing the leaders of tomorrow, centers around technology. When I first started at the Arkansas Arts Academy roughly three years ago, the school wasn't 1:1. At that time, we didn't have much technology in the classroom. But that changed quickly, and by the end of my first year, we had iPads for every student. They didn't have access to these devices 100% of the time, but I could bring out the iPad cart as needed and let kids experience their lessons in a whole new way. 

Classroom Monitor

Unfortunately, we found tablets were a bit challenging, as kids couldn't easily type or switch between documents. So the school quickly began to look for more ways to better integrate technology into the classroom. Last school year began our 1:1 journey, and we're now at a full 1:1 approach. All of the students at the Arkansas Arts Academy now have Chromebooks of their very own that they're responsible for both at school and at home. 

This blend of arts, education, and technology has certainly brought with it a wide range of advantages. Bringing technology into the classroom has made it easier for me to teach subjects like history and science, and find the relevant connection to the world of art as well. 

But technology has also brought its fair share of challenges. 

Stop policing and start teaching. Find permanent solutions for student productivity. @goguardian

Students essentially had access to the entirety of the internet all day, every day. Sadly, I couldn't be 100% sure they actually worked on their lessons and didn’t play games unless I could physically see their screens. 

Most days, I would get the class to face one direction while I stood at the back, which made it difficult to teach effectively. It definitely meant I could never be in one corner of the classroom, or helping just one student. This was frustrating and tedious for me. Every day, it felt like I was turning into less of a teacher and more of a monitor. All I wanted to do was teach. 

No Going Back

Because this problem was widespread, the school started to look for technology-based solutions. One platform we evaluated was GoGuardian. We liked what we saw and decided to pilot the platform with a few teachers. I immediately started to hear about the impact in their classes. Teachers loved the results they experienced in a short period of time. 

When we decided to roll out GoGuardian to the rest of the school, I was skeptical. Since I wasn’t part of the trial, I didn't truly know what the platform could do. I believed it was essentially its own web portal. I thought students would have to go through the platform to learn, which sounded like it would complicate the process. But once I talked more with the teachers from the pilot, and understood the system’s true capabilities, it sounded exactly like what I’d been looking for. 

Then, once GoGuardian was rolled out to all of the teachers at the Arkansas Arts Academy, I got it. More than that, I fell in love with the platform almost immediately. In as little as three days after using GoGuardian for the first time, I knew we'd hit the jackpot. I realized I was looking at a solution that would finally give me back complete control over my classroom. At the end of the first week, I went to my principal and said, “How did we ever manage to do this before?” 

Real Insights = Real Learning

These days, things are about as perfect as you can expect them to be. The platform has made my daily life easier in a number of ways that I now wouldn't be able to live without. 

GoGuardian truly gives me a level of visibility I've never had before. With just a few quick clicks of my mouse, I can see what individual students are up to. I know exactly which tabs they have open. I can close individual tabs or even all of them if I want to. For the entire class, I can receive reports that show me which programs are used most often. This provides me insight into who’s staying on task and who isn't.

The right management tools can show you which students are falling off the path. @goguardian

The best part of all of this? I don't have to be at the back of the class to do it. I can be right at my desk, at the front of the room where I belong. 

Not only has GoGuardian helped provide me with more control over the class, but the students are ingrained in the new system. I've heard students say to one another "Should we watch this video in class?" "No, let's wait until we get home because at school they'll be able to see us with GoGuardian." So kids actively think about GoGuardian all the time, adding another layer of accountability where one didn't exist before. 

Thanks to GoGuardian, I can even discreetly check student work as they're completing it, without being forced to draw too much attention to a particular student who may be struggling. This, in turn, has given me a unique opportunity to adjust the way I work to support and empower students individually. If I see a student who could use a bit of extra attention or care, I can provide that while still addressing the needs of the larger class.

To put all this into perspective, consider that on a good day last year I'd be very fortunate to have 10 out of my 20 students on task with their Chromebooks. Flash forward to today and I've got 18 out of my 20 students actively engaged and interested in their lessons. You'll always have a few kids who try to test the system, but the improvement was beyond my wildest dreams. 

Making a Real Difference

In a short period of time, I’ve seen a complete turnaround in my classroom. Two big reasons for the instant success I’ve had with GoGuardian are the intuitiveness of the platform and the support of the teachers from the trial. But I’ve also discovered so much on GoGuardian’s MVP Club: a place where I can learn from other users of the platform, even outside of our school. 

One feature I learned about in MVP Club is Smart Alerts. Now, I can automatically be notified if students use certain keywords that might be a cause for concern. So if a student uses Google to research information about drugs and alcohol—or even self-harm—I can set up the system to instantly alert me so I can take a closer look. 

If there's a student who is going through a bad situation and we need to intervene, we're now in a position to do so as quickly as possible. We can sit down with them and have a real conversation. I can find out what might be happening at home or at school to cause this type of stress and these thoughts. But, most critically, we can work on these problems together. We can make sure students know that whatever they're going through, they certainly don't have to go through it alone. 

Smart Alerts has opened my eyes to the power that GoGuardian brings to the table. It's not just about making my job easier or creating more accountable students. It's about empowering me to help make their lives better, stronger, and more rewarding. Both from an educational perspective and from a social perspective, too.

A focused classroom means you don’t have to split your time in a dozen different directions. Finally, you can teach.

Now, my students are more focused and attentive than they've ever been. They're more invested and engaged. Everyone is eager to learn.

Today, I don't feel like I'm a monitor or a babysitter anymore. I don't have to split my attention in a dozen different directions, wondering which students are engaged and which aren't. I know that information beyond the shadow of a doubt, so I can focus all my time on teaching. The days of being a monitor are behind me, and I won’t be looking back.