Gaggle Speaks

Ideas, news, and advice for K-12 educators and administrators to help create safe learning environments.

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Written by Justin West
on January 11, 2021

Spring of 2020 brought with it a number of challenges that few, if any, were prepared for at the time. While the unpredictability of a pandemic ushered in uncertainty as to the landscape that parents, teachers, and students would have to navigate come fall, it became rapidly clear that an increased reliance upon technology was here to stay. 

In June, Gaggle published a blog in which I elaborated on our preparations for the 2020–21 school year. We wanted to ensure that we were as abundantly prepared for that increased reliance on technology as possible. In short, we wanted to provide as much stability as we could in a year that found stability in short supply and be transparent about our approach to doing so. 

Now halfway into the school year, I thought it wise to follow up on that blog post. How are we doing? Did we achieve the goals that we set for ourselves? And, most importantly, have we been able to support the safety of our students as efficiently and reliably as you (and we) expect? 

There were a few key areas that Gaggle identified as needing attention over the summer. Below, I summarize the goals we set for ourselves and take a look at how well we did to meet them. 

  • Optimization: The key to ensuring that Gaggle is able to monitor for threats, incidents, and other concerns was making sure that our systems were fully optimized. The technology and engineering teams at Gaggle led a large-scale effort to tune each of our back-end systems. Vital components across Gaggle’s entire architecture were reviewed and fine-tuned for stability and efficiency—we made sure our systems were able to tackle the levels of traffic that we anticipated.
  • Scaling and Expansion: Just like parents, teachers, and students, Gaggle closed out the 2019–20 school year wishing that we had a crystal ball. Thankfully, we had months of data to inform our technical decisions leading up to the next school year, and we knew that we needed to dramatically increase the traffic our systems could support. Gaggle took decisive action to double the size of the clusters responsible for processing items for our students, adjusted auto-scaling rules, optimized multiple systems as described above, and began overhauling the technology we use to develop and release software. 
  • Modernization: Gaggle added a host of new internal monitoring tools to give ourselves more visibility, filling gaps that we identified at the height of the spring’s traffic peaks. In addition to expanding the size of the infrastructure responsible for processing items, we retrofitted much of the existing cluster to use newer, more powerful systems. Along the way, we’ve piloted multiple projects to evaluate emerging technologies on our cloud platform (AWS), finding ways to innovate. Critically, Gaggle rearchitected our mail delivery systems to use completely different technology that proved even more efficient than we had estimated. 

Over the first three months of the 2020–21 school year, Gaggle has seen a 66% increase in incidents created over this time last school year. So far, we’ve processed over 28 million email messages (a 97% increase), more than 45 million files (a 124% increase), and over a million chats (a whopping 1,000% increase). 

All of this translates to a 64% increase in lives saved over this time last year, with nearly 20% of all the lives we saved being elementary school students—a truly staggering figure. 

As always, our work is not done. Gaggle’s mission to protect our students is never-ending, as is our commitment to finding ways to improve the technology that makes saving lives possible. But as we close out a challenging calendar year, families and students can feel secure in the knowledge that at least one thing will stay the same: Gaggle being here to support them.

If you’d like to hear more about Gaggle’s approach to technology and the challenges we’ve faced during the pandemic, check out the latest episode of the Gaggle podcast! Our CTO, Casey Lee, spent time with me to talk about all of the above and more. 

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