As the leader of a community public school system with a culturally diverse student population in the New York metropolitan area, Superintendent Dr. Richard O’Malley exudes excitement when talking about the potential for learning provided by online communication and collaboration. He’s also quick to point out how difficult it can be to keep up with the fast pace of those same digital opportunities.
Edison Township’s 1:1 initiative provides first-graders with iPads, second through eighth grade students use Chromebooks and high school students have MacBooks. All of the devices include G Suite for Education. The district wanted to extend the safety offered in its 18 schools to the home.
“We couldn’t monitor on a daily basis the same way at home that we could do within a school building,” said Dr. O’Malley. Gaggle Safety Management now enhances the safety of Edison Township’s G Suite environment by providing early warning detection of self-harm, drug or alcohol use, cyberbullying, pornography and other harmful situations. “Gaggle has helped provide that additional layer of safety both during school and outside our school buildings.”
As one of four district-level Emergency Contacts, Dr. O’Malley can quickly recall specific stories about how students’ lives have been positively changed since Edison Township started working with Gaggle. One incident involved a student who was being bullied and seemingly didn’t have anywhere to turn. To Dr. O’Malley’s surprise, students used a Google Doc as an anonymous tip line to help the troubled youth. Gaggle Safety Representatives observed the cry for help and alerted administrators. “We would have never known about that child,” admitted Dr. O’Malley.
Another incident occurred after Dr. O’Malley received a late night phone call on a Friday about a student who was trying to hurt herself. “Many of our students express themselves through writing. This particular student also was not in a good place,” he recalled. Because Gaggle Safety Management identifies and reviews content 24/7, the district was immediately able to contact local police as well as the student’s parents and get her some help. Edison also appoints school-level Emergency Contacts and provides Gaggle with a police department phone number to use if someone at a school or the district is unreachable. “Gaggle is well-known in our district, whether it is our parents, students, administrators or our teachers,” said Dr. O’Malley. “We have the flexibility to provide different levels of safety and monitor what our students are doing.”
As school leaders continue to work hard to get buy-in from teachers, students and community members for technology initiatives like a 1:1 program, Dr. O’Malley believes that online safety must be a top priority. “You really only need one obstacle to get in your way that will just totally stop your digital transformation and the progress you’ve made,” he said. “We purchase so many different products to assist us. The safety of students is so important in helping us move forward.”
Edison Township administrators and staff believe that they have the added assurance when it comes to moving their digital transformation forward. “Gaggle provides 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year safety for our students,” said Dr. O’Malley. “I know for sure there are many lives of our students we save. Gaggle really does save lives.”