As Wayne Township Public Schools moves closer to becoming a 1:1 district, Joe Borchard, the district’s director of technology, has been introducing students and teachers to G Suite for Education. “We’ve been making a transition to Google, and each year we’re getting deeper into everything G Suite has to offer,” he said, “but at the same time we want to make sure that we’re providing a safe environment for our students.”
Students in grades 4-12 have access to Google Drive, a file storage and synchronization service that allows users to store files in the cloud, share files and synchronize them across devices. The district also trains staff at technology boot camps to become Google Certified Educators.
With student online safety a priority, Joe was eager to find a better solution for Google Drive security. “We were using CloudLock, but it wasn’t user-friendly, and it wasn’t giving us the information that we needed,” he recalled. “Our Google usage was growing exponentially, and we didn’t have a good handle on exactly what the kids were doing.”
After learning about Gaggle during a Tech & Learning SchoolCIO Summit and making the switch to Gaggle Safety Management for G Suite, administrators started to discover some of the inappropriate ways students use Google Drive, including threaded discussions during class and the sharing of inappropriate images and videos. “These were things that were going on and were happening basically right under our noses,” said Joe. “We learned that, before Gaggle, we didn’t have the right tools to help our students grow up in a connected, global society as responsible digital citizens.”
The next step for the district involved creating procedures to handle harassment and bullying based on the notifications it receives from Gaggle Safety Representatives. “While we all know digital citizenship is an important lesson to be taught, we didn’t realize to what extent we needed to teach it in our schools,” said Joe. “We have to teach students not necessarily right from wrong, but how to use these tools responsibly in a connected world.”
The district’s organizational units within Google, which are set up by grade level, allow Gaggle Safety Management to be even more effective. For instance, if an incident is discovered involving a ninth-grader, the assistant principal at the school is immediately notified. “Our notifications go specifically to the admin who’s responsible for that grade,” said Joe. “That was a huge benefit: that principals and assistant principals could get the notifications sent directly to them.”
While more email to principals is rarely a welcome message, administrators had a positive reaction to what has turned out to be a very powerful tool. “The school principals are responsible for a lot, and they have a lot on their plates, so anything more that we send to them is generally frowned upon,” said Joe. “But once our principals and assistant principals saw the email notifications that were coming from Gaggle, and what it was that their kids were doing within their Drive accounts, it was eye-opening.”
Now, with a new technology plan in place and an objective throughout the district that focuses on education rather than discipline, Wayne Township Public Schools sees Gaggle increasingly becoming a teaching tool with opportunities to help students through teachable moments. “It’s a way to be proactive,” said Joe. “And it’s all about protecting our students. Even if it’s just one kid, it’s worth it.”