Are my teachers spying on me?

A+Solon+High+School+students+taped+this+printout+up+on+a+board+in+Commons.
A Solon High School students taped this printout up on a board in Commons.

A Solon High School students taped this printout up on a board in Commons.

A Solon High School students taped this printout up on a board in Commons.

Melissa Ellin, Editor in Chief

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On Aug. 20, 2018 Solon High School (SHS) introduced GoGuardian to the student body. GoGuardian is a software linked to Google Classroom used district-wide for administration, and at the high school level, teachers use the system to monitor students.

Now, what does this mean? Administratively, the software allows the school to see websites students visited. It also enables “smart alerts” which are sent to administrators when a student looks up self-harm or explicit content. Really, the program acts as a data collector, during school hours. It allows teachers to have an overview of each student’s Chromebook history.

“It allows [administration] to know how many Youtube videos were watched, how much flagged activity, or activity that’s not considered explicit or self-harm that’s borderline, if they want to take a look at that,” said Technology Resource Brynt Sines.

Not all teachers use GoGuardian, but for those who do, the tools they utilize are different than those of the administration. When a student logs into a teacher’s Google Classroom, they can also log into GoGuardian. Once this is done, teachers can effectively control students’ Chromebooks. This means they can block websites, freeze screens, close tabs, open tabs and take screenshots. This runs for the length of class. After class, the session ends and all will revert to normal.

Additionally, for GoGuardian to work, a student must log on to the Chromebook using their Solon Schools account, which not all students do. From now on though, students who choose to log on using their personal accounts and have a teacher who uses GoGuardian, will face repercussions.

“We’ve talked to teachers a little bit about [issuing] classroom consequences, because [students] are essentially off task and not doing the assigned work, or assignment that’s in class,” said Assistant Principal Erika Kosiorek. “So, we have asked teachers to set up classroom management just like for anything in your classroom… And then if it becomes a repeated offense we’ll submit referrals to the office and there will be consequences.”

GoGuardian is meant to be a helpful tool which helps teachers ensure their students are on task when using Chromebooks. Which is why teacher’s installed consequences. Sines mentioned it should benefit SHS specifically because of all the technology accessible to students.

“With all of the availability and all of the devices that we put in kids hands now we felt that when they’re at school, we have a little more obligation to help determine that students are on task, and to give some more safety measures along the way,” Sines said.

But there has been serious student backlash since the program’s installment. One major area of criticism is it’s an invasion of students’ privacy.

History teacher Mary Clare Lane said this in itself is a controversial issue. She said there is a fine line between an administrative power and a teacher’s power, and GoGuardian seems to be blurring that line.

“The administrators have the right to search a student’s backpack,” Lane said. “The administrators have the right to search a student’s locker. As a teacher, I don’t. I can’t just start going through your backpack because I think you have something incriminating in there, so should I have the authority to see what you have on your Chromebook?”

Ultimately though, some teachers will use this software. History teacher Robin Joseph mentioned that despite students dislike for GoGuardian, she uses it because it stops disruptions in the classroom.

“I was going to [tell students] ‘We’re going to go back to paper and pencil guys,’ because [Chromebooks are] so disruptive to the classroom setting…” Joseph said. “And I think GoGuardian helps with that, [and] limits the disruptions going on.”

Additionally, History teacher Joseph Nunney said he believes GoGuardian can be useful. He said the program worked as expected and although he’s still adjusting to it, he sees the potential it has.

“… it alleviates the problem of students wandering off to websites that are not pertinent to the assignment,” Nunney said.

After all, this is why SHS implemented GoGuardian in the first place: to help students stay on task, regardless of whether students like the program.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Are my teachers spying on me?”

  1. Madi Mcgirr on October 1st, 2018 3:27 pm

    If I was still in high school, I’d protest this policy. Students should have a right to some privacy within the school. We paid money each year to even have the Chromebook in the first place so it’s not even like the school generously gave it to us. It’s a requirement to have, meaning all students are forced to agree to this surveillence.
    They should let the students opt out of getting the Chromebook in the first place to avoid the issue of their privacy being invaded. If students can’t opt out then it’s literally just forcing kids to give up their personal freedoms.

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