Commercial software for monitoring, controlling, and interacting with desktop and laptop screens:

Commercial Monitoring & Collaboration SoftwareEdit

These programs typically include all of the following: project the teacher's computer to the students, project an individual student computer to all the others, blank all screens, lock screens, capture screens, observe screens. Some include other capabilities such as file distribution/collection, chat, interactive notebooks, etc.

Open Source Monitoring SoftwareEdit

Discussion & CommentsEdit

One of the pedagogical debates that surrounds one-to-one laptop programs is whether to use software tools to monitor what students are doing on their screens...

Q: In our continuing efforts to refine, improve and enhance the program and to learn from other programs, we were wondering if any laptop schools use laptop monitoring software in the classroom, as a tool to "oversee" what students are doing on their laptops during a class. We have been opposed to this type of application from the very beginning but an interest has been expressed in re-examining what is available.

A. For the first three years of our laptop program, our IT coordinator used Apple's Remote Desktop (ARD) to monitor student laptop use while they were in school. In addition, a few of the tech-savvy teachers would also have it installed on our machines as well.

Our philosophy continues to be that the teachers must be clear about their expectations for appropriate use and then physically monitor what is going on in the room, and that their lessons should be engaging enough so that there is little time for other use of the machine. And while that does cut down on quite a bit of potential inappropriate use, the reality is that students will always find a way to multi-task when they have such a powerful tool in front of them. In addition, the teacher can't be everywhere at once, and all it takes is a quick keystroke by a student to hide what's on a screen.

For the previous three years, when our IT coordinator would spot a student using the laptop inappropriately (usually emailing, surfing ESPN, or occasionally IM'ing), he would use ARD to take a screen-shot of the laptop. He would then message the child to let them know that they had been spotted and also emailed the classroom teacher to let them know. We have a laptop strike system in place that allows a student to be warned three times for minor infractions before parents are involved in a formal way. For those teachers who also had ARD, we were able to monitor our own classes and occasionally help our teammates who were less tech savvy. How we used ARD was never a secret from the students, and what we found was that as soon as a few students got caught and they realized that they needed to stay on task, very few students allowed themselves to stray off task. In essence, each year, there ended up just being a handful of kids we'd need to keep an eye on, because the other students learned that they couldn't tell when a teacher was digitally looking over their shoulder. Although, students have now learned that in the top right hand corner of the taskbar, a small icon may/ will appear when a student or anyone is being screen shared.

That's contrasted with this year. For a number of reasons, neither the IT coordinator nor the teachers had ARD installed. As the students grew in confidence with their use of the laptop and realized that the teachers couldn't always see what was on their screens, they began to multi-task more and more. Checking email quickly and not getting caught led to IM'ing. Then some found that they could make it look like they were taking notes, when in fact they were playing a game. Some teachers are just better than others at spotting the signs that let you know that a student isn't doing what he's supposed to be doing on his laptop. All it takes is a quick keystroke to hide the application when the teacher comes near. Students were still getting caught (because some of them weren't so quick), but I'll have to say that this had been the worst year by far in terms of students misusing the laptops whilst in class. It was quite a frustrating experience to realize that more and more students were trying their luck at multi-tasking.

Then, two weeks ago, we all has ARD installed on our machines. We were up front with the students about what the change was. And then students started getting caught more frequently. But once they realized that a quick key-stroke wasn't going to protect them any more, they soon started to change their behavior. I've certainly noticed a change already this week, just two weeks into having the monitoring software. Yes, there was some grumbling about "invasion of privacy" at first, but when I showed them on the screen what I was seeing and why I chose to look at certain students' screens, there were very few genuine concerns. They know what's appropriate and what isn't, but they will also get away with what they are allowed to get away with.

I'm happy to have ARD back for educational reasons as well. I will use it to to showcase something a student is working on with an application on their laptop (which is faster that unplugging the projector from my laptop, having the student come up to my desk, and then plugging their laptop in, only to have to adjust their screen size to match the projector's). I will also use it during essay test situations so I can offer quiet suggestions or reminders to students I spot needing a gentle nudge (don't forget to save - have you spell checked - you will be including topic sentences in your final draft, correct?). Finally, I use it with my student newspaper editors. This weekend I have to help a colleague who is in the hospital. Thus, I will need to be supervising the high school newspaper editors in one part of the building at the same time that I am supervising my own middle school newspaper editors in another part of the building. With ARD, I can be in both places at once in terms of offering help and ideas for layout and design on screen. - Colin Bridgewater, ASL

A. At Norwood [Windows PCs & laptops] we had used Synchron-Eyes and then Net-Op in our labs, but used DyKnow for our wireless laptops & tablets. DyKnow is a broader program -- it also has a robust interactive notebook component. It's a bit of a task to set up all the monitoring groups- basically it's data imports for each class (assigning all the students in a particular class to that teacher/class designation). Within our middle school setting this is a useful tool to help students understand that we are monitoring what they do (as any parent would want to do).

Also See: Classroom Management of Laptops