One of the things educators battle against when using technology in the classroom is how easy it is for students to get off task. Give a student a digital device and right off the bat they'll look for something to entertain themselves with. If you've worked education technology or are a teacher with tech in your classroom, you more than likely have personally witnessed this scenario. For example, a computer lab teacher will always see their students scramble to the computer and log in a few minutes before instruction begins to surf the web and try to access or find unblocked game sites. Super savvy students will also look to find a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to bypass the network and access games or particular sites. Of course, having a CIPA compliant internet filter helps but you can't solely rely on it as it's always a game of "Whack a Mole" when trying to block sites. What do you do? After all, digital learning is not going away. This is where computer lab management software can help. There are many out there and naturally they come with a price tag. If you are a school district that has thousands of devices or are 1:1, then the cost definitely becomes a consideration.
The D49 Ed Tech team has had several requests for this type of tool and we've done a little research on some of the classroom management software that is out there. Here's a list of some them:
All of these companies provide similar functionality to manage technology in the classroom but if you are a cross or multi platform district, it can be a little tricky. As of this writing, not all of the products listed supported the different operating systems and hardware that some districts like ours use, since we use all the major ones, Chrome, Windows, Mac, and iOS. More recently, the companies listed have made efforts to add support for the various operating system platforms, LanSchool comes to mind. One thing to note is that Apple iOS has its own classroom app for management and in most cases, it is incompatible with the offerings from the companies I've listed here.
Another aspect to using these tools is rostering of classes. Most of them support Google Classroom for rostering and device control. In our research, we found that Tech Pilot's Chrome Tools supports the Schoology LMS which was a pleasant surprise as it is our primary LMS. Some of our schools use Google Classroom as an LMS. The nice thing about all of these lab management offerings is that teachers can restrict their students to specific web sites during instruction to keep them on task. Some teachers that have these tools actually mirror their management console on a projector or smart TV, showing all student devices. This method discourages students from getting off task as the teacher and the class can quickly see which students are not on the prescribed website or not using a designated tool or app on their device. A clever and effective approach if you ask me.
Distraction is not only relegated to technology being used in school during school hours. 1:1 take home programs with iPads have to consider enabling screen time controls to have some management at home. Apple has done a nice job in implementing screen time features in the lasts couple of iOS updates. In most instances you'll need to partner with the parents to find a happy medium because you still want students to be able to have the access they need to complete their digital assignments.
All in all, classroom management software for K-12 will help prevent digital distractions from instruction time in the classroom when students use tech. School districts are faced with two major considerations, pricing for one, and operating system and hardware compatibility. If you have those two covered, then ease of use will likely be the deciding factor on which classroom management tool you decide to go with in the end.
Here's an interesting article on digital distractions as it pertains to higher ed. https://medium.com/swlh/digitally-distracted-learning-with-laptops-1ac2d5122ee6