Insight: Big brother goes to school

Posted: February 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

My experience in computer labs as a teacher has been frustrating and I have spent my time touring the class trying to keep students

insight

on-task and off inappropriate sites. The school server can only control so much. This week one of my practicum classes was booked into the computer lab. I was curious to see how a large highschool handles these challenges.

Now this lab was a whole different story. It was set up by a spartan decorator with simple tables, flat screens and towers on custom blocks on the floor to the side of each table. Teachers can see all wires, feet, hands and towers at all times. Brilliant.

Layout aside, the lab has a monitoring system called Insight created by Faronics. My praticum teacher calls it Night Owl due to the logo and the vision it offers her.

The program allows the teacher to monitor every computer screen in the room. The teacher can see what the student sees. It essentially looks like this:
screen shot insight

If you mouse-over a screen it enlarges allowing you to confirm your suspicions of facebook usage. But these are only basic usages. I discovered the true feeling of power when I enlarged a student’s screen and then by clicked on SHOW (by mistake of course). The class let out a collective yelp and I looked up to see everyone was looking at what I had enlarged on my screen. WOW! What a tool!

Here is what all 25 student saw when I clicked SHOW

Here is what all 25 student saw when I clicked SHOW

The interactive options are exciting here. If student A seems to have found something interesting, I can just bring up his screen and simply show it to everyone without stopping the class. The fact that I have interrupted their games gets their attention just fine (as I discovered). A short on-screen message tells them why I am showing it to them, after all, texting is their language anyways!

As I played around in the application some more I found tools to send individual messages to kids like “Hey, I think you have been on this page the entire class… are you actually working?” You can create documents in any application and share them with the students, for example the assignment rubrics, project criteria or important points to remember.

Teachers can use Insight for evaluations. Students can complete questions or responses as given in a shared document as an evaluation and the teacher can monitor that they are uniquely on task. These evaluations can be printed and handed in, or digitally sent to the teacher with a time stamp. In-class participation tools are there as well. The teacher can pose a question and students can respond in a vote-like format with statistics automatically visible to the teacher. As the Faronics blog claims, “Textbooks [are] going digital”. Insight is trying to bridge this textbook gap for teachers.

The subject of digitally based classrooms and blended approaches to learning is another subjects of the Faronics Blog. Faronics, the creator of Insight certainly hopes so.  The blog Tech Learning found no cons in their review of insight.  They also mention that the teacher station can manage up to 256 computers!  This is likely a tool for the IT department since teacher unions would not let class sizes get that big!!

It was not easy to find user-reviews for this application since it is kind of a dry subject.  Insight is a ITC department purchase so it is not something teachers feel like bloggin about.  Most reviews seem to be like the one found on Innovate my School:  Prices, options, features etc.

There are other applications that offer similar capabilities
Smart has SmartSync -boasts the collaborative aspect

Dyknow – I found this on a forum as a recommendation. Dyknow has a suite of products and published a case study if you have too much time on your hands.

Netop – found on the same forum. The description seems to focus more on lesson development and classroom presentation. They have recently come out with Vision Pro – supposedly the new generation of netop.

And the good news is… there are open source options!
iTALC had several positive comments from users. There is no mention of testing and presentation features, but if monitoring is what you want… it is available FREE!

All in all. I am encouraged to see that the symptoms of computer lab anxiety can be relieved, at least for me. The future looks blended.

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