Yesterday, the Boulder Daily Camera posted an article about the “classroom management” software Synchroneyes that has been installed in almost fifty schools and colleges throughout Colorado. The article focuses primarily on the fact that the software allows teachers to monitor what is on the screens of their students (ie, “no Internet surfing during class”). Taking a look at the company’s web site, I see that they package the message quite differently:
…offers a variety of features that enable you to keep students focused on learning and redirect their attention if they go off track.
In the Daily Camera article students and teachers were interviewed and they share very different opinions on the necessity of the software in the classroom. One statement from the article jumped off the screen at me most rapidly:
Emilio Bernabei, director of software and content for SynchronEyes, said the application allows teachers to be in charge of learning.
Could this approach be what has prompted a couple of Internet sitings of video and instructions posted by students on how to uninstall the software? One comment I found, posted obviously by a student, left little room for guessing:
Synchroneyes is one of the most annoying programs the teachers have at their disposal and this is how you… end the process quickly and easily.
The student goes on to give simple instructions for disabling the software.
Whether such monitoring software is helpful or controlling is certainly a matter of opinion and approach. What I find very interesting is the differing slants on a single product, how various aspects can be a positive or a negative depending on who is asked.
After doing a quick scan, I found a small handful of schools or colleges who use the product which has been around for what looks like at least 3 years.
Two sides (or twelve) to every story.
I dunno… sounds like the same ol’ power struggle to me. The tighter you make the reins, the more students are going to struggle away from it. As a teacher, it’s important to keep your kids focused and on track, and tools like this software to help monitor their attention I’m sure has its uses… but at the same time, it’s important to remember that any software is just that: a tool. If your having that much difficulty keeping your students on track, then maybe you should revamp your teaching style to be more interesting to keep their attention rather than relying on more tools and restrictions.
It is a tool for teachers to manage students in a computer lab. Monitoring in schools as well as businesses is a divisive issue. However when schools are responsible for what content is shown to students and legal issues arise such as the Amero case, these types of tools can be helpful and offer peace of mind for a teacher.
I’ve been in a class in a university computer lab for four hours this morning. From the back of the room, I can see almost all of the computer screens that the professor cannot. If there was monitoring software installed, many of the students would be caught checking email or surfing the web (myself included). I don’t think Synchroneyes would go over very well in this setting…at least among the students.
Very interesting the different ways a single tool can be used or abused. When I worked at a university, a professor used synchroneyes to assist students with their work and to share successes and learning moments in the classroom with the rest of the students. It was absolutley not used for control, spying, or any similar micromanaging behavior on the part of the instructor. It can be a powerful learning tool if used appropriately. It allows the instructor to see if students are able to follow along with what is being taught, help the student individually without having to jump around the room (note many computer classrooms are not really setup for instructors to move easily around the room) AND the instructor can share examples from student computers on one central projector for learning moments such as sharing a creative solution or presentation a student has worked on or maybe even show how to solve or correct a common problem that someone found.
I think the best classroom management tool is to be present with your students and to engage them in the learning process. It is hard to be off checking e-mail, daydreaming, etc. when your teacher is walking around the room and getting the students involved with learning. Technology will never be a substitute for engaging instructional methods and activities.
All very good points! Perspective and approach can certainly play a large role in how a product or service is actually experienced.
I would love to have this software in my computer lab (elementary ages). There is more to the software than just “spying” on the student computers. It allows students to ask questions of you and each other. This is great for those shy students who are too afraid to ask in class. It also enables me to send a website to 30 computers at once instead of rushing in 5 minutes to go to 30 computers to load a site for kindergarten students. It will also let you lock students out when class ends.
Thanks for sharing this perspective on the Synchroneyes software. It really does help to see the angle of those who work with students each day.
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