MCSD Ed Tech Review

Tools & Tips Worth Your Time

Issue 12, September 2018

Another New School Year

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In This Issue

  • 1:1 Questions, Answers, & Resources
  • School Email Changeover
  • GoGuardian for Teachers
  • Resource Roundup
  • Hey, Watch This!

1:1 Questions, Answers, & Resources

We are very excited to kick of the 2018-2019 school year as the first full year of our 1:1 plan. This year, all students in grades 6-12 are starting the year with a Chromebook, all 4th and 5th grade classrooms have Chromebook carts, and each elementary building has a number of floating Chromebook carts available for use in the earlier grades.

There have been a few hiccups here and there, and we thank you all for your patience and willingness to help problem solve. So, a few things to know as we move into the school year.

What do we do about 6-12 students without Chromebooks?

If you have a student in class who has not been issued a Chromebook, please email Mark Dalton ( the student's name and grade level. We will get a Chromebook issued to them ASAP.

What do we do with Chromebooks that haven't been picked up?

In August, the Chromebooks being assigned to students in the Middle School and Franklin Academy were distributed to homerooms. If you have a Chromebook and charger that did not get picked up (student left the district, went to a different homeroom, etc.), please contact Steph Smythe in the IT office, and she will pick it up.

While it might be tempting to hold these devices for spares, please don't do that. We have had a number of cases of students who changed homerooms not having devices because their old homeroom teacher still had their Chromebooks. Also, all of these devices must be tracked in an inventory, so if a student is not here, we need to know where that device is.

What do we do about students without charging cords?

Notify Steph Smythe if you have a student who does not have a charging cord so we can make sure they have one.

Please encourage students to take their cords home and keep them there. Students should bring their devices home each night and charge them. One reason for this is that if their cords are kept at home, rather than carried around daily, there is less chance of them going missing. Secondly, the logistics of hundreds of Chromebooks needing to be charged at school each day in every classroom quickly become unworkable.

That said, we're realists. We understand that things happen and sometimes kids are going to need to charge up at school. As the dust settles from the redistribution, we will be working with each building to provide extra cords in strategic locations for students to use in such emergencies.

We absolutely want students to be successful and to be able to fully participate in class activities. Do remember, though, that in most cases, students coming with Chromebooks not charged, or not coming with them at all, is not specifically a technology issue. We have always had students come to class without textbooks, paper, writing implements, etc. As teachers, we have all had to develop management strategies in our classrooms to help our students learn and meet these kinds of expectations.

What do we do about students whose Chromebooks are damaged?

Our intention was for the student devices to all be inspected over the summer, and repairs made if necessary. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, that didn't happen. So as a result, some students got Chromebooks back that were in need of repair.

As has been the policy from the start back in November, it is the district's policy that it will take care of repairs on all Chromebooks for damage that is shown to be accidental or due to normal wear and tear.

If a student at the Middle School has a damaged Chromebook, have him/her take it to the Library. Mary and/or Alice will take a look at it, and refer it to the NERIC staff for repairs if necessary.

If the student is at Franklin Academy, they should take it to the student-run Husky Help Desk in room 117. The students taking part in the program, overseen by Danielle Keating, will be receiving training in aspects ranging from customer service to basic repairs. Room 117 will not be staffed every period, and a schedule will be forthcoming.

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School Email Changeover

You don't have to be a heavy technology user to have felt the pain and confusion over the past four years created by having two separate email addresses, in two different email systems. As we have moved ahead with 1:1, and Chromebook/G Suite for Education use in the district accelerates, it has become even more of an issue.

The tldr (too long, didn't read) version of the rest of this section is that we are moving to the email system exclusively. If you are mainly an Outlook user and want to know how this is going to work, keep reading.

Our students in 6-12 (only), have access to the Gmail system. Typing a teacher's name in the "To" line of an email there automatically suggests that teacher's address. Increasingly, parents, unaware that their students' teachers might have a different address than their students, are sending email to addresses. And similar situations occur with staff sending email to each other. The end result has been many cases of miscommunication, as important, sometimes time-sensitive, information goes unread.

From the beginning, the only long-term solution to this problem was to return to each staff member only having one email address, and one system in which to check that email. In the past year, as mentioned above, as our district has adopted the use of Chromebooks and G Suite for Education, it has become more of a pressing concern.

After careful consideration, it has been decided that it makes the most sense to move to the address and Gmail exclusively. First, this makes the most sense as this is the only address our students have. Second, as more and more of our daily activities take place in Google services like Classroom and Drive, it makes sense for our workflow to take place in one environment, where things work together.

At this point, let's stop and take a breath. I know that making the move to Gmail will have some of you nervous, angsty, and maybe even a little angry. Remember, no one, to date, has died in a school district as a result of changing email systems. It will be ok.

In an attempt to minimize stress, and make sure the changeover happens as smoothly as possible, it will happen in phases. So let's take a look at the when and the what.

Phase I - Getting Prepared

From now until Christmas vacation, nothing will change in terms of how they're working now. So, if you so choose, you can do nothing differently until then. However, if you want to be more proactive, and get started with Gmail on your own terms, there are some steps you can take. So, a couple of things you can do now:

Forward your mail from Outlook.

Many of you, I know, have already taken this step. But if you haven't, now is a great time to start using Gmail by having your Outlook email forward to it. This allows you to get email from both of your addresses in one place. For step-by-step directions, that you can stop and rewind all you want, check out this short video.
Do some fall cleaning.

Your Outlook account will still be accessible, and might have email in it going back years. Eventually (keep reading), all of that email is going to wind up in your Gmail account. Most likely, when it does, it will come into Gmail as individual unread messages. Stop and think about that for a minute... If your Outlook account is the digital equivalent of an episode of Hoarders, all of that mail will get dumped into your nice, neat Gmail account. Take some time, here and there, to start taking a look at what you actually want to keep, and what has just gotten buried. Save yourself some headaches down the road and ditch the morning announcements from May 2013.

As part of this fall cleaning, you could take it a step further, and forward important email that you have saved in Outlook to your address, and then delete it from Outlook. This will let you take your time and move the important stuff over a bit at a time, and get it organized in its new home, rather than getting it all in one big tidal wave of unread mail.

The NERIC staff will also be working to merge contacts in Phase III, but again, if you want to be proactive, you could certainly start going through your Outlook contacts and adding them to your Gmail contacts. This would only be necessary for contacts you have outside the district, as everyone in the district is already in the directory.

Make Gmail more personal.

Ok, I'm not going to pretend I'm some fan of Outlook who thinks it's easier to use than Gmail. But, I do know that for some of you, there are features in Outlook that you are used to, or prefer, and that's one of the reasons you may not have made the switch on your own. What you may not fully realize, though, is how customizable Gmail is. I will readily admit that the default, out-of-the-box version is boring at best, and off-putting at worst. Chances are, though, that many, if not all, of the features you don't like can be changed or tweaked. Changes like setting up priority inbox to more intelligently sort your mail, understanding that labels are really just folders (but better), and turning off the conversation view of emails if that really bugs you, can make a huge difference. You can poke around in the settings (under the gear in the upper right of Gmail), and try things out. Or, if you're nervous about experimenting, let me know and I can help.

Phase II - Outlook Becomes "View Only"

This phase will begin at some point during the Christmas break. You will still be able to log into Outlook at this point. But, the only reason to do so will be to access existing mail that you have saved there. From this point on, all email will automatically forward to your Gmail account. And your Outlook account will no longer have the ability to send new mail.

One of the things I would like to make clear, to hopefully put some minds at ease, is that even after the full changeover, your address will essentially exist as an "alias," meaning that if someone doesn't know about all of this and sends you an email at your old address, it will still get to you.

So, once we enter Phase II, the only reason to log into Outlook will be to look at old email. For everything else, you will be using your Gmail account.

Phase III - Merging the Two

In the spring, likely over one of our breaks, the contents of your Outlook account, email and contacts, will be sent to your Gmail account.

Phase IV - No More

Next summer, Active Directory, the system that is used when you log into a school computer, will be synced with our G Suite directory. What this means is that at that point you will use your Google username and password to log into the school network, and will no longer have two separate usernames and passwords.

As part of that, we will be doing everything we can to bring other school services in line that currently use our usernames, like SchoolTool and MyLearningPlan.

So the end result of this process will be that by the time we come back for the next school year, you will only have one account and password, one email system, and it will all be under

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The following appeared in an issue of this newsletter last year. As the number of teachers affected by the 1:1 initiative has increased, we thought that reprinting the instructions for how to access GoGuardian as a teacher might be helpful.

In preparing to go 1:1, we knew there were two major areas of concern that needed to be addressed. How can we assure parents we're doing all we can to keep their kids safe, even when they have their devices off school property (and off the school wi-fi network)? And, how can we help teachers make sure students are on task and using their face-to-face time effectively?

After a great deal of research, we are hoping the answer to both of those questions is the same: GoGuardian. GoGuardian is a product we are licensing for all of our students affected by the 1:1 initiative, including grades 4 and 5.

In answer to the first question, it provides 24/7 content filtering on all student accounts. So what this means is that when a student signs into a Chromebook (or even Chrome on a PC), that Chromebook is automatically filtered, and inappropriate content blocked, and all activity logged. It makes no difference where in the world the student is; if they have an internet connection, their traffic is being filtered and logged. Now, just as with our network's filter, it isn't perfect. If you find any cases of content that should be blocked getting through, or sites that are educationally appropriate being blocked, please let me know immediately (, and I will take care of it.

The answer to the second question is a bit more involved, and more impressive. Every teacher in the district has been set up to be able to log into GoGuardian as a teacher and set up classes. It takes a few minutes to set up, but the payoff is pretty cool. Once you have a class set up, when those students are with you and you run a GoGuardian session, you, on your teacher dashboard, can see what tabs every student has open, which tab they are currently looking at, you can close tabs, you can open tabs, you can send them on-screen messages should you want to quietly remind them to get to work or provide feedback, you can limit the number of tabs they can have open (very handy if you are using the Chromebooks for an assessment), and you can even blank their screens if you need their undivided attention. All sessions are recorded as well, which can be useful for your own review, or should you want to use the information in a parent meeting.

As I said, getting started takes a little bit of setup, but nothing technically challenging. I would be happy to help you if you run into any issues with getting started or using it. Here is how you do it.

Log In

Go to, and click the button to log in. In the box that comes up, click on the button to log in with Google.

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If you're on a Chromebook, or logged into Chrome, the next screen will ask you to verify which Google account you want to use. It should be your account, obviously. If you aren't on a Chromebook or logged in, you will get a Google sign in screen.

If you are unable to log in using your Google account, let Mark Dalton know so he can get you set up in the system.

Create Your Classes

Once you're logged in, you will be on a screen that shows all of your GoGuardian classes. If you're reading this, the screen will be blank. You will click on the green button to add one.

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Here is where some 1:1 prep work comes in handy. If you are already using Google Classroom, you can skip the work of manually setting up classes, and instead just import them from there. If you haven't, that's ok, you can create classes manually.
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If you're importing from Google Classroom, clicking the button will bring up a list of all of your active classes.
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Whether you're importing from Classroom or making a class manually, the next step is the same. You'll be asked to tell GoGuardian when the class meets, and on which days.
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If you are setting up your class manually, you will have the option of either directly adding students to a roster using their Google usernames (in the email format), or with a code that you would have students go to GoGuardian and use to enroll themselves. To be honest, some teachers have found that last method to be buggy and problematic, so I really don't recommend it.

Start a GoGuardian Session

If you provide this information, GoGuardian will automatically start a session every day your class is scheduled to meet for that block of time. So even if you aren't logged in and actively monitoring it, your students' activity will still be monitored and available for your review after the fact.

Alternatively, you can skip this step. If you do that. When you wanted to use GoGuardian to monitor your students, you would simply log in, open the class, and start a session manually by clicking the button.

By default, when you start a session, you're in tile view. This gives you a chance to quickly see what every student is looking at by showing their active tab. You can also see what other tabs they have open.

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Clicking on a student's tile will bring up a more detailed window. Here you can close tabs if need be, or take a screenshot of their active tab.
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Back in tile view, checking the box on a student's tile, or checking the "All" box brings up some very powerful options.
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On the right side of the screen we have some other options that affect the whole class.
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One of the options in the menu on the right in the above picture is timelines. This will show you timelines of the active tabs for your entire class. This is a really easy way, at a glance, to make sure everyone is where you want them.
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After Class

Now, here's something that's pretty cool about GoGuardian. We all know that a class period can go by in the blink of an eye, and you can find yourself wishing you had looked in on a particular student.

If you went ahead and set up your class time and days in the first steps, then you don't actually even have to have GoGuardian open or logged in for these sessions to be saved. They'll start and end on their own, and you could log in and review them when/if you wanted.

Or, maybe you have a meeting with a parent and you'd like to provide them with some concrete examples of their student's activities. These timelines are recorded in your sessions, and at any point you can bring them up and go through them, access any snapshots you took, etc.

In addition, when you end a session, the system automatically sends an email to your Gmail account with a summary of the class's activity. The example below is a poor once since there was only one (fake) student in the session, and it sat on the same tab for the whole time, but you get the idea.

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Resource Roundup

As we start a new year, it's always good to remind ourselves of the resources we have access to. Below are the major online services the district licenses, as well as some free resources that are worth checking out.

Also, don't forget that you can find more information on the district licensed services on the Malone Teacher Resources site.

Hey, Watch This!

Check out Issue 2 of the MCSD Ed Tech Review for tips on using YouTube in the classroom.

If you have a video that you think is worth checking out, send me the link and I'll include it in an upcoming issue.

If you have been a Classroom user for a bit now, you will no doubt have noticed some differences when you came back to school. The newest features may be a bit confusing at first glance, but were designed to make organizing classwork easier and more intuitive. Take a look at this short video for an overview.
Going a bit deeper, you will find some more changes in the way assignments can be graded, designed to streamline the process (check out the comment bank), while allowing for more frequent and meaningful feedback for your students. This video gives a look at those changes.

Back Issues

1 - December 2015 - Hour of Code, Living in Beta, Tools for Engagement

2 - January 2016 - YouTube: Channels, Playlists, Content Create, Classroom Integration

3 - February 2016 - Formative Assessment Principles and Tools

4 - March 2016 - Brain-Based Learning Techniques and Tools

5 - May 2016 - End of the Year Tips and Reminders

6 - September 2016 - Welcome Back

7- November 2016 - Situational Awareness & Review Tools

8 - February 2017 - The ISTE Student Standards Intro & Standard 1

9 - April 2017 - District Makerspaces & ISTE Student Standard 2

10 - September 2017 - Welcome Back

11 - November 2017 - One-to-One

Get In Touch

My job is to be here as a resource for you and your students. If you want help learning how to integrate technology in your classroom, please let me know. For more information on the sorts of ways I might help you, look at this.

- Mark Dalton, Ed Tech Coordinator