GoGuardian is an excellent and low-cost solution for monitoring, filtering, and providing anti-theft solutions to schools that are using Google Chromebooks. If you are using Chromebooks, or if your school is considering them, I highly recommend checking out GoGuardian because they offer incredibly useful services with an easy to understand interface that even those with limited tech experience can get used to.
It’s a powerful tool, and, for $7 or less per device (depending on the length of your contract and the subscriptions bought), it comes at a very reasonable price.
Now that you have a basic understanding of what GoGuardian is offering, let’s look a little deeper at their system and interface. First, I should mention that you can use this service as a teacher, an administrator, or as a technology coordinator. The team has done a great job customizing the software so that users get the information they need and want, but aren’t bogged down by data or pages that aren’t relevant to their role.
When you first log in to the GoGuardian system, you’ll see the dashboard. From here you can see how many users are online, what websites are trending, and get a basic overview of what’s going on within the system.
At the bottom of the dashboard, you can find a break down of all the sites that have been visited, and you can even click on a particular site to see which users have been visiting those sites and how long they have spent on them, which is definitely a useful feature.
Next up, we’ll head down the tabs on the side of the dashboard and first is “Flagged Activity.” Here, you can see which sites students have visited that have raised a flag, and you can determine the language parameters for what causes sites to be flagged as well.
While you’re on the Flagged Activity page, you can click on a specific instance and see what triggered the flag, what student visited that site, and you can determine if that site should be blocked (blacklisted) or allowed (whitelisted).
The next tab, after Flagged Activity, is “Whitelist/Blacklist” and it is here that you can customize what triggers a flagged site. You can blacklist websites by category, by specific words or terms, and you can even rank the severity of flagged sites, so while some sites may be blocked, an administrator won’t be informed unless it’s a “high severity” event (if that’s what you want).
You can also see what specific students have attempted to access blacklisted sites, which is great for teachers, counselors, and administrators to help open a dialogue with these students and see why they’re trying to access inappropriate or blacklisted material.
You can also create a teacher bypass, so that if a teacher wants to be able to access a certain site that has been restricted, they can enter their password to override the restriction.
Block pages can even be customizable, so you can have a fun gif, or a picture of your principal looking angry, or whatever you would like to add so that the students know they have been blocked and that the administration has been informed of their attempt to access a flagged site.
Moving on, the next feature is the ability to see what specific YouTube Videos are being watched, what Google searches are being conducted, what Apps & Extensions have been installed on the devices (you can block the ones you don’t want being used), and you can even see what Google Docs are being accessed by the students.
The Google Docs feature is my personal favorite, because a teacher can quickly see which students are working/contributing to documents and which students are not.
Next, if there is a specific student user you are curious about, you can pull up all sorts of information on them at any time. You can see what sites they have been visiting, how long they’ve been spending on each site, what Google Docs they’ve been working on, and pretty much any sort of statistic or piece of data you would like to see.
Next up, YouTube! YouTube can be tricky, since there are so many wonderful videos and also so many horrible videos, and what do you do if you don’t want to block the entire site? Well, GoGuardian has a solution which is currently in Beta, but it makes the filtering of YouTube much easier.
With their filter, you can select specific YouTube categories to block out, certain words in titles or descriptions to block out, or even certain users to block. It’s completely customizable and makes filtering YouTube much easier, and you don’t have to block the whole site!