HBA Rolls Out Screen Monitoring Tool on School Chromebooks

HBA teachers can use Classwize to privately send a message to students' Chromebooks to keep them on task during class. Photograph by Megan Lee ('23)
At the start of fourth quarter, every HBA campus will be using a screen-monitoring tool called Classwize. Classwize allows teachers and administrators to view and guide students’ online activity on school-issued Chromebooks.

In an email announcement sent to parents and guardians, the school administrations said that the purpose of Classwize is “to help [their] students develop healthy habits and to promote good time management while on the device.” HBA is implementing this new tool with “[the] hope and intent that Classwize will be used to support [the] child’s learning, both academically and in building strong work habits.”

In an email to the Eagle Eye, high school principal Marsha Hirae and middle school principal George Honzaki explained that prior to the switch to Chromebooks this school year, HBA already had a content filter in place that limited what websites students could access while on the school network. However, teachers could not monitor online activity on school-issued iPads. “We realized that there are some students who are not focusing on the teacher’s instruction, and we have been concerned about this, along with test security,” they wrote. Classwize’s teacher tool has several features, including allowing teachers to monitor students’ screens, send private messages to the entire class or an individual student, open tabs for a particular website for the entire class or an individual student, or restrict access to only a particular website. Teachers will only be able to monitor students’ screens during the school day, and Classwize is programmed to turn off by 4 p.m. on school days. It is also off during the weekends. Classwize will only work on school-issued Chromebooks. The principals emphasized that only authorized school personnel will be able to use Classwize’s teaching tool, and they do not have access over the device’s camera or files.

Hirae and George stated that teachers are not required to use Classwize and wrote that it should only be used at specific times to direct students to specific websites or to monitor student’s screens during independent work time or online assessments.

Science teacher Sean Shiroma is hopeful that Classwize will help with student engagement. He says that many students misuse devices during class time by quickly shifting tabs and apps when the teacher isn’t looking. “Classwize] has the potential to eliminate that temptation and distraction,” he said. Although simultaneously monitoring screens and teaching a lesson will be a juggling act, English teacher Ryan Frontiera sees how it could be helpful to both teachers and students. He also adds that for Classwize to be a successful tool in the classroom, teachers need to be properly trained on how to use it and expectations should be clearly communicated to students. “Hopefully it encourages students to use their devices ethically and appropriately,” he said.

Some students have mixed feelings on Classwize. Sophomore Sarah Kiritmitsu is ambivalent as she believes that she is capable of handling her own academic responsibilities without intervention since online school has taught her the importance of time management. However, she acknowledges that Classwize can be helpful for those who struggle with focusing during class. “I would be okay with having a screen-monitoring service once I get used to the idea, and I think it would be pretty helpful for those who learn best with the encouragement of a teacher,” she said.

Freshman Taylor Malinger has similar thoughts; she believes that “[Classwize] would probably do more good than harm.” Although Malinger isn’t entirely comfortable with teachers having access to students’ online activity, she feels that it would be beneficial in helping to eliminate cheating and to keep students on task.

Junior Jordyn Ajimine feels that Classwize doesn’t fully solve the problem of distractions during class. “This program won’t have any effect on a student’s time management or learning habits at all because it is not controlling people’s actions outside of their use of the Chromebooks,” she explained. Ajimine agrees that Classwize will help eliminate cheating on school-issued Chromebooks, but points out that it doesn’t prevent students from using other devices. Currently, students still have access to their school-issued iPads, and most students own smartphones. She also questions if HBA really needs to “enhance test security” for in-person students. “When a teacher gives out a test in person, they walk around the room to see what everyone is doing. Is that not enough?” she said.

Despite the uncertainty of next school year’s schedule, even though the tentative plan is for in-person school to resume for all students four days a week, the principals believe that Classwize will continue to play a role in HBA’s learning environment no matter the instructional format. “Since technology is all around us and a constant temptation, its usefulness should only increase with time. Considering that every school’s main function is to teach and train, we’d like to believe purposeful content monitoring will be part of the discussion,” they wrote.

Middle school English teacher Valerie Coryell first started using Classwize at the beginning of third quarter. (A gradual rollout of Classwize started earlier this quarter.) Coryell says that she was skeptical at first because she wasn’t familiar with the tool. She found that her seventh grade students were open to the usage of a screen-monitoring tool. Although Classwize forces Coryell to juggle many things while teaching, she believes it has been worthwhile. “It’s so nice to be able to see when kids don’t understand something or they’re not on the right site or place in Google Docs,” she explained. Using Classwize, Coryell has been able to guide students who were looking at the wrong instructions and to encourage certain students that were behind on their classwork. She also uses Classwize to monitor online test-taking by looking out for the use of outside sources. Classwize has also helped her manage the pace of the class as she can now see whether or not kids are done with a quiz or test. “[Classwize] really does take a lot of time and [teachers are] already so busy, but I really feel like it’s a tool that [teachers] don’t have to use all the time, but it can definitely help,” she said.

Classwize will be rolled out to the entire school after Spring break. Students with concerns about its use should contact their campus principal.

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