10/6/10

TOS Review: LanSchool

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Through the Review Crew, I’ve been introduced to companies, vendors and products that I have never heard of before.  LanSchool is one such vendor.   I will confess that when I saw LanSchool on the list and first looked at their website I was a little less than ambivalent.  Classroom Management software?  How would that apply to me as a homeschooler.  My first thoughts were “oh I hope I don’t end up on the list cause I wouldn’t know what to do with it.”

I spent a little more time looking at the website and looking at what the product offers and I moved to a more ambivalent position of “well if I get it, that’s fine and if I don’t get it that’s fine too”.   After seeing that I could limit web browsing for a certain young lady in my home, I moved to a warmer position of “I think I’d like to be on the list.”

Today?  I am so thankful that I was on the list.   There are some things in life that you think you can live without, then you experience them and you wonder how you would live without them.  You become dependent on them. LanSchool is one such product for my family.  We use it every single day!

What is LanSchool? LanSchool  is a software program that allows networked computers to be managed by a teacher.   But what does that mean?  In today’s world computers are used more and more as tools for education.  With LanSchool a teacher can sit at her desk and using the Teacher Console view what each student is doing on his computer. The Teacher can limit applications, web sites or even printing ability.  But it’s more than just limiting what a student can use on the computer. The student can ask the teacher a question via LanSchool and the teacher can respond in several ways.

But there’s more!  The teacher can browse the internet with the student. The teacher can show her screen to one or selected or all students. The teacher can show one student screen to other students.

What if the student is goofing off?  The teacher can “blank” the student screen.  She can even customize a message for the “blank” screen.  The teacher can also take control of the student computer through a “remote control” option.

I could go on and on about the features but I’m more than likely to miss one. You can read more about the features of LanSchool here.

How we’ve been using LanSchool in our home: Reading through the features, it’s still really hard to get a grasp of how this actually works, especially in a home school environment so I want to share how we’ve been using it.

Teaching: We are learning the Greek alphabet in our home school.  I used LanSchool to help me teach the girls the letters.   I opened a blank Word Document so that I would have a “white” screen.  Then I clicked on “Show Screen”.   I then chose to “draw on screen”.   The girls sat two at each student computer and both student computers were in hearing distance of my voice.   I would draw the Greek letter and the students would say the name of the letter and the sound it represents.  Though I have not yet done this, I could choose to demonstrate a letter and then “quiz” them by creating a question (either multiple choice or true/false).  So I could draw alpha and then using the tools send them a true/false question like “this sounds says d as in dog” (for those of you not studying Greek the answer is false.  Alpha says a as in father).   Using Lanschool was easier (and more fun) than standing at a whiteboard trying to draw the letters.

Assisting: Three of my girls are using a computer based software curriculum for a few subjects.  To say that LanSchool has been a blessing with helping me to assist my children would be an understatement.   In the days before LanSchool, if one of the girls had a question or needed assistance, I would have to physically go to their computer to see what they needed.  Or they would have to come find me and tell me what they needed and I would have to open up the program on my computer, but with LanSchool they can let me know they need help and I can pull up their screen on my computer.  If necessary, I can then use the remote control to assist with the curriculum.  I really love the View Screen and Remote Control options!

We have a few online subscriptions that require logging in to use.  Sometimes the girls forget their password or have some other trouble logging in.   I can use LanSchool’s remote control to type in their password or assist with logging in.   Again this saves me from having to physically go to them to provide assistance.

Monitoring: With LanSchool, I can monitor my girls’ activity on the computer.  I can have the Teacher Console open to a thumbnail view so that I can see what they are doing on the computer.  When one of them decides to check out her playlist at iTunes instead of working on her history lesson or another one decides she wants to find out more about the legend of Robin Hood instead of researching the geography of Rhode Island for her 13 Colonies Report, or the third one is playing some type of game instead of taking her LA test, I can cause the student computer screen to go blank with a simple message.   The default message is “Eyes to the front of the classroom, please”.  I customized the message with a question: “Is this what you are supposed to be doing?”   Though I have not done so, I can check web browsing history, key strokes and even take screen shots.

The monitoring aspect helps with Supergirl as well.  She likes to sneak onto the computer when it is available and play games.  With her I grab control of the mouse (using the Remote Control feature).   A little voice will  cry out: “Mom, give me back the mouse.  I need the mouse.”  (I am so mean!!)

I love that I can be at the kitchen table with Supergirl working with her on her phonics or math while I have LanSchool teacher console open on my laptop right next to me.   I can provide assistance and monitor  my other children while still supervising and teaching Supergirl.   I feel much more efficient as a parent teacher. 

Just for Fun: I have used the Chat Feature with my husband to chat with him without the girls “overhearing”.    I’ve used the “Vote” (question) option to poll my family on what kind of pizza to have for dinner.  My husband likes to show me things he is reading on the web.  In the days before LanSchool he would call out to me to “come over and see this.”  Now he calls over to me “hey can you pull up my screen and take a look at this.”   If I have something that I want to show him, I call out a warning and then I use the “Show Teacher Screen” option to share what I’ve found.

 As a member of the Review Crew, I received the Home Version which retails for $99 and is valid for monitoring up to 3 computers. The home license is free for educators, however, home schools are not included.   There is a trial version available here.   You can see the full range of options for educators and corporate licenses here.

  Click on the banner below to read what my fellow Crew Mates have to say about LanSchool.

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Disclaimer: As a TOS Crew member, I received this software from LanSchool free of charge so that I could provide my honest review. I received no compensation.

3 comments:

  1. This looks really neat. I'll have to remember it if and when we all have our own computer.

    I wanted to let you know I tagged you in my blog post today.

    http://mcclanahan7.blogspot.com/2010/10/tag-youre-it-i-want-to-know.html

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  2. That sounds great, Tess! If we ever get back to using our PCs more, I will have to seriously look at LanSchool. (I'm happy with the parental controls I already have with the Macs)

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  3. Great review Tess! I enjoyed reading how you're using Lanschool in your homeschool. :)

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