The Secret Weapon You Didn’t Know You Had

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Tanya DaMommio is a 5th grade ESL teacher at Summitt Elementary. She is the campus CIC and a graduate of the first cohort of Leadership Pathways in Transformative Technology.

What’s my secret weapon to higher engagement and better relationships during pandemic teaching you ask? Why, it’s Go Guardian. I bet that wasn’t the answer you were expecting. Let me set the stage for you. I’m going to brag for a second on my students, during the weeks when we were 100% virtual, my average daily attendance was 100%. That’s right, they all showed up! Since those weeks, as we moved to concurrent teaching, etc. my average attendance has stayed at 100%. My students are not some special breed of 5th grader that just happens to love everything about pandemic learning, they are engaged and feel a commitment to show up. They don’t all complete their work, they don’t all keep their cameras on, they don’t all unmute to answer questions, but they do ALL show up everyday. I don’t for one minute believe that I have miraculously taught them to the same level I could have in person, that would have required expertise I have gained over this year that I didn’t possess in August. I do believe however, that they learned more than they would have had they decided not to log in. 

My partner teacher and I started our year with daily morning meetings and closing circles, but we didn’t really see a big spike in engagement and deeper relationships until we started utilizing Go Guardian (GG) on a daily basis. We open GG (our shorthand) first thing in the morning and it doesn’t go off until the kids are gone for the day. I’m not saying we stare at it all the time, but it is always open and we have the chat feature

turned on. That means that any student can send us a message at any time. A little green speech bubble appears in the corner of their screen that lets them know GG is on and they can message us.

We get messages like this one frequently. We also send messages like this when we see that a student is not on the right screen. We equate GG to walking the room. If we had all these kiddos in person we would walk around the room  once they started independent work to check that everyone was on the right track and on task, that’s what GG lets us do, look over their shoulder and see what they are doing. At first, our very vocal 5th graders told us things like it was creepy or we were spying on them. We just kept sharing our analogy about being in the classroom and soon they saw all the upsides of having GG going. They take advantage of the chat feature daily to ask academic and non-academic questions. They prefer it to Zoom for private messages. The plus side to GG chat is that it stays there for the student to refer to later, like if we give them a quiz code.

A new feature of GG we love is the annotation feature. It allows you to draw a circle on a student’s screen to draw their attention. We find this especially helpful for guiding students to a page they need to find by highlighting what to click next, etc. You can even choose your favorite color and set the size of the dot.

The final feature of GG I want to bring to your attention is  Open new tab.This is super helpful for kids you are having trouble getting to the right page, or perhaps they are having Chromebook issues. You can simply open the page for them and keep going.

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You can select a button to open the same tab for all students, or just select certain students. When you select a student you will see the blue bar above with those options. Not once, this entire school year have we locked a device or excluded a student. I find those to be extreme. If a student has wandered onto YouTube, you can just close that tab to remind them to be on task, or send them a message. GG can really help you build a relationship with your students where they will ask you questions, the questions you can’t see they have because they are learning from home. Locking a device will break that trust pretty quickly, plus really, does it get the student back on task or just give them an excuse to get out their phone?

Please reach out to me if you have any questions or would like help getting to know Go Guardian.

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