Maksud Ibrahim is an ICT lecturer at Preston College. In this podcast he explains how the college makes use of their classroom management system to monitor and control what students have on screen during lessons.
Maksud explains some of the features of the system including the ability to view everyone’s screen from a single computer, blocking internet access, only allowing students to access selected software and websites, one to one and one to many chat and sending files between computers. Maksud goes on to discuss how he has pushed the limits of the software so that it not only works as a classroom management system, but can also be used to deliver presentations in areas where interactive whiteboards are not available.
Click below for a transcript provided by CallGraph.biz
00:05 Speaker 1: Hi! And welcome to the June 2010 edition of the new learning podcast from the JISC Regional Support Center in the Northwest with me, Kevin Hickey. In this edition, we’ll be hearing how Preston College are using a classroom management system in modern classroom management.
00:21 S1: Okay. Well, I’m here today at Preston College on what I’m hoping is the first of many summer days that we’re going to get. And I’m here with Maksud Ibrahim. And, first of all, Maksud, if you want to say… Just introduce yourself to us.
00:36 Speaker 2: My name is Max, short for Maksud Ibrahim. I teach in the IT department of Preston College. Mainly, I teach the Level 2 of the B Tech National Diploma IT practitioners. Level 2 and Level 3 courses mainly. I teach databases, quite a few of the theoretical subjects, IT project, websites of development, that kind of thing.
01:02 S1: Okay. And the reason why I’m here today is so I can have chat about something you’ve got here called Ranger Remote software.
01:09 S2: Ranger Remote software, yeah. Quite a powerful tool. Mainly used for classroom management, initially, where you can actually observe students doing their work on their machines but you are monitoring it from your machine, from your staff machine.
01:30 S1: Right. So, it’s a classroom management. You’ve got a single machine at the front, the teacher’s machine, and on that screen you can see…
01:36 S2: Yeah. As long as you log on, you’ve got access to that piece of software. You can see what the students around that particular class are doing. And what you get is a little visual screen, a little display of what each student is doing on their machine. So, at a glance, you can see what the whole class is doing. So, really it’s a class management tool.
01:58 S1: Yeah. So, you can see if anyone was on Facebook when they shouldn’t be or something.
02:01 S2: Yeah. If you’ve got a little research activity where they’re writing a report up in Word and suddenly you see a screen changed to Facebook or eBay or something like that, you can tell instantly. In some classrooms, maybe the layout may not be conducive to management from the point of view that you can’t keep an eye on them all at the same time. Maybe their backs are to you, maybe their computers are turned away from you. And so it saves you walking around the classroom. You’ve got a visual impression of what everybody is doing on their screens. So, even if they’ve turned the monitors away from you, you can still see what they’re doing.
02:44 S1: So, I mean, for example, we are in a classroom here which got some traditional sort of horseshoe kind of shape with the computer screen turning outside, which is a lot better than a lot of computer rooms, but even then, if you’re looking at one side of the room…
02:59 S2: That’s right. You may find that the students in the corners might turn the machine slightly away from you. So, away from where you are sat, you can’t actually see what they’re doing. Although this is one of the better rooms, we have quite a few other rooms where the layout is different. They’ve got a sort of base down the middle of the room as well. And students are facing in all sorts of different directions. And some away from you, some towards you. And with Ranger really, it doesn’t matter what the layout is.
03:30 S1: We were talking earlier actually about some of the other features you’ve got in there. So, for example, you said that if you see sort of a student who is on a website that they shouldn’t be, you can go in and you can send them a message?
03:41 S2: That’s right. And one of the features… Because it’s a management tool, one of the features is that you can actually control the areas and the software that students are working with. So, for example, if you want to restrict them to particular web pages, you can actually activate those web pages, spread them around the room so that the students only have access to those web pages. If they try going off those pages to somewhere else, which they shouldn’t be doing, wasting the time, they will be blocked.
04:14 S1: So, it’s like an instant firewall just to selected computers.
04:17 S2: It is. Yeah. You can either block off the internet if you really want it. For certain activity, you could activate just certain bits of software. So, you are controlling, to some degree, what the students are working with. And from that point of view, it’s a very good tool.
04:37 S1: And you mentioned to me earlier as well, that some chats facilitate…
04:41 S2: That’s right. Yeah. That’s the… What I’ve just described is sort of the basic use for Ranger but there are other features to it. One feature is where you can have a chat facility either individually with a student. So, if you see… In it’s basic form, if you see a student on a dodgy website, for example, you can discreetly send them a little message and say, “Look. I’m watching you. Can you come off that? I don’t want to see you on that again.” A little pop-up message will appear on the middle of their screen. It will stay there for so many seconds, and then when they press Okay, that they’re ready, it will disappear again. And within a few weeks, we find that students realize that you won’t monitor them all the time. They do ask, “Oh, have you got Ranger on, sir?” And then the class behaves accordingly, if you know what I mean.
05:35 S1: Okay. So, I mean, we’ve already… We’ve sort of got this already to an extent but how, I mean, that is how… Particularly how you’ve been using this system here.
05:44 S2: I’ve tried to push the boundaries a little bit. I’m trying to use it in a slightly more innovative way. One of the ways that I have used it is that… Unfortunately, not all our classrooms have the electronic whiteboards. And, like I’ve said, some of our classrooms are designed in such a way that the students are facing in different directions. We’ve got them based down the middle, we’ve got them based down the edges of the room. So, what I’ve been doing is that I actually… In those classrooms, I actually deliver lectures from Ranger. So, I’ll put a PowerPoint presentation on or go to a particular website and put in a little clip or video clip on or something like that. I’ll send it out from my machine, through Ranger, and it appears on everybody else’s machine. And because Ranger is taking over their machines for that period of time, they can’t do anything else apart from what I’m doing. And I’m doing the voice over while I’m still in the front of the class or in front of my machine. So, they are observing what’s appearing on their screen and, at the same time, listening to what I’m saying. They can’t do anything. They’re not distracted. And it doesn’t really matter which way they’re facing as long as they’re looking at their own monitors.
07:01 S1: Yeah.
07:02 S2: Even if they’re facing away from me, it doesn’t really matter as long as they’re watching their monitors. So, that’s quite a useful tool, I find. I’m not so sure whether every staff member is using it that way, but I would seriously recommend they look into that. Another one is when if you quickly want to spread files, pass on files to students, to the whole group in one go, one sort of… One click of a button, for example, what you can do is locate the file that you want to send out. And you’ve already got your Ranger software switched on, so you’ve got your classroom in front of you visually. You just highlight all the class and then send this file out. Instantly, within a couple of seconds, that file lands on their machines in a designated folder that you’ve set up. So, it can work that way. As a return, you could say on your way out, “Lads, can you… ” or “Ladies, can you send your finished work back to my machine?” So, as they log off, rather than print work off, they can send files back to you… Back to a designated folder on your machine as well. So, you’re passing files to and from students, which is quite a useful method. And going back to chat, rather than just have individual chat with the students, you can have a group chat facility whilst in particular… Whilst they’re doing the research or whilst a discussion is taking place. So, yeah, these are some of the extra features that are on Ranger. But I’m not so sure whether every staff member is using them.
08:43 S1: That sounds as though you’re really pushing the boundaries there with some really good ideas with it. I see the college would have to pay for this system, while… What are the advantages over just saying, “Well, just walk around the classroom and keep an eye on what everyone is doing?”
08:59 S2: Primarily, first of all, it’s a classroom management tool. So you are… You’ve got a tool there to ensure that the students remain on task. They’re not distracted. I mean, we find in the computer rooms so many distractions. Internet, for example. They’re either playing games or they’re either on YouTube, they’re either on Facebook, MSN. There are all these distractions. And really, to keep them on task with those distractions available to them, it’s a difficult task. So, if you have a facility where you can block all that and say, “All right. Okay. Here’s the activity.” You could say, “I’ll give you five minutes at the end of the lesson or ten minutes at the end of the lesson, I’ll release bits of software.” or “I’ll release access to those bits of software.” Use that as a bit of a treat. And you’ve got students on task and if they finish, you can, by all means, release the access. It’s a really good classroom management tool from that point of view.
10:01 S1: I mean, as you said, I know that colleges that are using similar systems and that’s something that happened before where it is used as a bit of a treat so that if you get your work done, you can go to this site and then…
10:12 S2: You can either release packages individually to individual students. So, you can say, “Okay. If you finish. As soon as you finish, let me know. I’ll check your work and I’ll put YouTube back on. Or, last ten minutes, for you I will put whatever it is as a treat, Okay.” Or you can do it globally to the whole group. So, you could use it as a treat. The other advantage is, paper. I mean paper is very, very expensive. We tend to find it coming up to the end of the year where our budgets are really, really run down… We’re running out of toners for the printers. We’re running out of paper. So, with the passing of the files from one machine to another, back to the teacher, and the teacher feeding and giving the feedback and then sending it back to the individual students instantly, that saves… When you all run with it. So, if you’ve got a software already there, that’s one of the ways that you could use it. Now, although the college may have a virtual learning environment, which does that kind of thing to a greater extent, if you want something instant, whilst you have got Ranger on…
11:24 S1: And, I mean, it pushes it out.
11:25 S2: Push it out straight to where, rather than logging on to the VLE system and then downloading and blah, blah, blah. This is a very, very quick way of doing this.
11:37 S1: Well, do you have any advice for anyone about to use one of these classroom management systems?
11:43 S2: Yeah. The easiest way to pick up how to use a software like Ranger is just check your staff development sessions. If you have any staff development sessions on that topic, whether they’re running any or not. As the staff development team, that’s the easiest way within sort of half an hour, you’ll be shown the basics of Ranger. There will be enough time for you to get back to your classroom and play with it. That’s for the non-IT users, okay. For the IT users, I mean, with a little bit of a play, it’s quite a user-friendly software. It’s a little bit of play, a little bit of time spent on it experimenting, you should be able to pick up these things that I mentioned quite easily.
12:34 S1: I suppose, I mean, comparing it with some of the technologies that people might want to use it in a classroom, because this is support add on kind of thing, rather than something less to rely on, there’s not so much pressure because I know there is a concern when using technology in the classroom, what happens if it doesn’t work on the day you want to use it. I suppose with this…
12:55 S2: I’ll give you an example. We’ve mentioned other ways of using it. I mean, I was being inspected, I think early, sorry, late last year, last academic year. And I was in a classroom which didn’t have an electronic whiteboard. I didn’t want to use the overhead projectors and things. So I switched Ranger on and I delivered my sessions through Ranger. And the observers, they really enjoyed the lessons. Plus the students were engaged, weren’t distracted in any way, and I managed to get a, I secure a grade of one [13:34] ____.
13:35 S1: Fantastic!
13:36 S2: I would seriously recommend people to have a look on it. Initially, it is a classroom management tool but there are smaller features within it you can use to enhance your teaching.
13:51 S1: Yeah, it sounds like, I’ll say, you really pushed the boundaries and come up with some great ideas which I’ve got to say I’ve not heard elsewhere. So I’ve got to say, you’ve got some great stuff here. So, finally have you got any thoughts on any ways you’d like this system to be developed or anything, maybe it doesn’t have at the moment you’d like to see it have?
14:11 S2: We’ve gonna be very careful that the Ranger remains sort of a classroom management, primarily a management tool. We don’t have too many features on that crosses, it changes it, sort of…
14:23 S1: It changes what it is.
14:23 S2: It becomes sort of like a virtual learning environment. And then we sort of lose track of where we were initially. But as a classroom management tool… I mean, I’ve been mentioning that we could pass files from students back and forth. So, I don’t know, maybe something like a time element, something like that. A time stamp, when we could send back and forth. Or maybe a time element on when you can release it’s software rather than let’s say, okay, I’ll release it now, you’re going to do it manually because it’s only going to be ten minutes time after I release it. Or maybe with one flick of a switch, the whole internet goes off and all that… I’m not so sure with it.
15:13 S1: It does sounds like you’re really pushing the boundaries of it at the moment. So, you’re definitely coming up with some fantastic ideas. Well, thanks for speaking to us today.
15:22 S2: No problem.
15:22 S1: Thanks for listening to our podcast today. You can find out more about us at http://www.rsc-northwest.ac.uk. You can download previous podcasts there. Or you could also go to newlearning.wordpress.com, you could also get our podcasts. This podcast is created using Audible, with music by PowerSphinx which is available from jamendo.com and it was used onto the Creative Commons license.