WEST SEATTLE SCHOOLS: Madison MS to pilot new laptop surveillance software before it goes district-wide

According to a message sent to families, starting tomorrow Madison Middle School will pilot a new surveillance feature that’s scheduled to be used district-wide starting this fall. Among other things, it notifies teachers if a student is doing something with their district-issued laptop during class other than the assigned classwork. First, from the district’s February announcement of the new software, called GoGuardian:

For the 2024-25 school year, Seattle Public Schools will be launching a tool to help teachers guide students in their lessons and keep them focused on the task at hand during class time. This system allows teachers to manage student devices and share content quickly and easily.

The new tool will be installed on SPS Devices and will enable our educators build positive learning environment during their classes.

The new tools will enable educators to do the following:

-View of student screens while in-person during class time.
-Help refocus students on classroom instruction, rather than digital distractions.
-Block or allow websites for each class session.
-Digitally interact with students through teacher-to-student messaging.

Important note regarding student privacy: This new tool supports student privacy by automatically deactivating features outside school hours and off school premises, respecting the balance between educational oversight and personal space.

This page on the GoGuardian website has a video showing how it works. The district website has details on the plan to use the software, GoGuardian, for 3rd through 12th graders, and a different Apple tool for younger students. Here’s how Madison MS principal Dr. Robert Gary told families in a message sent Friday about the pilot starting tomorrow:

Beginning next week and the week after vacation, Madison teachers will help Seattle Public Schools pilot a new technology tool called GoGuardian. The tool has already been installed on our students’ laptops, though it is not yet “live.” Teachers will be trained on how to use this tool efficiently and effectively. We will also be troubleshooting any problems that arise prior to SPS rolling this out to the entire district. We are excited to have a tool that will help us maximize student learning while helping students develop self-regulation.

Students have had many questions about this new tool. We’ve been reminding them that their laptop is the property of SPS and that they signed a “network use agreement” in the Fall, agreeing to only use their SPS laptop for academic purposes. SPS has always had the ability to track their usage. As GoGuardian is being installed, students may notice lagging and “oops” screens. Signing out and restarting the computer (sometimes multiple times) will likely help these issues.

We’ll be asking the district tomorrow if any other schools are involved in the early pilot.

43 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE SCHOOLS: Madison MS to pilot new laptop surveillance software before it goes district-wide"

  • M March 31, 2024 (9:14 pm)

    Happy to hear they are finally doing this and hope the rest of the district moves swiftly. Wish they had done it four years ago when all students went to 1:1 devices.  

  • some lurker April 1, 2024 (6:47 am)

    Oh, good, something else for classroom teachers  to be responsible for, when they could be working with students. When a teacher breaks their class into groups where one group is working on a lesson with them while others are building  proficiency with their devices, who is managing this new app?  To be fair, SPS does need more control over what students can do and where they can go  with their devices. In many cases, they don’t need to access the internet at all. All their apps and work product are accessible without leaving the SPS network. And SPS could manage that with the current infrastructure. But this looks like a line item on a resume to me…”    • defined and configured site-wide system management software for 50,000 seat network” A lot more compelling than a mundane router table rule that blocks access to all sites outside of SPS unless specified.     

    • Jay April 1, 2024 (12:16 pm)

      And the router wouldn’t put an unspecified number of men in control of a camera and microphone in children’s bedrooms.

  • Eleanor April 1, 2024 (6:49 am)

    If this becomes the district policy, the kids who are overworked will not be able to finish their other work in class, after they have finished their assigned class work.  I am a highschool student in the full IB Diploma program, who is trying to balance home life, the smallest bit of a social life and school at once. It is difficult, but manageable if I am able to use my laptop in class to finish the work in class. Still, I have to stay up late to finish work after doing school all day. I know many other students who also require use of their laptops to finish unfinished assignments who are not yet apart of the IB Diploma program. I realize that it is theoretically possible for the student to request other access from the teacher, but many teachers are less accommodating and will not let that slide, no matter what the excuse is. Even if it is the complete truth. Even if it is not that serious in terms of how much or how hard a student has to fight to finish other class work, there are other issues as well. Lagging of laptops causes students who require their laptop that hour to not be able to complete their work as effectively. Same, and even more so with glitching laptops, as this could potentially cause the student’s work to go missing. I understand that it seems like a lot of students use their laptop issued by the district to avoid work, but in reality, it is not many. In two of my classes, the few has already ruined it for the many. Don’t let the actions of a few complicate the lives of the many even further. Consider this, please. Thank you for your time, to anyone who reads this message.-Sincerely, Eleanor Kamin

  • Scarlett April 1, 2024 (7:38 am)

    This Big Brother technology in itself will be a distraction and force teachers to spend more time staring at and navigating screens instead of teaching.  

  • Melissa April 1, 2024 (8:28 am)

    Great (/s). Now, in addition to teaching to all abilities, teachers should do so while monitoring 25-35 students’ computers. Crazy.

    • CarDriver April 1, 2024 (9:06 am)

      Melissa;Scarlett. As the sibling of a SPS teacher he’s excited about this technology. Between phones and laptops kids are WAY too distracted from learning the subject. Without those distractions kids will actually learn something. And, sad but true if their kids don’t learn who do the parents blame? Yep, the TEACHER. They never blame the kids/distractions/themselves.

      • Scarlett April 1, 2024 (10:24 am)

        The irony is that software becomes more intrusive and distracting and time-consuming than what it’s supposed to accomplish.  That’s my point, on top of the larger acquiesence to a data center collecting on students.  I am shocked that we are so willing and eager to hand over our lives and privacy to Big Tech.   Those “privacy” safeguards are a complete joke as everyone knows in the tech world.  

  • Jeff April 1, 2024 (8:35 am)

    Geeze, leave the kids alone. Already have hyper over protective parents watching their every move, now this?

    • KM April 1, 2024 (2:37 pm)

      Strong agree.

  • Middle school teacher April 1, 2024 (9:10 am)

    GoGuardian is fine and easy to use. Honestly cannot believe sps launched 1:1 without monitoring software… no clue how they did online/hybrid instruction without it. Highline has had it for 5+years. Calling it surveillance is accurate… but gives the wrong connotation to me. The district should have some control over how students use district property (chomebooks). 

    • EdTech reseller April 1, 2024 (7:21 pm)

      Exactly. SPS is way behind the game on this one. Device and classroom management softwares have been the standard for schools and districts across the country for about a decade now. They are proven to be effective for both educational purposes and for keeping students safe.

    • wsteacher April 1, 2024 (8:55 pm)

      As a teacher, this will help to ensure that kids are not veering off their learning task to play games on their laptop. I applaud this wish it were available to all levels, not just middle school. SPS is way behind on this.

      • M April 1, 2024 (9:34 pm)

        So many comments written by people who don’t understand the reality of teaching a classroom of students. Teachers want this and it is easy to use and limit what the class or individual students can do. Without this, it’s impossible to manage computer usage in huge classrooms of 29 or 35 students. It’s been unbelievably irresponsible for the district to provide devices without any monitoring/filtering software.

  • Evan April 1, 2024 (9:21 am)

    I’m really concerned about the potential impact on kids, particularly queer kids and those who don’t have the resources for another device like a phone.If a student Googles something related to their identity and forgets that they’re being surveilled, you’ve got a kid who’s been outed to their teacher.Keep in mind that students from families of means are all going to have personal phones, which will not be subject to GoGuardian surveillance, so those kids will both have privacy and be able to play games during class.I’m also not thrilled about the way this was rolled out: in February SPS announced this, but they buried it using the most wishy-washy language imaginable, calling it a “new classroom tool” and not explaining that it’s spy software.It seems to me that you could solve the problems of distractions and inappropriate behavior just via access control, and leave surveillance out of the picture. Why aren’t they trying that instead?

    • ACG April 1, 2024 (11:39 am)

      It is school property. SPS has a right regulate how they want their property to be used and for what purposes- education, NOT personal use.  Students should be aware of this. If they want to do personal internet searches or watch non-educational content, they need to use a different device- go to a public library, etc.  If they were forcing students to put this on their personal laptop or phones for monitoring, then I’d be much more concerned- but this device is NOT the students personal property, it belongs to the SPS. 

      • Scarlett April 1, 2024 (1:13 pm)

        Have you ever worked for a company where you, a manager, have instantaneous access to an employee’s productivity, time spent logged in, time spent on various projects, etc. etc?  I have.  You know what tends to happen because of human nature?  A lot of wasted time spent monitoring that employee and snooping that may have nothing to do with that employee’s performance, and a lot of assumptions about that employee that may or may not be accurate.  This is installing “red flag” software from a third party vendor by which a school can create  profiles of student based on  alleged problematic search criteria, which may or may not, be accurate.  Instead of surveilling students how about letting teachers to their job the old fashioned way – engage with students and challenge them to make good decisions. 

        • Jethro Marx April 1, 2024 (4:57 pm)

          Thanks for this information, Scarlett; I’ll add you to my list of people not to be trusted with surveillance software because they’re too curious to avoid inordinate snooping in the course of their job.

        • Middle School Teacher April 3, 2024 (11:47 am)

          What you don’t understand is that SPS is already monitoring student devices for “problematic searches”.  GoGuardian is a system that allows teachers to “lock down” student devices to only allow students to focus on the assignment at hand.  No one is “snooping” at what students are doing.  GoGuardian is a tool to allow teachers to teach more and not have to manage internet scrolling and game playing.  These two behaviors alone take up A LOT of the teachers time  which in turn takes away from student learning.  

      • Evan April 1, 2024 (7:13 pm)

        SPS is accountable to parents, they don’t get to operate by fiat. Access restrictions are one thing, surveillance is another, and is going to cause harm. SPS knew this would upset the community, which is why they buried the announcement behind vague language.

      • ACG April 1, 2024 (7:40 pm)

        Actually, Scarlett, yes I do. And it’s pretty simple. My work computer is for WORK, and when I am at work, I’m WORKING, not screwing around doing other stuff. And if I need to do personal online activity outside of work, I use a different device. It really not that difficult to comprehend. If I wanted to screw off while at work, then the surveillance might be a problem for me to get away with that, but since I actually WORK when I’m at work, it is fine. 

    • CarDriver April 2, 2024 (5:38 am)

      Evan. If kids know they’re being monitored I believe they’re smart enough to control what they do. You don’t?

  • Jay April 1, 2024 (9:29 am)

    Train your kids to cover the webcam when not in use. Devices with cameras and microphones that are brought into a child’s bedroom while a large group of unknown adults have full control create an opportunity for abuse. There have been cases where administrators have spied on kids in their personal time. When my daughter is old enough for one of these laptops I’m not going to let her bring it home, it’ll stay in her locker at school and she can access course materials from home using a secure machine. Also, don’t allow any proctoring software to be installed on a personal machine. These anti-cheating applications run at the kernel level (the kernel is the very base of the software that makes a computer work, applications are abstracted from it) and are often managed by lowest-bid contractors in other countries. This is one of those situations where you need to be paranoid.

    • DL April 1, 2024 (9:38 pm)

      Jay, you make an important point but wouldn’t another simple thing be to not allow electronics in a child ‘s bedroom ? There are multiple reasons why that’s a good idea. 

  • Edumacate April 1, 2024 (9:50 am)

    I see no problem with giving educators the tools they need to ensure students are focused on assignments & NOT screwing around with a laptop that my tax dollars paid for!  You disagree, then home school your kid & leave the laptop for a student who wants to learn.

    • Evan April 1, 2024 (7:16 pm)

      I do disagree, and am also a taxpayer. Folks who want their kids surveilled are welcome to do so in the privacy of their own home.

  • LT April 1, 2024 (11:05 am)

    I cross-posted this to another group and a parent helpfully linked to two sources that help to further define issues with this type of software, such as data-mininghttps://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2023/10/how-goguardian-invades-student-privacy and https://www.aclu.org/publications/digital-dystopia-the-danger-in-buying-what-the-edtech-surveillance-industry-is-selling

  • Rhonda April 1, 2024 (3:19 pm)

    What a terrible, Soviet-style idea. It’s VERY creepy that we’re conditioning kids to be monitored by government devices. It’s not teachers’ responsibility to be their students’ parents, especially while the kids are at home. If this were an employer doing this to employee laptops it would cause labor outrage, and rightly so.

    • Bbron April 1, 2024 (4:18 pm)

      to be fair, employers do this now and have done this in the past. it’s surprising you think that labor (especially non-union) has the power to push back against surveillance software when companies right now are forcing in office work against labor’s wishes. I think we’re all forgetting here that schooling is just an extension of other capitalistic endeavors: it teaches subordination, enforces uniformity, and threatens dissent or counter thought with prison industrial complex inspired punishments. schooling is tuned to prepare the majority of kids to be servile workers. it’s a big reason why patriotism is being promoted above the truth in many curriculums nationwide as a response to BLM/the current bought of activism. I’m actual surprised by your take here, Rhonda, as you’re usually a proponent of policing and this is a manifestation of it’s surveillance. hopefully since we agree on this you can see how authority’s behavior to our younger generation could be causing kids to act out e.g. the streak of robberies and car theft; in school we are already treating them like criminals or people who need to be survailled, so why not act out what they already expect of you? same reason why some marginalized folks are able to rationalize doing crime is that they’ve already been written off as doing so

    • EdTech reseller April 1, 2024 (7:17 pm)

      I’m curious why you think a school/district-owned device would not require the same level of security at home as it does at school? Its intended to be used for school work so the same restrictions need to apply at home or in the classroom.

    • Bibliophile April 2, 2024 (4:17 pm)

      Some employers do in fact have monitoring software on company owned laptops.  This is 2024 and if you don’t think that is happening, well then you are lying to yourself.  Personally, I don’t see how this is any more creepy than our cellphones being able to hear us and ta da now we have targeted ads because all those apps on our phones are collecting and selling our data.  

  • Relax already April 1, 2024 (6:33 pm)

    Wow. I work for the government and they track everything. Kids should be doing schoolwork during school time. I don’t understand what’s so hard to understand about that.  What the real problem is is the cell phones. They should be put in a giant box at the beginning of school and then released at the end of school. My kids tell me that the children are on their cell phones during class time, all the time!  Ridiculous.  The Seattle school district should also allow parents to block sites when their kids are not in school. As it is, my only control is turning off the Wi-Fi.    

  • EdTech reseller April 1, 2024 (7:14 pm)

    I work at a reseller who sells GoGuardian and many other device management softwares. These have become the standard across the country and it’s always surprised me that SPS hasn’t had anything yet. People need to understand that aside from general classroom management and content filtering, these softwares are designed and have been proved to keep kids safe while using district-owned devices. If you’re concerned about the content filtering aspect, SPS has been doing that for literal decades. Many websites, keywords, etc were been blocked for my entire 13 years as an SPS student, which was 10 years ago.

    • Evan April 1, 2024 (11:15 pm)

      Content filtering is not the concern, surveillance is the concern. I don’t see how it’s been proved that this won’t cause harm to queer kids by outing them, for example.

      • Me mama April 2, 2024 (9:39 pm)

        Evan, I hear your concerns about “outing” in several posts.  Take a deep breath. Being gay and school age in SPS isn’t like it was 20+ yrs ago / or like it is in the south now.  Our experience is that the Madison community is supportive & welcoming of LGBTQ youth.  It’s kinda no big deal to other kids….  Teachers are coming from a good place and want all kids to be successful.  Also, teachers are especially busy and are not going to be diving into their 120 students search history every night. The scenario you present is extremely unlikely in so many ways.  

  • Jay April 1, 2024 (8:45 pm)

    Can you address the concerns raised by the ACLU and EFF? These devices have not been proven to keep kids safe. You can’t say that. If you’re acting as a representative of the company you shouldn’t be posting anonymously either.

  • Person April 2, 2024 (7:13 am)

    Good. Most kids are watching YouTube and playing games all day. They are doomed.Do those against monitoring suggest we just let them?

    • Scarlett April 3, 2024 (8:19 am)

      Doomed?  You know what is “doomed?”  A society that wants to turn teachers into computer administrators, sitting in front of a dashboard that monitors every twitch of a student,  a society that has  turned over their lives to Big Tech with hardly a whimper. I’d far rather have a free-thinking student stumble over a “subversive”  site that makes him/her aware of these issues going forward than meekly submitting to groupthink.   And I don’t care what flavor of groupthink it is.  

  • Scarlett April 2, 2024 (7:33 am)

    I’m heartened to see a lot of us coming from different political angles expressing concern about introducing surveillance software into the classroom.  Maybe that Seattle “irascibility,” and independent streak, that we’re not just going to blindly follow what the rest of the country is doing, is not dead yet.  

  • K April 2, 2024 (5:10 pm)

    Do parents have the option to provide a laptop themselves if they are not comfortable with the SPS policies pertaining to use of district-owned laptops, including use of this software?

    • LT April 3, 2024 (8:31 am)

      I would be more interested in parents being able to opt their kids out of the software. If parents can provide their own laptops it’s just going to assure that the most-surveilled kids are the ones who are already most likely to be targeted by (hopefully) implicit bias. This is an issue that already exists because some kids have their own resources at home or can use their phone to play games etc instead of going through school assets. 

  • Lilith April 3, 2024 (5:03 pm)

    As a parent of a kid at Madison, I am so happy they are locking these down. Honestly I’d be happier if they’d just get rid of them completely, but I know that won’t be happening. The absolute last thing our kid  needs is more distraction, and asking the teacher to try to restrict his dinking around while in class is not going to happen.For those that are worried about parents who are monitoring their kids online, I will tell you that we are not doing that because we’re worried about them being exposed to ideas we don’t agree with. We have 4 kids total and unfortunately learned the hard way that you absolutely need to be paying attention to who they are talking to and what they are looking at. Our oldest was on the forefront of the iPhone rollout to kids and we were foolish enough to get her one and not monitor it. After we realized what a mess we created we went through her phone and found that the sister of one of her classmates in high school was trying to get her to do paid “dates” with grown men. (And yes, we reported that to the police.) We have friends whose child developed a porn addiction. There are a lot of things on the internet that children shouldn’t be exposed to. Computers should never be allowed in bedrooms, whether they have monitoring software or not. 

  • Scarlett April 4, 2024 (10:57 am)

    It’s understandable that parents fear their kids being exposed to harmful, even potential dangerous, sites but understand that it comes with a high cost too – intellectual curiosity and freedom.  A teacher, or school district, can restrict access to controversial viewpoints and grant access only to sources that they deem “appropriate” or “factual.”  What’s factual and true often turns out to be a matter of opinion or following the herd, so to speak. 

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