Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Product Review---Lanschool Technology


Last month we were asked to try out a computer program called LanSchool. It has been called the "one essential tool teachers need in computer-based classrooms." Since as a homeschool, our house is our classroom, we thought we'd give it a go, and see how it helped (or hindered) our family's ability to school effectively. Here is what we discovered:

From the LanSchool Information Sheet:

 
"Teachers today are faced with the challenge and opportunity of using technology to teach. Computers are amazing educational tools, but they can also be a huge distraction to learning. The Internet, instant messaging, email and games are a constant temptation for students.

 
Lanschool removes these distractions so you can teach more effectively. No classroom solution is easier to install, easier to use, or better suited for teaching in a computer-based classroom."

 
Lanschool helps:
  • Facilitate learning by allowing the teacher to show their screen to students.
  • Remove distractions, such as the Internet, applications, USB drives, and printing.
  • Keep students on task through real-time thumbnail monitoring.
  • Get student's attention by blanking out their screens.
  • Assist students through remote control and chat.
  • Assess student understanding through student testing.

 
 
Features of LanSchool:
  • You can manage all of your students' computers from the teacher monitor. Thumbnail images of their screens show on your monitor so you can see what they are up to.
  • You can control student monitors and blank student screens for demonstration or control purposes.
  • You can limit access to certain applications, such as printing, the Internet, speakers, keyboard, mouse, etc.
  • You can enable all screens to simultaneously view the same material, and you can show all or selected students your screen for demonstration purposes.

  • You can allow individual students to temporarily take control for demonstration purposes.
  • You can send individual students or groups of students messages or even have them take quizzes you have made (which are automatically graded). You can set up polls and show the results to all on screen. You can set up a chat session with students, as needed.
  • You can view which applications are being run on student computers and block unwanted ones.
  • You can view Internet browsing history.
  • You can send and collect files from student computers.
  • You can take screen shots of student computers.
  • You can remotely shut down, log off, or restart student computers. This includes logging onto Internet sites for students remotely.
  • Works with Windows 98 and up, and most Macs.
  • And much more, too complicated for me to understand...
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Now, for what we thought about the product:
 
My husband (the IT guy for his high-security military job) said:
  • It allows remote control of other machines, limits their access (web, applications, printing, USB, and mutes speakers).  These functions work for both Google Chrome and Internet Explorer browsers.
  • The program allows a lot of interaction with your students (you can send messages to your students, give them exams that you develop within the program, or poll the group with a multiple choice or True/False question (like, "Do you want to go to Chik-fil-a?). 
  • You can also look at histories (application, internet, keystroke) and block applications or sites based on what you find. Keystroke monitoring is not permitted in the government or private sector.
  • However, the keystroke and application monitoring is fairly complex and requires some experience to interpret what a student has been up to. LanSchool also prevents a student deleting their browser history (prevents a comptuer savvy young man from hiding what he looks at). LanSchool does not allow looking Google Chrome history.
  • Installation requires the authorization of registry changes by your security program.  A knowlegable student can remove it if they know where to find the installation package.  However, if you delete the package, they would be stuck with the program.  Of course, then if you wanted to remove the program later, you would have to download the installation package. I would recommend saving it on a CD (I assume this is allowed, but did not check). 
  • Cannot transition from showing student to controlling a student, but you can do the opposite and return to student control again. 
  • Could not get a student message to the teacher to work, but the teacher to student messaging worked fine. I did not try to get technical support because of time constraints, though I am sure they would have helped with this glitch as it is supposed to work both ways.
  • It seems safe - the only unlikely risk appears to be potential access to a student machine in an uncontrolled (public or unsecured personal) network by an intruder with LanSchool on the correct student channel (unlikely, if you set an onusual channel).

 
I (not techie at all, computer clueless) said:

  • The thing that was most useful to me, was the remote monitoring of other computers. We have desktops in two locations in our home, plus two laptops. This means that computer-based schooling or activities can be happening in several rooms at once. LanSchool enabled me to keep an eye on my children's activities while I was working on my own computer, or from a room with my laptop. In cases where certain students might get distracted easily (and you know who you are!), this was a blessing, and helped us keep on task.
  • It was fun to send messages to Tex. I was sorry we couldn't get his return messaging capability to work, but I will be honest and say that not being techie, I was not too inclined to try to get it to work. I am sure if we had emailed, they would have resolved this issue.
  • I can see how this would really benefit families with several, or many, children simultaneously working on computers. It would allow the homeschooling parent to help them each from one computer, without running all over the house. It would also allow that parent to closely monitor Internet activity, even outside of school time, and that is a good thing.
  • Since we USUALLY work at the dining room table on laptops together (Tex and me) and my other children are too young to be affected by it (their computer use is limited to an OLD desktop and OLD educational cd roms), this program wasn't essential for us and we didn't give it a real work out. However, it was definitely COOL and I can certainly see how it would be very useful to the right individual.

Tex (enthusiastically techie, just like his dad) says:
  • It was neat when Dad or Mom would send me a message or do a poll. I would like having that be a regular thing. I would like to message them back. Maybe I will figure that part out, if we still get to use this program for the rest of the year.
  • It was funny when I snuck in and used my Mom's computer (the teacher-designated one) to blank my Dad's screen. He didn't think it was so funny, but Mom did.
  • I liked that if I found a neat video or website about our school work, I could tell my mom and show it to her without her having to leave what she was doing in the other room. (Mom says, "However, his enthusiasm for this feature was endless, and it was,'You gotta see this one, Mom!' over and over again! I guess that means it is pretty cool.")
  • We had fun showing all the kids an exploding volcano video on all of the computers at the same time. When they get older, this would be a good way to do some lessons.
  • I had my friends over and showed them one of my games on all the computers at the same time. Awesome!
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As you can see from the comments of my family and myself, we thought this program was pretty neat. It was a bit tough for me, the non-technical savvy parent to wrap my mind around (but I admit, since I am into blogging and website design, I am sure I could have picked it up if I had REALLY tried...it's just so easy to let the techie kids do the work!), but it had some very useful features that made it worth the effort to learn. For a parent who is not on the computer often and has only one child, it might not be useful. For a parent who uses their computer regularly, especially one who works on a computer from home in a room away from her/his students, this program could be an invaluable, time-saving, homeschool-experience altering tool. Also, it would be VERY good for a larger family, especially one that uses a computer-based curriculum or is spread out widely in a large space. Of course, mom might have to take up jogging to make up for all of the running around she will save herself, but then again, she will probably have the time to take up a new hobby...
 
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If you are interested in learning more about LanSchool, check out their web site HERE.
To take a guided tour of Lanschool, click HERE.
To see what other Crew members thought about this program, check HERE.
A subscription to Lanschool for home use costs $99.  The home use product is a perpetual license, and includes 3 years of updates and support.  There is another option for those homes that need up to 10 computers.  It costs $299 and includes the same feature set.
 
I received a free trial of Lanschool for the purposes of giving this product an honest review. I have attempted to be as objective as possible in my review, based on our experiences. If you have questions about anything I said, please feel free to comment or contact me.
 
Blessings to you,
 
Heather
 

4 comments:

Our Village is a Little Different said...

I loved the input from your husband and son! This really is a neat product, and I know I'll be very grateful for it when my boys are older and need to use the computer more often. They already know so much about computers, and they barely spend any time online!

Julie said...

Wonderful review Heather! I like the way you including several different viewpoints. And love the Chick-fil-A part lol. ;)

Vickie said...

Great post! I loved the comments from Tex.

Elinette said...

That was a very good review. Detailed and helpful. :)

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