Keeping Students Safe From A Distance

Just because kids are shuttered at home doesn’t mean schools are relieved from protecting them from the usual online threats like cyberbullying and other disturbing behaviors. In fact, there are even greater threats thanks to anxieties created by the pandemic, which is what makes software services such as Gaggle essential to school districts.

The company recently announced that since mid-March, 131 school districts across the country have partnered with them, either conducting an initial purchase of its safety solution or acquiring increased services or support. The new partnerships are all designed to help district leaders avoid tragedies and save lives as students engage in their education through remote learning.

The Gaggle safety solution combines artificial intelligence and trained safety experts to provide real-time analysis and review of students’ use of online collaboration platforms, such as Google’s G Suite for Education, Microsoft Office 365, and Canvas. Gaggle assists districts in proactively identifying and supporting students who are struggling as well as creating a safer school environment by building a culture for improved digital citizenship. 

“Gaggle is a supporter of the Council of the Great City Schools, so even before we had a direct partnership with them, that affiliation served as a really important value add,” said Jason Matlock, the director for emergency management, safety, and security at Minneapolis Public Schools in Minnesota.

“For many districts like ours, not only does Gaggle provide a type of service we wanted, they were one of the only companies during the first couple weeks of the pandemic who did not inundate us with calls and emails despite the obvious value as schools moved into e-learning.”

“Districts that haven’t previously partnered with us are lining up to implement our student safety solution in this time of remote learning tied to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Gaggle founder and CEO Jeff Patterson. “Even more telling is the number of current customers who have now added our Hangouts monitoring to their account—we have seen that increase by 1,200%. That phenomenon is due to districts understanding that schools need to protect their students, who are now having to work together from their homes and using the Hangouts chats to do so.”

With the recent move to remote learning, a greater number of students are using Hangouts for project collaboration, live class discussions, peer mentoring, virtual office hours, foreign language practice, and online study groups. This popular digital tool also provides a way for coaches and teachers to directly message their players and students, eliminating the need to share personal phone numbers. In all of these instances, Gaggle can evaluate suspicious content, alerting school officials of unsafe situations and even contacting local law enforcement when time is of the essence.

Many districts have also opted for increased support in the form of the recently released Gaggle Safety Management for Teams, created in partnership with Microsoft Teams. This brand-new solution brings together the security and privacy of Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams with the real-time monitoring of Gaggle Safety Management to help provide a safe workspace for students and teachers.

“It is very important to Peoria Public Schools that we are able to ensure the safety and well-being of our students in their digital environments, which for us includes Microsoft Teams,” said Michelle Seipel, the director of technology at Peoria Public Schools in Illinois. “Having Gaggle as the safety net in place for our students, including their communications in Teams, is crucial to us as at this challenging time of remote learning. This is important not only to us in the district, but also to our students’ parents.”

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