GoGuardian can now be administered on personal devices

Students raise privacy concerns about teachers seeing their screens

GoGuardian is a Chrome browser extension that allows for educators to view their students’ screens, something explicitly used for students’ Chromebooks in the past. But a new feature on GoGuardian allows it to be installed on students’ personal computers. Starting Nov. 2 and continuing through mid/late December, the school will be doing a pilot program of this extension. 

“We know that all that there are a total of four steps that need to be happened on the student side to set [GoGuardian] up on their personal computers. We sent out the instructions last week,” Oak Park Unified School District Director of Information Technology Enoch Kwok said. 

These four steps start with ensuring that the device has an up-to-date Chrome web browser. Second, the user must be logged out of all their personal accounts in Google Chrome. Third, the student needs to be logged into their school administered account ending in @opusd.us. And lastly, the user needs to turn on ‘synchronization’ with their student account and ensure it has not been synced with a personal account. Synchronization is a Chrome setting that allows extensions and bookmarks associated with the user account to be applied to the device’s Chrome settings. Synchronization can be turned on by going to your google chrome settings and pressing the bright blue button labeled “Turn on Sync…” Turning on synchronization automatically adds the GoGuardian extension onto the personal computer’s browser when logged into your school account. 

Concerns regarding the use of GoGuardian on personal computers have arisen among students.

“I understand that teachers need GoGuardian to limit cheating, but I’m logged into my school account most of the time,” senior Sasha Xu said. “I think it’s a little scary to know that my teachers can see what I’m doing. It would be more beneficial for teachers to find a less invasive way to limit cheating.”

According to Kwok, by signing the Tech agreement form, students give up any reason of privacy when using the school administered account. If a student logs out of their school account, GoGuardian cannot see any activity.

“Teachers can only see what you’re doing when you are signed into their GoGuardian session. GoGuardian also does not track or share your browsing history of your personal logins, only the activity under the OPUSD login,” Kwok said. “On the administrative side [GoGuardian] will flag inappropriate searches that the administration has set beforehand. For example, pornography, self harm and other dangerous behavior is flagged if you are logged into a school account.”

Additionally, when logged into a session, teachers can only see windows in a Chrome Browser. GoGuardian cannot see entire computer desktops and the activity of alternative browsers, like Mozilla’s Firefox or Apple’s Safari. 

During the pilot program, Kwok and the rest of the technology department are hoping to see how the program works. 

“The whole purpose of a pilot pilot program is to test [GoGuardian on personal computers] out, see how well it works and work out all the [oddities]. Once we figure it all out, then we get teacher, student and parent feedback on how well the pilot went,” Kwok said. 

Kwok began looking into the program upon student and parent requests. 

“Parents and students were complaining about needing teachers making their students use Chromebooks because they had more advanced technology at home,” Kwok said. “After getting to a point where we felt comfortable with the state of [Go]Guardian ourselves, we started the pilot program.”

Kwok is unsure of whether or not the new GoGuardian feature will continue to be used in the coming years, or even after the end of the pilot program.

“I think we’re just so early in the game to know what the future looks like. I would like to wait until I hear more and locate some teachers who are using [GoGuardian] with success,” Kwok said. “The data is really going to decide whether or not this feature of GoGuardian remains on, or is reverted back to the off as before.”