Boy! Have times changed! When I was a girl, computers were the size of ROOMS, and letters were the way you communicated tidbits from your life to people who lived far away. People who lived closer just got the whole story by telephone or a casual meet up at the grocery store.
But now, computers are the size of small books, phones are portable, pervasive, and powerful, and you can "text" and "tweet" any little bit of minutia to anyone in mere seconds. And all those advances pose a myriad of new problems for today's teachers...and any homeschooler who allows their child internet access to gather knowledge.
Enter LanSchool, classroom management software with today's tech-laden lifestyle in mind. LanSchool offers monitoring software that pairs up designated "teacher" computers with "student" computers to allow the teacher full monitoring capabilities. But it does so much more. Teachers and students can use it to send messages back and forth ("I have a problem with question 3."). Teachers can use it to give instruction ("See me when you are done with your work."), share information from their own computer screen with students, share one student's screen with everyone else, blank out student screens, limit Web, Drives, Print, and Applications, and so much more. You can view your students' screens, take screen shots, take control of their computer, and even create and send out tests all on LanSchool. Oh, and the newest upgrade even allows for video sharing, so if you find a video on YouTube that you want your students to watch you can share it with them, so the teacher maintains control of the access, but can allow everyone to view the resource. There's even a feature for teacher/student co-searching of the internet.
The Pros: Although this is designed for typical building classrooms, it has many applications in a homeschool setting. I like that I can log in remotely to my son's SOS work and view his progress and grade assignments without having to be on that computer. And I can view sites he has visited on the internet (he's 13...I like to know where he's been online). I can log my 5 year old in to her software without leaving my other children, and help her when she gets stuck without having to interrupt what I am doing to go to that computer. I can send them love notes or remind them to stay on task without anyone else ever knowing. And, since our computer is password protected, I can use the "send a message" feature to keep the computer from hibernating in between student usage so I don't have to spend my day logging in one, then the next, then the next, then the next...And I want to be sure to say that it's amazingly user friendly, so even a tech-avoiding person like me can use it easily.
The cons: There will be some things you wish it did that it doesn't do. I can't name anything specific, I can just tell you, you'll think, "I wish it did THAT". With each upgrade it gets better. The version we originally received did not allow for video sharing and the newest version does. And their tech support is amazing and responsive, so it likely will do whatever you think of that you wish it could do in the near future, but just not now. And technology changes SO fast, that we've managed to "stump" LanSchool a few times with weird glitches. But they always listen and address the problem and offer other solutions in the meantime.
The Bottom Line: A home license for LanSchool, which lets you monitor up to 3 computers, is $99. Classroom pricing varies depending on the class size and number of licenses being purchased, so you traditional school types will need to go HERE to check that out. For homeschoolers, you have to decide if you need a product like this badly enough to warrant the cost. In our case, given that I have a teen aged boy who needs internet access for his schoolwork, two upper elementary kids who do a little online and sometimes need help, and a 5 year old who ALWAYS needs assistance, it's really nice to have. I LOVE having the ultimate control over their computer and having complete monitoring/remote access capabilities.
LanSchool licenses are forever, but upgrades are covered for 3 years from date of purchase. To find out more about LanSchool and how it works, I suggest you go HERE and give their free trial a try. And please check out their site. There are tons of testimonials and tutorials that will give you a much better overview than I have managed, I'm sure.