Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Review of Lanschool

As a member of TOS' Homeschool Crew, I was recently given the exciting privilege of reviewing LanSchool, classroom management software, free, in exchange for my opinion of it.  In one word, my opinion of LanSchool, and please forgive the technical term, is cool! This software is very, very cool.  In order to avoid gushing, I'll try to describe and review LanSchool systematically.  Wish me luck; I'm going to need it.  What I really feel like doing is yelling COOL!

LanSchool is certainly most applicable in a brick-and-mortar school setting, as it allows a teacher computer access to all of the student computers in her class.  From her computer screen, she can see the screens of her student's computers.  Even better than that, she can control those screens.  She can send her students messages, control their web access, see their keystroke and browsing history, and even blank their screens.  This obviously gives the teacher a huge advantage in a day and age in which technology threatens to overtake even the most vigilant teacher.  All of a sudden, she can be everywhere at once! She does have eyes in the back of her head (or, at least, all over her computer!).

Since most of the people reading this review do not teach at brick-and-mortar schools, though, I'm going to address the majority of my remarks to homeschoolers because, believe it or not, LanSchool has plenty to offer you, too.  First, in terms of classroom management, LanSchool is a terrific tool if you have more than two computers (you have to have at least two in order to use the software: one teacher and one student computer).  Thanks to a recent purchase, I now have three classroom computers (sadly, my husband's desktop is off limits to the homeschoolers!).  My laptop is the teacher computer.  The schoolroom desktop and my old laptop are student computers.  Thanks to technology (and my need to teach four children very close in age to each other who, nevertheless, require different teaching styles and different curricula), two of my children can now work on some of their schooling on the computer, while I work with two other children on non-techie subjects.  My problem previously had been trying to keep an eye on the computer-users while staying focused on the kids I was teaching.  Problem solved with LanSchool! With one glance, I can see what my computer-using kids are doing.

If I find that they are doing something which displeases me (surfing the 'net, playing Solitaire, etc.), I can either send them an instant message or blank their computer screens.

However, I have pretty obedient kids, so apart from sending them messages asking how they're doing, I haven't really had to resort to the blank screen option!

What has been wonderfully useful, though, is the print limiting feature of LanSchool.  My kids don't always seem to appreciate the cost of printer ink.  They also haven't grasped the concept of printing in draft mode (and I don't know any other mode at my house!).  Sometimes they get a little carried away with the printing.  Not anymore! With one adjustment on my computer, I can limit the printing done from any of the student computers.  It is so easy and so painless (for me, anyway!).  

Another feature of LanSchool that is marvelously useful in our homeschool and, I would imagine, in many homeschools, is the ability to display on student computers that which is on the teacher computer.  In the case most relevant to my family, it is usually YouTube videos.  We use many wonderful unit studies that utilize YouTube, and other, videos to teach.  Until the arrival of LanSchool, we all crowded around my laptop, with much pushing, shoving, and uncharitable behavior, in order to watch the videos.  This procedure kind of worked for most videos, but when it came time for the hour long production from the U.S. Geological Survey...well, let's just say that I shelved that unit study until LanSchool! Now, through LanSchool, I can display that which is on my computer screen on any of the student computer screens.  With almost a 1:1 ratio, my kids absorb what they see so much better these days! No more jockeying for position in front of the computer!

If you think you might like LanSchool, but you're not ready to jump in with both feet, you have two great options.  If you have an iAnything, you're in luck.  LanSchool effortlessly allows for all of the following with its free app for iPhones, iPads and iPods:
In order to find out more about how to accomplish any of these tasks, see LanSchool's iPad/iPhone/iPod Teacher's Assistant page!

For those who are iLess, consider LanSchool Lite.  LanSchool Lite allows you to monitor student computers on your own computer.  It even allows you to monitor the battery life of student laptops (another great feature of LanSchool).  If you like what you see, and think you are ready for the full version of LanSchool, with all of the neat bells and whistles, keep reading!

As you would guess, LanSchool pricing varies dramatically based on whether you are a home or a school, and on how many computers you plan to install it on.  A summary of the pricing most relevant is:
The license is perpetual, but three years of technical support and upgrades are included in the price.

I have only been using LanSchool for a short time, and I am confident that I haven't even scratched the surface of its capabilities.  The fact that I will one day, in the not-so-distant future have four children with computers (as mine and my husband's continue to be handed down) just means that LanSchool will continue to become more valuable an asset to our homeschool and to our home.  Will I monitor my children's chats and emails? I doubt it.  Do I like knowing that I can, and *them* knowing that I can? Absolutely.  In terms of our school, I already can't imagine life without LanSchool.  I've had fun sending messages to my kids and blanking their screens, but, fun aside, the features that allow me to communicate directly with their computers, even to the point of assuming their controls, and to share the video on my screen with their screens have become invaluable to me.  Had I not received LanSchool free for review, I would purchase it without hesitation.  For a family with young children, or for a family with only two computers, both of which reside next to each other, LanSchool may not be the most prudent purchase.  For most homeschooling families, though, especially for those families with teens who do some of their school on the computer, LanSchool is a must-have.  If you can't afford it this year, you might want to budget for it next year.  I wouldn't have guessed that classroom management software could do so much in my small classroom.

Learn so much more about LanSchool than I can tell you here by visiting their website: LanSchool or by contacting them at 877-370-5546. For more opinions on LanSchool, see what other members of The Crew had to say about this unique product!

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