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In Houston, Texas, a team of dedicated educators at The Briarwood School support children with language-based learning differences. It’s critical for them to keep their learners safe online and provide mental wellness interventions, in addition to supporting their academic progress.
Over 300 learners attend The Briarwood School in the Lower School (K-6), Middle School (7-8) and Upper School (9-12). The school website explains, “All of the students are of average to above-average intelligence with a broad range of learning disabilities that include dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, speech/language disorders, along with written and expressive language disorders. Additional diagnoses addressed through accommodations include attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder and processing disorders as they relate to academic issues.”
Additionally, The Tuttle School at Briarwood supports close to 50 learners with intellectual and developmental challenges. The goal is to foster their independence and interdependence and to celebrate their academic and social and emotional differences. Educators provide individualized instruction and a nurturing environment to help learners become “confident, contributing, respectful and respected members of society.”
Why the school implemented Hāpara Filter
Amy Traynor, an occupational therapist by trade, is the Educational Technology Specialist at The Briarwood School. Her daughter also attends the school. When she began her role at the school, she suggested they seek a better option to keep learners safe online and block inappropriate and harmful content.
The school turned to Hāpara Filter to provide the safeguarding their learners need online. Hāpara Filter is a web filter built specifically for K-12 schools. It uses AI to intelligently understand the context in real-time. Aside from a school’s blocked and allowed lists, it blurs text and video that is inappropriate or unsafe.
Amy appreciates the reports available in Hāpara Filter because she can share weekly statistics with the administrative staff. For instance, she can show them how many websites were blocked or the content areas that were restricted. Even more valuable is the ability to review the educational sites that are being used. Before, when they were using a firewall, it was hard to determine if and what content that might not be educationally appropriate might be reaching their learners.
For Amy it’s clear the web filter is “keeping our kids safe and helping to protect the fidelity of their education when working online.” She also is able to easily add URLs to the school blocked list as teachers suggest websites that are distracting.
Why the counselors see a difference with Hāpara Filter
The Briarwood School also uses Hāpara Filter’s mental wellness add-on to keep learners safe. Two counselors support learners at Briarwood in the Lower School and the Middle and Upper Schools. Both counselors receive mental wellness alerts related to learners’ online activity when learners are logged into their school Google accounts.
“Our counselors are appreciating the opportunity to be able to have conversations they weren’t able to have previously,” Amy said.
Toni La’Zurs, M.Ed., LPC, is the Middle-Upper School Counselor and has seen a change from previous years. With the visibility the mental wellness alerts give her, she is better able to provide the support learners need.
Before Hāpara Filter was implemented, she had to rely on educators notifying her about changes to learners’ mental wellness. Now she has direct insight into the challenges learners are facing.
“I don’t have to depend solely on someone telling me that something’s off with a student.”
When a situation like this occurs, Toni has an in-depth conversation with both the student and their parents and is able to suggest therapists. “I am more able to do due diligence now.”
The wellness alerts have given the counselors clarity into the challenges learners are facing, even if they don’t visit their offices. In this case, the student wasn’t failing classes, so he wouldn’t have seen his counselor for academic issues. Without the web filter alerts, Toni would not have known he was having unhealthy thoughts at that moment. Many kids are under the radar and cover for what they’re actually feeling.
“Our kids have learning differences. They’re more at risk and competing with kids who don’t have those learning differences, so it can be exhausting and defeating,” Toni explained. For example, they might be experiencing depression.
Now because the counselors get instant alerts, there is a more timely process in place to provide the necessary interventions to keep learners safe. They can contact parents and work together to help the child cope with crises or difficulties.
“The parents have been very receptive,” Toni said. “As a parent, I would want to know that something’s wrong.” The parents now have the knowledge to support their children’s social and emotional needs.
Discover how a South Carolina school district supports SEL with browser monitoring
Watch the video to hear why Highlights helps educators like Kathryn combine monitoring with social and emotional learning.
Other Hāpara teaching and learning tools the school is integrating
The Briarwood team has also started to roll out Teacher Dashboard and Highlights with a beta group of educators. For Amy, a nonnegotiable was that their school have “support software for our students who learn differently to support their literacy needs.”
Teacher Dashboard gives educators access to their learners’ Google Drives. This allows them to provide consistent and timely feedback and monitor learners’ progress on assignments. Highlights allows educators to ethically monitor learners’ school Chrome browsing activity. Teachers can also use the features in Highlights to personalize learning for individual students or groups and embed structure into online activities when needed.
One of Amy’s goals for Highlights is that educators use it to create guided browsing sessions. This feature in Highlights enables teachers to set up a focused online session, where learners can only visit certain websites. Or teachers can set up a filtered session that restricts certain websites that may be distracting for learners. This would help many of their learners with comorbid ADHD or processing challenges. Even with the small class sizes at The Briarwood School, it would help learners start the lesson in the right spot.
For Amy it’s crucial that “students are taught the way his or her brain learns.”
On top of that, she explained, if there is off-task behavior online, it’s distracting not just to the individual but also to the class when a teacher needs to get them back on track. With Teacher Dashboard and Highlights, it’s much easier for educators to plan for instruction and keep students on their learning paths.
“My expectation is that we are going to save time in the classroom, improve on-task behavior, and further enhance the salience of our instructional content,” Amy said.
She has also taken Hāpara micro-badging courses and has encouraged her beta team of teachers to check them out. The micro-badging courses take an hour or less to complete, are asynchronous and focus on individual Hāpara tools. It’s a great way for educators to learn more about tools such as Teacher Dashboard or Highlights.
It’s clear that The Briarwood School is committed to ensuring their students have meaningful and safe learning experiences. The Hāpara team is grateful to be able to provide tools that put safeguards in place, helping administrators, counselors and teachers support learners.