Parent Resources

Technology Resource

Parent's Guide and Tech Help

We are developing this short guide to assist parents with their online learning and connectivity for our students and the Bennington School District parents. We will continually add updates, revisions, and new content to this guide as remote learning progresses, depending upon the situations for this 2021-22 school year. We appreciate everyone's patience and flexibility when we face these adverse situations.

Communications
Everyone needs to be signed up for School Messenger, download the Bennington app, and watch our Covid-19 link on the district home page for our updates.

If you are not receiving or need to change how you receive school emails and text/SMS messages through SchoolMessenger, please get in touch with Rob Uchtman ([email protected])

For questions concerning technology:

  • You can email [email protected] for your students' account (This will go to our entire tech team for the appropriate person to respond to your request.)

    • Coordinator of Technology - Rob Uchtman

    • IT Systems Administrator - Shawn Micheel ([email protected])

    • Technology Integration Specialist - McKenzie White ([email protected])

    • High School/Middle School IT Associate - Devin Koesters

    • Elementary IT Associate - Curtis Kralicek

  • For specific questions regarding SIMS, you can reach out to our Database Manager,

  • For questions regarding Chromebook repairs, you can contact the IT Associate for your building,

  • If you have specific questions or concerns regarding technology, you can contact our Technology Coordinator.

G Suite Overview

The Bennington School District uses G Suite, an online productivity suite. This free online suite offers a complete environment including mail, docs, sheets, presentations, calendars, forms, classrooms, and many more features. You can access this through a web browser or applications on devices. Anyone who has a Gmail account has these tools available to them. (Most of us would never need to purchase Microsoft Office or other productivity suites.) Our school accounts are very similar to a regular Gmail account but offer us more control and insight into our environment. Every document, folder, sheet, etc., is an online document that allows the creator to share and control who has access. Users can easily import and export records to different formats, so those who need a final copy in a PDF or Microsoft format may do so. The G Suite for education also complies with all FERPA and COPPA laws concerning students. More information can be found on the G Suite for Education website.

Chromebooks Overview
We utilize Chromebooks at Bennington. It has become the number one device in education. You are required to log into a Chromebook with a Google Account. (Gmail address.) Our school-managed devices require our students to log in with a Bennington managed Gmail account, ending with benningtonschools.org. (We do not allow a regular Gmail account to log into the machine on school-owned devices.) A Chromebook is a laptop that runs a Chrome Browser. (It is a Chrome OS device and not a PC or MAC.) We have some flip touchscreen units and some that are simple clamshell non-touch units. You do not install programs on Chromebooks, but there are many extensions to the Chrome Browser and many add-ons to each G Suite product that add functionality. Chromebooks can work offline so that you can create new documents and emails offline. Once Internet connectivity is resumed, those documents and emails are then synced to the account on the cloud.

If you own your Chromebook that is not district-managed, anyone with a Google Account (Including benningtonschools.org accounts) can log into the device. The first person who logs into a Chromebook is the owner. Personally owned Chromebooks can be power washed (by the owner) to restore them to factory defaults. Our experience is that these devices are the most trouble-free device that a person will use, short of any hardware breakage or other hardware-related issues. Find out more about Chromebooks hereEvery student will be assigned a Chromebook for their remote learning needs. We highly recommend it.

For instructions on how to log in to your student's Chromebook, please see the instructions below:

Downloader

Other Devices
You can use other devices, but it will be much simpler if you are not tech-inclined, and there may be a few resources on iPads that may not be accessible without installing additional applications. Logging into a Chrome browser on a MAC or PC gives you the same experience as a Chromebook, so there is no difference once you get logged into Chrome. Going to Gmail in a browser is not the same as being logged into a browser. When you log into Chrome, it will sync. (Directions here.) You can use many apps on phones and tablets to accomplish classroom tasks, so an iPad or other device will often work but not as streamlined. (You may have to load apps like Google Drive, Gmail, Zoom, Specialized reading apps, etc.) If you use an iPad or iPhone (IOS devices), you will need an iTunes account for that device so you can load the necessary apps.

ContentKeeper
We run a remote filter called ContentKeeper that filters students and protects them. The ContentKeeper product is installed on all Chromebooks and is available for use K-12. ContentKeeper filters and reports all devices logged into the student's Google Account. On a PC or MAC, people have the option of logging into Chrome, so it may or may not be active since the student may or may not be logged in. (ContentKeeper does not run on an iPad, phone, or other tablet devices.) When a student logs into Chrome, ContentKeeper is loaded and active. When you log into a Chromebook, students are automatically logged into Chrome. This is one more reason we recommend using a Chromebook and having that device signed into Chrome with the students' Bennington Gmail account.

Note- If a PC or Mac has Chrome logged into the student account, anyone using that Chrome browser is being filtered and monitored by the district.

CLEVER
Bennington School District utilizes Clever as a "Single SIgn-on Service." This allows our students to access multiple commonly used educational applications and links. By signing in to Google first, they can then access other resources without signing into them. So one sign-on gets them to multiple websites. Please see the Student and Parent's guide to assist you in logging into Clever. 

K-5 Parents
Typically our students in Grades K-2 log in with a Clever badge. (They show a QR code to the camera on the Chromebook, and they are automatically logged into the Chromebook with their Google account.) Since that is not an option, we will send home a document to each K-5 parent with their student's login. The username does include the @benningtonschools.org, so it is the student's email address. This login is needed for any personally owned Chromebooks to access the school material.

Protecting kids at home
We utilize several products that protect our students who will be active at home. (They must be logged in to Chrome for some of these to be in place.) If your child is logged into a Chromebook, they have logged into Chrome automatically. On PC or MAC's, users have not logged into Chrome automatically. (Checking Gmail is not the same as being logged in to Chrome.) How to article on logging into Chrome.

Note - These monitoring tools will be in place when a student is logged in with an @benningtonschools.org account.

We utilize a Bark product that scans students' emails for self-harm, bullying, and other issues. ContentKeeper monitors all students' internet activity. As noted above, they must be signed into Chrome. This is another reason we like Chromebooks. They are always signed into Chrome.

Along with the school products mentioned above, we have developed an informational document to assist parents with monitoring their children. You can find that document here.

Video Conferencing
Teachers will be using Google Meet. Google Meet does have the ability for the teacher to record the session. We recommend Google Meet for our staff since no install or add-on is needed by the end computer/device. IOS and Android versions of the app are available if you are using a personal device other than the school-issued Chromebook. Teachers will be working with students and families when they need to connect via video conferencing.

On Chromebooks, Google Meet does not require any installation to work.

Troubleshooting:

  • Check to see if you are in a guest session. If you see a red "Exit Session" button on the bottom of the screen, you are in a guest session that blocks the camera and microphone.

    • To leave a guest session, you need to click the "Exit Session" button to get back to the login page and click the "Add Person" option towards the bottom left of the page.

    • After clicking this, click "Sign in with a different account"(DO NOT CLICK THE "NEXT" BUTTON). This will take you to the correct place to input your usual credentials and get logged into a regular session that isn't blocking the camera or mic. (See the instructions on how to log in to your student's Chromebook Document above)

  • Fully power down your device and try it again.

  • You can test your camera operation on your device by going to this site: https://www.onlinemictest.com/webcam-test/ (Follow the instructions to allow camera access so you can complete the test.) You can also test your camera by taking a picture with your Chromebook. This article will assist you with this.

  • You can also test your microphone on this site: https://online-voice-recorder.com/.

  • (You will have to allow the mic on this site via a pop-up on your browser.)

  • If your camera and microphone work and you are still having video/microphone issues when video conferencing, you have a setting in Meet that has that device muted.

  • Usually, this is not an issue, but it's also worth checking: "How to manage the microphone and camera privacy settings on your Chromebook."

Continuity of Education Plan
The district has been very fluid and fast-moving on getting a plan in place. Each building coordinates its plan for its staff and students within its building. If you have specific questions concerning those plans, you can reach out to your building principals.

Cleaning your Devices
We recommend using a solution of 70% isopropyl alcohol. (Dilute the higher ones down to 70%. It provides better virus and germ-killing properties.) Spray on a soft or microfiber cloth and wipe all surfaces. The key is to use enough but not get the electronics too wet. Avoid using Clorox wipes since they often leave a residue and are often too damp, damaging electronics.

There are a lot of great resources available on the Internet to assist parents.
It would be impossible for us to list the many excellent resources available to you. Still, we encourage you to explore and find the many tools available to you as parents. Feel free to reach out to your teachers for assistance and resources they have for you.

Common Sense

Common Sense Media has a great free collection of resources for educators and families. CommonSense Media has put together a tremendous free list of resources. Check them out!  Common Sense is the nation's leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of all kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in the 21st century.

Connectivity for families

  • Cox has two programs they offer to help families.

    • Emergency Broadband Benefit Program:

      • Cox is proud to participate in the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program - a federal government program designed to help Americans stay connected to the Internet during the pandemic. Cox's long-standing priority is to narrow the digital divide, and this new government program aligns with our mission to keep customers connected to family, friends, school, and work during this challenging time.

        • Program Details and Benefits

          • As part of a stimulus bill, the government has set aside money for an Emergency Broadband Benefit program designed to help Americans stay connected to the Internet during the pandemic.

             

            Eligible households approved for the program will receive up to $50 off their monthly bill based on their current internet service and equipment rental, or up to $75 if they live on tribal land.

            Through the program and our partnership with PCs for People, households can receive a one-time discount of $100 towards a computer - allowing them to purchase a desktop for $20 or a laptop for $49.99.

        • Eligibility Requirements

          • Free or Reduced lunch through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

          • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

          • Federal Public Housing (including Section 8, Multi-family units, and Public Housing Authorities)

          • Pell Grant recipient for the current academic year

          • Unemployment filing during COVID pandemic (after Feb 29, 2020, and total household income below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers)

          • Medicaid

          • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

          • Veterans Pension & Survivors Benefits

          • Proof income is 135% or less than federal poverty guidelines (three consecutive pay stubs or a tax return). Note: 135% of federal poverty guidelines is approximately $35,000 for a family of four. You can look up the income maximum for your household here.

          • Tribal Programs (and proof of living on tribal lands) including:

            • Any of the programs listed above

            • Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance

            • Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF)

            • Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations

            • Head Start

        • Application Process
          Applicants must complete the application online at http://www.cox.com/ebb to qualify for the program. The application is optimized for customers to apply via a mobile device. Applicants may be required to upload proof of eligibility.

           

          Note: The Cox account holder must be the person to apply for the Emergency Broadband Benefit. If someone else in the household other than the Cox account holder is the qualifying public benefits recipient, they should enter that information on the beneficiary screen. Otherwise, there could be delays in receiving the subsidy.
          To apply:

          • Go to cox.com/ebb

          • Existing Cox internet customers will log in to their Cox account using their Cox username and password.

             

            New customers have an option of shopping for the Internet and then qualifying for the program after their service is active or qualifying first and then shopping for the Internet.

          • Customers may be asked to verify their identity using their mobile phone number and date of birth or upload a driver's license, state ID card, or passport. They may also need to provide income, unemployment status, or participation in a qualifying government assistance program.

          • Once a customer is qualified, they will be submitted to the government for final approval. This process may take a few days. As soon as we hear from the government, we'll send an email with when the customer will see the benefit on their account.

             

            The email will also link to purchase a computer with a $100 discount. Customers must sign in using the email address and zip code they used to apply for the program. Only approved EBB customers can purchase a computer using this link.

          • Customers will receive a confirmation email each time the broadband benefit is applied to their account. The credit will continue until the federal government notifies Cox that the program has ended.

             

            Depending on the remaining government funds and the program rules, the credit may be reduced during the last month of the program.

    • Compete to Connect Program for Low Income:

      • COX COMPETE TO CONNECT

      • $9.95 per month

      • For more information, call (855) 222-3252.

      • Data: 25 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload

      • No installation fee. No equipment rental fee.

        • You receive at least one of the following government-assisted benefits: SNAP, TANF, Public Housing assistance, or your child is enrolled in the National School Lunch Program. You may be eligible to participate if your household has at least one K-12 child. In addition, you cannot have subscribed to Cox Internet service within the last 90 days or have any outstanding debt or unreturned equipment with Cox.

These Internet service providers may be options in our area:

  • Century Link

  • Cox

  • HughesNet

  • Viasat

  • DirectTV

  • Dish

  • Allo

  • Rise Broadband

Remember, some wireless plans allow you to turn your phone into a hotspot.

Free Internet is available at Bennington Public Schools in the parking lot and on the grounds.
Our guest wireless Internet will be open and available daily from 6 am to midnight. People can pull up in cars or, on nice days, sit around the outside campus. Please practice social distancing and adhere to safe practices. Note: All Internet traffic is monitored, and security camera surveillance is in place.)

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