At Stratford High, an eye in the cyber sky

Several students' computer screens are visible for Michael Eason to see on his monitor in his Web page design class at Stratford High School.

GOOSE CREEK — Attention students.

Your days of surfing the Internet and playing computer games in class are over if your teacher has SMART Sync.

The new classroom-management software allows a teacher to see "thumbnails," or small images, of all students' computer screens on their computer screen.

Stratford High School computer teacher Michael Eason, who uses the system, said he can tell just by looking at his screen if a student is checking out basketball scores.

It's not that big a deal if one student strays from a classroom assignment from time to time, he said. But if many students do that, it slows down the computer system.

Eason said SMART Sync doesn't just allow him to see what a student is doing. He also can photograph and save the page the student was looking at, and shut down a computer if necessary.

But, he said, "catching students doing something wrong is not the reason I use the software. It's just the one that's got a lot of attention."

Eason said he uses the system to help students learn more.

David Gleason, a Stratford High technology coach, said the system is available for teachers in the majority of Berkeley County's computer labs. The system is a useful tool for any class where each student is sitting in front of a computer. It works for any subject, he said.

Chantal Brenton, of BLAST Media, said the system is being used in many school and college classrooms in the Lowcountry.

Eason said he uses the system to chat with students about an assignment. He also can project what's on his screen to a student's screen if that student is having trouble understanding a lesson.

William Stanley, a junior and in Eason's Web page design class, said he can now send a question to the teacher from his computer. "He can just look at your computer from over there," Stanley said.

Eason said that's an important feature.

When he wanted to help a student in the past, he said, he had to lean in over them to see the student's work on the screen. He was concerned about invading students' personal space, he said.

The best thing about the system, Eason said, is that he can "help students without looking right over their shoulders."

Stanley said he thinks most students like the system overall.

Alex Nico, co-founder of the school's computer club and one of Eason's former students, said the biggest complaint he's heard from other students is about the teacher's ability to photograph the page they're looking at.

But fewer students surf the Internet now, he said. "You're not going to do it if you think you'll get caught."