Managing the Web – Going Beyond the Filter

sieve by Piotr Kotkowski

sieve by Piotr Kotkowski

Teachers and administrators acting in loco parentis have a specific responsibility to protect the children in their care, but the specifics of such responsibility are defined as much by context and culture as by legal statutes.

Take the practice of filtering: administrators are tasked with setting the bounds on Internet access in such a way that allows for gradual release of control at each developmental stage of a young person.  Making those choices calls for a sensitive understanding of cultural context and a strong grasp of how to help kids grow into self-sufficient, productive adult citizens.

Once the administrator has a vision for how this growth process should happen, only then is she ready to select a tool for her environment.

Options for Managing the Web

The Firewall – Meeting Compliance Requirements

Recently, one of the schools we support was presented with a problem: they were CIPA and COPPA compliant through the filtering rules employed by their firewall, a Meraki MX100 with entry-level content management baked into its advanced toolset.  While this solution was sufficient from a safety and compliance perspective, the principal wanted to provide additional tools to her teachers in order to push conversations about digital citizenship, both within the classroom as well as the school at large.

Beyond Content Management – Cloud Solutions for Web Management

Preferring a cloud solution for this particular school, we investigated three different solutions: GoGuardian, Securly, and Impero.

All of these solutions (firewall included) provided the following:

  • Blocking of specific categories, including pornography and violence
  • Reporting at the user level, especially when connected with services like Active Directory or Google, or requiring a log-in through a splash page.

 

But from there the roads began to diverge, as the table below demonstrates:

In particular, each product shone in the following ways:

  • GoGuardian – Chromebook Focus, Screen monitoring at the classroom level, AntiTheft options for 1:1
    • GoGuardian’s focus on Chromebooks has produced two unique products: a school-level view with AntiTheft tools (GoGuardian for Admins), and a teacher-level view with screen monitoring tools (GoGuardian Teacher).
  • Securly – Multiplatform approach, Natural Language Algorithm for Proactive Alerts, Parent View
    • Securly’s differentiating factors include an option for parents to have visibility into their child’s patterns on the web and an impressive natural language algorithm for identifying and reporting self-damaging and bullying behaviors online.
    • Their technology promotes more openness because of the presence of this algorithm and seems a great choice for 1:1 scenarios.
  • Impero – Robust computer management tool, in addition to a suite of screen monitoring and web monitoring tools
    • Impero’s distinctive factor is it’s “all-in-one” approach to computer management.  Schools and districts where the IT department is looking to to provide screen monitoring access on multiple platforms, school-based filtering services, asset management, and remote desktop support would be wise to give Impero a call.  The tool makes its robust toolset as user friendly as possible.

The Choice:

For this school, the goal was to provide teachers data that they could use to have a conversation with students right away. The school is only two grades right now and not yet 1:1, so an administrative view was not as great a priority as classroom visibility. Their choice was one of the two GoGuardian products: GoGuardian Teacher.

Additional Options:

How does the matrix above match your experiences with web filtering and management products?  There are a number of advanced firewall providers and flexible filtering solutions. What other services should have made the cut?

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