The Edtech Revolution: 2010 – 2017

School Devices People Isometric

In December 2010, The Journal –“the leading Technology based education publication for K-12 and higher education”– published an article with a 5-prong prediction for the following year. Will the cloud continue to reign? Will more schools embrace student-centric mobile devices? These were the pressing questions of the time – a time 8-months after the release of the first iPad and 6-months before the release of the first Chromebook.

Now, we know that edtech has been proven to improve test scores and overall classroom engagement. But, how does the 2010 vision for edTech match what’s actually happening today?
 

7 YEARS LATER…

 

1. “There will be more momentum for mobile devices in classrooms with an eye toward affordable alternatives to traditional 1:1 rollouts.”

The 1:1 initiative aimed for districts to issue each student a laptop for use in-school and at home. For some districts, the cost per student quickly became unrealistic to initially implement, leading schools to create alternate strategies.

Then there was the iPad. Appealing to all ages for all occasions, the iPad topped the market in the following years after its release. Given that many children were acquiring iPads for personal use, some schools adopted a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Policy. Districts even integrated the two models to cut costs.

However, it was the Chromebook (2011) that truly revolutionized 1:1. While the iPad cost anywhere from $300 – $400, Chromebooks were sold from $199. The cost, plus it’s easy manageability and durability, made Chromebooks a main player in the edtech game. In 2012, Chromebooks accounted for only 1% of the devices sold to US classrooms; now, they make up more than half of the edtech market.
 

2. “Web-based instruction will gain more traction at the K-12 level.”

2010 was also the year that the Common Core Standards Initiative was enacted in response to numerous indicators of low student academic performance. Although the Common Core itself elicits mixed feelings, its effect on edtech is unwavering: “Integral to the Common Core was the expectation that they would be tested on computers using online standardized exams. As Secretary Duncan’s chief of staff wrote at the time, the Common Core was intended to create a national market for book publishers, technology companies, testing corporations, and other vendors.”

Indeed, $2.3 Billion has been invested in US K-12 education technology companies since 2010. Globally, edtech spending is predicted to reach $252 Billion by 2020.
 

3. “More tech-based monitoring and assessment tools will be incorporated into to the instructional mix.”

In 2000, the FCC created the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). CIPA requires schools and libraries to install measures to protect children from obscene or harmful content in exchange for discounts offered by the E-rate program. Many schools employ the use of a web filter to meet these requirements; however, administrators required new solutions that extended protection to school-owned devices at home.

Monitoring now includes take home policies and cyberbullying & self-harm detection. Parents are engaged via student activity reports on school-owned devices.
 

4. “The cloud will help ease the financial burden on schools while helping to expand technological capabilities.”

1:1 + Common Core = $$$$$. Valerie Strauss, a Washington Post reporter, claimed: “The financial cost of implementing Common Core has barely been mentioned in the national debates. All Common Core testing will be done online. This is a bonanza for the tech industry and other vendors. Every school district must buy new computers, new teaching materials, and new bandwidth for the testing. At a time when school budgets have been cut in most states and many thousands of teachers have been laid off, school districts across the nation will spend billions to pay for Common Core testing.”

Ironically, the cloud brought us light. Along with Chromebooks came Google Apps for Education – a suite of free, cloud-based productivity tools that allow for easy collaboration and engagement on any device. Check out their “Impact Portraits” to see specific examples of how the GSuite has benefited school districts in a variety of ways.

In addition, cloud-based web filtering allowed schools to abandon appliance based filters – saving them time, money, and effort with utmost CIPA compliance.
 

5. “Teachers will have access to expanded professional development programs.”

In 2011, the FCC updated CIPA compliance requirements. By 2012, all school Internet safety policies had to include educational programs detailing proper online behavior, cyberbullying awareness and response. In order to impart this knowledge to their students, teachers also had to go through digital literacy training.

Now, many schools now provide digital training professional workshops to help teachers integrate online safety best practices in their everyday classrooms. Some states mandate digital citizenship training for students and administrators in order for school districts to receive funding. By the 2014 House Bill 5101, each Florida school district will be granted at least $250,000 for digital classroom development. In order to receive this funding, each district must submit a digital classroom plan. The proposal must meet Florida Department of Education criteria. This includes creating a device Acceptable/Responsible Use Policy for students and providing digital literacy training for teachers, both of which are intended to combat cyberbullying by teaching students to be good digital citizens.

For more information on edtech, subscribe to our newsletter: 


13 Steps to Shape & Secure Your 1:1 Chromebook Program

chromebooks, web filtering chromebooks, 1:1 chromebook, filter chromebooks at home, chromebook filter

The following tips will help maximize the online safety and productivity of your students.  We will demystify the Google Apps for Education Admin Console, providing you with the tools to successfully optimize your school’s 1:1 program and edtech experience.  Taken from Best Practices to Shape & Secure Your 1:1 Program for Chromebooks.

The Google Apps cloud-based policy, simplified:

  1. Device Settings (Steps 1-3)
  2. User Settings (Steps 4-13)

>Chrome Device Settings

1. Enroll Your Device

To enroll a Chromebook into the school policy, make sure the device is first enrolled into the enterprise policy by keeping the “Allow devices to enroll automatically” setting turned ON for organizational units requiring admin management.  Students can then login without admins needing to individually login to each of these devices.  

chromebooks

 

2. Deactivate Guest Mode

Restrict Guest Mode to better audit student activity.  Otherwise, through a guest account, students can use the Chromebook without the district user policy in place.

chromebooks, 1:1 chromebook

 

3. Limit Sign-in Access

This allows students to use only their given school account for browsing the web, ensuring thorough auditing.

chromebooks

 

>Chrome User Settings

4. Display Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) Upon Startup

Via “Pages to Load on Startup” in settings, schools can set their Acceptable Use Policy  as the first thing students see upon opening a browser.  This serves to remind students of proper online conduct, digital citizenship best practices, and any other school policies they are bound by.

acceptable use policy, chromebooks, digital citizenship

 

5. Set Policy Refresh Rate to 30 Minutes

Select the minimum 30 minutes for time between policy refreshes to guarantee your students’ Chromebooks are updating with each new admin console change.
1:1 chromebook web filter

 

6. Enable Safe Browsing & Malicious Sites Protection

Choose “Always enable Safe Browsing” and “Prevent user from proceeding anyway to malicious sites” to protect your students from phishing and sites that involve platform independent vulnerabilities (identity theft, financial theft, password theft, etc).

chromebooks, online safety

 

Take Home Policy –  If the Chromebooks leave school with the students, there are two ways to secure the devices: a web filter proxy or a Chromebook extension.  Both solutions intercept and police network traffic to and from the devices.

 

7a. Change Proxy Settings for Take Home Policies

Arrange settings to point to your filter’s Proxy Autoconfiguration (PAC) file.  The PAC files allow you to control what traffic should be proxied.

home web filter, chromebook filtering at home

 

7b. Deploy Pre-installed Apps and Extensions

Using the “Manage pre-installed apps” wizard, search for the filtering extension of your choice on the Chrome Web Store, and deploy it to the organizational units that will take the devices home.

chromebooks, filter chromebooks

 

8. Block Apps and Extensions

Blocking all apps and extensions will prevent students from later installing games and other time-sinks.

chromebooks

 

9. Auto-authorize Plugins

Certain plugins require authorization from the students before they install or initialize.  However, in accordance with the whitelisting approach of only letting admin-installed plugins run, admins can auto-authorize requests so they are never presented to students.

chromebooks

 

10. Save Browser History and Disable Incognito Mode

Keep browser history turned ON for a complete report of online student activity.  Disallow incognito mode – it bypasses pre-installed security apps and can be used to evade the district filtering policy.

chromebooks, safe search

 

11. Turn Google Safe Search ON

If your district’s web filter does not support Safe Search for Google, apply this setting to enforce safe search directly via the Chrome policy.  Note: this safe search setting only applies to Google.  However, a variety of safe search websites are available for student use and some web filters are capable of enforcing safe search on multiple platforms.

chromebooks, google safe search, safe search, google image search

 

12. Disable Developer Tools

Developer tools can be used to circumvent district policy or gain unfair advantage over other students by reverse engineering of edtech applications that transmit insecure data or have confidential information hidden away in the code.chromebooks

 

13. Restrict Chrome:// URLs

Disable chrome://extensions and chrome://settings.  Chrome://extensions allow students to start/stop extensions.  Chrome://settings and other chrome://addresses provide settings or information unnecessary to students.

chromebooks

For more security tips and best practices, sign up below:

"Subscribe

How Technology Is Harming Your Child’s Development … Or Is It?

edtech, online student behavior, chromebook, online student safety, managing screen time, harmful technological effects

Research results are extremely varied on this topic, and complete condemnation is unfounded.  There are a wide variety of factors and silver linings accompanying this issue; thus, we have compiled the pros and cons of the top online activities (across various age groups) in the table below:

managing screen time, edtech, technological effects, children

Taken from Securly’s Managing Screen Time: The Student’s Perspective white paper

 

By age 4, many children already own their own mobile device.  Technology is so heavily integrated into the development of today’s youth that scientists find it necessary to examine its impact on child behavior.  This interest took hold in the 1980s as more children started spending their time indoors watching television, rather than playing outside.  Now, with increasing accessibility to handheld portable devices (in a recent American Academy of Pediatrics study, 96.6% of young children had access to a mobile device in an urban, low-income minority community), children are spending 5-10 hours per day  in front of a screen– a fact that many adults believe is detrimental, and the cause of increasing rates in physical, psychological, and behavior disorders.

Research (especially from 2010-2013) has linked rising numbers of childhood obesity, disrupted sleep patterns, and under-developed motor/cognitive function to device usage.  However, cases have been made for both sides of this debate in more recent years.  For example, a study in Computers in Human Behavior reported that children who went five days without screen exposure exhibited increased sensitivity to and comprehension of nonverbal emotional cues.  In contrast, other researchers propose recreational technology as an avenue for developing emotional literacy skills earlier in life, and more acutely.  Children take the fictional beings (protagonists, villains, heroes, friends, etc.) from their shows/video games and are able to synthesize complex characters in their own storytelling from the various models of human interaction they are exposed to.  In addition, learning through watching TV shows like Sesame Street and playing educational computer games are believed to improve a child’s listening comprehension and vocabulary.   

Essentially, moderation is the crux of the matter!  Scientists warn against excessive screen time exposure, which a little something called balance can easily solve.  Be sure your child’s time spent in front of their Chromebook, iPad, or TV is distributed with educational shows/games – and equally matched with time spent playing outside, interacting with peers, etc.  Surveys show that parental controls and web filtering are commonly underutilized;  these features can help keep your child safe online, as well as monitor and limit device usage.         

 

For more information about student online behavior, subscribe to our newsletter: 

"Subscribe

Emerging Trends in EdTech

The rise of ‘1:1’

In recent years, schools around the globe have been increasingly adopting 1:1 initiatives, programs in which each student is issued a personal device to facilitate learning.

While there are a number of different devices being used in the classroom, all with their own merits, the clear leaders up until now have been Google’s Chromebook and Apple’s iPad. Each of these devices consists of its own avid supporters, which has led to countless ‘iPad vs Chromebook‘ debates over the last few years.

Although iPads were initially the popular choice for many schools, Chromebooks surpassed iPads as the market leader in late 2014.

A recent Gartner study projects that worldwide Chromebook sales are expected to reach 7.3 million units by the end of 2015, with the education sector accounting for 72 percent, 69 percent, and 60 percent of sales in EMEA, Asia/Pacific, and the U.S., respectively. Regardless of the school’s device of choice, it seems almost a given now that it will in some capacity use Google Apps for Education, a cloud-based suite of Google tools such as GMail, Calendar, Drive, and Classroom that are available for free to schools.

Common Core State Standards Initiative

A big catalyst for the rapid growth of 1:1 programs has been the Common Core State Standards, an initiative adopted by 48 US states that provides over $10B of funding to help schools teach students important 21st century skills.

As described in the ‘Recommended Digital Literacy & Technology Skills‘ handbook for the state of California, students must be able to ‘Use online tools (e.g., e-mail, online discussion forums, blogs, and wikis) to gather and share information collaboratively with other students, if the district allows it.’ The initiative has given rise to the number of student-produced blogs, YouTube videos, Wikipedia articles, and numerous other mediums by which students use online content to enhance their learning experience.

It is through this focus on technological innovation that the concepts of blended learning and the flipped classroom have been able to flourish. Blended learning provides a balance between traditional classroom instruction and online learning. Often considered a type of blended learning, the flipped classroom challenges the traditional pedagogical model by encouraging students to learn new content at home and use classroom time for collaborative, hands-on activities. Perhaps one of the best known examples of this practice is witnessed in schools that have adopted Khan Academy’s math curriculum.

Increased device use in homes

The proliferation of devices is not unique to schools. Whereas most American families owned just a single computer throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, most US households now contain 5 or more mobile devices. Moreover, it is increasingly common for students in 1:1 programs to take their school devices home with them throughout the school year or even during the summer break, further contributing to abundance of technology within the walls of their home.

Challenges

There’s a significant shift in the challenges that educators and parents face with kids using the Internet. The risk of exposure to adult websites is now not the main worry. Instead, the focus is now on the 21st century threats of social media and social networking’ specifically, schools are perplexed by cyber-bullying and parents are concerned by lost productivity and unsafe user-generated content on otherwise safe sites.

Sitting behind a computer screen, adolescents often have no filter on what they say to and about their peers. This has led to increased prevalence of depression, self-harm, or even suicide due to posts made on Ask.fm or Facebook like social networking sites. Parents find their kids from a very early age spending hours of time watching related videos on YouTube wasting time and potentially watching unsafe content along the way.

Student Data and Privacy

With the abundance of data being generated by the scores of K-12 service providers, these types of questions are becoming easier to answer. EdTech companies like Bright Bytes have been successfully using school data to measure the impact on student outcomes and are helping schools make better choices about where to invest their technology dollars. Understanding that students consume more data on mobile than any other medium, Remind 101 has been able to take school data and deliver it an easy way (e.g., text messages, SMS alerts, and others.) to help parents, students, and teachers to stay connected.

Because student data is being produced at a faster rate than ever before, it becomes imperative to have safeguards in place which protect students and families from identify theft and other online security risks. The first step in realizing this goal is to hold the EdTech companies themselves accountable for using their data in a safe and responsible manner. To that end, The Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) and The Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) formed the Student Privacy Pledge, an initiative to ‘safeguard student privacy regarding the collection, maintenance, and use of student personal information.’ As of this article, 157 K-12 service providers have signed the official pledge, which was given recognition by President Obama and the White House in late 2014.

This article was published in Silicon India Magazine. To read the original article, please click here.


For more posts like this one, sign up for our newsletter below:

"Subscribe

Securly Captures Greater Than 1% Market Share for US Public Schools, Including 5% for California and Illinois

After just over two years of operations, Securly, Inc. – the world’s leading cloud-based provider of Internet Security for K-12 schools – today announced that it has captured greater than 1% market share in K-12 public schools in the United States. The US is home to over 14,000 public school districts and nearly 100,000 public schools (source: National Center for Education Statistics).

Securly’s early success can be attributed in large part to several states with an early adopter mentality that were eager and willing to replace their school web filtering appliances with next-generation cloud-based web filtering built exclusively for K-12 schools. Two such states – in which Securly has gained nearly 5% market share – include California and Illinois, both considered among the largest and pioneering edtech markets with their early adoption of new technologies and rapid movement to the cloud.

Tom Walker, Director of Technology at Massac Unit School District #1 in Metropolis, IL, reflected on his decision to switch to Securly over two years ago. Walker, one of Securly’s first customers, says: “Being a Google Apps for Education school district and having the need to replace our web filtering appliance, the decision to go with Securly was an easy one. In just a few minutes, I was able to switch our filtering over to Securly and within moments I knew I had made the right decision. Over two years later, the decision to move to Securly proves itself time and again. It has been the easiest, most effective, and least stressful service to manage. It simply just works, and it works wonderfully.”

Andrew Schwab, Chief Technology Officer for Union School District in San Jose, CA, uses Securly to manage his 1:1 program with over 5,000 Chromebooks. Schwab’s decision to move to Securly was an easy one, as the district’s long-used web filtering appliance had failed and needed to be replaced. Says Schwab: “With Securly, we were actually able to cut over to it immediately because it’s not appliance-based. We didn’t have to do any kind of installation. We just pointed our DNS servers at Securly, flipped the switch, and we were filtered again.” Schwab, who has also served as a board member for the popular edtech organization Computer Using Educators, or CUE, wrote a blog post about how Securly’s K-12 focused reporting differentiates it from other web filters by giving schools powerful insights on how students are using technology in the classroom and at home.

Schools interested in moving their web filter to the cloud can sign up for a free trial or learn more here.

About Securly:
Securly is a leading provider of cloud-based web filtering for schools and parental controls for homes. The founding team has a combined 20+ years of experience in network security. The company is a venture-backed startup in Silicon Valley and serves thousands of schools in North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region. To learn more, visit http://www.securly.com.

This press release was originally published on PRWeb. To read the original release, please click here.

To schedule a free demo of Securly, sign up below:

"Schedule

Securly launches the first cloud-based home internet security solution for parents to manage kids’ screen time

Securly now offers the first cloud-based home internet security solution that allows parents to manage screen time via safe versions of Google, YouTube, Wikipedia, and more.

Parents who sign up can enable safe Google, YouTube, Wikipedia, and custom policies for any device and any user on their home network, with a simple 5-minute setup and a dashboard summary of all activity.

Securly, Inc. – the world’s leading cloud-based provider of Internet Security for K-12 schools – today announced the general availability of its “Securly for Parents” product for the Home Internet Security market.

This offering includes the following benefits:

  • Single-point install (cloud-based)
  • Covers all users/devices in the home
  • Dashboard summary of activity by user
  • Weekly reports
  • High-urgency alerts

Securly pioneered cloud-based Internet Security for K-12 schools back in 2013. A year later, it introduced the patent-pending Securly for Parents product to allow parents to co-manage home policies for their children’s school-owned devices. With this release, Securly now extends the same technology to families for use in a typical home network environment.

Securly’s product is the first cloud-based home internet security solution to help parents manage their kids’ screen time on all devices throughout the home, with setup consisting of a simple 5-minute configuration on the home router. This offering includes the ability for parents to enable safe search and safe image search on Google, Bing, and Yahoo, and kid-friendly versions of sites like YouTube and Wikipedia. Parents will also be emailed a weekly summary of their children’s activity.

To get started, parents can sign up at:

http://www.securly.com/parents.html

Early users of Securly for Parents are excited about the new offering. Said Robert Duncan of Charleston, South Carolina, “I can’t tell you how much I greatly appreciate this service with teenage boys in the house. It really does a great job protecting them from all of the temptation out there. You also have great customer service! Thank you.”

In 2012, Securly was started out of a Silicon Valley garage with the vision of building an easy-to-deploy service that provided ubiquitous online safety to kids while keeping parents in the loop on how their kids’ devices were being used. Although version 1.0 of Securly’s product was built for parents, the startup quickly realized how difficult it was to compete in the Home Internet Security market – going up against established names like McAfee – without a certain minimum threshold of brand trust.

As Securly thought about ways to gain adoption without having to compromise its vision, it did find one market that shared the goal of online child safety while remaining completely open to trying a product that none had heard of before. Said Securly co-founder Bharath Madhusudan, “K-12 schools in the US proved to be full of early adopters who were more than happy to try, and even buy, the only cloud-based player in town. With the help of our friends and well-wishers, we believe that we are well on our way to building a best-of-breed web filter for K-12 schools. In just two years, we have grown from zero to over a thousand schools.” With its K-12 school product now in a mature state, Securly is bringing the same technology to the home market to help parents understand how kids are using devices like Chromebooks and iPads. This move is in line with previous innovations from Securly. Two years ago, it developed the concept of “teacher whitelisting”, which gives classroom teachers the ability to approve a blocked website needed for instruction. Now, with patent-pending parental integration, Securly gives parents an increased sense of ownership in their child’s education by allowing them to co-manage home internet policies on school devices. This technology also delivers weekly reports that summarize how all devices – personal and school – are being used, along with high-urgency alerts for critical incidents like cyber-bullying and self-harm.

As a startup, Securly was helped by the fact that the two markets it serves – schools and parents – were not just highly synergistic, but also shared significant portions of the code base. This allowed its engineers to rapidly build features for its school customers and have those exact same features benefit parents in the same software release. In other words, Securly’s renewed commitment to building a best-of-breed home product does not in any way cannibalize the trajectory of its K-12 offering. The release of Securly for Parents is a huge step forward for the company on several fronts – it returns to its original vision of being able to keep parents in the loop on how their kids are utilizing their screen time. This time, however, it is backed by the brand trust that comes from serving hundreds of thousands of students around the globe. Said Securly for Parents team lead Awais Ahsan, “Imagine being able to see what websites your kids are spending the most amount of time on across all of your home devices and using that information to guide their online behavior. That is precisely what Securly for Parents will deliver to its users.”

About Securly:
Securly is the world’s leading provider of cloud based security for K-12 schools. The founding team has a combined 20+ years of experience in network security. The company is a venture backed startup in Silicon Valley and serves thousands of schools in North America, Europe and the Asia Pacific region.

This press release was originally published on PRWeb. To read the original release, please click here.

The UTB Show – An Interview with Securly Co-founder Bharath Madhusudan

Video Transcript

Blake: Good afternoon and welcome to the Using Technology Better show. My name is Blake Seifert and today there is a bit of a mutiny going on. Mike Reading, my co-host is not joining us today so I am really looking forward to just getting down to business today and exploring some interesting stuff with our guest this afternoon, Bharath, from Securly. Bharath, might you want to introduce yourself and sort of what you are about?

Bharath: Sure. So first off, Blake, thank you for having me on the show. So I am one
of the co-founders of Securly. I am also the CTO of Securly. Securly is a Silicon Valley based education technology company that does online child safety. Essentially we don’t think of ourselves as a web filter, which is more of a 20th century thing. We think of ourselves as a company that measures and manages online screen time for children. We are cloud based and we are built from the ground up for schools. We just came out with a parent product. That’s where we are.

Blake: Fantastic. And how many schools are you in, at the moment?

Bharath: Five hundred schools, the overwhelming majority of those in the United States. We have some early traction in the UK, Australia and Canada.

Blake: Okay, fantastic. So I mean you’ve got a lot of schools there. I am sure you are
collecting a ton of data on a daily basis. I am sure it’s off the charts the amount
of data. Really what I want to talk to you about first I think is about what you see.
I mean you are seeing a lot of different trends. You are probably seeing a lot of interesting welfare issues pop up, interesting data and security issues. What are the sorts of things that you have seen in schools and perhaps I don’t know for our audience that could get a little bit of a value out of that and say, “Well, what are some things that I should be looking at in my school, even without a product like Securly? What do I need to be worried about? What do I not need to be worried about?”

Bharath: You know, it’s interesting how even with schools very, very open policies,
we of course have schools at different ends of the spectrum. Those, for example, in rural America, that have very stringent lockdown policies and those on the Coast that are more liberal that have less lockdown policies and you’d be surprised how even schools with open policies you have 50 percent or more of the time spent online being spent on education, being spent on worthwhile pursuits I would say. How there are certainly [inaudible] rules in favor of times and [inaudible] when a child goes home but you would be surprised how much learning goes on even at home.

Blake: So a lot of schools have wide-open internet you are saying.

Bharath: I am sorry?

Blake: You are saying a lot of schools have wide-open internet.

Bharath: They do. Well, the U.S. has a law called CIPA, Children’s Internet Protection Act, and basically what CIPA does it mandates schools to use some form of web filtering. It’s basic pornography blocking and even with just the basic blocking you’d be surprised, like I said, how much of time is spent online on educational pursuits.

Blake: Okay, yeah. I think that’s interesting. I mean we run a very open house here at McKinnon. We don’t do a lot of active blocking of students and what we find overwhelmingly is that that freedom to not have to go and get something unblocked because I need to use it for school. That freedom to just go and do it without asking permission I think is, you know, it really shows itself especially in art and places where sometimes the lines are a little bit blurred and I think that sort of old school methodology of locking everything down, in the long run, can hurt or, from my experience, can hurt I guess teacher creativity and teacher innovation. Would you agree with that?

Bharath: Well, like I said, Blake, in my introduction, we find the concept of web filtering to be so 20th Century and we don’t normally think of ourselves as a web filter anymore. The tag line on our home page will change soon to reflect a new message and that message will be measuring and managing screen time. So it’s not so much about blocking stuff anymore it’s about getting teachers and school administrators and parents the intelligence as to how technology resources are being used by kids. Our kids are spending their life online. You know, what are they seeing on social networks? What are they searching for? What YouTube videos are they watching to learn? That sort of thing. So it’s less of a blocking stuff and more about measuring and managing how kids are using technology and it’s subtle but an important shift on the way we see things.

Blake: Yeah, it seems like it. One thing that impresses me about your company is it is driven by the teaching and learning outcomes, not the sort of I have the control, you know, control freak in all of us that wants to lock things down. I think that’s a really good philosophy and really interesting. What do you say, you know just playing devil’s advocate to the people who talk about this just being a fee tactic? Like why do we need to snoop into their social media accounts? We all got up to no good when we were in school and we turned out okay. What do you say to that? Is this just fee mongering? There is a lot of this stuff people are spending money because they are worried about what can happen about covering themselves.

Bharath: I mean I can pull a dozen news cases out of thin air pretty much. What if we had the most popular YouTube video across a certain district and what if we shared that information out of the district? What if teachers within a certain district shared information with each other as to here is the most popular YouTube video in my class now why don’t you use it as a teaching resource in your class? As an IT admin in a local district I met with recently came up with the following news case right. Let’s say a teacher had access to search logs during a certain classroom time. Now the search logs basically you know give the teacher an idea of what kids are searching for during a classroom lesson. That is information he or she can then use to improve a lesson plan. So those are a couple things right there. It might seem like snooping but really it is intelligence for parents and teachers to learn about how kids are learning.

Blake: Sure. So what would you say, I mean if a school is looking at going down this
path, they want to find out more information about their classes and about their student activity. What are the key things that you want to look for? Is it you know their activity after hours and contrasting that to their learning inside class hours? What are the things that we should be looking for?

Bharath: So really each environment is different. So really having said that, Australia is, of course, very different from the United States and I wouldn’t bet on what is happening in the United States is something that would happen in Australia. So really the key is to measure, right? I’ll give you an example of this local school. Summit Public Schools, there are six charter schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and if you have ever seen the movie Waiting for Superman, Summit was featured in Waiting for Superman. They recently went 1:1 Chromebooks across all Summit schools but they are somewhat hesitant about going 1:1 take home and they started a take home program, as a pilot, and all of the schools have a Securly plug-in those Chromebooks. Now they’re not filtering at home because it’s against the school’s policy to filter at home but what they’re doing is sending the Chromebooks home with the Securly extension on it and they’re gathering data about what kids are doing at home. Are they actually learning at home? Basically we take all of the data and present to the school leadership and maybe call the blank take home across all six or all seven Summit schools next year. Once again, the key is not to look for certain things. The key is to look for data and to measure and to figure out what to look for.

Blake: Sure. So what about data mining? Like we talk about Google got into a lot of hot water over this recently looking at how particular services and I suppose this is a similar thing in terms of your mining that data for the use of the school and while it may be within a legal boundary, what about the moral implications of that? Is there things we need to be thinking about, you know, monitoring kids inside their own home? Do you have to make it very clear to the kids that that’s going to happen? What is sort of the thinking around that?

Bharath: Well as far as the integrity of the data itself is concerned, let me sort of address that by saying that we are pretty much committed to not using it for commercial purposes. The data belongs to the school, the child and the parents of the child and we are recognizant of that. Now having said that, at least in the U.S., the expectation of being filtered is pretty much factored into a 1:1 program. So it should not be surprising for the kids or the parents to see certain I guess inappropriate content being blocked at home because after all it’s a school
device and the way the school sees it, they’re investing resources into buying this thing for the child. Now it’s really up to us to try and figure out how we can optimize
it for learning purposes.

Blake: Sure. So the schools pay for the device and put it in the hands of the children, is that right?

Bharath: Exactly. That’s exactly right.

Blake: Okay so in a model where it’s parent-funded, like in most of the models I, certainly in Victorian schools, but around the country where state schools, in particular, funded by the government often put that cost back onto the parent. Labeled this term BYOD, you know, bring your own device, which can often be bring your own disaster but is there different thinking around that? I mean you wouldn’t want to be putting something on that monitors that child’s device when at home, if it’s theirs, would you?

Bharath: That is correct. There’s lots of schools in the United States that do have
a BYOD program or that have parent-funded Chromebook program and those schools generally shy away from you know using Chromebooks or devices but really the trend in the United States is I think schools are starting to discover that the cost of Chromebooks have dropped lower than the price of paper textbooks so it’s really about moving money from paper textbooks into the Chromebook world. It’s really a reallocation of resources to save money and basically use free online curriculum.

Blake: Yeah, that’s interesting, isn’t it? The whole cloud based curriculum is sort of
taking over in a sense and I guess you can track that now with Securly and that would be one of the benefits of it is to say what resources are being used and trying to draw those conclusions.

Bharath: Exactly.

Blake: In terms of tracking, is that all Securly does? Is it just a monitoring and filtering product? Is that sort of the start and the end of it?

Bharath: No, it’s quite the contrary actually. Two years ago that would have been true. That was the start of it. We started the cloud-based web filtering service for schools but in the past year really what that has evolved to become is just a subset of what we do. It’s the core engine, there is a core filtering engine, but we have built a couple of different value adds on top of the core substrate. One value added is, of course, reporting. We have extremely visual reports, which I can sort of show you in a minute.

Blake: Yeah, that would be good. Just maybe take us through the product itself. I know the insights are really interesting and I think it would be interesting to see what
it looks like and also how it works as well. Do we have to install an app on every computer? I mean what’s the setup involved for a school to turn this into a solution?

Bharath: Sure. Absolutely. So on the Chromebooks it’s a piece of cake. It’s simply a Chrome extension that you push out to through the Google Apps admin control panel.

Blake: Do you need the control panel to do that? In order to push that out, do you have to purchase that admin panel with your Chromebooks?

Bharath: Yes, yes you do. I am not sure how it works in Australia but at least in the
U.S. doing that is pretty much the norm with all Chromebooks.

Blake: Yeah, absolutely. I think there is sometimes a bit of a gray area about whether
we need it or not but certainly for things like this we do, by the looks of it.

Bharath: Yep. That is just for the Chromebooks but we are also able to filter any other device anywhere, you know, Macbooks, Windows PCs, iPads, both within and outside the network and for every other device it’s really a DNS based setting. So you just point to your local DNS to forward up to Securly and we seamlessly filter all those other devices in much the same way we filter Chromebooks.

Blake: So we change that DNS at the school level or at the device level?

Bharath: At the school level. Basically most schools still have a local DNS server that
they would use to resolve on their local domains and the ones that they don’t resolve get forward to Securly.

Blake: Okay, and when they go home then obviously they wouldn’t be monitored with that model. It’s only the Chromebooks that you can monitor outside of the school, is that right?

Bharath: Quite the contrary. Like I said, we can monitor iPads, Windows PCs and Macbooks as well outside the campus.

Blake: Okay. Cool. Do you want to show us sort of what it looks like when you’ve got
some users on Securly? What sort of benefits you can demonstrate for us?

Bharath: Sure, absolutely. This is kind of what the dashboard looks like over a one-week period and by the way you can change this to a day, a week or a month. For a one-week period you have 90,000 searches in this district, 35,000 videos watched and 8,000 Wikipedia articles and sort of here is a feed of latest activity across the entire district. Time spent on media sites, you know, 10,000 hours cumulatively across Google across the entire district; 2.5 thousand hours cumulatively across the entire district on YouTube. And categories, what are kids spending time on? So the users is basically rich kids are spending the most amount of time engaging in educational content. What are they searching for? What are the top searches? The social stuff, I’ll come to in a minute and basically what this is supposed to be is a map with all of the Chromebooks placed on them physically. So as you can see, Blake, this is not so much filtering but it’s simply an accounting of how technology resources are being used for the child.

Blake: Sure. Yeah, it looks fantastic. I like the way you can drill down, drilled right
down into each of those subsections. How are you assigning what is educational content? Do you have a big database of that? Do you manage all that yourself?

Bharath: That is exactly correct. We do have a database on what is educational versus what is not and we maintain a list of top educational sites as to the question by a district, by the districts that we serve and that’s how it goes.

Blake: Okay, fantastic. That is a good overview, for sure. Another question just around the philosophy of monitoring and things like that, is there a feeling or a sense that if you are going to account for this data and the kids know that you are doing it, so they know that you’re watching what they’re doing, that they’re going to try and get around it by tethering to their phone or using an alternate anonymous proxy or trying something different. How do you sort get around that? I mean you know what is happening on the connections that you’ve set but if they’re tethering to their phone, surely that stuff isn’t picked up.

Bharath: Well actually again, quite the contrary because if they’re tethered to their phone, the Chrome extension is still on the Chromebook.

Blake: On the Chromebook, yeah.

Bharath: Yeah, exactly. So the filtering happens on the Chromebook. As for anonymous proxies are concerned, most CGF proxies have fairly standard strings it can look for in the response content that help us block them proactively.

Blake: Okay, fantastic. So what about like if they are inside the school grounds and
they’re using their mobile phone connected to the Wi-Fi. Is that going to be monitored as well?

Bharath: That is going to be monitored. The only thing we cannot monitor because it’s technologically impossible to build is 3G and 4G on personal mobile phones, right? That is something we cannot possibly monitor and that’s what we don’t monitor for but if the child is using the school Wi-Fi, they get the school’s DNS and which, of course, gets filtered by Securly.

Blake: Sure. So you are still not capturing – I mean a lot of social media goes on,
on phones, and if they’re not connecting to the Wi-Fi then there would possibly be things you’re not capturing through there but do you think that’s quite a small percentage of the total traffic?

Bharath: Quite the contrary again. I mean, from a U.S. perspective, a lot of kids come to school with cell phones. I think it would be naïve to feel like they wouldn’t come to school with cell phones but most schools are also smart to realize it’s not a liability issue for them. What are the liability issues, if a child goes off track on school otherwise? So that’s how most schools tend to see it. Actually start here.

Blake: Right. So liability issue, which is kind of not really where your products focus
though, is it? I mean there’s a lot of other products out there that are really focused
on that, on risk management and liability. But I think one of the things I like with
this product is it is focused on teaching learning outcomes and it is up to the school
to make a decision on what is – where the line is in the sand on are we protecting our kids or are we sort of suppressing them or blocking their freedom. I mean it’s certainly a discussion we’ve had here and our concerns would be that we are opening a box, like a Pandora’s box, of stuff that perhaps, you know, might not be the best thing for us to be looking into but, on the flip side, some schools just use it when there is a welfare issue. They can go back and look through that student’s information. It’s a really interesting and divisive issue and I am not sure what the right thing is.

Bharath: The right answer is a function of culture really. Just yesterday I was reading
an article that said Denmark has absolutely no filtering. Absolutely no filtering and
they encourage the kids to cross the road and potentially get into situations and deal
with those situations. But in the U.S. there is a law and the UK has a law as well. So
the right answer is really a function of culture and even more so in the United States it’s a function of subculture. The simple law, for example, says that you don’t have to filter at home and many schools are like okay we’re compliant of we don’t filter at home so they choose not to filter at home. Yet other districts we serve in rural America, you know, even though it says we don’t need to filter at home, they take that step anyway because of blowback from the parent community. In places like Missouri or Kansas, the Chromebook is the only device the child owns unlike let’s say San Francisco where every child has access to five devices. Rightly so, the parents in these places have I guess founded fears about what would happen if the child comes home with a device for the very first time and that’s kind of where a child safety product come in.

Blake: Yeah, I can understand that for sure and I think we have different –

Bharath: It really varies across cultures, Blake. Because If I talk to somebody in Denmark I would say we’re not a web filter, we basically measure and manage screen time. But if I talk to somebody in Kansas or Missouri I would say we are a web filter because that’s what they are using us for. That’s one of the interesting things about selling Securly. They appeal to our customers. We are different things to different people depending on cultural circumstances.

Blake: I think that is very telling here. In regional schools, there is a concern with
parents that don’t understand quite what’s going to happen when their kid brings a laptop home and connects to the internet and does things that perhaps they’re not even aware of. So I think there is a need for a duty of care there and certainly in primary schools I think there is a need for duty of care but our philosophy here as being secondary to give kids control over their education and that extends to their managing their time and managing themselves online and we provide digital citizenship in education and around that. That has been our approach and that has worked well for us but I certainly would not like to apply that to every school in the country or much less in the world. It has been really interesting talking to you today, Bharath. I would like to thank you for coming on the show. Is there anything else you wanted to show about the product itself? Is there anything that perhaps we would be interested in, especially for the Australian/New Zealand market or anything like that?

Bharath: Sure, absolutely. Well I don’t have it live right now but basically one of the
things that we’re extremely proud of is the fact that we have plenty of variety of
social media monitoring. Schools in the United States a lot of them just block Facebook and Twitter all quite at home. So the first thing, and really like I said, Blake, our philosophy is focused on educational outcomes and the philosophy is really focused on opening up internet versus closing it up. The first step we took to encourage schools to allow Facebook for students is this notion of a lax take home policy. So the idea is we keep these sites blocked in school where they could be a legitimate classroom distraction but as the child goes home with the Chromebook we open up Facebook, under a lax take home policy. Not all schools do that so we took it one step further and we basically made Facebook posts available and monitor it for auditing by IDMS. So that also is not where we stop. So we’ve gone one step further beyond that and we are now processing all of these posts and tweets through a national language processing algorithm and we’ve actually partnered up with a well-known researcher, NLP who works at UC Santa Cruz and we’re basically using her work to further essentially the reduction of cyber bullying and this undesirable [inaudible], if you will. That any administrator is interested in learning about.

Blake: Sorry.

Bharath: Just a few weeks ago actually we pre-empted a potentially serious incident in Kansas one of the customers and this girl posted on Facebook something like “slowly I am realizing I don’t have a purpose here so everybody say goodbye because Friday it’s all over.” And that was alarming and that was caught by our algorithm proactively and it was certainly alarming enough for us to want to alert the school authorities. Now the interesting thing about the tweet, the fullest, was that there was no single word in there that could be detected by a traditional keyword-matching algorithm. Nothing like suicide or kill or depressed. It was a combination of words that had [inaudbile] a sentence associated and that’s kind of what we caught. The interesting things is schools in the U.S. are not proactively asking for this. It’s something we are doing as part of our double bottom line vision for schools. We are, after all, interested in online child safety and we want to grow beyond just blocking to doing what no product has done before, just essentially ensuring the safety of these kids on social networks.

Blake: And I think there is a tremendous need. I like that you are trying to open social
networks up because I think learning is where kids are, you know, and they’re all on social networks and if we’re not embracing that, at some point, if we’re just blocking them out, they’re going to figure out a way to get on there and we’re not going to be there to, like you say, enforce that protection layer and help them and work through potential life-threatening situations. So really interesting story in that. I do thank you for coming on the show. It has been really interesting to talk through it and I know divisive, I am sure, our viewers will have their own opinions on it and certainly, if they do, feel free to send Bharath an email at Securly. We’ll have all his details in the show notes and put a comment on our YouTube video and just say hello. If you want to come on the show as well, we are more than happy to have you on. You can apply through UTBshow.com. So again, Bharath, I’d like to thank you so much for your time. Good luck with your product. It’s fantastic.

Barath: Likewise

Blake: And we’ll see everyone next time on the Using Technology Better show.