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.

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Meet Our New Partners: iKeepSafe & the Internet Watch Foundation

 

We are excited to announce our partnership with two organizations at the forefront of online child safety initiatives: iKeepSafe and the Internet Watch Foundation! The mission of each respective organization aligns perfectly with our own commitment to keeping kids safe online.

iKeepsafe has also awarded us the California Privacy Badge.  We are the first web filtering company to receive this distinction.  

 

About iKeepSafe & the California Privacy Badge

“iKeepSafe is a 501(c)3 non-profit international alliance of more than 100 policy leaders, educators, law enforcement members, technology experts, public health experts and advocates.”  They provide positive resources for parents and educators to teach youth how to use technology safely and productively.

iKeepSafe’s California Privacy Badge is the first independent assessment program specifically tailored to student data privacy legislation, including the Student Online Personal Information Protection Act (SOPIPA) among others.  To achieve this badge, companies must meet all requirements outlined in primary federal and California laws. This program helps educators and parents in the state of California identify edtech tools and services that protect student data privacy.

Much controversy surrounds cloud-based services and data privacy; however, this certification confirms our promise to protect student data.  It’s our way of letting customers know that student data is safe in our hands.

“We congratulate Securly on successfully completing a careful privacy review by iKeepSafe.  In the past few years, a large amount of legislation has emerged protecting and governing student data. By receiving the iKeepSafe privacy badge, Securly has taken an essential step in helping educators navigate this new terrain and keep student information safe.” Marsali Hancock, president and CEO of iKeepSafe

 

About the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF)

The IWF is a UK-based charity whose goal is to eradicate child pornography.  They tirelessly work to remove child sexual abuse images and videos.  

Tracking these websites is especially hard since they’re seldom hosted on static domains. To compensate, IWF has full time staff tracing these sites; and in many cases, they have brought the creators of the material to justice.

This partnership achieves two goals for Securly:

  • By supporting the IWF in their mission, Securly reaffirms its commitment to online child safety.
  • With each daily IWF list release, Securly is able to update its own  blacklist URLs, allowing schools to pre-empt potential legal and PR perils that would result if child porn was accessed on their network.

 

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Securly’s Brand New Dashboard

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“Good design is as little design as possible” -Dieter Rams

To kick off the “Week of Innovation” –live from the ISTE floor– we are excited to unveil our brand new Dashboard! At Securly, we follow a simple rule of thumb for all product design decisions:

Useful > Usable > Attractive

Useful: Does a customer find a feature useful in the way one finds an automobile useful? Does it serve a basic purpose?

Usable: Is the feature designed to be self-explanatory? Will a customer need to file a support ticket to understand what we have built?

Attractive: Does the design evoke an aesthetic that has instant appeal?

We realized that in the previous version of the Dashboard we built, we had flipped this thinking on its head. Our Dashboard had visual pop, but there was very little about it that was useful OR usable. Hence, we set about redesigning it – adhering to the quote from Dieter Rams at the beginning of this post.

First, we enumerated the stats and graphs supported by our old dashboard and classified each into “useful” and “useless”. Next, we went over customer feedback through support tickets and surveys. We picked a couple of key asks that were worthy of the “front page of the Securly UI”.

The new dashboard has the following new sections:

  • Securly System Health: In the spirit of full transparency, we will at all times provide you an overview of System Health. On those rare occasions when there is a systemic issue, we want you to know that we’re working to bring things back to normal.
  • Recent Releases: All of our regularly scheduled releases (including bug fixes) will now show up as a live feed.

Our new dashboard is scheduled for release on Tuesday 28th of June. Should you have any questions, please reach out to support@securly.com.

 

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8 Reasons Why Students Like Securly Web Filtering

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The following are real student responses from an international survey we conducted during Summer 2015.

1. “You don’t get rude ads or viruses.”

Pop-ups and pseudo-content are not only annoying, but also often times dangerous.  Online aggressors specifically target children, enticing them to click on attractive advertisements or links leading to viruses.  YouTube launched “YouTube Kids” in response to this problem as an addition to their existing safety setting, YouTube Restrictive Mode.  But what about the rest of the internet?  Web filtering helps keep students safe online and protects from “intrusive viruses, malware, and ransomware”.

 

2. “It keeps us safe from other people that we don’t know.”

Students are protected from dicey websites and chat forums notorious for online predators.  This, combined with social media privacy settings – such as regulating who can comment on a post/video– reduces the risk of your child encountering internet users with malicious intent.

See the Parental Control Quick Guide for more information on keeping youth safe online.

 

3. “It protects people from cyberbullying.”

Web filtering can block social media sites where cyberbullying frequently occurs, but in today’s tech-integrated environment these sites are important for school-wide communication; and thus, counterproductive to restrict.  Securly includes a Bullying and Self Harm Detection feature with sentiment analysis that alerts parents and admins of possible cyberbullying/indications of harmful behavior.

 

4. “A big thing I agree with is stopping us from getting sidetracked…it can be hard in class when we are on the internet to not get distracted.”

Admins can set time limits on specific sites to help keep students on track and productive; in fact, over 50% of students admitted to being sidetracked while working on school assignments whether on or offline.  Another student remarked, “Web filtering is good because if things weren’t filtered, personally I wouldn’t have done as well in school.  I would be more interested in talking to my friends over social media while they were in different classes.”  

 

5. “It’s extremely useful to monitor and prevent younger kids from seeing all that the internet has to offer.”

Web filtering first and foremost protects children from violence, porn, and other unsavory content.  Students (especially with younger siblings) agree that this is a necessary and useful tool in preventing premature exposure.  Securly’s powerful web filtering technology filters out unsuitable material and language, and even goes as far as disabling YouTube comments on a child’s account.

 

6. “It provides an environment to practice hacking and getting around the rules.”

Definitely a different perspective, but still a valid point!  Apparently, persistent students are learning about the technology behind the filter… looks like web filtering is also creating future developers.  

 

7. “It provides safety throughout the whole school for everyone.  And as well as making us children feel safe whilst using the internet, it also helps parents to know their child is safe whilst browsing.”

Securly offers an interactive comprehensive report which complies top accessed categories, websites, and key search phrases by kids.  Admins are able to see how students are using devices at home versus in school.  It’s quite simple for admins to make changes to the filter settings on the user dashboard.

In addition, Securly cloud based web filtering also extends to the home.  Schools with 1:1 programs are able protect their students anywhere.

 

8. “It stops anything that may be dangerous from happening.”

Some students have such faith in the power of web filtering!  Learn more about Securly web filtering features here.

 


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Why UK Schools Are Choosing Securly

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The end of UK Local Authority school networks

By: Richard Moore

In the UK, Local Authorities (LA’s) have been responsible for providing schools with fast, safe internet connectivity for the past 20 years. However, in 2000 the Academy program allowed schools to take control of their own finances and to operate as independent businesses funded by central government.

Many of the secondary academies found that they could procure connectivity more cheaply on the open market – and also take control of their own web filtering rather that suffer one size fits all policies.  By January 2015, over 60% of them had already converted according to data from the DfE.

Ofsted figures report that of the 31,000 schools in the UK more than 17,000 are primary schools.  Many of these primary schools have much simpler connectivity needs and no onsite technical staff. These are the schools that have been left clinging to their local authority networks, and less than 15% had converted to academy status by January 2015.

However, all that changed yesterday in the 2016 budget which stated that by 2020 all schools in the UK must have converted to academy status; LA’s will no longer be responsible for education. This is going to be a major headache for primary school head teachers.

Primary schools have always struggled to justify the cost and complexity of typical appliance based web filtering products, meaning that they were stuck with the LA network. Not any more!

With zero onsite hardware and a very simple, but effective web based control panel, Securly has become the web filter of choice for a growing number of UK primary schools. With pricing starting at less than £400 per year including unlimited support, it is also incredibly cost effective.

With features such as a unique parent portal, SSL filtering for search and social media, intelligent bullying detection, and support for any device you can be sure you have leading protection in place.

Securly offers free unlimited evaluations, and will partner with you to help transition you from the LA network to your own as you make the journey toward academy status.


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Why Choose Cloud Based Web Filtering?

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Why Choose Cloud Based Web Filtering?

Web filtering is most widely known within the context of the Children’s Internet Protection Act of 2000 as a means of protecting students from harmful, explicit content found on the internet. However, web filters – especially those that are Cloud basedare capable of much more, in both home and school environments.  

PRODUCTIVITY

From a survey we conducted, about 50% of students reported being focused only half the time they spent studying or working on school assignments due to online distractions.  Cloud based web filtering services allow the admin to establish time restrictions on certain sites (social media, gaming, entertainment, etc.), impelling students to get back on track.

1:1

More than half of the US K-12 population will be involved in 1:1 computing programs by the end of this year, according to Education Week’s Market Brief.  1:1 refers to the practice of each student having their own device (usually a Chromebook or tablet) on loan from the school during the academic year.  Students are able to use these devices in class and at home; thus, schools are now seeking for 1:1 chromebook web filter solutions.  Hardware appliances previously limited web filtering to school grounds.   However, Cloud based web filtering for schools  ensures that students will be protected from harmful content wherever they are.

CYBERBULLYING

The term “cyberbullying” covers any sort of harassment via online communication.  Cyberbullying usually occurs on social media sites and public forums.  Blocking social media sites entirely may be too restrictive (especially for pre-teens) or unrealistic, as many schools use social media to communicate alerts to their students.  Cloud based web filtering provides a balanced solution via “Bullying and Self-Harm Detection”.  This technology analyzes student social media posts and alerts admins and/or school officials at any indication of cyberbullying, self-harm, or grief.  This approach addresses cyberbullying detection and works to prevent cyberbullying’s often fatal consequences.

SIMPLICITY

Until recently, web filtering solutions relied mostly on hardware appliance and routers.  These appliances are often complicated to set-up and require constant maintenance by IT admins.  The cost of mandatory updates and extra features can add up to an exorbitant amount.   Instead, cloud based web-filtering allows for easy, immediate set-up through a friendly user-interface.  It is also a simple way for parents to utilize parental control features.

MONITOR ONLINE BEHAVIOR

Lastly, cloud based web filtering allows parents and IT admins to track sites kids are visiting and how often.  While web restrictions vary from school to school and household to household, it’s important to be aware of your child’s web activity to promote online safety!

 

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Parental Control Quick Guide: Keeping Your Kids Safe Online

Parental Control, online safety, child internet safety

The web holds a wealth of information – including content that may be inappropriate or dangerous for young audiences.  A request for personal details, cheap ticket offers to a sporting event, or suggestion to meet “in person” ? STOP!  These are all red flags of online culture to watch out for.  Kids are likely to run into online harassment, even from people they know, without proper cyber safety practices.  Thankfully, many websites have parental control features.  In honor of Safer Internet Day (February 9, 2016), here are some quick internet safety tips to keep children from harm’s way:

Google SafeSearch

Google is perhaps the most widely used resource for finding information.  Within “Settings”, you can enable restrictions that act as a safe search option for kids.  SafeSearch is available for computers, phone browsers, tablets, and Android apps.  It blocks sexually explicit video and images.  You can also lock SafeSearch to prevent others from changing the setting.

Google states that “The SafeSearch filter isn’t 100% accurate, but it helps you avoid most violent and adult content”.  For safer image results, try enabling both SafeSearch and the Creative Commons feature.  If you’re looking for safe browsing sites, especially for younger children, check out these safe, kid-friendly alternative sites to Google, YouTube, and beyond.

Google SafeSearch, safe search

child internet safety, safesearch

YouTube Safety Mode

YouTube Safety Mode works much like Google SafeSearch, through community flagging and age-restrictions.  It is also compatible with multiple platforms, but must be setup on each specific browsing profile.  For a small monthly fee, some web filters and parental controls may offer the ability to enforce safe YouTube across all devices in the household.

To ensure a safe Youtube environment, you can supplement safety mode by adjusting privacy settings and ‘flagging’ videos.

 

Social Media Safety

While Facebook and big name social media sites do not specifically include parental controls, adjust your child’s privacy settings to protect from predators, scams, and cyberbullying.  

  1. Make sure that only Friends can see any and all information
  2. Do not allow search engines outside of Facebook to link to profile
  3. Only allow Friends of Friends to send friend requests
  4. **For optimal security, limit people from seeing your Friends list
  5. Be “friends” with your child online to monitor their activity

**People can easily narrow down age, hometown, school, interests & hobbies from analyzing trends in associated profiles.  You can limit who can see posts and personal information within your social media circle, but it is best to forgo listing any personal information whatsoever.

Privacy settings are also available on Twitter and Instagram,  though tweets and images are still viewable (if linked in an article or another post) even if the profile itself is private.

safe social media

For Everything Else.. There’s Web Filtering

Windows 7 includes Parental Controls that allow parents to set time limits on computer use, limit and filter games, and block specific programs.  However, if the computer is connected to a domain, these features are not available.  Even Microsoft help pages suggest supplementary parental controls.  

Consider web filtering!  Traditionally, internet filtering programs have been most utilized by school systems – but the advent of new cloud technology allows for web filtering anywhere, and even in the home.  Web filtering offers complete online security – it allows for parental monitoring (see how kids are allocating their online time, what sites they visit, and who they interact with), restrictions on explicit content, and easy configuration on multiple devices.  

 

 

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Web Filtering Anywhere

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By Tom Walker

cloud-based web filtering, web filtering for schools, 1:1 schools

Web filtering is an effective tool to ensure online student safety.  Recent innovations have allowed web filtering to improve from a rather stationary service, to a mobile and easy-to-use necessity. Schools are starting to abandon inconvenient web filtering hardware in favor of flexible cloud-based solutions which better provide for 1:1 program safety measures.  And now, we can protect our students anytime, anywhere.

Web Filtering At School

When I think of web filtering, my mind always gravitates toward school web filtering. Why not? Web filtering has been prevalent in schools the last 15 years or so. Whether the goal is to keep students away from harmful sites or the need to monitor web activity, filtering has a solid place in K-12 schools. While at school, the walled garden not only benefits students, but also helps to keep malicious websites at bay. The ever increasing number of malicious websites and network intrusions can be problematic for school IT staff, thus filtering plays a key role in helping to block them.

What happens outside of school though? Many home routers have long employed filtering capabilities, but the features were generally quite limited. The home router was akin to the school filtering appliance. The home router could only filter at home, whereas the school appliance could only filter at school. Luckily, web filtering continues to adapt to the ever changing technological landscape thanks to the advances of cloud computing.

Web Filtering Outside of School

Over the last few years, one of the truly amazing advances in technology has been the ability to take your services with you. Whether it is having constant access to once static files or easily moving entire photo albums around, cloud based technology has changed the way we look at things.

With the advent of cloud based filtering, filtering outside of school with school centric policies has come to fruition. Not only do 1:1 programs have devices filtered at school, but the filtering can go wherever the device is. Additionally, features like safe search and utilizing safe alternatives provide an extra layer of protection for the users and devices in and out of school. With this approach, school staff can be a little less worrisome about the devices leaving school grounds. The students are kept safe online, as are the devices from intrusive viruses, malware, and ransomware.

Web Filtering Anywhere

Web filtering has entered a time where it can be done at from a multitude of locations. Like many other educational ideas and services, it is no longer confined to the walls of the school. School based policies can now travel along with the students, helping a 1:1 program stay consistent and benefitting all parties involved in the process. So when I think of web filtering, I no longer need to think of it as something that just happens at school. It can happen anywhere.


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Web Filtering in K-12 Schools: The Past, Present, and Future

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By Tom Walker

cloud-based web filtering solution for K-12 schools versus web filtering appliances

A Brief History of Web Filtering in K-12 Schools

When I started my career in K-12 IT, web content filtering in schools was a fairly new creature.

The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) was still in its early stages and various approaches to content filtering began to emerge.

A handful of companies began to surface as the leaders in providing appliance web filtering solutions to deploy in the K-12 infrastructure. Open-source alternatives were also available, but tended to require a bit more expertise to implement and manage.

In any event, the options were there, but could be costly, time consuming, and ultimately ineffective in the long run.

Early Problems

Whether it was using an out-of-the-box purchase for a content filter or testing an open-source alternative, I remember the first thought I always had was, “Is this even going to work?”

I would spend numerous hours going over network configurations to make sure the filter was working in the manner it should. Even if it was working correctly, the students could seemingly always find a way around the web filter.

There was always a new, non-educational website that would come through each day. It seemed like I was blacklisting websites on a regular basis that our filters simply were not catching.

Lastly, teachers always needed a site whitelisted for a project or other education-related function. I always felt like I was constantly opening and closing doors.

A Changing Landscape

As time passed, so did the dynamics of how we were doing things in technology. The once familiar large servers used for e-mail, archival, and other roles began to vanish into the cloud. It was a good transition.

No longer did I have to worry about our own physical issues with downtime and I was able to shift my energy over to other projects.

At the same time, I still had several in-house web filtering appliances throughout our schools that were in need of replacement.

As we had already gone cloud-based with so many other services, it made sense to take our filtering to the cloud as well. This not only was cost-effective, but also ended up saving countless hours in the process.

Filtering has become smarter, easier to manage, and at the same time, a variety of safe search options have also become more prevalent. While the filtering concept hasn’t changed, it is getting more intertwined into the fabric of K-12 IT through cloud-based solutions.

The Road Ahead

As we begin 2016, the future is bright for content filtering. Cloud-based solutions have simplified a once laborious process, all the while helping to maintain CIPA compliance.

For something I used to worry about on a daily basis, filtering is now another established cloud based service that I can fully depend on.

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5 Reasons Why K-12 Schools Are Abandoning Web Filtering Appliances

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Until recently, K-12 web filtering has been dominated by hardware solutions.

Prior to the enactment of the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) nearly 15 years ago, schools had little need or opportunity to change a system that was considered to be acceptable and the norm.

However, given the shift towards cloud computing in the last few years, schools are finding more reason to abandon traditional web filtering options in favor of other, hardware-free solutions.

Here are the five reasons why appliance-based web filtering is dying in K-12:

1) They don’t have school-focused features

Yes, general enterprise solutions are built with plenty of add-ons that are intended to increase security – yet these services don’t address school-specific issues like classroom management, safe social media, and cyberbullying.

Some filtering solutions cast a blanket ban over video streaming sites like YouTube, which can be a very helpful educational resource. In an effort to protect students from the unsavory side of the site, they block all content instead of building upon features like YouTube Safety Mode or YouTube for Schools in order to create a safe YouTube.

2) They’re too expensive

These add-ons add up. Even though schools don’t need the extra features that enterprise solutions provide, they are required to pay the price.

A 2014 article by KQED showed that school web filters can cost as much as $40 per student. Large corporations are able to pay these fees, but schools often cannot.

Moreover, with hardware solutions, schools must pay for the web filtering box in addition to annual per user license costs. As their 1:1 take home programs scale, schools may need to purchase additional boxes to support their program’s expansion, as one appliance often can only support a few hundred devices at a time.

3) They’re not designed to filter students at home

One big distinction between businesses and schools is that the former has no interest or requirement to enforce off-site web filtering.

On the other hand, schools are increasingly adopting 1:1 take-home programs, an arrangement in which each student takes a school-provisioned device home to use for school assignments. Naturally, a big concern for schools is being able to manage what students are doing on the device when they are away from school.

This is an area in which appliance web filters once again come up short. When the 1:1 device is at home with the student, all traffic needs to be routed from the student’s home to the the appliance on school grounds and then back out to the Internet. This imposes limits on at-home browsing speeds, as the device is often limited by the school’s bandwidth uplink.

4) They require nontrivial setup and maintenance

So a school has decided to buy the service. Then what? With an appliance-centered web filtering approach, IT admins have to wait for the box to be shipped (days later) and then start the set-up process (days later).

These admins are also responsible for network uptime even outside of school hours. For instance, if the web filtering appliance is impacted by a storm, the admin needs to make an on-site visit to get everything back up and running, if they even can.

5) There are alternative solutions!

With the advent of solutions like safe web browsers, Chrome extensions (for devices running Chrome OS and/or the Chrome browser), and cloud-based web filtering, schools now have the freedom to depart from traditional appliance-based solutions.

Typically used for iPads, schools can enforce the use of safe web browsers so that students can only access a subset of pre-approved content on the Internet.

For schools using Google Apps for Education (GAfE), IT Admins have the ability to manage devices and push out Chrome extensions from a central console.

Cloud-based web filtering allows schools to enjoy the granularity of an appliance while getting set up in minutes and managing all students’ devices and reporting in the cloud.

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