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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Help Your Kids Spend Screen Time Wisely

screen time, games, children, parents, media

A recent study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics re-evaluated appropriate screen time limits for young children. The assessment redefined “screen time” as the use of digital media exclusively for entertainment.

In the past, scientists and parents regarded screen time as the collective amount of time a child interacted with their device –and used this as the main factor to assess the potential benefits and/or consequences of screen exposure. However, this new metric focuses on the content and intent of device usage, addressing the positive results from educational-technology research. For example, an experiment in Australia concluded that children who play video games every day tend to perform better academically than those who do not. The theory goes that children who play video games develop critical thinking skills by solving challenges presented in the game. In contrast, students who use social media more frequently performed lower on standardized tests.

Given the debate over the relationship between screen time and child development –especially in the edtech world–this provides a point of clarity for parents as they work with their child to develop healthy device usage habits.

The new guidelines are as follows:

  • 18 months and younger: no screen time
  • 2-5 years old: one hour/day
  • 6-years-old and up: prioritize and complete other activities before screentime. Another study showed that ~4 hours was “just right” for peak performance.

Ultimately, it’s not necessarily how long children spend online, but what they are spending their time on. The following are fun resources for quality, engaging, and educational online content:

Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media includes resources for educational purposes or pure entertainment. They regularly compile a “Best of” List for Games, Apps, Websites, Movies, TV, etc. that are easily accessible through a navigation pane. These lists are broken down on a scale of 1-5 and organized by age group (“Preschoolers”, “Little Kids”, “Big Kids”, and “Tweens”). Another helpful feature for parents: they provide reviews for new movies and games, basing their rating on seven key elements (positive messages, positive role models, violence, sex, language, consumerism, drinking/drugs/smoking).

screen time, games, children, parents, mediascreen time, games, children, parents, media

 

PBS Kids – Reading Games

PBS Kids hosts a variety of game on their website and mobile app. The games are organized by subject/topic or by the TV show it’s based on.

screen time, games, children, parents, media

 

Kids.gov

“The U.S. government’s portal site that provides a gateway to hundreds of Federal and other websites for use by kids and teens.”

Kids.gov provides games and other educational resources for Kids (grades K-5)  and Pre-Teens (grades 6-8). They have a variety of interactive activities centered around learning the science and history of your environment – for example, they have a “Design Your Own Roller Coaster” challenge listed under the Science category. Other resources include Art and Music, Math, Jobs & Careers, Online Safety, etc.

screen time, games, children, parents, media

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Web Filtering: equally beneficial for your 5-year-old & 15-year-old

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Web filtering is required by law, as long as schools wish to receive e-rate funding to supply their digital classrooms. The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires that schools “block Internet access to pictures that are (a) obscene (b) child pornography or (c) harmful to minors.” CIPA also requires schools to monitor student online activity and provide training for responsible technology use.

The general sentiment: students –especially teens– hate web filtering*. Most students find web filtering to be unnecessarily inhibitive, citing that it blocks perfectly acceptable web pages due to one keyword or denies access to social media pages. One argument goes that filtering prevents exploration and blocks students from using tools like Facebook for academic causes. Another, that it is a breach of student privacy.


*Misdirected blame: Web filtering is different at each school. Federal law doesn’t specifically require schools to block Facebook, Twitter, etc. Your web filtering provider doesn’t dictate that X, Y, or Z website needs to be blocked. Besides fundamental protection against pornography and similar graphic content, it’s at the discretion of each school district to whitelist or blacklist the specific sites that students take issue with. Some schools leave social media open, some schools restrict access, etc. Web filtering, when used correctly, can be utilized to help –not hurt–the student experience.


Web filtering applies to all schools, which means the measure applies to all students from kindergarten through 12th grade. Older students are particularly irked by filtering and feel that although filtering content is necessary to shield younger kids, it is gratuitous for those close to adulthood. Web filtering does vary dramatically from elementary, middle, to high school – however, it offers additional aspects often forgotten that are equally optimal for students of any age.

1. Cyberbullying & Self-Harm Detection

Particular web filters can screen for instances of bullying and self-harm in social media posts. From 2007-2016, the number of students who experienced bullying roughly doubled from 18.8% to 33.8% according to a Cyberbullying Research Center report.  The CDC analyzed cyberbullying by age group and found that 15.5% percent of high school students are cyberbullied, as are 24% of middle school students. Technology is now integrated into daily life at a very young age, leaving even elementary school students at risk for cyberbullying.

37% of cyberbullying cases go unreported; often, students are fearful that 1) the bullying will get worse 2) they’ll be considered a “rat” 3) no one will listen if they seek help. Given bullying’s devastating consequences, detection of bullying and negative sentiment can allow schools/parents to give students the proper care. And even save lives.

2. Productivity and screen time management

In our recent international survey, 53% of students aged 9-18 reported being productive only half of the total time spent working on school assignments. Blocking sites like social media and gaming (especially for younger children) keeps students focused on learning. Some filtering services even allow the admin to establish time restrictions on certain sites (social media, gaming, entertainment, etc.) to create a good balance between recreational and study time.

Also, overexposure to screens may have harmful consequences for cognitive development. Although 5-year-olds may not have research papers to write and assignments to finish, web filtering can help parents and educators manage healthy levels of device usage.

3. Defense against malware and phishing

We asked students their take on web filtering. One student responded, “You don’t get rude ads or viruses.” Pop-ups and pseudo-content are not only annoying but also often dangerous.  Online aggressors specifically target children, enticing them to click on attractive advertisements or links leading to viruses.  

A web filter screens the origin and content of a web page, checking for objectionable content, spyware, and viruses that may compromise your network. It helps keep students safe online and protects from intrusive viruses, malware, and ransomware.

4. Helps teachers understand students

On his blog, an IT admin expressed how web filtering helped school staff understand student preferences: ”…you can see stats for student web access. Not blocked pages, which they have a view for too, but sites kids are using. In our case, as we begin having discussions about whether Newsela is a service we want to pursue as a district standard, we now have compelling data telling us that it’s already being widely used and is, in fact, our most accessed website on a weekly basis.”

Teachers can use these insights to create engaging lesson plans and foster a collaborative learning environment, while best-integrating technology into their classroom.

 

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Now you can install Securly from a web browser

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We’re not only the leading cloud-based provider of Internet security for K-12 schools, but also the industry’s first self-servable web filter.  “With our self-serve update, Securly is realizing its long-held vision of giving IT Admins a product that can be set up in minutes,” says Paul Katcher, UI developer at Securly.

Since the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in 2000, web filtering has been required for schools that seek e-rate funding. Customarily, the industry has been heavily dominated by appliance hardware players.  Their products need to be shipped, painstakingly setup and often end up as bandwidth bottlenecks on K-12 networks that are increasingly turning to bandwidth-hungry applications such as streaming media.

By contrast, we have been cloud-based from day one. With no need for a hardware appliance, customers can deploy Securly with a few simple network configuration changes and benefit from functionality such as granular auditing and policies that they are familiar with. In doing so, they are assisted by our award winning support team based in Charlotte.

Setup can be independently completed through a web browser session without ever needing to speak with a sales or support person. With this update, Securly eliminates the complexity of network based web-filters with the simplicity of EdTech tools like Remind and ClassDojo.

We hope self-serve will save IT Admins time and frustration during the back-to-school rush.  For more information, contact support@securly.com.

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Introducing “Dr.House” – Our New Debug Tool to Automate Network Troubleshooting

tool, web filter, network, debugThe back-to-school rush is fast approaching, and we have just the tool to ease IT admins and school administrators back into the swing of things…

Meet Dr. House, our new tool that allows customers to certify that their networks are up and running correctly. Dr. House launches a series of automated checks meant to detect the most common network misconfigurations. It performs a variety of tests including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Checks for the presence of a caching server that could be impending filtering.
  • Makes sure that there are no rogue DNS servers without securly DNS configured.
  • Verifies that the Securly certificate is installed.
  • Confirms that all outbound IPs are registered.
  • Ensures that critical Securly services are reachable from the network.

 

Securly was founded on the premise of a quick deployment – the antithesis to the customary web filter setup experience. While other web filtering products require a physical appliance (that still needs to be shipped and laboriously setup), we have been cloud-based from the start.

In the weeks ahead, we will also become the industry’s first self-servable web filter; setup can be completed through a web browser session. Our own Jayesh Agrawal, a software engineer who was instrumental in implementing this tool, says, “The release of Dr. House is a huge leap forward in automating network misconfiguration detection. We hope that this tool will save customers time and frustration while easing the deployment experience.

For more information, contact support@securly.com.

 

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Can Social Media Save Kids’ Lives?

The following is taken from our new whitepaper Can social media save kids’ lives?. We analyzed over a half million social media posts from over 300 school districts in 2016 to amass the data included in this paper.

social media, cyberbullying, school, suicide, parent

The majority of research centered around cyberbullying & teen emotional distress occurs after the fact, relying on student anecdotes and surveys.  By contrast, we are able to gather information in real time.  Our position as a network-based filter gives us unique access to such data, allowing us to find truths embedded within students’ own social media posts alone.

Our data shows that 30% of all flagged posts are a direct form of cyberbullying. From our previous study, we found that at least ⅓ of all students have been harassed online.  This is a growing problem that parents and schools cannot ignore, especially given its fatal consequences.  

Across the country, teen suicide numbers have soared.  An American Public Health Association study actually coined the term “cyberbullicide” to explain the causal relationship and correlated death toll.  Suicide is now the third leading cause of death among middle school children, and the second am
ong young adults ages 15-24.  

As social media is the prime avenue for cyberbullying, it’s reasonable for schools to wish to block social media as a preventative measure.  However, after extensive research, we believe social media can actually serve as the tool to save a child’s life.   

 Nowadays, teens increasingly turn to social media to seek counsel or vent emotional distress.  This includes warning sides of high-risk behavior like suicide and self-harm.  In fact, the average school district faces the threat of teen suicide about every two weeks.

Actual student posts:

  • “Life sucks and i wanna jump off a bridge.”
  • “If i kill myself no one would notice.”
  • “I am legitimately contemplating suicide and i legitimately want to kill myself.”

Using Machine Learning techniques, we are able to detect negative sentiment like the above in social media posts.  We then send high confidence alerts to the 1) school district IT admin 2) guidance counselors and 3) parents of the child, so that students receive the proper care and attention.

Already, our technology has helped schools prevent potential tragedy. Mark Nelson, IT Admin of Romeo Community schools, says: “Of the many features distinguishing Securly, none are so important as Sentiment Analysis.  We have contacted school counselors four times to make them aware of alarming posts by teenagers, so they could intervene with students and parents.  The avoidance of a single tragedy with one of our students makes Sentiment Analysis invaluable.”

This same technology can also detect for instances of cyberbullying, a major cause of suicide and depression.  Through social media, we plan to not only stop tragedy – but also eliminate the causes of such emotional distress.

For access to the full whitepaper including more information on student online behavior trends, click here.

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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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Introducing a Pause Button for Take-Home Devices

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Kids spending too much time on their school issued devices?  With our new mobile app, parents can now shut off internet activity with a single tap. It’s really that simple.  Perfect for parents who want more control over their kids’ screen time on school owned devices.

It’s impossible for parents to keep an eye on their children 24/7.  Many parents we’ve encountered fear their child is spending too much time online, using their school-owned devices for online gaming and other time sinks.  Research has linked rising numbers of childhood obesity, disrupted sleep patterns, and under-developed motor/cognitive function to device overuse.  However, results vary greatly on this topic – and others cite that screen time is beneficial to child development.  Essentially, moderation is key.

Securly can help parents manage their child’s screen time.  Securly’s engineering team is furiously cranking away at making major improvements to our parent product. We already have 75+ districts across the country signed up to be “Partner Districts” for the launch of our Parent Portal + App + Email reports. Come Fall, these Districts will have one more awesome feature to look forward to that we think their parents are going to love – A Pause Button for take-home devices.

Oh did we forget to mention that this does not cost parents a thing?

Coming to school owned devices near you this Fall.

 

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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

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