School web filtering needs extreme makeover

During a recent symposium on the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), experts agreed that though the law backed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has good intentions, school web filtering software and practices need a major overhaul.

“There are a lot of changes we need to acknowledge that have happened in the last 10 years;” said one panelist. “For instance, Bring Your Own Device [BYOD] adoption. I know in the FCC’s recent update to eRate they’re asking input on how they should cover BYOD in relation to CIPA.”

(Next page: Over-blocking and inefficiencies)…Read More

New online safety curriculum helps schools document CIPA compliance

An animated alien, Sammy Smart, guides students through a new online digital safety program.

As of July 2012, schools receiving federal e-Rate funding must have updated internet safety policies that show how they will educate minors about appropriate online behavior. Now, a new animated online curriculum is available to help schools fulfill this requirement and document their compliance.

The Federal Communications Commission last August amended the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) to include the digital safety education provisions of the Protecting Children in the 21st Century Act. Under the new rules, federal auditors may ask e-Rate applicants to produce evidence that they have educated their staff and students about internet safety. The e-Rate provides discounts of up to 90 percent of the cost of telecommunications service and internet access to eligible schools and libraries.

AUP Online, an instructional program created by California startup Lersun Development, helps schools document the digital safety education of their students, which could be helpful in the case of an e-Rate audit.…Read More

How to expand students’ ed-tech access—and stay out of court

Cracking down on cyber bullying, searching students’ cell phones, and filtering internet access are some of the areas where educators can get into trouble if they don’t know their proper legal boundaries.

Finding the right balance between keeping students safe and letting them explore their world digitally was the focus of an April 21 session during the National School Boards Association’s 72nd annual conference, in which NSBA senior staff attorney Sonja Trainor gave advice on how school districts can open their doors to technology without getting sued.

Cracking down on cyber bullying or harassment, searching students’ cell phones or laptops, and filtering school internet access are some of the areas where educators can get into trouble if they don’t know their proper legal boundaries, Trainor said. Here’s what she had to say about each of these areas.

Cyber bullying and harassment…Read More

eRate applicants face important changes with this year’s program

Nearly $2.3 billion is available this year to help schools and libraries acquire telecommunications services and internet infrastructure.

As schools get ready to apply for federal eRate discounts for the 2012 funding year, applicants and service providers will notice some new changes to the nearly $2.3 billion-a-year program that helps schools and libraries acquire telecommunications services and internet infrastructure.

The two biggest changes to the program are new gift enforcement rules and updates to the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

New gift rules have been “the most talked-about” changes, said Mel Blackwell, vice president of the Schools and Libraries Division of the Universal Service Administrative Co. (USAC), which administrates the eRate under the direction of the Federal Communications Commission.…Read More

FCC opens access to social media sites for e-Rate users

In August, the FCC clarified an earlier ruling that led to widespread blocking of social media networks by school districts receiving discounted internet access through federal e-Rate dollars.

Now that even the staid Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has loosened its tight rein on social media networks, it’s time for more educators to use these tools to improve classroom instruction and home-school communications.

In August, the FCC clarified an earlier ruling that led to widespread blocking of social media networks by school districts receiving discounted internet access through federal e-Rate dollars.

According to the ruling, “Although it is possible that certain individual Facebook or MySpace pages could potentially contain material harmful to minors, we do not find that these websites are per se ‘harmful to minors’ or fall into one of the categories that schools and libraries must block.”…Read More

Google’s encrypted search creates problems for schools

In order to remain CIPA complaint, schools need to track the search side as well.
A new encrypted search site from Google has raised concerns among schools.

A new encrypted search feature that internet search giant Google Inc. rolled out last month is causing problems for schools, which say the service keeps them from complying with the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) and could put their federal e-Rate funding at risk.

The service lets users search the web in a way that can’t be tracked by employers or internet service providers. Google launched a beta version of the service May 21 to give users more control over the searches they make; the company has come under fire from privacy groups in recent months for how it handles sensitive information.

But in accommodating privacy advocates, Google ironically has angered K-12 education technology officials, many of whom are now blocking access not only to Google’s encrypted search page but also Gmail and Google Docs. That could be a problem for Google, which is competing with Microsoft in supplying free software for communicating and collaborating online to schools.…Read More

Public access to school computers raises questions

 

Opening school computer labs for community access raises some concerns.
Opening school computer labs for community access raises some concerns.

 

A move that will let schools use federal e-Rate funds to help their stakeholders get online by opening up their computer labs to the community after school hours has left some educators wondering how schools might let adults view age-appropriate web sites while still protecting children from inappropriate content.…Read More