How much do you know about web filtering?

eSchool News sat down with Brian Thomas, president & chief executive officer of Lightspeed Systems, which builds software that helps schools keep their devices safe and is used by more than 6,500 districts across 52 countries, to talk about the web-filtering landscape.

You’ve been with Lightspeed Systems for 20 years. How have you seen things change in content filtering?
When I first started with Lightspeed, we were selling an all-in-one product that did antivirus, traffic management, web filtering, spam filtering, and email archiving. At that time, web filtering was really a back-office IT tool that nobody else in the district cared much about. But as technology in schools changed and networks grew and mobile devices came into classrooms, the needs around filtering really evolved—and just blocking bad content wasn’t enough.

What else were schools looking for?
Well, for one thing they wanted less blocking, or at least less over-blocking. Teachers and students and their IT teams were looking for filtering that blocked inappropriate sites but didn’t block content that could be used for learning.…Read More

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

Survey: School web filtering can impede learning

Many survey respondents said web filtering can curb learning’s social potential.

More and more students are bringing personal mobile devices to school, but a new survey from the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) finds that internet filtering often prevents students from taking advantage of learning’s social potential.

School librarians report that web filtering programs have had varied effects in their schools and on school library programs. Fifty-two percent said internet filters have impeded student research when topics or keyword searches are filtered. Half said web filtering has decreased the number of potential distractions, while 42 percent said it discounts social aspects of learning.

Roughly one-third said internet filtering has decreased the need for direct supervision, 25 percent said it has prevented continued collaboration outside of face-to-face opportunities, and 23 percent said web filtering allows research curriculum to yield more relevant results.…Read More

Top educational technology news: May 2012

Here are some of the key ed-tech stories from our May 2012 edition.

In the May 2012 issue of eSchool News, we report on several significant ed-tech developments, including a speech by education historian Diane Ravitch about the promises—and perils—of school technology; what parents and educators want most from assessment; and the result of a web filtering lawsuit with important implications for schools.

To read these stories in our digital edition, click on the headlines below—or browse through the entire publication by clicking here.

Diane Ravitch warns of ed tech’s ‘perils’…Read More

A simple fix for internet censorship in schools

Schools and libraries are hurting students by setting up heavy-handed web filtering policies that block access to potentially educational sites, writes Computerworld blogger Mitch Wagner. Instead, educators should trust teachers and librarians to oversee schools’ internet access. So says Craig Cunningham, a professor at National-Louis University, with whom Wagner talked about internet filtering in schools. Web filtering software should be configured so that, when a student stumbles across a site that is blocked, the teacher or librarian can make a judgment whether the content is appropriate for study, and if it is, the teacher or librarian can let the site through, Cunningham said. “If a student tries to show something that’s part of a presentation and it’s blocked, the teacher types a password and everyone sees it,” he said. “Why should teachers not be in charge of what to teach?” Ultimately, the purpose of schools should be to teach students to live in a democratic society, and that means teaching critical thinking and showing students controversial web sites, Cunningham said. That includes sites that web filters might classify as hate speech, or sites discussing same-sex marriage—both for and against. Students need to access this information under the guidance of teachers and librarians, in the process of learning how to think about these issues…

Click here for the full story

…Read More