November 30, 2012

Student Access to the Internet: Fixing the Balance Between Learning and Safety

How can schools better balance open Internet access with the need to protect students from inappropriate content and applications? Open access has been shown to expand not just the student’s knowledge, but more importantly, their critical and independent decision-making skills. Unfortunately, in order to adequately protect students, school districts have been forced to use blunt web filters that coarsely prevent access to web sites and applications. According to the recently-released American Association of School Librarians (AASL) annual survey, 52% of schools complain that filtering impedes student research and 42% find it discounts the social aspects of learning. On the other side though, 50% indicated that filtering decreased the number of potential distractions.

What is needed is a flexible and dynamic method of web filtering that enables a highly-tuned, yet easily-managed Internet access. The traditional concept of secure web gateway (SWG) relies on URL, keyword or data stream filtering and puts too much of a damper on learning. These filters are not just heavy-handed, often excluding all use of social media, but are cumbersome to modify. The AASL survey found that 73% of schools take one day to one week or more to unblocked a site. To be more effective, school web filters need to be more dynamic.

A solution to this is to give the web filter location and even time-of-day awareness. This can enable the use of social media in classrooms where it is required for a teacher’s social studies class. Access to eBay may be allowed in a business-related class. Students may be granted YouTube access, perhaps rate-limited, after class hours. But access to these applications can be proscribed at all other school locations during all other times.

This is exactly what schools like Hardin County, KY have implemented with Enterasys Mobile IAM and the iBoss Security SWG. Mobile IAM works with the iBoss SWG so that the district can set the school rooms, times-of-day, and devices that are permitted or denied access to specific types of web sites, applications and data flows. The access can even be controlled down to the individual user, for example granting broader access to students who have successfully completed a Digital Citizenship program.

In this way students are protected and all CIPA requirements are met, but student learning is enhanced by matching Internet access more flexibly to the district’s curriculum and other needs. Because the integrated solution is easy to manage, changes to the filtering can be made instantly.

Steve Boone, Computer Operations Manager at Hardin County Schools, will be describing their experience with Enterasys/iBoss location-based web filtering during a live webinar on Tuesday, December 11, 2012 at 2 pm ET. Paul Martini, CEO of Phantom Technologies and Jonathan Kidwell, Director of K-12 North America at Enterasys will also participate in the 1-hour session.

The Enterasys/iBoss filtering combination works not only for district-owned devices, but also for student-owned (BYOD) devices. This is especially good news for the 49% of schools who indicated on the AASL survey that they don’t yet filter access from student-owned devices.

About The Contributor:
Bob NilssonDirector of Vertical Solutions Marketing

Bob Nilsson is the director of vertical solutions marketing at Extreme Networks. In this role, Mr. Nilsson leads the Extreme Networks strategy and programs for vertical markets including Healthcare, Higher Education, K-12 Education, Federal Government, and Hospitality. He has over 30 years of experience in marketing IT systems to Global 1000 companies worldwide. Before joining Extreme Networks Bob was VP Marketing at Clear Methods. Prior to that Bob held senior marketing positions at Digital Equipment and HP. Bob holds an SB degree in EE from MIT and MBA from Columbia Business School.

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