November 20, 2019
Network administrators at school districts are busy people. Keeping a district’s network systems running on all cylinders is a time-consuming job. And technology constantly changes, which means the work of maintaining security and efficiency of the network is never complete.
Because of how much they have on the go, network admins often set up the necessary web filters for schools to maintain compliance and district policy, only to have teachers approach them when too-restrictive content filters have blocked access their students need as part of the curriculum.
Unfortunately, this happens all too often. A school web filter inadvertently blocks content that is part of the curriculum, the lesson screeches to a halt, students grow restless as the teacher frantically tries to get a hold of the network admin, and the network admin has to drop whatever they’re working on to sort out the classroom’s filter issue.
This is highly disruptive to everyone--teachers, students, network admins--and it can also put teachers and network admins in an adversarial relationship.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Here’s how to make sure students don’t access inappropriate content and your school district stays compliant while also giving teachers more control over the classroom--and ensuring network admins don’t spend hours responding to endless support requests complaining about blocked content.
Even if inadvertently, network admins shouldn’t be making curriculum decisions or becoming the internet police; they should be focused on network performance and compliance. Ultimately, the responsibility to ensure students are able to access the educational material as part of their curriculum lies with teachers.
Teachers are in the classroom with students, and they know the difference between content that supports curriculum learning objectives and content that does not. It’s important they are trained to use filtering technology to their and their students’ benefit.
To ensure that teachers understand how to monitor their students’ internet use and are physically and technically able to do it, school districts should:
Importantly, web content filters should be configured so that if content has been blocked, a teacher can unblock it if they want to use it in their class. This makes content filtering less disruptive to lessons, gives teachers more autonomy in choosing learning materials, and reduces the burden on network admins.
Between setting up and adding computers to networks, handling security breaches, and maintaining IT infrastructure, network admins have enough on their plates. Their involvement with filtering should be limited to setting up district-level filtering that includes CIPA-compliant rules and other important capabilities, such as filtering support for all end-point operating systems, search term visibility, Google and YouTube controls, and self-harm alerts. Teachers can take it from there by using the school network monitoring software and supervising their students when they use the internet in the classroom, and when necessary, unblocking content that supports learning objectives.
With this approach to content filtering, everyone’s lives will be easier. Having a software for education means network admins won’t receive frantic requests to unblock content, and teachers won’t have their lessons interrupted because of an overzealous filter. Fewer support requests; more learning.
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