Monitoring Student Searches on School Computers

April 1, 2019

 

    Every year around the country about 50 million students start the new school year in grades K-12, in order to further enhance their minds. In our world’s digital age, students will be exposed to computers where they will be expected to perform a large quantity of their schoolwork. For every word that is typed on one of these computers, there could be an administrator watching what’s being typed. When there are students in possession of their own computers, or computers provided to students inside the campus, there is a budget for these electronics provided by the federal government.

    Under the Child’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), any school in the United States that receives funding for electronics must have an internet safety policy. Student-personalized Chromebooks and tablets install technological guardrails in order to keep students from doing anything they shouldn’t be doing; for example, searching up inappropriate websites. When that simply doesn’t prove effective, different school administrations will turn to software companies such as GoGuardian and Gaggle. Websites such as these provide as Safety Management Platforms (SMPs). These platforms serve as scanners to process the millions of words that are being typed on school computers across the country.

    GoGuardian specifically monitors what is searched up on Chromebooks. According to GoGuardian’s website, with the monitoring from the service, “you can get an in-depth look into which sites are accessed, what searches are performed, and what documents are opened with just a few clicks.” Activity monitoring is dependant on which organizational unit you may need it for.  Regardless if you need to monitor students or individual classroom groups, GoGuardian makes it possible for you to view real-time Chromebook activity.

    GoGuardian also allows users the opportunity to scroll through pages of every site the Chromebook has journeyed to. The website will give you specifics on flagged activity from each user; what’s considered flagged on a page is based on which restrictions can be set for that user. Artificial intelligence provided by GoGuardian ensures that the branches of student learning could grow. The algorithms from the website can scan website content to make real time decisions. Once the website is scanned, it will provide instant feedback based on the student’s behavior.

    Another student internet safety service, Gaggle, promotes itself as “A Proactive Approach To Suicide Prevention.” Gaggle encourages school administration and staff to be wary of students who seem like they may threaten themselves. Gaggle receives early warning of what a student is searching up on a school computer, and Gaggle “over the past year prevented 542 student cases of suicide.” Gaggle specializes in student safety because suicide is the second leading cause of death among ten to twenty-four year olds. Another reason is that 8.2 million children are reportedly sexually exploited ever year.

    Gaggle’s safety team “stops tragedies with real-life content analysis” in order to save children from the hazards of electronic danger. Gaggle advises school administrative staff to “anticipate students who are struggling with life, and encourage them with guidance.” Every student, every child has the opportunity to succeed, and they shouldn’t feel as they have a barrier placed over them. Student safety is just as important as student learning.

    Mark Gadbois, IT Specialist for Lincoln Public Schools, ensures that the internet access for schools in the town of Lincoln are filtered to comply with the Child’s Internet Protection Act. Gadbois says that filtering is never 100% certain, but the virtual filtering and software updates do their best to be current and relevant. He claims that the district’s office does not actively monitor because they do not have the manpower to do so.

    Gadbois qualifies that repeated attempts to bypass filters can get flagged, and will be reported to administration for further exploration. Student computer use, day-by-day, is monitored by the classroom teachers who request computers for students to use, or the computers they have to their own. Devices that refute these precautions can be banned from the school’s internet, devices that search up forbidden content on mobile data (not wifi), those devices cannot be tracked. I personally wonder how many more students can be saved from electronic dangers if mobile data usage could be tracked in the school setting?   

 

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