Keeping inappropriate content out of the classroom

In today’s classrooms, teachers have many tools available to make their lessons more dynamic. One of the most powerful of these tools is access to the Internet. In a book or other static format, an explanation of how cells divide or breaking down an algebraic equation may be hard to remember. If you can watch a video of actual cells dividing or see a clever animation of how to solve an equation, it helps increase the level of comprehension and retention of educational material. However, the Internet is also home to plenty of content that needs to be filtered, and the amount of content available grows every minute. Here are some tips for keeping that inappropriate stuff out while letting the goodness in.

Have a good reporting tool

I can hear the slaps on the forehead as I write this, but seriously, if the tools you are using don’t quickly and easily give you the information you need to know about users, websites, and bandwidth consumption, then you will spend a lot of time chasing rumors and symptoms rather than solving the problem. If you have to log into 3 or 4 devices to get this data, odds are good you won’t have the complete picture of what is happening on your network.

HTTPS Decryption is a must

If all you can see is that there was an HTTPS request made, but you don’t have to ability to see what it was, then you are in trouble. Anyone who can ask a search engine “how do I get past my school’s content filter” will get a myriad of things to try, and HTTPS will be in all those answers.

Students and Staff will use proxies

It’s inevitable. I have seen teachers on their break period checking Facebook or other social media that is supposed to be blocked. The Internet is such an integrated part of their lives that having restrictions doesn’t seem “right” to them. Anonymous proxy technology is free, easy to find and sometimes laden with all kinds of malware. Untangle products not only identify web requests on non-standard ports but can automatically detect and shut down attempts to use proxies and other methods to bypass the web filter.

Stay current

I have heard of schools that use technically proficient students in after school clubs to show staff the holes in the current content filter. If you haven’t used TOR browsers or other anonymizer technology, download them, play with them, and learn how they work so you can be aware of what staff and students are trying. There are dozens of message boards and organizations that cater to education IT professional; log on and see what others are dealing with and how they are solving these problems.

Though it may seem like a never-ending battle, with the right tools you can create a fast and CIPA-compliant Internet environment for your school. Here at Untangle, we are at the forefront of ensuring CIPA-compliant content filtering for schools. We constantly communicate with our education customers, always learning how to make our products better.

-Joe