Friday, May 11, 2018

Internet Safety, Web Filter, and Partnerships

As technology use at BVSD grows, so do the questions and concerns about internet safety. BVSD is committed to continual improvement in this area which remains a priority as the internet grows and tools to help mitigate safety concerns evolve.

Let me share some information on what BVSD does to help ensure our students are safe, starting with our web filter. BVSD’s Palo Alto firewall/web filter was purchased 3 years ago after a competitive search process. This top-rated technology is used by many school districts in Colorado and across the nation.

At the elementary level, we block 26 categories and over 300 additional websites that have been brought to our attention by teachers and parents. Some of the blocked categories include abused drugs, adult, alcohol, tobacco, copyright infringement, dating, games, gambling, hacking, malware, nudity, phishing, sex education, social media, swimsuits, intimate apparel, and weapons.

To allow for age-appropriate access and an increase in the student’s level of responsibility, the additional categories of gaming, sex education, and select social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Skype, Pinterest) are opened at the MS/HS level.

Our web filter, although powerful, is not perfect. This is true with all web filters, either at home or at school. In some cases, filtering, regardless of settings, can under-block bad sites and over-block good sites at the same time.

Current practices are in alignment with other districts and strive to strike a balance between a protected, yet real-world environment. An additional challenge is that students can and do use their phones to create “hotspots” in order to access restricted sites when the content they are looking for is blocked by our filter. We do not want our students on hotspots, as this prevents us from intervening when something unsafe is happening.

For these reasons internet safety is not viewed as just a technology issue, but something that requires a partnership between everyone involved. Teachers use engaging instructional practices and actively manage their classrooms. Students need to understand their responsibilities and practice good digital citizenship to prepare them for life. Parents can help by setting appropriate boundaries and having ongoing conversations with their students about technology use. All of us have a responsibility to continue educating ourselves and each other about the latest technology trends and research.

On Tuesday, May 15, 2018, the Board of Education will be facilitating a study session where we will share details about what we currently do to help keep our students safe and what additional steps could be taken with appropriate investments. 

Areas we will cover include classroom management software, proactive self-harm/bullying detection software, and policy updates, such as recommending a ban on the usage of hotspots and a requirement for staff and students to report harmful sites that get through our filters.

The meeting will be in the Boardroom at the Education Center from 5-7pm.  Please join us if this topic is of interest to you.

And please feel free to chime in below with your thoughts on this important topic.

Andrew

21 comments:

  1. Andrew, I appreciate the communication and appreciate that you and your department are continually working to keep our students safe.

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  3. PARENTS: Please go to your children’s school and ask to use a generic login to see for yourself what is and is not blocked on the BVSD Internet network. Ask your children what they do online at school, or what they see other kids doing.

    Andrew, I went to my daughter's elementary school on Monday and spent no more then a few minutes searching for swimsuits and women's underwear. I was logged into the network with a generic ID that has access only to the same information as the children. The search results were filled with an abundance of links, and images of very skimpy women's underwear, lingerie and swimsuits. There is also the ability to shop online for these items, so not only can they access them online they can actually purchase them.

    You are stating here that you block this content, but then two paragraphs later you say: “In some cases, filtering, regardless of settings, can under-block bad sites”.

    You are saying two very different things here. The word block leads parents to believe the words you say are blocked will not be allowed on the network and therefore not searchable. That is in fact not true.

    The Board Policy JS Student Use of Internet and Electronic Communications states this: Blocking or filtering obscene, pornographic and harmful information Web and Email filtering software that blocks or filters material and information that is obscene, child pornography or otherwise harmful to minors, as defined by the Board, shall be installed in the District’s data center.

    Parents, again go to your children's school, do some searches and see for yourself if you think the results you find are appropriate for your children.

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    1. Kelly, a quick Internet search shows that there is widespread understanding that every Internet filtering system ALWAYS underblocks (lets in stuff you don't want, even with appropriate settings on) and overblocks (keeps out stuff you want in). Both are of concern. Do you concede that Internet filtering software underblocking is an actual thing, regardless of which system the district purchases and uses? I'm asking because it appears from this comment that you refute the idea of underblocking. Is that what you're saying?

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    2. Kelly, is the issue of elementary kids searching for swimsuits and women's underwear a widespread issue in BVSD? Or is it a few isolated instances and/or a hypothetical? In other words, is this a real problem that happens regularly and frequently with our elementary children?

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    3. I searched for swimsuits and underwear because Andrew specifically said those words are blocked.

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    4. So isn't that an issue of underblocking?

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  4. Based on what I have seen, the filtering technology being used is either inadequate or not working as expected/intended. Mr. Moore needs to investigate the ACTUAL efficacy of the BVSD system

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  5. Screenshots taken this week in BVSD elementary schools, from BVSD computers on the BVSD network show that the "category" filters in place for lingerie, swimwear and nudity are not effective: https://tinyurl.com/y78stbc4
    https://tinyurl.com/yd4gxr43

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    1. Anna, given that the filtering system used by BVSD is one of the most trusted and highly-rated school Internet filtering tools available, used by numerous districts across the state and country (with fewer complaints, I may add), what alternatives are you proposing? What system(s) would you like the district to employ instead?

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  6. Thank you. I’m ready to make big decisions about my own children. We have no internet access at home/no media and this decision is deeply intentional. I prefer none for them at school, obviously, and have had ongoing concerns about screen time in school since my youngest was in kinder. I support liming elementary school students’ access to online searches to none. Children will not regularly access “appropriate” content when given free rein. Their prefrontal cortex development won’t allow this kind of decision making.

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    1. Maria, as a parent of two children in BVSD, I respect the choices that you make in your own home. However, I want my school district to prepare students for the complex, challenging, digital and online information landscape that we now live in rather than trying to shut it out of their educational experiences. Like reading, math, civics, and other critical learnings, technology fluencies are critical components of being educated these days. We can't simply put the onus for these college and career readiness skills on families alone (and that includes learning how to effectively find information on the Web and discern what they find; we already are seeing the detrimental effects of students' and adults' lack of information literacy). It's difficult to prepare students for a digital world in analog learning spaces.

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  7. BVSD provides access to social media platforms at the MS/HS levels. However none of these platforms allow users younger than 13 and many are even older. BVSD middle school includes children that are 11 and 12 years old. Why is BVSD providing access to students younger than the apps’ minimum age requirement? Minimum age of each platform and link to the service can be found below:
    Facebook (13 years in US) https://www.facebook.com/help/community/question/?id=10153156079186225
    Twitter (13 years) https://twitter.com/privacy
    Instagram (13 years) https://help.instagram.com/517920941588885
    Snapchat (13 years) https://www.connectsafely.org/wp-content/uploads/snapchat_guide.pdf
    Skype (13 years) https://support.skype.com/en/faq/FA10548/what-security-measures-do-you-have-in-place-to-help-protect-children-on-skype
    Pinterest (13 years) https://policy.pinterest.com/en/terms-of-service
    LinkedIn (16 years) https://www.linkedin.com/legal/user-agreement
    Whatsapp (16 years) https://www.whatsapp.com/legal/
    Vine (17 years) https://vine.co/terms
    Youtube (18 years although kids 13-17 can sign up with parents’ permission)

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  8. It horrifies me that students have access to social media via the BVSD network.

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    1. Having seen countless projects across the world in which students have utilized social media for powerful learning purposes, I feel the exact opposite. I'm glad that BVSD is enabling students' access to potentially-powerful learning opportunities. Let's help our students and educators use these tools in productive and amazing ways!

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  9. Why is the Microsoft Store allowed on school PC's? The Microsoft Store gives students access to web filter bypassers known as VPN's. Once a VPN is installed, it bypasses the web filter and anything on the web can be accessed.

    Another application to watch out for is Tor Browser. Tor can unblock any website on the internet, as well as access deep and dark web sites. Shockingly, Tor is not blocked from being downloaded from third party sites such as Softonic and SourceForge, but the Tor Project website is however (www.torproject.org).

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  10. I appreciate that School Board Members are looking into the many complex issues associated with our students and technology. And that the May 15 study session occurred to share important information.

    I'd like to add to the conversation with the following as several of these points were not addressed at the student session... Why are parents not better informed and in some cases not informed at all of what technology their children have access to as BVSD students? I have not been told my son's email address nor password information to monitor his technology use. And know this is not isolated to our school only. I have spoken with many parents across the District that also do not have this information. You mention parents are a key part of internet safety but yet you aren't providing the appropriate information for us to be a part of that effort. You in many ways are taking control away from parents on what they feel appropriate for their children in regards to technology. In an opposite case, those who want their children more exposed can do so at home at their discretion or with special school projects arranged individually with teachers. You really can't go the other way an undo unwanted exposure.

    A huge concern are Google hangouts and cell phone hotspots. BVSD is providing students access to chat and messaging venues starting at the elementary level! Why is this necessary? There are other ways of networking and collaborating that don't put our children as risk. You also place a huge responsibility on children at very young ages to be positive digital citizens yet don't address the developmental appropriateness of this. Elementary and middle school students do not have the brain functions to self-regulate and make smart decisions in regards to technology, social media, appropriate internet searches, etc. If BVSD provides access to minors, please don't blame the kids for poor choices. And the consequences are much higher with access to social media and hangouts. Does BVSD really want to take on that liability? Especially with not enough staff to monitor use.

    Why the big push for so much complex technology and access to platforms that are not in the best educational interests of students? Especially since most of this technology will be outdated and irrelevant by the time the elementary level students graduate. No need to make the argument that they need to be exposed to current and real world technology to 'keep up' with the digital world. If my child doesn't touch a computer until the 8th grade, he'll be no further behind any other student by the time he graduates high school. I'd bet his education on it.

    I think it is in everyone's best interest, especially and most importantly the students', to slow down the 1:Web program. Work on funding and training before putting devises in the hands of students. Disable hangouts. Block social media and gaming. And finally, get in place a solid no smart phone cell phone policy throughout the District. For those parents needing constant contact with their children while at school... flip phone and a doctor's note. There should be a solid reason why the interruptions and distractions in the classroom are needed since they do take away learning from other students.

    BVSD is one of the best school districts in state with smart educators and innovative staff. I'm confident you can do better by our students with a safer and smarter approach to technology than what is currently in place.

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    1. "Parents, if you want to stay in touch with your students while at school, buy a flip phone and get a doctor's note."

      I think the vast majority of BVSD parents are going to disagree with you on this one...

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