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School Smart
 Posted on 31/05/2014 - 17:05
Idea Outline
A modern education requires the Internet, without exposing students to the many online dangers. School Smart is a fully-managed student-centric Internet solution, allowing parents, teachers and guardians to jointly set and monitor access to the web.

The Challenge
Schools have a duty both to educate and protect their students; a task which has grown ever-harder with the spread of the internet, along with the smart phones, tablets and laptops used to access it. Issues such as cyber-bulling and sexting are never far from the news. Increasing mobility within the EU, coupled with increasing migration from outside it, create an ever-greater need for individually-tailored learning experiences appropriate to the student's age, curriculum, language and culture. This need is increasingly at odds with the 'one size fits all' approach to the Internet, typically adopted by schools. There is little or no capacity to monitor vulnerable students online, nor to allow (for example) appropriate access to social networking during break times.

The Solution

School Smart will facilitate parents, teachers and guardians all working together to effectively manage students' online access, balancing both educational and safety needs. Each student's access will be managed via Individual Control Profiles via a common web interface, to fully control their Internet access based on age, curriculum, language, culture and time of day. Teachers will add new access levels as the curriculum, progresses, whilst parents and guardians will be able to set boundaries around social media and overrule access to certain sites for whatever reason (such as cultural or religious beliefs). For vulnerable students, School Smart will flag up certain events or behaviours. An award would pay for a working prototype, based on existing Cyberair products (www.cyberair.co.uk).


Target group and social impact
The Target Group is school students, plus all those involved in supporting their education (parents, guardians, teachers). The likely social impact is improved education which takes better account of diversity, leading to improved economic empowerment and prosperity. The emotional health and wellbeing of students will be improved through better boundary setting and monitoring of their online activities in a way that is fully co-ordinated, both at home at in school. Schools will gain the tools needed to more fully engage parents and guardians, with respect to looking after their charges online.




Competences of the applicant
School Smart is a Joint Venture between Cyberware and Railfast. Cyberair is a service from Cyberware (www.cyberware.co.uk), who have extensive experience in design, implementation and management of networking software and hardware since 1996. Railfast Intermodal Limited (www.railfastintermodal.com) is an innovator in multimodal logistics and IT, with support under the ERDF (HiTechRail) Programme.


Video Link
None posted
Social Category
  • Civic Empowerment and Community Engagement
  • Economic Empowerment and Prosperity
  • Health and Demographic Change
  • Knowledge Society and Education
  • Social Inclusion, Human Rights and Equality

  • Tecnology Category
  • Data
  • Mobile
  • Web/Internet

  • Please log in to Rate this Idea

    sexting will become an issue!

    Individual filtering will cause children to lose their privacy. Furthermore, how does this plan intend to prevent sexting? Texts are not sent through the internet.

    Idea Submitter

    Thank you for your comments. The view we take regarding the rights and wrongs of monitoring children's activity online is well summed up in this online article (with our own comments in brackets):

    "The way we look at it is that parents should approach what kids do and see online as no different than their real lives. No matter how old your child is, you would not convey to them that they can do anything they want and go anywhere they want (which they are able to do online when there are no controls in place). In most families, younger children are closely monitored by their parents and certainly not free to wonder the streets alone. You know your child’s schedule – where they are and who they are with. For older children, while they may have some more freedom, the same is true more or less. If they went to strip clubs instead of school, eventually you would find out and it would not be acceptable, right (on the internet strip clubs are but a Google search and a click away)?"

    Source: http://www.optenetpc.com/blog/parental-control-software/is-monitoring-yo...

    The issue of children's privacy and correct boundary setting is a very important one, which is why we seek to involve parents in close partnerships with schools.

    The issue of sexting is one that I will address also, but I need to speak with the technical colleagues first, before answering.

    Are you also against installing currently-available Parental Control software on children's computers? If you are OK with that, what are your concerns regarding our proposed approach?

    Thank you for your response - I find your comments very insightful. I understand that in most cases, it is necessary to protect children by monitoring their movements and interactions - the outside world can be a dangerous place.

    However, there is a key difference between physically going somewhere and virtually going somewhere. If I had a child, I would not let them go to a strip club because I would be afraid that they would not come back in one piece. However, if it were online, I would be less concerned. The physical dangers of strip clubs (e.g. alcohol, drugs, violence) are not present on the internet. If I am monitoring my child's "real life" activities well enough, I do not need to worry about their online activities. (The exploitation of women in strip clubs is still an issue, even on the internet, but I would definitely be having a long discussion with my child about that.)

    In answer to your question, I am not against installing currently-available Parental Control software on children's computers. However, I am against them installing it on children's computers without their consent (and provided the alternative isn't no internet at all). Personally, I choose to use the LeechBlock Firefox extension to regulate which sites I can go on, if I think that I am spending too much time on them, or if they are negatively affecting me.

    To explain why I think the issue of children's consent to web filtering is important, I would like to give you a short history of my life on the internet. When I was in primary school, the school's internet was filtered almost to the point of being unusable. However, the class quickly learned how to get around the filter. When we did, all we did was play games. Bad for bandwidth, yes, but not harmful and nothing like strip clubs - primary school kids have better things to do than watch porn. As I grew older, I began to question my faith - and lack of filtering at home allowed me to make a decision for myself, hearing all sides of the argument, and I knew that there were others like me out there. This was even more important for one of my friends who discovered that they were not heterosexual, and it was crucial for them to know that they were not alone.

    So, while I do not object to filtering software, I do object to your specific software. If it is designed for schools, then children will most likely not be asked for their consent.

    Thanks again for your response.

    Idea Submitter

    Hi,

    Many thanks for your considered reply. You obviously care very greatly about bringing up children in the best way possible and I totally respect that, although I may not agree with all your views.

    School Smart is a project which continues to evolve in response to feedback from stakeholders, including CHEST.

    You may not know this, but your bank has a computer which continually looks at your financial transactions. Only if the computer sees transaction patterns suggesting fraud is anything flagged to a human operator for investigation.

    School Smart plans to use a similar approach, in that it will use software to monitor web traffic over a school's network, which would only raise a flag to a human operator if it sees patterns of activity suggesting a possible concern based on keywords (e.g. online bullying). The flag can either be sent to the parent in the first instance, or to the school. By taking this approach, there will be much less need to actively block sites or to know which sites a child is visiting as a matter of routine. So, for example, enquiring about faith or sexuality would not be blocked, whereas access to pornography or gambling might be. The sensitivity of the flags would be set individually, based on the age of the child and whether or not they could be vulnerable (e.g. previous instances of online bullying).

    With respect to the sexting issue, it is unfortunately not possible to block access to the mobile network providers. What can be done however is to encourage children to log onto the school network through, for example, the ability to make free phone calls along with free unlimited data allowances. If the number of blocked sites is kept to a minimum, then we believe children will actively prefer to be logged onto the school network. One on the network, then any software which shares pictures and messages via Internet )e.g. Facebook, Snapchat) would be capable of being monitored via School Smart and any concerns raised.

    Hi,

    You also appear to be concerned about children, and I respect you for that, even though our opinions differ.

    I realise that my banking has this protection, and for the most part, this is a good thing - I can't possibly know if someone on the other side of the world has accessed my bank account without them telling me, and if I didn't know, I would lose all of my savings.

    However, online bullying is something that a child knows whether or not it is happening, and they can inform the school authorities if it is hurting them. Or, since it is only occurring in the virtual world, they are given the power to, in most cases, block/unfriend the person bullying them. The child can decide where a joke ends, and bullying starts.

    I am also concerned about the program informing parents - there are many abusive parents out there, and a child may not want their parents to know that they are being bullied, for fear that their parents will use it against them. I have been bullied before, and since I have a good relationship with my parents, I told them as soon as I realised. This would be the case with most children. But we can't make it any worse for those that do not want to tell their parents.

    As for individual filtering (e.g. based upon age/vulnerability), this would not be a practical solution. Children could just ask older siblings for their user accounts, and get around the filtering that way.

    If you are monitoring images sent through the school network, how to you propose to do this without a human looking at all of the photos (as per your "flag" system)?

    Idea Submitter

    Hi,

    Many thanks for your further comments.

    I shall answer your last question first, as it is the easiest. Software is able to look for pornography/sexting because it is based on a high percentage of the pixels within a photo being flesh colour. This is not 100% foolproof, but it is a good indicator.

    You sound like a very strong person and that is good. Sadly, there are many children out there who are not as strong. Here's a site containing 6 cases where it ended very badly indeed:

    http://nobullying.com/six-unforgettable-cyber-bullying-cases/

    A child may be fearful of unfriending someone who's bullying them at school, because they may fear the consequences. Given what you have said, I think it is important to check with the child whether they are happy of parents to be informed of any problems.

    As for children using siblings' accounts, that may happen. But, as I say, we are not looking at simply blocking sites but by looking for types of behaviour. If the behaviour is of concern, it will likely still flag up but in relation to the sibling's phone. If the sibling was asked about it then they could pretend it was them, but the truth is likely to become self-evident.

    Perhaps it would reassure you to know that before we look at implementing any such software, we will look to have proper and full discussions with teachers, parents and (yes) children, to make sure that the system we are proposing makes things better, not worse.

    I really value your feedback. If you want to continue talking about this once CHEST has ended, then feel free to email ssmart@railfastintermodal.com. This applies to anyone else who has concerns that they want to express.

    I like giving children the option of whether their parents should be contacted in case of any flags; that's a good idea. Perhaps they could also individually opt-in and opt-out of the filter/monitoring at the click of a button - like how people can turn TOR on and off depending on whether they actually need to be anonymous for the task they're doing at the time. This way, children who are being bullied but are afraid to tell can simply say that they forgot to turn the filter off, and hence they didn't get their bully in trouble on purpose.

    Two notes to end on:
    1. You might want to consider going open source.
    2. The lack of consent to monitoring was what caused public outcry about the NSA monitoring; not so much the monitoring itself.

    Due to the amount of time this is taking up, I will not be able to respond to any of your responses, but thank you again for taking the time to discuss this with me - this has been an extremely civilised discussion.

    Idea Submitter

    You're very welcome! Thanks again for your feedback, which is much appreciated and has given much food for thought. I have also enjoyed our exchange and I wish you all the best.

    Excellent new Innovative idea!!!

    Excellent new Innovative idea!!!