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The Facts About Web Filtering at Schools

Technology has transformed education. Students have access to an endless supply of information, and teachers can leverage online tools to enhance lessons in every subject. However, there are drawbacks to allowing students unlimited use of the web through school-supplied desktops, laptops, and mobile devices.

Here are some facts that you need to keep in mind in order to make smart decisions about web filtering at school.

Web filtering at schools… and the law

When internet access started to become mainstream, schools were excited to have new research options to offer their students. Unfortunately, parents and teachers soon noticed a significant problem:

Unrestricted web-based technology made it possible for children to be exposed to obscene and dangerous content. Many cybercriminals took to opportunity to start collecting confidential data on school-based internet users. In addition, some of the more technologically-savvy students leveraged their school-based web access to partake in illegal hacking.

Congress developed a comprehensive response to these concerns by passing the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) in 2000. This law created requirements for web filtering at schools in exchange for participation in the E-rate program. The E-rate program gives educational institutions discounts on web-based technology.

CIPA requirements

If you choose to move forward with web filtering at schools, there are minimum standards you must meet to comply with CIPA. The most critical are as follows:

  • You must provide notice and hold at least one public hearing to discuss implementation of web filtering at schools.
  • You must also create an internet safety policy that covers monitoring the online activity of minors, access to inappropriate websites, safe use of email and other forms of electronic communication, illegal activity, and unauthorized collection and use of students’ personal information.
  • Additionally, you must offer education for students regarding appropriate online behavior and online safety.
  • You must choose software that can block access to obscene images, child pornography, and anything else considered harmful to minors.

It’s important to note that adult staff members are permitted to override web filtering at schools. Sometimes, they’ll need to so that they can conduct legitimate research or complete other appropriate activities.

Choosing software for web filtering at schools

A variety of technology vendors design and implement software for web filtering at schools. As a result, the specific results of a filter can vary. The biggest drawback? Web filters can sometimes block legitimate sources of information, causing problems down the line. For example, students may wish to research breast cancer, but they are unable to access the resources they need because the filter blocks all mentions of the word “breast”.

When choosing a provider and specific software for web filtering at schools, convenience and reliability are paramount. Administrators must install, configure, and maintain the software with ease. Additionally, they should have the ability to easily adjust the configurations as needed.

Most web filtering at schools functions through a combination of category and keyword filters. Ideally, you will be able to fine-tune these as necessary. Naturally, you’ll base this on your audience and the needs of your student population. Consider software that offers multiple access levels, so that teachers can conduct appropriate research without going through a lot of digital red tape.

Finding a school security partner

We’re experienced in scholastic IT solutions that take the burden of selecting, installing, and maintaining web filters out of your hands. Our experts specialize in full-service IT support, so that you can focus on your primary role as an educator.

Want to learn more? Reach out to us – we’re happy to answer your questions.

4 Must-Have Modern Technologies for Schools

Advances in digital technology aren’t just affecting the way that we work and live—they’re also improving how students learn in the classroom. 82% of teachers agree that students who use technology for education are better prepared for their future careers.

The good news is that adoption of these new-fangled technologies seems to be on the rise. In a 2016 survey, 60% of teachers said that they planned to increase their use of technology during the upcoming school year, and three in four said that they use technology every day with their students.

This article will go over four of the most transformative digital tools that are helping students of all ages learn more and perform better in the classroom.

  1. Interactive Whiteboards

Often called SMART boards after their largest manufacturer, interactive whiteboards are large displays that imitate the function of a whiteboard — without the need for messy chalk or smelly dry erase markers.

For one, interactive whiteboards are more “fun” to use than chalkboards, boosting students’ interest and engagement. Interactive whiteboards allow teachers to easily incorporate multimedia into their presentations, from text and audio files to videos and images. Teachers can even record lessons and save them for future playback.

  1. Laptops and Tablets

Laptops and tablets are a vital part of students’ digital lives. It’s only natural that they’re taking a more prominent place in the classroom.

In 2017, sales of Apple’s iPad to schools rose by 32% when compared to the previous year. Chromebooks, which are Google-issued basic laptops that run the Chrome operating system, made up just under half of all device sales in the education sector. More than 30 million children in the U.S. use Google apps for education such as Google Docs and Gmail.

There are a variety of benefits and use cases for laptops and tablets in the classroom. These include taking notes, watching lectures, finding useful information during lessons, collaborating with other students via Internet forums, allowing students to download and submit assignments online, and more.

Related: How to Build an Efficient IT Budget

  1. Class Websites

Students need access to a class website as their one-stop shop for learning. Class portals can host everything from lecture videos and homework assignments to blogs and discussion forums. These can allow students to help each other and share their ideas about what they’ve learned.

Depending on the institution and the tech-savviness of the teacher, this website may be custom-built. It could even be hosted on a third-party content management system such as Google Sites or WordPress.

  1. Augmented and Virtual Reality

The latest release of Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, iOS 12, includes support for augmented reality for the first time. While still not widely used, augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) offer tremendous learning opportunities for students of all ages.

Related: 7 Ways to Improve Technology at Your School

By overlaying additional information onto real-world inputs, AR devices make it easier for students to learn through experience. For example, students looking at the night sky through AR glasses could see the names of the different constellations. It would be a great way to view more information about the stars in our galaxy.

Final Thoughts on Technologies for Schools

Regardless of the specific technologies for schools, all schools should seriously consider investing more in their IT infrastructure in order to improve educational outcomes for their students. By partnering with a managed education services provider, you can improve the predictability, efficiency, and security of your school’s IT resources.

 

How to Manage Your Business Technology

Modern organizations have a lot to worry about. Of course, there are the day-to-day aspects of actually running their operations. But there’s also a dreaded tool that needs constant maintenance and performance tweaking.

We’re talking, of course, about technology.

Here’s the ultimate truth about technology and business: it’s a broad topic.

Really broad.

That’s why we’re breaking it down into sections. We want to make it easier to decide where to start and how to manage the technology for your specific business.

In the end, you should have a solid understanding of the building blocks of technology management. Ready to go? Start right here.

Sections Covered:

Save Time with IT Outsourcing

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve already got an IT infrastructure in place. You might even have some in-house IT staff, or a go-to “IT guy” that you turn to when things go wrong.

In theory, a few IT guys should do the trick, depending on the size of your organization. They can handle daily issues, like email sync issues or rattling fans. But this type of support isn’t proactive at all – in fact, it’s just a reactive response to issues that are likely to keep happening.

There are many business benefits to outsourcing your IT support, including a more strategic approach to handling the technology of your business. Outsourcing your IT support also allows you to tackle projects and infrastructure modernization strategies.

But how can businesses save time with their IT management?

In short, working with a team of pros allows you to implement better technologies while minimizing overall risk. The outsourced team handles the issues for you, freeing up resources that you can allocate to other areas of your business.

There’s something else to keep in mind – outsourcing your IT support doesn’t mean you can’t keep existing IT staff. If you strategically divide and conquer your IT challenges, you can improve your overall technology posture and get on track to better technology management.

When Do I Need an MSP?

A managed service provider (MSP) is an expert in all things technology. They’re the guys that you turn to for outsourced IT services. But how do you know when it’s time to talk to them?

Start by asking yourself some of these core questions.

  • What are my business goals? — Remember, you’re not using technology for the sake of using technology. If you buy a new server or get a new application, you’re doing it to improve the way your business operates. Start by solidifying your end goals before you contact an MSP.
  • What challenges do I face today? — You don’t have to note every problem that you’re experiencing. However, it’s important to give them an idea of the challenges you face. Maybe your computers are running really slow. Perhaps you’re facing a slew of common PC issues. You could even be facing bigger infrastructure challenges. Ultimately, it’s the job of the MSP to consult with you and nail these issues down.
  • How much can I spend on an IT budget? — This is a tricky one. It’s hard to nail down exactly how much your IT budget should be if you don’t know the technology you need. But if you can ballpark your IT budget, you can work with an MSP to choose a service level package that works to fit your needs.

These 3 questions should help you narrow down when you need an MSP and how soon you’ll need their help. With an MSP on your side, you get guidance from IT experts without breaking the bank.

In other words, it will become much easier to manage your business technology.

Eastech Divider

Related: The Time to Switch IT Providers Is Now

Eastech Divider

Handling Internal Security Risks

Modern businesses can’t even start to think about managing technology without considering security. There are two types of security risks:

  1. Internal security, which refers to potential risks that happen within the network. That can include malicious users, lost IT devices, social engineering, incorrect permissions, and more.
  2. External security, which is probably what you usually think of in terms of security – hackers, viruses, ransomware, and more.

Internal security risks pose a serious threat to organizations. After all, how can you manage your business and its data if you have to worry about threats coming from inside the network?

The answer is to take a proactive stance to security.

Start by enacting policies to keep your IT devices safe. With a robust security policy in place, you can decrease the chances of data breaches and security violations happening in the first place.

You must also actively work to keep your staff up-to-date on the latest security threats. Be sure to pass along information on how to avoid the top internal security threats. You can also conduct regular tests and audits to make sure that your staff is following security best practices.

Without security protocols, you can face fines, downtime, lost business, a damaged reputation, and more. That’s why keeping security in mind is an essential part of managing your business technology.

Protection Against External Security Risks

External security threats are a great cause for concern for businesses of all sizes. 60% of small companies actually go out of business within six months of a cyberattack.

In other words, they can be devastating. You need to avoid them at all costs.

Managing your business technology means understanding your goals and which of your technology tools will help you achieve them. But in the end, it’s all just a frail house of cards without adequate protection from external threats.

A solid security strategy begins with information – it’s vital to first understand what the threats are and how to stop the threats from attacking your business in the first place.

Protection against these external threats includes a healthy mix of proactive preparation and technology, such as antivirus programs, firewalls, and web filters. Much like internal security risks, it’s still critical to understand how to avoid the top external security threats.

Building an IT Budget

As mentioned previously, it’s really important to set realistic expectations on how you budget for IT expenses. Most companies enjoy slashing the IT budget because of a flawed logic:

Everything works! Why am I even wasting all this money on IT services?”

Or

Nothing works! Why am I even wasting all this money on IT services?”

These concerns stem from both overspending and underspending.

The truth is that IT budgets need to be built around current and future needs and strategy, rather than immediate wants and problem patch-jobs.

Building an efficient IT budget requires you to understand the current state of your IT infrastructure and where you’d like it to be. Of course, along the way you’ll want to focus on ways to reduce your overall IT spending.

In other words, there are things that you should be investing a lot in, and things that you can afford to cut back on. Mastering the IT budget is a critical step in mastering the management of your business technology.

You can always turn to a pro MSP at any point to get expert consultation on the matter.

Industry-specific IT Solutions

Managing technology is a challenge shared by organizations through all verticals, but each industry faces unique challenges. Therefore, it’s important to understand that different IT solutions exist for different verticals – you don’t have to try and shoehorn them in to address your needs.

Here’s an example.

Let’s say you run a private school. You’re in dire need of a laptop to deploy to each student. You’re looking for the best laptop for students.

Is it safe to assume that any laptop will do? Not necessarily.

There are technology partners and IT solutions that fit your specific needs. You may find laptops that come pre-equipped with scholastic tools that can save you money in the long run. But without consulting for industry-specific tools, you wouldn’t ever know about those options.

It’s not just limited to hardware, either. There are services and solution packages specifically designed to speak to your industry. You might find helpful resources on managing industry-specific IT or even helpful tips on how to filter content.

Talk to an MSP to see how they can help you explore and choose the right solutions for your organization. With the right tools at your disposal, you can manage your business technology far more easily and effectively.

Managing Your Business Technology with EaseTech

We’re here to help you implement and master the technology your organization needs to succeed. When you partner with us, we take care of your IT management so that you can focus on your business.

If you want to know more about IT solutions or how we can help you, feel free to reach out to us.

7 Ways to Improve Technology at Your School

It’s a new day for educators. Never has great technology offered better educational opportunities that are affordable and accessible. However, when it comes to implementing your school’s technology agenda, it’s easy to go off the rails.

At EaseTech, we’re big proponents of the managed education service model, because it puts the technology’s burden of proof onto the professionals, leaving your staff and teachers in a position to focus on what they do best: teaching our children.

Here are 7 ways we think managed education services can help improve technology at your school.

Security

Cybersecurity breaches are an inevitable part of data collection. This isn’t just students cracking into the network to turn F’s into A’s. Major universities are targeted, not only for their wealth of private student data, including social security and credit card numbers but also for the government-funded research often found on these campuses. Recently, infamous Russian hacker Rasputin hacked into dozens of major universities around the world to sell data on the dark web.

The key is to set up your network so that your system’s defenses are strong, and then have an actionable plan for recovery when data loss occurs. Strong firewalls and antivirus software that is well thought out and implemented campus-wide can do wonders for layering your network. Likewise, frequent testing of backups can help ensure recovery from data loss.

Tablets

Tablets are a great addition to students’ education. In fact, in 2017, iPads were up 32% in the education sector. They’re convenient, fun and give easy access to some of the internet’s best educational resources.

When planning out 1:1 tablet programs for students, device management can be a daunting task. But a good managed services provider is experienced in the deployment of tablets across hundreds of students. You need to be able to scale as necessary without having a device surplus. Strategic planning on your MSP’s part can help.

The Cloud

Cloud technology is an amazing way to store and manage homework, pass out assignments, give commentary on work and more. With platforms like Google for Education, your students can learn the fundamentals of cloud technology through practice.

With apps and programs offered as a service, you not only help flatline your IT budget, but you also get enterprise-level software, no matter what size your school is.

Wi-Fi

One of the trickiest technologies to get right is Wi-Fi. Between modems, routers and wireless access points, a Wi-Fi strategy requires a deft hand at mapping. You want students to have mobility on campus without losing productivity. By offloading your Wi-Fi mapping, you can get the best results for your students to ensure there are no dead spots and there’s easy access when they need it.

ID Management

Whether you’ve got dozens of students or thousands, the security of their private data is dependent on proper ID management protocols. Setting standards for complicated passwords and even two-factor authentication can greatly improve security. Guidance from experts on best practices can help you combat rampant identity theft that’s common today.

Check out our blog: “Identity Theft in the Modern Era”

Budgets

IT budgets are always a concern. With managed education services, you flatline your budget by offloading your IT to a third party. You plan out months, even years, in advance so there are no surprises. You then start to make your IT dollars work for you. This is how you get in a position so your education starts driving your technology, not the other way around.

IT Staffing

Hiring the right IT staff is incredibly difficult. Luckily, with managed education services you never have to worry about that. Your IT provider covers all tech support, planning, cable management, cybersecurity, strategic planning and much more. You never have to rely on one or two IT people who are stretched so thin on IT support issues that planning and goals are never achieved.

Learn More: Let Education Drive Your Technology with Managed Education Services

EaseTech Managed Education

EaseTech’s managed education service gives you more than 25 years of experience in transforming how educational institutions lead with technology.

Contact us today to discuss your school’s technology needs.

Put Your IT Dollars to Work

In the world of private schools, technology can not only pave the way for how students learn and interact with the world’s collective information but can also give your school a competitive edge in a saturated market. With tight budgets, education IT can be a little tricky. But with new innovations in the education market and the right team to ensure you reach your school’s goals, you can put your IT dollars to work for you.

Cloud technology opens a world of benefits to help you gain new exposure in the market, with powerful tools, innovative productivity and collaboration, and the cybersecurity you need to keep students safe.

Tools for Productivity and Collaboration

Whether you’re K-12 or at the university level, the goal is to inspire students to learn. Streamlining that process through the cloud gives you a much wider range of options to excite the students.

When you take education to the cloud, you find that your tools grow far beyond the chalkboard. By migrating to Google for Education, for example, you greatly improve how your students learn. By connecting online, students have smoother access to teachers, with the ability to ask questions, get clarity on assignments and more. Class discussions become more productive in threads, with detailed records of conversations for studying. Collaboration in the classroom skyrockets with the cloud, giving students an educational hub for meeting and working together.

And then Cybersecurity

A key factor in creating an effective education IT program is ensuring that your system is always safe. There are inherent risks with any internet connection, but there are some common sense security best practices you can follow, as well as some bigger picture ideas that will help ensure a safe learning environment for everyone.

A proper ID management program for your students and staff is one of the first steps in securing your school’s network. This will include unique usernames and complicated passwords for everyone. Likewise, firewalls and antivirus software will help layer your system with defenses. You also want to frequently test your system for gaps in security. A weak system is not something you want to discover after it’s too late.

EaseTech Managed Education IT

When you’re planning next year’s IT budget, you want to know you’re getting the tools you need to meet your goals. Part of this is making sure you are paying only for what you need, with the right technology. With technology, it’s extremely easy to go over budget.

That’s where managed education IT services come into play. If you’re fine-tuning an existing technology program, implementing a 1:1 iPad deployment, or starting from scratch, a managed education services provider is an ideal partner to help you reach success.

Learn More: Let Education Drive Your Technology with Managed Education Services

At EaseTech, we’ve spent years helping schools rebuild their technology, streamline their IT budgets and innovate their education offering. Call us today to see how managed education services can help your school.