It is becoming increasingly essential for schools in the UK to have an independent internet and security solution. To have an independent internet solution means a school has control of both web filtering with access to and from their network. This enables them to alter and update filters and firewalls immediately as a threat is detected, blocking undesirable websites and therefore safeguarding the students.
But more crucially it allows the school to respond immediately to the needs of the teachers and learners, with the move to mobile devices and cloud based resources the need to be more flexible and responsive is critical. Many APPS and web based resources use non-standard ports and protocols that are blocked by centralised local authority firewalls and outdated corporate style security policies.
Imagine the situation; a teacher plans a lesson at home using maybe an iPad, kindle or similar. They arrive in a lesson connect to the School Wi-Fi and the APP or resource is blocked. The lesson cannot be taught leaving frustrated staff and pupils. The understanding teacher then asks the IT support team to unblock the APP in question for the lesson tomorrow. A call is raised to the LEA, and then logged and eventually a response is given. This response is often a negative one due to either the inflexibility of centralised solution or a security policy preventing them from allowing access. Leaving the teacher unable to conduct the planned lesson at in school.
With an independent internet and security solution the above situation would likely have been resolved within an hour if not minutes, removing the frustration of staff but also demands on IT support team.
This control over school filters can even open up some possibly controversial websites that could benefit teachers, students and learning. Currently in the UK the majority of schools have strict filters for social media websites due to the issues that can occur between pupils etc. However, Social media can have some real benefits for education. John Bidder from ‘Get Logged in’ discusses the benefits of social media within schools;
Typically using media which is social in nature brings benefits that are to do with timeliness, speed, insightfulness and having an authentic ‘ready’ audience. Social media is one channel that more and more schools are using to get the conversation of what children are learning going – even into the home with parents. However, to achieve any of this you first need to be able to access these tools and that’s where autonomy or a flexible filtering management set up is so important.
Additionally, a transparent proxy is useful for schools looking to implement BYOD. A transparent proxy would be applied to devices as they join the network. Therefore, children, staff or guests entering the school with their own iPads, phones or laptops, will not need to change any settings on these devices to access the internet in school, yet they’ll be immediately safeguarded from any online threats without compromising the security of the main school network.
The key message is no two schools are alike, every School has different needs and views on levels of control. Each school needs the ability to respond quickly to the demands of the need computing curriculum, mobile devices/BYOD and cloud resources. To do this schools must be in control and be able to make their own decisions to implement change quickly.