Other Tools - # 1 - Filtering/Firewall
There is a legal obligation upon the Head of a school, or his delegated representative, to ensure that computer access is properly controlled, that both staff and children do not access inappropriate materials and that activity is monitored in order to prevent malicious or offensive behaviour. (See School Policies for more details.) Sometimes, however, this can be 'locked down' too tightly. In one example entrance to the BUPA site for students on a Child Care course was blocked preventing access to appropriate materials for their GNVQ studies. In another case the innocent 'kisses' ending a child's e-mail letter to her father abroad on military service was blocked as 'pornographic'.
My point is that good quality software, designed to meet the needs of schools, can overcome such problems. Staff need to be made aware of the use of 'Blacklists' which block certain sites or words and 'Whitelists' that can temporarily override the blacklist settings. Another feature of good filtering software is the facility to control access by location or age-group. For example, it might not be seen as appropriate for immature students to have access to the more erotic works of Picasso and yet in an A-level Art class, under the guidance of their teacher, access to such works may be an essential part of their studies. One of the best examples of this operability is the IntY box as offered by Viglen.
Using the right software, access to individual sites can thus be controlled, individual keywords can be 'blocked' or 'unblocked' at a moment's notice or individual workstations can be given different security settings. Yes, it means only minimal additional work for the Network management team, but at the same time a massive improvement in the sense of security that teachers must have.
For a working document showing something of the complexity of filtering criteria, click here.
Recently discovered by me, and possibly more up to date: The East of England Broadband Network (E2BN) is one of 10 Regional Broadband Consortia (RBCs) set up by the Government to help raise standards in teaching and learning by the use of broadband technology.' Their Protex web-filtering & caching system appears to do everything that I suggested above - and prices are very reasonable! - Most impressive - see their Case Studies!