Remote learning is rife with challenges, but student safety doesn’t have to be one of them

K-12 leaders have spent countless hours in Zoom meetings this summer, planning what instruction would look like for students this fall. For school systems where remote learning is continuing in at least some capacity, there have been many details to iron out to make sure students have the best experience possible — and how to keep them safe while they’re learning online is a chief concern:

  • Parents of younger children in particular need some assurance that their child will be shielded from inappropriate content while learning from home, regardless of what device their child is using to get online. 
  • School administrators need to know what sites their students are trying to access from home — and whether students are going through an emotional crisis that might require immediate intervention.
  • IT leaders must configure and distribute devices to students in a way that ensures student safety, while giving administrators the insight they need to understand students’ online activity.

Canyons School District in Utah has found an ideal solution to these challenges with ContentKeeper’s industry-leading school web filter. When district officials suddenly had to shift to remote learning as the pandemic emerged this past spring, ContentKeeper helped Canyons IT staff quickly and easily configure mobile devices for students to take home, so they’d be protected while they worked remotely. What’s more, ContentKeeper’s superior reporting has helped the district realize a learning return on its IT investment — and might even have averted a tragedy.

“When we invested in ContentKeeper initially, our policy was that we wouldn’t send devices home,” says Director of Technology Engineering Dave Heywood. “Very quickly, however, we were in a position where we needed to get technology into the hands of kids who didn’t have access at home.”

District leaders chose to deploy several thousand of the Chromebooks that resided in their schools to students, so students could learn from home uninterrupted by the pandemic. 

“ContentKeeper was very responsive. It was amazing how quickly they worked with our team,” Heywood observes. “Their engineers helped us get things configured. Within a matter of hours, we were sending students home with devices that were fully filtered with SSL decryption, so we could see what they were doing as they typed in searches from home.”

Not only were district officials getting daily keyword reports showing inappropriate searches, but they also received real-time alerts whenever a student searched for information suggesting they might harm themselves or others.

This keyword inspection and real-time alerting feature helped allay parents’ concerns about sending devices home with younger students. It might even have prevented a catastrophe.

“Within minutes, we were able to learn of a few situations that required possible intervention,” Heywood says, referring to students whose web searches indicated they might be thinking of suicide. “We were able to help some students through a crisis, and maybe even save their lives.”

To learn more about Canyons’ experience, and how ContentKeeper has solved the challenge of student safety during remote learning, click here.

The former editor of eSchool News, Dennis Pierce has more than 20 years of experience writing about education and technology.