Whenever you bring a computer into the classroom, particularly if it's been Internet enabled, you have to be cognizant of the fact that students will be susceptible many dangers and security concerns.
The classroom may be a safe place for students, but the introduction of the Internet brings the outside world into the classroom. If the appropriate safeguards are not put in place, those dangers can make their way in front of the impressionable eyes of young students.
The problem many teachers face, particularly at smaller schools without an IT department, is the fact that most school systems lack the necessary funds required to purchase PC or web protection software.
This leaves it up to the teacher to download and install software that will protect students, while not costing very much. This is where K9 Web Protection
fits the bill.
K9 Web Protection is a very simple application to install and use. To install it, you'll need to register and obtain a license number via email. Once it's installed, no one will ever know the software is there, unless they try to access any website or content that you've classified as inappropriate.
K9 Installation Screen
When you first install K9 Web Protection, you'll be asked to enter the license number emailed to you, and you'll also need to create your administrator password. This password is important, because it's what you'll use to access the setup area to enable or disable Internet protection, and it's also the only way to uninstall the application from the computer.
You can access the web-based Admin screen at any time by accessing the K9 Web Protection software link in the start menu. From this screen, you can view all Internet activity on the computer or enter the setup screen where you can fine-tune the security settings.
Blocking by Category
The beauty of the software is that you don't have to waste time trying to create your own database of websites or keywords that you want to block. K9 Web Protection comes preinstalled with entire categories of content that is on its "black list" of inappropriate sites.
You can change the level of web blocking from highly secure to minimal, or you can customize which categories you want to block or unblock.
One useful feature of the software for home users is that parents can set up an automatic block feature called "NightGuard" that will block all Internet access after a certain time of night.
This is also a good feature for the classroom, where teachers may only want to allow Internet use on a classroom computer during a very specific time of day. For example, a teacher could set up the computer to only enable Internet access for a couple of hours in the afternoon. At all other times, Internet access on that computer would be disabled.
Even if you set up K9 Web Protection with the maximum security settings, you can still set up "Web Site Exceptions". These are specific URLs that you want to allow or disallow. All you have to do is add those websites to either list on the web site exceptions page.
Web Site Exceptions
Beyond websites, you can also fine-tune the web filtering on your classroom computer by blocking specific keywords that you don't want your students searching for or reading about on any websites.
If the software recognizes any of those keywords on any webpage that students visit, the K9 software will display the K9 Block page, and students won't be able to visit the site.
K9 Block Page
If you are using the computer and get blocked by the K9 block page, you have the option to log in as administrator and access the full Internet without any filtering. Or, if a website is blocked that you feel shouldn't be blocked, you can click on the "Allow This Site" or "Allow This Category" links, and add that content to the "Allow" list. Your administration password will be required.
Sometimes, students try to be clever by using Google Image or Video search to bypass the content filtering software, since Google embeds small thumbnails of images or videos into the results page.
K9 Web Protection is smart enough to recognize it as an image or media search, and will block those results since they fall under the "Open Image/Media Search" category.
Media Search Category Block
The beauty of this software is that it tracks just about everything you would want to know about the Internet activity on that computer. Under "View Internet Activity", the summary page shows you categories visited that were allowed and blocked, as well as general Internet traffic details and any administrator changes made to the system.
Monitoring Internet Activity
The "View Activity Detail" link gives you a more detailed breakdown of every single URL that students visited using the classroom computer. You see all of the links, including those that were blocked.
Monitoring Internet Activity
If students try to get creative and attempt to uninstall the software under the "Remove Programs" option in the control panel, they will see the following window after clicking the "uninstall" button.
Monitoring Internet Activity
Students can't alter or remove this software without accessing your administrator password, so guard it carefully in the classroom!
The software does a remarkable job not only filtering out websites and content that you don't want your students seeing, but it also offers a very detailed log of all Internet activity. This means that you can rest assured nothing will take place on your classroom computer without your full knowledge of it.
Computers can be a very powerful and useful tool in the classroom, but ultimately they can also be dangerous. It's up to educators to make sure that classroom computers are well-protected, and that students themselves are protected from the dangers of the outside Internet.
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