Similar initiatives are taking place across many school districts in the U.S. It’s an exciting program for all the stakeholders involved, but the devices themselves are just the first step. With devices in students’ hands, on and off the network across the district, the IT department needs to make sure those devices are used safely and effectively. They need to find a way to filter those devices off-campus, making sure inappropriate content is blocked and activity is reported.
For Wilson County’s IT department and many others, the answer to this long-standing dilemma came through Relay, a cloud-based solution from Lightspeed Systems. Since its inception, Lightspeed Systems has supported IT in K-12 schools and helped them prepare students for life in a technology-rich world. “We at Lightspeed Systems found that the IT Departments needed smarter tools, including a powerful and dynamic content filter for their mobile learning programs that can keep students safe and on task,” says Brian Thomas, President and CEO, Lightspeed Systems. This is where Lightspeed’s newest solution, Relay, takes charge.
The Power of Relay
Relay, the innovative cloud-based solution from Lightspeed Systems, extends safety anywhere the devices go, no matter how they connect to the internet. It gives administrators the ability to monitor and filter devices inside and outside their networks. Many schools have a filter on the school network–but mobile devices like Chromebooks often go home, or to coffee shops or restaurants or elsewhere. Schools need a filtering solution that’s as mobile as their devices. In addition to the benefits to the schools and students, this also helps parents at home feel more confident about the new technology being used.
A cloud solution with a small extension on the device (that students can’t remove), Relay is able to provide seamless filtering and reporting anytime, anywhere. Of course, even the best solution won’t have results if it’s difficult to deploy or set up. Relay takes just minutes to deploy, and schools can see the results right away. “It was a solution that allowed a super-fast and painless deployment across all of our devices,” says Justin Koehn, System Administrator at Wilson County.
Relay starts off with a reporting dashboard, which is great for a high-level overview. But it also lets you drill down into detailed views of activity, overall or by group or by individual student. With easy to understand and relevant reports, the data has proven actionable. Knowing student activity, search terms, blocked pages, and more lets the IT department know when to intervene and when to escalate.
We have the most dynamic, comprehensive and accurate database available as our filter updates more than one million entries for education in real-time
“Based on the reports, we’ve done everything from discipline to reporting items to authorities to getting the student counseling help,” shares Koehn.
Some activities are too critical and time-sensitive to wait for an administrator to review a report. That’s why Relay offers flagged terms and real-time alerts. The school can customize a list of terms they’re most concerned about, and set their threat level and when they want to get alerts based on that: weekly, daily, or immediately. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death of young people, and suicide-related words and phrases are something most schools, including Wilson County, set to High threat and immediate alert.
“Schools deploying mobile learning programs shouldn’t have to choose between safety and access to educational resources, or between simplicity and powerful controls,” says Thomas. With Relay from Lightspeed Systems, they don’t. Relay combines granular filtering controls, powerful reports, real-time alerts, device location, and classroom monitoring into one time-saving interface. Relay has everything schools need to keep students safe, make decisions to enhance technology use, report up to administrators, present to the board, reassure concerned parents, empower teachers, and direct students on appropriate use.
“The solution can also view and report on Google searches and YouTube activity, as well as provide threat protection and device location, maximizing the ROI of school districts’ 1:1 deployments,” adds Thomas.
Energized Learning beyond School Walls
Partnered with 6,500 districts in the U.S. and 25,000 schools worldwide, Lightspeed Systems prides itself in integrated solutions for smarter K-12 school networks. “Regardless of the size of the school districts, we can help tailor IT solutions to maximize resources and save costs, while enabling student success,” says Thomas.
It’s not only Chromebooks.Though the growth in Chromebooks in schools has been staggering, other devices such as iPads, MacBooks, and Windows devices are still an important part of mobile learning for many schools. Lightspeed’s solutions support all device types, seamlessly managed within a smart centralized dashboard.
Lightspeed helps overcome the drawbacks of traditional content filters with its database, which uses a proprietary algorithm built for education. It works by scanning the entire internet and grouping the content to education-specific categories in a comprehensive database. By leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies, Lightspeed accurately categorizes web content, ensuring that inappropriate sites are no longer a click away, while valuable content remains available to users. This adaptive AI database is continuously updated without IT intervention to constantly approve, update, block and allow lists. “We have the most dynamic, comprehensive, and accurate database available as our filter updates more than one million entries for education in real-time. We categorize the web, so they it’s easy for each school to determine what to block and what to allow,” states Thomas.
Filter bypass tools like Psiphon and Ultrasurf have long been a challenge for traditional filters because they evolve and learn constantly. Students who use them are able to bypass filtering protections and reporting. Lightspeed’s powerful Filter Bypass Control technology leverages that same machine-learning database to evolve right along with the bypass tools, blocking them before they start.
"We offer smart solutions for school networks to make learning safe, mobile and easily managed"
Of course, all of these powerful controls need to be balanced with different student and school needs. Relay allows administrators to differentiate policies by users, groups, grades, even time of day— so everyone gets the balance between safety and access that’s right for them.
Going Beyond Monitoring
Lightspeed is helping students and teachers to utilize every minute and focus on learning. “We understand the awkward situation for a teacher to stand in front of the class and look at the back of a bunch of laptops,” says Thomas. “It is vital to give teachers control over their students’ devices in the classroom and facilitate better interaction.” With Lightspeed’s Classroom Orchestrator, teachers can have a holistic view of each student’s device and orchestrate lessons, personalize instruction or improve student accountability. Often students get perplexed with certain tasks that are assigned to them, but they hesitate to seek assistance from the teachers. By using Classroom Orchestrator, teachers can monitor the dashboard of that particular student, provide the required assistance and bring them back on track, without interrupting the entire classroom.
Teachers can also push e-books, videos, educational resources and apps to the whole class, all in just a few seconds. They can broadcast their screen to the class, record activity, and lock devices for one student or for the whole classroom, to keep every student on task and excelling. During the time of state tests, the firm provides IT administrators with the relevant tools needed to manage their devices, network, and security during testing periods, alongside making it secure and organized in just few clicks.
Since the K-12 industry is witnessing a data explosion due to the proliferation of newer devices like smartphones and tablets, Lightspeed is looking to leverage that data for powerful insights, comparative analysis, and trending data—to help IT departments, teachers, and parents, maximize productivity and safety for every student. The firm focuses on data and mobility, with which school districts can increase student engagement, take advantage of mobile learning, and enable more personalized education. “We will soon be rolling out the next version of Relay which will take everything we’ve done and multiply it: more powerful filtering and reporting anytime, anywhere, on any device; better features that empower educators to take learning to new heights; and new reporting models that let everyone make smarter student-focused decisions,” concludes Thomas.