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Tech Corner

Internet content filtering: Use it to your advantage!

Internet usage in South Dakota’s school districts today is an essential resource in providing a quality education for students. More often than not, educators are utilizing Web-based applications, Web 2.0 content and other dynamic Internet resources to engage students and enhance their learning experience. However, there are times when usage moves from being educational and worthwhile, to non-educational, and sometimes, inappropriate.

To assist school districts in managing usage, the State of South Dakota (Department of Education and Bureau of Information and Telecommunications) provides an Internet content filtering solution to all districts called FortiGuard Web Filtering. This solution was chosen by a panel of technical representatives from BIT, the K-12 Data Center and K-12 Technical Coordinators. Also, due to the prevalence of Classroom Connections 1 to 1 laptop schools, this solution is augmented with an off-site content filter available for school computer usage while users are not on the school’s network.

Chances are, there has been a time when you were browsing the Internet, and all of a sudden you reach a page that says “Blocked by FortiGuard Web-Filtering.” While this may have been annoying at that time, it’s important to realize that this same page is what is seen by your district’s Internet users when they may be accessing questionable content, whether intentional or accidental. However, you may have also found yourself browsing the Internet only to be interrupted by the offending “blocked” page when you were trying to access legitimate content.

Fortunately, your district’s Technology Coordinator has all of the tools and access needed to remedy these types of situations. When the FortiGuard web filtering solution was put in place, local districts were given 100 percent control over what content can be allowed and what content can be blocked. After all, nobody knows better than the district itself what content should be deemed “allowed” and what should be “blocked.

Web resources and content are ever changing. New web sites and web applications are constantly being released, updated and expanding. Because of this, the management of Internet content filters is also an ongoing job. This handy list of do’s and don’ts will help content filtering work to your advantage:

• DO have a formalized process for teachers and staff to request that web content be allowed or blocked.
• DO utilize the FSAE. This is a feature that allows you to allow certain content for certain groups of users and not allow it for others.
• DO periodically clean up your local ratings list. Unnecessary entries in this list can cause access to sites to be blocked, that would otherwise be allowed, and vice-versa.
• And especially, DO call BIT’s DDN Support or the SDN Security Operations Center if you have any questions or need any assistance!