Internet use is a part of many students' daily routines, in part because today's children have grown up with computers. Computers are integrated into their communication habits and are used to help students work more efficiently. Web access in the classroom has a dark side, however, when Internet use becomes Internet abuse.
This was undoubtedly the rationale behind the E-Rate stipulation that requires participating schools to monitor or filter objectionable content on networks that serve students. It was E-Rate funding concerns that initially caused PACE-Brantley Hall School (www.pacebrantleyhall.org), a nonprofit, independent K-12 school for children with learning differences in Longwood, Fla., to search for a software program that would control what people were doing on the school network.
James Glase, network administrator for PACE-Brantley Hall School, says, "When we implemented our LAN, we opened a huge door to the outside world that allowed people in and out of our network transparently." Glase realized he needed to find a software solution that would safeguard the school network from abuse, while protecting the students who use the Internet for legitimate study purposes.
Glase found the solution with Pearl Echo, an Internet monitoring software program that is designed to watch the Internet activity of multiple PCs from a central location. Pearl Echo tracks most forms of Internet communication, including Web, e-mail, chat, instant messaging, file transfers and newsgroup postings. The program communicates network activity through reports that provide details such as the top Internet users on a network and the amount of time they spend online. Furthermore, reports show the most frequented Web sites, e-mail transactions, newsgroup postings, file transfers and chat groups.
In addition to monitoring Internet activity, Pearl Echo can block users from visiting specified Internet content. PACE-Brantley Hall School, for example, uses the pre-configured "block-and-allow" list that accompanies every purchase of Pearl Echo.Block-and-allow lists help the software by blocking offensive Web sites and allowing sites that are educational. With Pearl Echo, a network administrator can add, edit and delete Web sites from the block-and-allow list as needed. The software provides keyword filtering, as well as filtering for e-mail, chat room conversations, instant messages and newsgroup postings according to a predefined set of keywords.
Helping Children Learn
Although Glase initially set up the software as a provision of the E-Rate program, he soon discovered that the school network was being used for activities that had nothing to do with school. …