Imagine this: You’re in 9th grade. You stayed late after school to use a library computer to research your upcoming paper on the geological features of Ecuador. You log on and immediately spot the perfect video of a recent volcanic eruption in your search results. You click to watch and…blocked.
Youtube.com isn’t on your school administrator’s list of approved websites.
URL blockers create as many problems as they solve.
Meant to keep students safe, poorly-deployed web filtering can hinder the learning experience as much as it helps. Blocking access to whole websites based on URL address alone is not a reliable method of sanitizing content. It is a pretty reliable method for inadvertently blocking useful content, though!
Consider these websites a student might want to visit for educational purposes that might have their URL excluded in a school-wide list:
BreastCancer.org (blocked because its URL contains “sexual” content)
Wikipedia.com (blocked because it may contain unreliable or inappropriate content)
Reddit.com (blocked because it’s designated as a “social networking site”)
It’s easy to imagine how any of the above sites could be used to learn more about a specific subject. It’s also understandable why schools would rush to block them, anxious about the ways students could use websites containing off-limits content.
There’s a better way, and it’s called Content-Aware.
Content-Aware is a custom web filtering solution Smoothwall has been perfecting since 2001. Designed as a real-time content analysis machine, Content-Aware filters content, not whole websites. By digging into contextual clues like language, photos, site code, and more, Content-Aware blocks what’s inappropriate (such as that innocuously-named but decidedly inappropriate “political” website) and opens access to pages that can be useful (like a Vimeo video of MLK’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech.)
The internet was designed to make sharing information easier, not harder. Today’s students have grown up with open access to the web; it’s unfair and unproductive to interrupt their search for knowledge with arbitrary website restrictions.
How does Content-Aware improve the student experience?
By allowing access to thousands of websites that may have been “banned” under a traditional URL filtering system. At Smoothwall, we understand the nuances of web content. While some websites should be blocked in their entirety, many of them contain plenty of useful pages as well as some pages students still shouldn’t see.
The real-time content analysis is incredibly granular. While offering administrators many of the same high-level functionalities they expect – yes, like URL blocking! – the technology provides a detailed template for blocking specific kinds of content, like information on suicide or bulimia, for example.
Students deserve to have access to information that makes their education process easier. Creating a more intuitive web filtering solution is one critical way Smoothwall’s technologies are meeting that need.
Ready for more information on how Content-Aware by Smoothwall can improve your students’ online experience? Reach out to our team today for help at your school.
Our specially developed technologies deliver real-time Dynamic Content Analysis™ of web pages, all without impacting on the users’ experience.