April 6, 2018

How Content-Based Filtering Helps Shape Student Behavior

Zach Spitulski
Students learning on computers

We at GoGuardian believe there's always room for improvement. After all, a growth mindset is necessary for optimal performance in everything from education to business. So, when we wanted to identify areas where we could improve, we went straight to the source: our 120,000+ customers. We asked our trusted users one key question: What is the biggest challenge you face in managing the content your students see?

We found that a lot of educators were struggling with managing student behavior online. After doing some thinking on the common issues admins and teachers were collectively facing, we came up with a response: Smart Filtering. Here are some of the issues our customers are tackling, and here’s how this next generation of content-based filtering presents an exciting solution.

The Immensity of the Internet

Jessica Schaeffer is a teacher at Silvestri Junior High School. When asked about the greatest challenge she was facing with devices in the classroom, she raised the topic of digital citizenship.

As Schaeffer put it, “The internet is endless! My students are so young, and have always had access to the internet. However, no one has ever taught them how to use the internet to the best of their abilities! They find themselves down these rabbit holes or in corners of the internet they shouldn't be in.”

Fortunately, GoGuardian’s Smart Filtering provides students with guidance and gentle direction, and helps them stay on-task (and safeguarded from rabbit holes!) A key feature of Admin 2.0 is Smart Alerts, which was designed to inspire behavioral self-modification among students as they become more aware of their online behavior. Through sending students personalized messages while they are browsing, Smart Alerts empowers students to be better digital citizens and modify their behavior appropriately. In beta-testing, GoGuardian has found that Smart Alerts enables students to improve their behavior by an impressive factor of 5:1.

Differentiated Filtering for Differentiated Learning

Jason Webb, Network Administrator at Princeton Public Schools, was struggling with the arduous task of “separating out the students who needed extra filtering, versus the students who needed basic filtering.” To solve for this, Webb kept having to whitelist specific sites for certain students. This weekly routine was labor-intensive (involving managing long, unwieldy lists) and inefficient.

Webb needed granular filtering down to the individual: not just by grade level, but down to the student. With Smart Filtering, GoGuardian gave him the tools to achieve this.

How? Our new and improved filtering system gives administrators precise control over how students can use the internet—based on their grade level, location, and the time of day. For instance, administrators can apply one set of rules for using YouTube and social media websites at school—and another set for when students are at home, after school, or on weekends.

This ensures students are protected from harmful online content, and allows teachers to adjust settings on a granular, case-by-case basis, which, with differentiated instruction, is absolutely necessary.

Double Blinds

Nathan De Groot told us his greatest challenge was, “Unblocking content that is legitimate.” All too often, with URL-based filtering, entire sites were being blocked. Students would become frustrated, or unable to reach the sources they needed. De Groot was dealing with the problem by entering in the code for the student and adding it to the whitelist. This was time-consuming, and ultimately, unsustainable.

Fortunately, with content-based filtering, AI-powered software determines the context in which certain words are being used. Instead of using simple keyword matching, Smart Alerts continuously scans the page to make real-time decisions on whether to block or allow content based on your custom filter settings. It uses powerful artificial intelligence technology to help educators understand and shape students’ online behavior in real time.

Our Google Chrome extension can analyze the content of web pages as they’re rendered within the browser, comparing this content with tens of thousands of similar pages to determine if it’s appropriate for students based on customizable, pre-defined rules. This prevents double blinds, ensuring students have access to quality educational content and saving teachers time. It also teaches the valuable lesson of analytical reasoning skills to students: a word alone doesn’t make content inappropriate. Context is always key.

Ultimately, at GoGuardian, we’re determined to be better, to be continually improving our products to accommodate the needs of our users, as well as the ever-changing needs of the vast digital landscape. Through an ongoing dialog, we can continue to grow. With Smart Filtering, we at GoGuardian hope to introduce cutting edge technology for the classroom. Let’s make it better together. Please feel free to reach out with your feedback anytime...we welcome it!