Three Fears Keeping Schools from Implementing BYOD Programs

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Educators from across the country are continuing to recognize the distinct advantages of moving towards integrating mobile learning into their schools. In July 2014, the Washington Post reported that the school district in Montgomery County, Maryland announced that they were purchasing 40,000 laptops and tablets for their students with the intention of expanding to over 100,000 by 2017-2018. As one of the top ranked school systems in the nation, Montgomery County is helping to lead the charge into the next generation of education with technology as an integral part of its strategy to better prepare students for the real world. Teachers recognize that teaching and growing an interest for students in technology is key for their future success.

This move to embrace the value that mobile learning through a Bring Your Own Device program offers is not without its concerns for administrators. In listening to school administrators and IT directors, their reservations to bringing a full fledged mobile learning program into their school can be summarised to these three main issues:

1. Securing the Devices from Hacking

Before providing students full access to all the information that the Internet has to offer, administrators need to put protections in place to keep control over the devices. For better or worse, kids today have shown themselves to be experts at skirting around security barriers like was seen in 2013 in a BYOD program in Los Angeles. While no system can ever be 100% foolproof, a good system needs to be put in place that is being constantly tested and upgraded to guard against new hacks. It is also critical that the security for the device cannot be disabled by simply restoring the factory resets or other methods of wiping.

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2. Misuse for Inappropriate Content

Giving students the scope and reach of the Internet for research during class can be a powerful way of promoting more effective learning. Unfortunately, mixed in with all of the positive material that is available for educational purposes is a endless amount of material that can be considered age inappropriate at best. Especially at younger ages, students need extra guidance and protections in place to keep them from being exposed to what can be harmful materials. Another important consideration is the expectation held by parents to take responsibility for what their children are being exposed to, putting additional pressure on administrators to block content on devices that are incorporated by the school districts.

3. Distraction from Educators

While having access to the Internet and learning apps at their fingertips can be a huge boost to the education experience, it can also prove to be a significant distraction to both students and teachers in the classroom. In order to feel confident in introducing a BYOB program into their learning space, educators need to be assured that their students will be using the devices as a part of the class structure and not off playing games or scrolling through Facebook.

NetSpark Mobile Provides Essential Solutions for BYOD in Education

These are very legitimate concerns facing education administrators, and thankfully NetSpark Mobile offers solutions for implementing a BYOD program that fully address these issues. The software is constantly being tested for backdoor hacks to keep the devices secure and in control of educators. Calling on some of the most capable hackers and security experts in the field, NetSpark Mobile stands behind its ability to keep the software operating as intended. We understand that like in real life, content on the Internet is neither black or white. While explicit websites can be automatically blocked as a part of a blacklist, NetSpark Mobile’s advanced quilting technology works to exclude specifically harmful content on web pages in real-time. This means that by not just blocking any suspicious URLs, students can access more content without risking exposure to images or other material deemed to be inappropriate. With easy to use network management, administrators can decide which content blocking standards are right on a class by class or even individual level, allowing more freedom for older students and staff. Finally, through the remote management system administrators can block access to specific apps or even full access to the Internet during the school day to keep students focused on learning.

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Integrating mobile devices into the learning process can give educators a new range of tools that were never previously available. Finding the right solution to working through the integration is an important part of addressing concerns and knowing that it is being done securely. Discover today how NetSpark Mobile can help bring your school into the next generation with complete tools and expert advice.

How to Balance Safety and Independence for Your Child’s Mobile Phone Use

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It used to be that having a conversation with your teen about the birds and the bees was the talk that every parent dreaded. These days, this awkward rite of passage is superseded by another potentially awkward conversation, as your child starts asking for their own cell phone, not wanting to be left out from the rest of their peers. Deciding on the kind of limits that you want to put in place to keep your teen safe from risky behavior can be a real challenge. Finding the right balance between giving them the freedom to make their devices their own while maintaining boundaries varies from family to family, and in some cases can differ between your children, but here are a few suggestions for how to plan out some basic ground rules for cell phone use.

Set Clear Time Limits

If you are like most smartphone owners, your phone has become an extension of your body with a constant stream of emails and other communications that are a part of a busy lifestyle. The problem is that this can set a bad example for our kids who will look to us when they are shaping their own mobile phone use.

So, how do we set clear expectations for our kids’ use?

Ideally we’d reform our own habits to set an example of how we would hope our children will behave towards their device, but this is not necessarily realistic. More realistically, set clear guidelines that lay out specific times when it is ok to use their devices, and when they need an electronic blackout. Family time such as dinner and other events should be a must, as well as when they have homework to complete.

It is also suggested based on research that exposure to LED screens before bed can disrupt sleep cycles, so it is recommended to define a ‘cool down’ period at the end of the night.

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Keep Communication Open and Build Trust

More than just a tool for communication, mobile devices contain a trove of personal information about us. Who we talk to, our pictures, which websites we visit. Having the ability to keep tabs on what our children are up to by looking at their mobile phones can be very tempting.

You need to remember though that trust is far more important than just having simple access. Children need to understand that while parents are in control, their private space will still be respected. It is reasonable to demand that your child give you the passwords for their phone and social media accounts, but having an overbearing approach can push them to close up and be uncooperative or, worse, secretive. Your children need to know that if they encounter an uncomfortable situation such as cyber bullying or predators on the web, that they can come to you for help.

One way of avoiding a heavy handed surveillance method is to add software like NetSpark Mobile. This service allows parents to preset limits on usage during certain times of the day, which websites and apps they will have access to, and offers protection against harmful content with high level content filtering, and other features that help your kids within the boundaries you set for them. This way, there is no need for constant monitoring their phone. Changes to the app’s settings can be made remotely from either your phone or browser. Parents can rest assured that NetSpark Mobile’s software is always working and hack proof.
Through building a relationship of clear expectations, open lines of communication, and established trust, your kids can develop healthy habits for smartphone use as they move towards greater independence.

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Three Risks to Keep in Mind When Buying Your Teen Their First Mobile

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Receiving their first mobile phone has almost become a rite of passage for kids these days. With increasing peer pressure on children to have phones at younger and younger ages, what 12 or 13 year old doesn’t seem to be sporting their own device. The pressure is not only on from teens and tweens themselves to have phones, but also parents who feel the need to be in contact with their kids as needed throughout the day. As parents, we want the best for our kids but also understand some of the risks that come along with giving our children open-ended access to a world where we cannot always be around to protect them.

The question of how and where we can place limits on our kid’s cell phone use is an important one that is more complex than we may at first think. In a recent New York Times article, parenting blogger KJ Dell’Antonia described her experience when her son bought his first phone and how she decided on how to best lay down rules and boundaries for healthy and safe use of the device. While leaving the issue of specific rules open ended, Dell’Antonia made a clear point to her son that she must always be able to access his phone and the social media accounts on it. Keeping the door open for inspection can mean a lot to a concerned parent, but it is still important to remain aware of other potential risks that come along with phone ownership that are worth considering.

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Risks to Children on Mobile Devices

1. Constant Access to Social Media

The name “smartphone” is a bit of a misnomer, since being a phone is only one of the many capabilities these devices boast. Packed with apps like Facebook, Snapchat, Whatsapp, and others, a smartphone offers an open gateway to mass communication with the rest of the world. This means that kids can remain plugged in to social media everywhere they go, making disconnecting that much harder. Maintaining strong family connections are dependent on ensuring that our children (and us for that matter) are able to limit the amount of time that we spend staring at our small screens and actually interact with one another. This can be especially important for our teens who have homework to do and bedtimes to keep.

2. Unchecked Internet Access

Sometimes we forget that our smartphones provide us with the Internet in our pockets. This sudden freedom for teens can sometimes lead them to search for content that is either not age appropriate, or simply explicit. Being their device, they are likely to feel off the radar and may decide to push the limits outside of your comfort zone.

3. Beyond Polaroid

Without realizing it, we have essentially given our children the means to make their own photo shoots and movie studios. As kids will be kids, and make plenty of stupid mistakes, the chances that those mistakes will stick around for a long time to come are highly increased now that every moment can be recorded spontaneously. Some of these instances will be laughed off as childish antics, while others will prove to be more scarring and affect their reputation for years to come. It is essential to explain to our kids that whatever enters the digital universe can never be fully erased. This is doubly true for images sent to others through SMS or other messaging services. Even SnapChat’s “self-destruct” messages are not safe from being saved as a screenshot for further distribution. There is no end to where these pictures or videos can end up and the damage they can cause.

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With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

As hard as it is, being a responsible parent can mean taking that extra step to look out for your kids. Luckily NetSpark Mobile offers easy to implement solutions that parents can manage remotely from their own browser or mobile device. These solutions include real-time content filtering, limiting access to apps either completely or during specific times, and the ability to set up restrictions for each of your children with separate settings so that your 16 year old can have more flexible access than your 12 year old.

Choosing how to manage your kids and their mobile devices can be a tricky situation at best. The first step is really having a conversation with your children to make clear what your expectations are for when and how they use their phone. The need to teach them healthy habits from a young age is becoming increasingly necessary. Passing on the values of self control and mindfulness of how we use our devices can leave a lasting impression for kids as they look to us to learn how to navigate their own digital world.

NetSpark Mobile Creates Value for Wireless Providers

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Creating new revenue opportunities for ISPs and Wireless companies is increasingly challenging, with so many providers offering the same products, and very little to differentiate them from one another. Customers are hungry for new solutions to enhance their Internet experience but demand reliable service and innovation if they are going to pay extra charges, making revenue growth difficult even for savvy marketers. With over 80% of teens regularly using mobile devices, concerned parents are turning to their mobile carriers for ways to keep their kids safe and balance their devices with the rest of their lives. Thankfully NetSpark Mobile offers a set of easy to manage solution with unique capabilities that make it stand out in the market.

Providing Solutions for Concerned Parents

Use of mobile technology is fast outpacing parents’ ability to track their children’s usage both on and offline. While giving children a mobile device has become the new norm, providing parents with an easy way to communicate with their kids and give them access to the world around them, it also opens them up to a new range of risks and potential abuse. Parents are desperate for a comprehensive solution for limiting their child’s exposure to inappropriate content as well as the amount of time they spend using apps on their phones and tablets.

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NetSpark Mobile steps up in a big way to take on these challenges with its secure and easy to implement app for advanced content filtering. Using a unique quilting technology, the service goes beyond simply blacklisting suspicious web addresses, and is able to surgically remove offensive images, videos, and other content in real-time from within the loading page. This technology gives parents the peace of mind that their children are being protected while avoiding conflict at home by over compensating with heavy over-blocking by web security programs. Through the remote management software, settings for each individual device can be set up easily, even for those parents who do not have IT degrees. Not just for use in Internet browsers, the software can also reach into apps to monitor and filter content from within the apps to put more control back into the hands of parents.

NetSpark Mobile offers parents more than just high level content filtering. With the management system, they can set time limits for Internet surfing as well as the use of apps like Facebook, Twitter, and games among others. Social media and gaming if left unchecked can become a serious distraction to school work, family time, and even getting to sleep at a reasonable hour. The software lets parents set the schedule they want for their kids, giving them options to choose different levels of access to each child from the remote management system. Parents have the added confidence of knowing that once the software has been installed on a device, it is impossible to remove it even if the factory settings are reset.

An Ideal Offering for Wireless Carriers

Including NetSpark Mobile as an added service option for customers is a smart decision for wireless marketers. As an easy to manage app, it can help to build a comprehensive package for existing customers, increasing retention rates and providing an upsell opportunity to grow value. The app is compatible with all current devices running the Android OS, including both smartphones and tablets. Installation is fast and simple, and users receive excellent email support from a team of representatives ready to answer any questions they may have for using the app. To find out how NetSpark Mobile can help your company reach more customers and stand out against the competition, speak to us today for more information.

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Addressing Distractions Facing Educators with Tech in the Classroom

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Integrating mobile devices into the classroom can be an exciting way for educators to engage their students in new methods of learning while opening the door to the wealth of knowledge that is available through the Internet. Like all tools, implementing a Bring Your Own Device program in schools comes with advantages and new challenges. Understanding how to address these concerns is an important part of working out a strategy for having a smooth transition for including mobile devices in the classroom. For administrators, knowing the facts are a critical part of making the decision on how to go about bringing mobile devices into their school.

How Mobile Devices Help to Enhance the Learning Experience

Students already enter the classroom with their own mobile devices. This fact alone means that the investment for schools is relatively minimal since it can help to lower the overall costs of having the program. Most apps that are used for educational purposes can run across the range of mobile operating systems for both Android and iOS, making BYOD a very versatile platform for use in the classroom. There are numerous advantages that can be found in integrating mobile devices into the classroom but here a few of the top ones.

Opens students to the information available on the web

Whether it’s working on group projects, individual research, or accessing online materials, the Internet has become an essential tool for learning. Cutting students off from this valuable resource that they use in their daily lives is no longer an option for teachers, and it should be embraced. By providing a structured space for using the Internet, a whole new range of opportunities can be opened up.

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Better Communication Between Teachers and Students

By moving to a digital platform, collaboration between students and educators can become seamless. There are a wide range of classroom management apps that are available for this purpose where students can work on projects together, have assignments posted and checked, and accomplish other tasks that can make a learning more productive.

Preparing Students for the Tech Savvy Workforce

At this point, we all understand how technical knowledge plays a key role in succeeding in the modern workplace. Introducing students to technology as a tool for their professional lives is an important responsibility for educators. Showing them how to place limits between work and play with their devices can be an essential life lesson.

What are the Distractions?

A BYOD program is not without its risks. There are a number of challenges facing administrators who are looking at piloting such a program in their school. With all of the content out there on the web, students can easily focus from their tasks while in class. Some content may be appropriate but should not be available during class time. Other content is simply inappropriate such as sexual and violent images, and and to be filtered.

Games can also distract from learning. Remember how the games available from within graphing calculators, where we even managed to turn a calculator into a way to break away from the learning. A smartphone filled with addictive games and other “noisy” apps can be an even more attractive way to zone out.

Social media is heavily woven into the lives of students. Students checking their Facebook or Twitter feeds, messaging with their friends, or playing the latest fad game, present a serious challenge to educators looking to utilize mobile devices in their classrooms. Creating a space for learning that disconnects students from their online lives while still letting them use their devices is essential for the successful implementation of technology in education.

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What are some solutions?

In order to take control of technology in the classroom, administrators need to have in place a comprehensive system to address all of these concerns. This solution should include tools to address security, content filtering, and limiting access to problematic apps and websites. NetSpark Mobile’s unique real-time Content Quilting approach filters content from within an app or webpage, removing inappropriate content while allowing students to access the information they need. Educators can also restrict access to specific apps or limit browsing with time controls according to class needs, all of which are easily managed from the central administration portal. Facing these distractions to learning can appear daunting but in reality they are far from insurmountable with the right solutions. Adopting flexible controls for managing access to content, like those available with NetSpark Mobile, will prove a critical factor in the success of any BYOD program.

Take Advantage of Great Mobile Apps for Education

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When you get right down to it, our mobile devices are only as good as the apps we have running on them. Ever since Steve Jobs dropped the first iPhone on the world in 2007, developers have been churning out new and exciting apps that turn our devices into extremely powerful machines. Amongst the fray of the thousands of apps available for download are a large number of that are gaining attention of parents and educators alike. As a parent looking to find the best apps for your kids, we have compiled a couple of suggestions of some great apps that we’ve found, and a few sites that can be great resources.

Learn a New Language

Our favorite language app is by far Duolingo. Available across all platforms, this app makes learning a new language fun and easy. Users of all ages can enjoy playing the different games as you progress between categories and difficulty. Some of the available languages include Spanish, French, Turkish, and even Swedish. It is free to use and ridiculously hard to put down.

Learn to Code

In today’s world, learning a foreign language isn’t always enough to help get kids ahead. Learning how to write programming code from a young age can be fun as children create their own programs and designs. One of the best apps that we’ve come across is ScratchJr for Android. Kids follow the guide to write stories and programs with fun details.

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Where to Look for New Apps

One of the best places on the web that we have found for educational content is the Educational App Store. Based in the UK, they offer a very easy to use website for discovering new apps for your kids. They do a great job of breaking down into categories different apps for different ages, helping you to find the best apps for your kids.

For as general as it may sound, we also suggest taking a look through the Google Play app store. They can help you find the top apps in your area, as well as the wider global trends.

Keeping it Educational

When you start downloading these apps, you open up a brand new world of opportunity for your child or teen. It is important though to keep a few points in mind before you let your kids loose with these great toys.

These apps are built by design to be addictive. Developers want your kids to have a great time and not want to put down their device. This means that it can be important to place time limits on when it is ok to play games, versus dinner or bedtime when the device needs to be put aside. Apps can also be a distraction during school time. On the flip side, some educators may make use of these apps during the school day. Ask your child’s teacher about their preference for accessibility to the apps.

Not all of the apps out there are necessarily age appropriate for all of your kids. Outside of the educational section, there are tons of games and other type of apps that may have violence or other material that parents are uncomfortable with for their children. Certain material may be appropriate for one of your older kids but not for your younger ones.

Thankfully, there are solutions to these issues that can arise with downloading apps. NetSpark Mobile gives parents a powerful tool to take control of their kids’ devices and decide which apps they have access to and when. With time control settings that can be managed remotely from either your device or browser, you can choose which times when either specific, or all of the app are unavailable for use.

NetSpark Mobile also provides top rated content filtering in real-time to keep inappropriate material such as images of violence or nudity from coming through in-app browsing. This way kids can access the material they need while avoiding harmful content.
To learn more on how NetSpark Mobile can help you manage your kids’ app use, click here for more information.

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