A lot has changed in schools over the last few years as mobile and digital learning have opened up new opportunities for immersive, engaging, anytime/anywhere education. Today most schools are working towards 1:1 programs, where they’re giving each student a dedicated mobile device – often with the ability to take that device home on evenings and weekends.
Along with all the learning opportunities, these digital programs bring some challenges, and Lightspeed Systems is there to help schools meet them: keeping students safe online, blocking inappropriate sites and activity, protecting student data privacy, keeping students engaged, and giving IT teams the controls and reports they need to make those 1:1 programs easily managed and effective.
As school shooting incidents and teen suicides continue to rise, schools are under the scanner of state authorities and parents, and questions are being raised on how to offer safe learning environments. In 2018, more than 55 people were killed by gun violence in schools in the United States. According to the latest study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2007 to 2017, the number of suicides among people, between the ages of 10 to 24, has increased by 56 percent in the US!
Cases of depression, panic disorder, aggression, cyber-bullying, drug usage, self-harm, anxiety and other forms of mental disorders are on the rise among students too. Is technology to be blamed? Technology, while it is ubiquitous and powerful, can also be dangerous if not monitored. On one hand, while it gives students access to information and experiences like never before and drives better education; on the other, it opens up frontiers that could be misused if proper checks and balances are not in place. And with the 1:1 education system, parents have concerns, more than ever, about the technology their child is using at school – and bringing home.
Over 50 million K-12 students returned to schools in the US this year. With new devices and software applications being introduced into the school network on a daily basis, how can schools monitor each and every student while striking a balance between safety, privacy, and quality of learning?
Lightspeed Systems is using technology to help keep technology safer in schools – blocking inappropriate content and reporting on activities to keep device use focused on education and keep school personnel ahead of the game when it comes to safety and productivity.
Decades of Experience, Focused on Schools
Founded in 1999, Lightspeed Systems, Inc. develops content filtering, mobile device management, monitoring, safety, and reporting solutions for the education market, especially K-12 schools. It is headquartered in Austin, Texas. The company has partnered with 28,000 schools and 6,500 school districts from 35 countries!
Brian Thomas, President & CEO, says, “We are focused on K12 and have been for twenty years. Our deep industry knowledge, communication with customers, and mission to protect students drive our development and services plans. Along with all of our experience, we bring a spirit of innovation – always looking for smart, new ways to solve the latest challenges schools face.”
Introduced in 2017, Lightspeed Systems Relay is a complete platform for 1:1 programs and mobile learning initiatives. Relay protects 15 million students on their school-issued devices. It supports Chrome, Mac OS, Windows, and iOS, and helps protect, focus, and prepare students with the following components:
· Filter - Features cloud-based filtering for every device with patent-pending Smart Agent Technology.
· Manage - Delegates management, easy app controls, time policies.
· Monitor – Gives teachers tools to monitor, focus, and engage students in the classroom.
· Protect - Flags inappropriate activity, including cyber-bullying, self-harm and more.
· Analytics – Analyzes all activity to drive data privacy, app ROI, adoption compliance, and effectiveness.
The platform began with filtering but has grown to provide more of the features schools need. In 2018, Lightspeed released Classroom, a classroom management solution featuring AI insights on student productivity. Last year, Analytics was added to provide greater insight into app usage. And earlier this year, the company introduced Safety Check, which uses advanced AI and machine learning to monitor student web activity; identify students who might be at risk for self-harm, suicide, or other concerns; and alert administrators in real-time.
“Our filtering technology protects students first of all by blocking access to inappropriate content, from pornography to violence. We build on that by monitoring activity on other sites where students create and share content, like online docs, email, and social media, to alert administrators when activity indicates students are at risk,” adds Brian.
Lightspeed Optimizes Ed-Tech Usage
Beyond safety, Lightspeed Systems is committed to helping schools make the most of their ed-tech resources. Sixty-seven percent of ed-tech licenses go unused, amounting to billions of dollars wasted each year. Oftentimes, school authorities do not have answers to the following questions:
· What rogue apps have been installed outside IT vetting policies?
- What programs and apps are most used? Least used?
· Which classes use specific apps the most?
· How much money is spent on licenses that are never used?
· What apps and software do we need to plan professional development for?
· What tools are in use throughout our schools that violate student data privacy best practices?
“With Analytics powered by Relay, schools can see all their apps, both free and paid, and monitor adoption and engagement, so they can be sure they’re making the most of limited budgets. In addition, they can spot apps that are in use that haven’t been vetted and may violate student data privacy and security policies,” notes Brian.
A Complete Solution for Every Device
In its twenty-year history, Lightspeed Systems has seen many changes in K12 education, but a few things remain the same: schools need to do a lot with small teams and limited resources; they need solutions that integrate seamlessly; and even as they move toward 1:1 programs, they support multiple operating systems and devices.
“Relay eliminates the hassle of managing disparate systems and solutions to keep school devices safe, well managed and mobile. With Relay, school IT departments can perform all necessary functions of 1:1 management with one, scalable, cloud-based solution — that covers all mobile and network devices,” Brian shares.
“Our solutions are used in schools around the world for web filtering, device management, reporting, and student safety. We are helping schools keep digital learning safe. Unlike other solutions that only work on some platforms or sites, we work across every OS and every site,” adds Brian.
“The move to mobile 1:1 programs in schools, particularly with Chromebooks, has driven a move toward the cloud. Now schools have realized they can reduce hardware and save money and time by shifting services like web filtering to the cloud. In addition, they get other benefits: less taxing on their network, more real-time analysis and reporting, speed, security, and scalability. We expect to see more schools move more services to the cloud,” avers Brian.
How Lightspeed Helped Lamar County School District
Lamar County School District in Mississippi has about 10,000 students and a Chromebook for each of them. With Relay, they’re able to safely open up new learning opportunities for those students.
Relay has/is changing the way we allow our students to interact with internet resources. We no longer have to be afraid to allow them access to outside resources for exploration. Relay is like having a second set of eyes and is as valuable as having a second person in the classroom.
“Lightspeed Systems is focused on K12 student environments and the products they offer to reflect their commitment to this. The enhancements and the investments they have put into their products is simply amazing. No other suite of online student protection comes close to what Lightspeed Systems has to offer. The Lightspeed team has never let me down from sales to technical assistance. They are always there for me and they truly have a passion for helping me keep my students safe both mentally and physically,” shares Ross Randall, Director of Technology for the district.
“We have been helping schools make their technology safe and easily managed since 1999. Down the road we see Lightspeed Systems helping more schools and saving more student lives. We’re continuously looking for new ways to use our expertise and our technology to do that,” concludes Brian.
Headquarters/Location: Austin, Texas, United States