Students can face hazards on the playground but the online world is far riskier. N4L aims to help students stay safe online with a new Reporting app which opens a window into what they’re viewing online, so teachers can discuss any dangers.

The Reporting app pulls information from a school’s FortiGate to show online activity. It uses a simple, visually appealing dashboard to display a students’ browsing history. Staff who have been granted access by the school principal can view the reports. The aim is not to punish but to educate students about the possible dangers of the internet, as well as the best and safest ways to behave online. 

Auckland’s Pakuranga College is trialling the app. “We tell parents the internet is this powerful, adventurous tool but it has a dark side,” says Billy Merchant, the college’s deputy principal. “We don’t want to be Big Brother, but if a teacher sees a child acting suspiciously – perhaps shutting a window – the app means we can see where they’ve been and talk to them.” 

More positively, the app reveals the popularity of educational apps and websites. A teacher might see if, say, students like using a language programme or if other investments should be made instead.

The app is part of N4L’s enhanced focus on student online safety. N4L’s Reporting app also helps with in-school security and safety as it makes it easier to detect any student devices on the school network infected with viruses. Its clear dashboard reveals such issues more easily. N4L worked closely with 50- plus schools trialling the app to create an easy-to-use dashboard.

The dashboard shows all sites students visit – including blocked ones – so reveals any worrying trends too. For instance, the trial has already flagged a problem with unsafe sites. Students are making thousands of attempts to access blocked malicious, fake phishing and illegal websites. This is often unintentional and could show a need for better education around online security. Another example could be students trying to access blocked porn sites – this could indicate a need for better sex education. N4L is working with Netsafe on providing actionable online safety insights for school leaders. Feedback from the trial has also helped make the app more user-friendly, ensuring time-poor principals and their deputies have easily digestible information at their fingertips.

There are a variety of paid-for reporting apps schools can use but not everyone can afford these. N4L wants every school, regardless of wealth or level of IT support, to have an easy-to-use reporting app. 

Teachers at the trial schools are already using the app as a digital literacy tool. At Pakuranga College we are taking “a restorative approach”, says Billy Merchant. For instance, with doubtful behaviour, we will ask: who is your behaviour affecting? This is more effective than putting someone in detention. “We get students to think about their actions rather than just punish them.” 

Schools will be offered the Reporting app after they’ve been through the upgrade to their Wi-Fi network, which will mean richer data is presented within the app. It’s also available on request prior to the upgrade. For more information click here.