2022-11-18 19:43:37.26733 +0000 UTC

Student Aware Case Study: It's All About Students With CCSD

It’s all about students.

Students at Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) aren’t just precious: they’re sacred. The Bible teaches that, "children are a heritage from the Lord," and that, "the fruit of the womb is a reward." (Psalm 127:3) Pope Francis reaffirmed that "Children are the joy of the family and society." And yet, in the developed world there are more kids struggling with depression, abuse, and addiction than ever before.

 That’s why CCSD decided to help launch a technology called Student Aware, designed to identify students in vulnerable or high-risk situations. Through machine learning analysis of student data, it can identify students considering or struggling with suicide, violence, abuse, or addictions.

The trouble with Chromebooks.

Chromebooks are an amazing tool for education: they’re cost-effective, secure, and easy to maintain within enterprise-sized organizations. However, the built-in Google identity management of a Chromebook does not play well with firewall technology providers like Forte.net or Palo Alto. 

"The interest in Student Aware initially came from recognizing a gap in the ability to accurately report on ChromeBook browsing history," said Mike Meyer, CCSD’s Senior Manager of Infrastructure & Operations. "On a number of occasions my team was asked to investigate inappropriate student behaviour online but were unable to produce reliable reports because the incidents occurred on a Chromebook."

Keeping kids safe and accountable while online is a key part of how my team helps fulfill the mission and vision of CCSD. There are both great and terrible things to be found online, things that can enhance a child’s ability to learn and grow, and things that can cause them to stumble and fall.

Mike Meyer, CCSD

Crawl. Walk. Run.

Student Aware was an early BETA project when CCSD was first introduced to the concept. It provided a fast, easy way to audit student traffic. Requests were clearly broken down topically by risk, and weekly insights into traffic and students were visually presented. But, some of the enterprise-grade features that CCSD wanted to see were not yet in places, such as isolating traffic to specific IP ranges, detecting internal device IP addresses, and monitoring and notifications. 

"There are times when it makes sense to buy it, and other times when it makes sense to build it", said Mike. "The CCSD technology team isn’t afraid to take risks on new, innovative technologies, especially when they may disrupt the education technology market in a positive way. We’re glad we decided to work with the Imagine Everything team -- despite being in an early stage, they were able to rapidly deploy the features a larger school district like ours needed." 

Initially, CCSD launched at a few schools so they could understand the technology and identify any limitations or workflow issues. Through a series of regular updates, the development team at Imagine Everything added all the requested features to Student Aware to the benefit of all participating school districts.

Clear and consistent insight.

Within days CCSD was putting Student Aware to good use. Their first investigation into student activity allowed them to trace students who were harassing an operator in an online chat forum. The school administration was notified and presented the neatly consolidated evidence provided by Student Aware. The incident was also used as an opportunity to continue the conversation and education around good digital citizenship for students. 

On multiple occasions, Student Aware has detected kids searching for dangerous self-harm or violence-related information. As in the previous instance, school administration were notified who in turn reacted quickly with follow-up and parental involvement.

"As a Catholic school district, we take the shared stewardship we’ve been given over children seriously," said Mike. "Their online engagement plays a role in shaping their faith and character and we need to maintain a level of oversight within our schools’ online communities."

We’re extremely thankful to be working with Mike and his team. They push us to be our best possible self and they do so with patience and a humility that is rare in the professional world. CCSD helped drive a lot of new features and the magnitude of their traffic made it easy to optimize horizontal scaling, reducing costs for all school districts.

Brad Leitch, Imagine Everything

Cost matters.

CCSD explored competitive vendors to provide similar auditing capabilities. By comparison, with all student accounts protected, an unrestricted feature set, and guaranteed three-year fixed pricing, Student Aware came in at just 20.7% of the cost of competitors.

It’s difficult to be in a situation where technology can help protect students, but is too cost-prohibitive to adopt. Imagine Everything provided a way to make that technology possible for our students and they made us feel like partners throughout the whole process.

Mike Meyer, CCSD

A mountain cast into the sea.

CCSD encourages its students, parents and teachers to live their faith and treat each other with dignity and respect. The school district values excellence in Catholic education and is guided by the shared responsibility and moral authority of the Church. It is their goal to develop students who reflect the loving image of God and who are successful contributors to global society. 

CCSD continues to work with the Imagine Everything development team to make Student Aware the most complete, and cost-effective online student safety tool in the industry. 

If your school district is interested in joining the Imagine Everything technology community reach out to them by emailing hello@imagineeverything.com.

It’s encouraging to see school boards like CCSD who are driven by altruistic motives: in this case, protecting kids online. It seems clear that faith, a central theme for the school district, has helped them maintain the highest moral convictions and focus on developing happy, healthy kids.

Brad Leitch, Imagine Everything