What is the best way to prevent kids from leaving an educational website for a designated time?

Joe Videtto May 14, 2012
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Hi all,

Joe here, the guy that works in an elementary school.

Our school uses Windows Computers and iPads in 2 different ways –
a.) to help kids academically build their vocabulary and other foundation skills in math and writing, and
b.) as a reward and ‘fun’ activity, with lots of freedom to surf or open any games/programs that interest them.

Needless to say, the kids much prefer option b, and will almost always ‘skip’ the academic programs in favor of the more fun, less educational games, even when instructed not to do so.

I was wondering if there are any ways to set our computers up – both Windows-based and iPad, to restrict their usage for a designated time period (say 20 minutes), to ONLY the educational game they are instructed to play, and then at the end of that time, open their access to the entire machine ?

Any suggestions are greatly appreciated.

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  1. Cliff Mccullar
    June 7, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    I would say the easiest solution(not involving birch rods) would be to create a "academic" and "play time" account on the PC. ensure all students log into the academic account(either by visually checking, or password protection on the play time account) The academic account would only allow access to the educational games(you do this by choosing not to install the "play time" games to all accounts, just to the play time account). As far as websites go again you can restrict the web browser on just that account to what sites it can or cant go too.

    The other thing i would advise would be too use teamviewer(or similar program) on all the PC's in the class room, then you could remotely view what each child was doing on the pc to see if they are doing what they are supposed too.

  2. Windowsisbettr
    May 23, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Within Windows 7 parental control, however, there is an option to set an account as Limited and restrict access to just educational applications.
    To block access.

  3. Fanul Cartii
    May 23, 2012 at 11:10 am

    I see two ways:
    1. separate hardware. Make some machines for work and others for play.
    2. install some live monitoring software (there are many, google them up) and let them know that you can see everything they do.

    • Joe Videtto
      May 26, 2012 at 12:25 pm

      I like this idea - I could make the ones for work have ONLY the programs that are permissible for 'building reading and math skills', and ONLY have access to online programs that do the same (still not sure how to accomplish the latter without a script). One friend suggest that I create different Windows Users to accomplish this on the same machines, but then I would need an automated way to manage the passwords for the "Free Time" user logins (not worried about them using the 'work programs' during 'free time : )

      • Fran Staniec
        July 22, 2012 at 8:00 pm

        An excellent "live monitoring" program that I use in my high school computer labs is called "Vision". You can lock out the Internet and lock students into certain programs, like Word, etc. You can restrict them to certain websites while on the Internet. On your control computer you can see everyone's screens. You can take over all computers or an individual's computer as needed. You can also broadcast to all the computers in your room from your computer and also demonstrate to students. Great program and once the students know you can watch them a lot of the problems resolve themselves as they can't tell when you are monitoring.

    • Joe Videtto
      May 26, 2012 at 12:26 pm

      By the way - I like optoin 2 also - in the hope of saving some time, going to ask a question for recommendations on number 2.

  4. Karen
    May 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    The solution is the teacher. The teacher needs to monitor what the students are doing. I teach from the back of a computer lab so that I can see what programs the students are using. If the student does not follow directions they lose the privilege (the free time on the computer).

  5. Joe Videtto
    May 16, 2012 at 1:23 am

    Wow - I'm sure this is a common issue for many teachers, and I'm surprised that there is not some software to do this. Maybe some great makeuseof engineer could make a few bucks (then again, schools don't always have the biggest IT budgets).

    I'm not a great scripter - but perhaps a script can be written that is password protected or invoked with some special key combination, and when the user attempts to navigate to an address that does not have a designated prefix (configurable in the script), an error message appears and the link goes back to the previous page. I'm wondering if this kind of script is possible - and if only a few lines long, someone could write a sample and share ?

  6. Oron
    May 15, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    Joe, I don't know of any solution that will fit the exact circumstances you describe. That said, what many organisations do is they direct all PCs (in your case, it would be iPads as well) to go through a proxy, and set the proxy server (Squid is a popular one) with a white list of sites, or perhaps a black list. You could have two proxies ("fun" and "work") and direct the machines to them, but what is missing is:
    1. an easy way to direct a group of machines to one or the other proxy on a timed basis and
    2. a simple interface to change the proxy's lists.
    Perhaps this can be scripted, I simply don't know.

    • Sachin Kanchan
      May 19, 2012 at 11:40 am

      am not sure but if you said about switching proxies

      can :- Proxy Switchy for chrome

      or foxy proxy for firefox may come into use to solving the problem...

  7. Saikat Basu
    May 14, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Windows 7 comes with parental control settings. Read the details here: http://www.demogeek.com/2010/04/15/restrict-your-childs-computer-usage-with-windows-7-parental-controls/

    Romaco Timeout is another free app you can use: Here's a review from a fellow author: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/free-software-to-limit-your-kids-online-time/

    • Bruce Epper
      May 14, 2012 at 10:07 pm

      Neither of your proposed solutions will work in this case. The second program only limits the amount of time the computer can be used during a session or day pretty much the same way that the time restrictions work in Vista and Win7. The first program will allow you to restrict times, programs and games, but they all work independently. In either case, you cannot set it so that a specific program must be used for a set amount of time before any other program can be used as specified in the OP's requirements.

      I have not seen any application that can do this. The entire thing does pose an interesting problem and if I find some time I may look into developing a program to handle it.

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