Yesterday, BBC News were giving some prominence to an alarmist story with the headline “School computers fail to filter“, all about how schools are failing to protect children from the rampant dangers of using the Internet. The story was questionably sourced, poorly researched, and anonymously written – so generally on a par with much of BBC News’ usual output. This created some annoyance in the educational IT community.
The article was clearly not only prompted by, but entirely based on, a press release from a company trying to sell web filtering and endpoint protection software. There’s much to dislike about their approach, but I’d like to focus on a hint for the marketing team at said company.
If you want to sell technology to a school, criticising the work of the school’s IT support team in the national media is not a good start. These people tend to have some say in the decision-making process. Annoying them with trite headlines is a sure-fire way to get them to back a competitor’s product instead.
I recall dealing with a sales call from one of these sorts of companies before; the sort of company that believes that their software can monitor and catch any and every unwanted act on a computer that a child might deign to perform. Here, for your pleasure, is a true and unembellished excerpt from the conversation:
“Do you currently use any systems to stop students accessing prohibited sites online?”
“Yes, we use ISA Server to do some web filtering.”
“OK, and do you use anything to monitor computer usage and detect when students work around the filtering?”
“Oh yes, we have a number of advanced monitoring systems that use adaptive heuristics and image processing to monitor the students’ computer use.”
“Oh really, what systems are you using?”
“We call them ‘teachers’.”