GoGuardian: Making the Internet Safer for Students

Advait Shinde, CEO, GoGuardianAdvait Shinde, CEO
As technology plays a larger role in the classroom and students’ daily lives, the edtech industry has come to characterize the delivery of most content—from class assignments, research, and homework—online. In many cases, laptops and tablets have successfully replaced textbooks; smartphones and social media have become commonplace for research and content, reshaping the way students learn. These advancements have exposed students to new resources and opportunities, but also entail new drawbacks and challenges. “From a safety perspective, the stereotypical traditional approach of network filtering involves blocking several sites that do have educational potential. This approach makes internet filtering a unique challenge because it is more about unblocking rather than blocking,” begins Advait Shinde, a seasoned software engineer, formerly at Google, who is passionate about enabling the internet to improve education. Added to that, as classrooms adopt devices, teachers and administrators lack the transparency and real-time visibility to ensure that the devices are being used appropriately and effectively in the learning context.

With its firm belief that the ideal educational experience should unleash curiosity and expand student potential, GoGuardian, a complete solution catering to Google-powered schools, aids students in finding the right content to enhance engagement and learning outcomes. “In the visual world where the majority of the student educational experience takes place digitally, we try to understand students and their learning process,” says Shinde, co-founder and CEO of GoGuardian. The company offers unique visibility into the learning process, leveraging proprietary artificial intelligence and machine learning to optimize the learning experience of each student.

GoGuardian recognizes that unless monitored, the internet can be a harmful place for children. This led to the creation of GoGuardian Admin, a tool that keeps the web safe while imposing minimum restrictions on students. “We like to say that we keep the Internet as open as possible and as safe as necessary,” Shinde says. In an effort to create safe and effective learning environments, the company’s dynamic team of engineers and data scientists has developed this tool powered the next-generation of filtering—Smart Filtering—that helps driving effective decisions about what to allow, block, or notify.

Additionally, GoGuardian Teacher creates a classroom environment that guides, encourages and protects students on their learning journey.

GoGuardian Teacher is a classroom product that follows the real-time nature of teaching

“The addition of devices in a classroom often adds a layer of opacity, forcing teachers to combine teaching with policing to ensure kids focus on the task assigned,” Shinde explains. GoGuardian Teacher offers real-time visibility on the students’ devices, the ability to control it completely, while providing the opportunity to message students and view their browsing history. The product helps teachers send an article or video to students, as well as remotely monitor the tabs open on their devices. The chat option also enables them to initiate conversations with students who appear to be struggling. “GoGuardian Teacher is a classroom product that follows the real-time nature of teaching,” he adds.

The reliable monitoring of student activity on GoGuardian has proved useful time and again. The GoGuardian team came to realize the full power of their products when a school district was able to intervene with a student who intended to commit suicide that evening. Denton ISD in Texas received an alert, an alarming activity from a student was observed using GoGuardian Smart Alerts, a product which uses machine learning to analyze student behavior in real-time. The student was searching for material related to self-harming and suicide. On being notified immediately, the teacher and the IT administrator together approached and informed the student’s parents, and performed a wellness check on the student. Their timely intervention prevented a potentially devastating occurrence. The incident alarmed GoGuardian, which looked into its content-filtering approach and adjusted it to check on students’ emotional and mental well being. GoGuardian built AI-based tools that detect and track the risky behavior of users, which report up to 2000 alerts per week. “The staggeringly large number of alerts highlighted a problem that professionals have been worrying about for decades,” elaborates Shinde. “While alerting IT administrators solves 20 percent of the problem, the challenge lies in assessing the actual risk of the situation to make a professional determination of how the student can be helped, and who needs to be notified immediately.”

Armed with an in-depth knowledge gained through their flagship products, GoGuardian is trusted by hundreds of thousands of educators to protect their 5 million students. The company collaborated with several non-profit organizations such as the American Association of Suicidology, American Federation of Suicide Prevention, and the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), which helped design and build a product that addresses student mental health explicitly. Named GoGuardian Beacon, this soon-to-be-launched product is not only expected to identify students requiring help earlier, but also notify their parents, teachers and other local authorities of their needs in real-time. Ultimately, GoGuardian seeks to empower the whole child and complete education system, starting with tapping into the educational capacity of the internet to enhance the learning experience of students.