Fresno Unified students will soon have access to ad-free online browsing using Microsoft’s Bing search engine as part of a pilot program aimed at boosting students’ privacy and blocking adult content.
The district is one of several across the nation taking part in the trial. It’s the first time a major search engine has given schools the choice to nix ads from students’ search results. Los Angeles Unified is also giving the search engine a whirl.
Called “Bing for Schools,” the pilot program offers schools extra incentives: for every search students type in, the school gets “credits” — and 30,000 of those credits earn the school a free Microsoft Surface RT tablet.
I talked with Kurt Madden, chief technology officer at Fresno Unified, and Bill Cox, senior director of product management at Microsoft, about the new search option.
Madden said the new version will offer less cluttered web searches and tailor search results to topics most relevant to students. Students won’t be required to use Bing, but he said that engine is already the default at Fresno Unified schools.
The engine will also sift out mature content. That’s a big concern at schools, Madden said, where students can inadvertently be directed to search results meant for adults.
“The internet provides a vast number of resources to students,” Madden said, “but it also provides many resources that are inappropriate. So you try to filter out and use the best filters possible to make sure the kids get the stuff they’re supposed to get.”
Cox said setting up the free service will be easy. Any computer within the district’s network will automatically be redirected to the Bing for Schools site when they visit bing.com.
He declined to say whether other Bing users can expect the ad-free option in the future.