“Schools have the opportunity to transform education and help pupils fulfil their potential and raise standards with ICT. But it’s also important that students learn how to be safe when they are using these new technologies, particularly Web 2.0 collaborative technologies such as social networking sites, which are becoming an essential aspect of productive and creative social learning. Schools are finding that a blocking and banning approach, which merely limits exposure to risk, may no longer be a sustainable approach. Indeed, Ofsted stated that schools need to “manage the transition from locked down systems to more managed systems to help pupils understand how to manage risk.” Children will experiment online, and while their confidence and enthusiasm for using new technologies may be high, their understanding of the opportunities and risks may be low, as will their ability for responding to any issues they encounter. Schools need to focus on a model of empowerment; equipping children with the skills and knowledge they need to use technology safely and responsibly, and managing the risks, wherever and whenever they go online; to promote safe and responsible behaviours in using technology both at school and in the home and beyond. E-safety is more about behaviour than technology.” Becta Publications – Safeguarding children online
New technology has given teachers the opportunity to engage students in their own learning, using media sites which are already embedded in students’ social existence (e.g. YouTube, Facebook, Blogs, Twitter). Students today already have the skills to use these sites effectively to link up with friends, search for information and share pictures – so how is this being harnessed by teaching staff?
- YouTube is being used to film drama productions, musical performances, films and feedback on the ‘performances’ is given;
- Class blogs set up to share resources, ideas and tasks – where students contribute to discussions and homework tasks outside of the classroom;
- Web pages such as wallwisher.com, used to enable students to contribute online to feedback forums, discussions and suggest revision topics;
With the introduction of ‘Social Media’ in education, as a tool to enhance students’ learning, staff need to be fully aware of the potential implications that could arise if communicating with students on ‘unmonitored’ sites. The term ‘e-safety’ is sometimes used in tabloid headlines but what does it actually mean? Do schools have robust systems in place to ensure that neither students or staff are ‘at risk’ from misunderstandings or allegations?
In my experience, generally ‘NO’, most schools do have the obligatory policies in place but fail to monitor carefully that the policies are being followed. Staff tend to be unaware of the potential issues that surround having students as ‘friends’ on their facebook account, despite the fact that they have access to their photos, comments wall and any other personal information (e.g. mobile numbers, date of birth, etc). That same information wouldn’t be handed over to students during a lesson, however by making students ‘friends’, staff are handing over this level of information easily. Staff need to be aware of ‘what’s acceptable and what’s not’ in relation to social sites and students should be taught about netiquette across the curriculum, so that the boundaries are clear to all concerned. However, I firmly believe that the benefits of using such technology to engage students outweigh any potential issues, however it’s also clear to me that staff need to be guided by clear policies which address the key issues.
e-Safety – the safe and responsible use of technology – can sometimes be presented as primarily a child protection issue. While young people and vulnerable adults do need support to keep themselves safe online, the risks associated with the use of technology are not confined to just them. e-Safety issues can also affect adults; for example, the mismanagement of personal data, and risks of financial scams, identity theft and cyberbullying. This is particularly relevant for those adults who are new to using technology and even more of a reason to have policies in place which address the use of mobile technology to take photos of staff, the use of school laptops to order items online using personal credit cards and so on…..
Don’t tell teachers how to act on Facebook article – Guardian.co.uk
Some observations on age distribution (royal.pingsom.com):
- Bebo appeals to a much younger audience than the other sites with 44% of its users being aged 17 or less. For MySpace, this number is also large; 33%.
- Classmates.com has the largest share of users being aged 65 or more, 8%, and 78% are 35 or older.
- 64% of Twitter’s users are aged 35 or older.
- 61% of Facebooks’s users are aged 35 or older.
It can often be difficult to know where to start…. so here’s some good information sites:
The Risks ~ Digizen – Social Networking
The Think U Know website ~ a great source of information for parents, students and staff
Poll Results on Classroom Innovation (Guardian.co.uk)
Websites for Initial Teacher Trainees