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Back To School — Safety-savvy!

August 18, 2009
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We had the first of our two INSET (In-service Training) days yesterday and I was asked to give a very brief intro to online safety to the staff. It was a sobering lesson to me in just how much I take for granted and just how far many teachers have to come in adapting to the online environment that so many of our pupils inhabit.

thinkuknow-logoI recently completed my CEOP Ambassador training and so was asked by Liz Angus one of the school’s Child Protection Officers to give a quick overview of some of the issues we face in schools and also the work done by CEOP. I immediately contacted Ollie Bray to ask if I could use and adapt some of the slides he used recently and was delighted when he said yes, so, suitably prepared, I did my bit. The session was very well received, and I had quite a few teachers coming up to me after and asking for advice and to say thanks… but one thing that was said by a handful made me realise that I do take some of the obvious safeguards for granted and that not all teachers are as safety-savvy as I thought.

As I was speaking, I made the point that pupils should not be allowed to use a computer in school without supervision. I thought this was a fairly basic and obvious point, but was a bit stunned later at just how many of my colleagues told me that they hadn’t thought of it. Like every other school in Scotland — and probably the world — there never seem to be enough PCs to go around and when deadlines loom it is all too easy to say to a pupil to use a PC in an empty room. The needs of the deadline blind many teachers to the inherent dangers of this. Fortunately, I had the chance to share and will soon be delivering ThinkUKnow training to the staff in the school as part of their CPD… but I can’t help but think how many more teachers need to be educated in this area. We’ll get there, but sometimes it’s good to be reminded just how far we have to go…

I’ve added the slides I ended up using on the day, but don’t forget that most of them are derived from Ollie Bray’s excellent Internet Safety and Responsible Use presentation!

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. andywallis permalink
    August 18, 2009 9:24 pm

    Hi Neil,

    Why do you think a child should not be allowed on a computer unsupervised? As you know at the school I work at we have one UMPC per child, and often pupils are not under direct supervision when working and using their machine. Every pupil signs a user agreement and is aware of the consequences if they use the machine in a manner that might be deemed inappropriate. From this a culture of trust and responsibility has been created, not a culture where pupils have to be constantly supervised.

    As always, just a thought!

    Andy

  2. August 18, 2009 9:47 pm

    I fear we need to build up to that level of trust. With not having a 1-2-1 programme, we are reliant on trying to find machines where and when we can. Unfortunately, this has lead to occasional problems when pupils have been left on their own… Out of curiousity, what does everyone else think? Am I being too protective? What do you/your school do?

  3. August 29, 2009 2:41 pm

    In this context, I usually talk about the three Ss. (Esses? How do you spell the plural of the letter “s”?) In school, when pupils are expected to use a computer, they should do so in an environment that is: Safe, Structured and Supervised.

    The first S is hopefully fairly obvious. The second is, I think, very important but often overlooked. In a techie room, you wouldn’t say to pupils that they should go and explore the band saw to see what they can find out, or even send them to the library to pick a couple of books at random in the hope they might be of relevance to what they were learning. Sometimes though that’s what we seem to do with pupils and the Internet.

    The third S is Supervised and I too have warned people against the “send them away to browse on their own” technique. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m standing at their shoulder watching the screen every second but it does mean that I use my classroom management skills to be aware of what’s happening. In the same way that a good teacher get suspicious when a small group of boys at the back of the class suddenly goes all quite, teacher radar should pick up some vibes when a pupil is up to no good on the Internet… but for that to happen, there has to be some point of contact. It is tricky to pick up on when the pupils are in a completely different place.

    I can see Andy’s point though. When the technology is ubiquitous, perhaps you have to rely more on self-supervision. But I would still argue that the scope for inappropriate use is diminished when pupils are working on safe, structured activities. If you’ve done your bit to make sure the pupils are actively engaged and that you are supervising their work appropriately, there will be less scope for inappropriate actions. As the old saying goes, the devil finds work for idle internet users.

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