Digital Citizenship issues in primary school: The changes Web2 brings to cybersafety
This bit is about my presentation at the Learning at Schools Conference 2011 – it was an interactive session with a fantastic bunch of around 40 or so primary and intermediate educators (note: for slides of the presentation please contact me at NetSafe).
Top cybersafety issues facing their students
In the interactive workshop participants in this session discussed four topics. The first was a really fascinating speed-dating session on the top cybersafety issues facing their students. We had an in depth discussion about this and produced a brainstorm covering the issues (figure 1). A number of themes came up:
Some educators are struggling with managing student use of online services that are out of their age group – for instance, facebook requires users to be 13, however the majority of some classes are using this at home already. How can educators tap into this without causing problems? How can educators educate about being safe in online social networking sites when they can’t take their students there? How many other sites have age restrictions that educators don’t know about it? What are the legal issues associated with students using such websites in school?
Other educators talked about needing clearer guidelines about publishing student work in cyberspace – when were faces allowed? What about first names? What about a student who is not permitted but is in a group photo (and wants to have her/his efforts acknowledged)?
What websites to educators need to be aware of, how does advertising create problems for educators? How to equip students with the skills needed to manage social networks? What should students know how to do in cyberspace/what skills are required? Is there consistency in approaches to cybersafety issues (i.e., students in one school may be able to use youtube and facebook, while in another school such sites may be blocked? How many educators in the same school follow the same guidelines?
Educators are often harassed themselves in cyberspace – what happens then? How can this be better managed? Rate my teacher is an issue.
One issue maybe that educators themselves may not be ready to embrace digital citizenship and cybersafety – until educators are open to this, may this limit cybersafety and digital citizenship?
Filtering, particularly of youtube material, is limiting learning opportunities for some of these educators.
Cyberbullying and harassment is also an issue for these students, with many learning new forms of this behaviour from older siblings.
Confidence in the schools security structure
The next activities involved educators moving to various areas of the room to indicate their confidence (or lack thereof) on a range of issues. The first issue (see Figure 2) was their confidence about cybersafety and their school’s network.
Those who were least confident said that in their schools there were few cybersafety procedures or policies and/or that they were poor understood or not adhered to. Some mentioned that it was particularly easy to bypass the schools protection measures (even by pushing a function key on the keyboard), and that this gave them little faith in their school’s network protection. Additionally, others reported feeling concerned that staff were poorly trained in cybersafety, as well as in the use of ICT in learning more generally.
People in the middle reported some similar themes – noting that they had colleagues who also ignored policy. On the flip side while these educators reported more use of ICT in learning, there was also a concern that their students weren’t actually equipped with the skills required to manage challenge. Some put this down to lack of time for upskilling in these areas – and that this left with not fully confident about the school.
Confident educators reported that they had not noticed cybersafety issues and this suggested to them that this was not an issue in their schools. They reported that their students knew how to use technology and that they (and their colleagues) had the skills to support what they were doing. They reported better engagement with parents about ICT issues.
Confidence in school’s management for digitial citizenship.
Another range of responses was produced for their confidence in their school management to support digital citizenship (see Figure 3).
Those low in confidence said that their school management themselves role-modelled poor digital citizenship (in one case publically harassing a staff member on an open web page). Others said that their management simply was not interested in using ICT in learning – which obviously created a Digitial Citizenship promotion barrier. On a softer note, another noted that while the school was not obviously obstructing use of ICT, it did not support or promote it’s use, leaving some educators unsupported and unable to dedicate time and energy towards DC promotion.
Educators who were somewhat confident of school management reported concerns that their students needed more skills to support their digital citizenship – they felt that their students were simply not “up to it”. Others said that the school was promoting use of ICT, but that it was locked down too strongly to prevent them from educating around cybersafety issues.
Those that were confident about school management’s support for digital citizenship said that management actively pushed the staff to use technology. Management thoroughly involved parents in ICT consent, they were heavily invested in how ICT was used and had a vision for what it should be used for, and they supported their staff to be well educated about its use.
Confidence in school engagement with Family and Whanau
Overall, participants were less confident about their schools family and whanau engagement.
Educators who were not confident about their school’s engagement with students’ family and whanau talked about their lack of understanding of how parents felt. They suggested that some learnt about ICT from older siblings, but were not certain of parental involvement in ICT at home.
Educators who were somewhat confident about the relationship of their students’ family and whanau to ICT said that while they had a better understanding of the parent community, this did not necessarily mean that the community was positive or educated about ICT in learning – one participant pointed out that in lower social economic communities, cybersafety issues may not be a priority at all for parents – who consistently failed to support the schools other safety policies (i.e., bike helmets). These educators noted a need for better parent education about cybersafety issues.
Confident educators said they had a strong relationship with the community. One school frequently talked with parents about good as well as bad things and felt that this meant they were able to better engage their students’ family and whanau on cybersafety. Another school had strong parental involvement and this lead to their confidence in this issue.
In total, a lot of issues were raised by participants. NetSafe received some direction questions about the desire for simple direction on a.) what sites/applications were appropriate for use, b.)what you needed to know if you were going to use those sites (e.g., in Blogger, turning off the “next blog” function to stop students accidentally going to an ‘adult’ blog), c.) any other way we can save time for educators. Please feel free to comment on any of this stuff, or list your desires below. We’d really appreciate the opportunity to be of assistance.
P.S. We are aware of some young people using facebook legitimately – when their caregiver signs up for facebook and lets them use the account. This is provides opportunity for caregivers to guide students about safe practice, provide supervision, and begin a conversation about using social media safety – it also enables students to use these resources in other environments whilst not breaking the terms and conditions of facebook that it is not set up by someone under the age of 13.
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