Just use the web, but please don’t run with scissors.

It has been a bit remiss of me to not post about this before, but I’m sure you would have heard about it many times before.  If you read the newspapers or watch current affair programs it would have been presented to you and even in general discussions with other teachers (especialy those who don’t interact with ICT much) opinions would have been put forward.

The topic of course is internet safety/bullying and how our children are at risk if they are using ICT and that we need to protect them. Yes, this is true and I’m on the record as not disagreeing with this – yes we do need to protect them and while the danger is real, we don’t need to go over the top as some reports would have us suggest. I do wish the amount of amazing things our teachers and students do with ICT got the same coverage as cyberbulling or sexual predators do, as I’m sure the ledger would be way in favour of the positive uses of ICT but probably not in term of sales of newspapers!  But as I said, we can’t hide from the reality that it exsits.

However I want look at it from a different angle, not from the student protection point of view, but from a teacher point of view. This is not to criticise teachers in any way shape or form, but to generate some thinking in this area.

In my role I work with a lot of teachers and as a result we have a lot of teachers who use skype, have wikis’s or blogs for themselves, classes and even students etc.  When I work with these teachers I have a strong emphasis on the need to educate themselves and their students about safe internet behaviours re names, personal information etc.  Often the class creates rules about how they use specific areas on the web and it tends to work really well as the teacher and more often than not, the students monitor it closely.

But what happens for those students in the classes of teachers who are making the leap, in some cases a bold and brave one, to bring ICT tools and the web into their classrooms on thier own?

If I think back to things we did on staff on a yearly basis, it was more often than not related to the safety of students (and ourselves) at our school.  Fire drills, lock ins, evacuations, first aid, CPR, analphlaxis, asthma, bus safety, road safety, the list goes on.  Often as a flow on, some of these discussions were than had with our students, bus safey, road safety, stranger danger, no running here or there (especially with scissors!), don’t climb the trees or throw stones/sand/sticks/the prep kids etc.  These were all deemed to be proactive and preventative to stop or at the very least minimize the risks for our students.

When it comes to web related incidents, too often though our students are not supervised well enough when using the web because the teacher isn’t fully aware of what the kids are or can do.  Added to this often these students haven’t been involved in discussions about what is safe internet behaviour and as a result schools have to be reactive when something goes wrong and then we all get to read about in the paper.

So my question is why don’t we have more schools talking about this on a regular basis with all their staff?  I’m sure every school has at least 1 person who is savvy with this content, or if not, there are lots of people out there who are.  My belief is that if we want our teachers to be leading the way with using ICT in the classroom, we need to take aware as many barriers as possible.

Often I hear ” I don’t do web stuff because it’s not safe!” or “I read (enter website name here) was missued by a student a school x, so we’ll just block it and that will cover it.”  Coupled onto this is are schools and their acceptable use policies too – how often do these get updated to reflect the ever changing landscape that the web presents for education?

If teachers are educted about how to ‘make it safe’ then that is one more barrier removed that may restrict our students having the opportunity to connect, collaborate and create in the cloud. Any thoughts most welcome.