I often come across concerned parents who wonder if the use of technology in schools (or indeed anywhere) is such a good thing for their children. They ask me if 6 is too young, at what age should they get a tablet, when can they be left alone on the computers and so on
Research is patchy, and often subject to hysterical reporting (I have put a few links at the bottom of the article) – parents often find themselves with more questions than answers. It is unwise to give concrete answers, and indeed I always try not to. ‘Common sense’ advice: family devices that are shared, regular breaks etc are important. From a school perspective however we need to stress that we are trying to teach the responsible use of technology. Technology is not ‘going back in the box’ and we need to equip our children with the sense, the experience and the confidence to make technology work for them. The danger is that if families pretend it is not there, and children are not allowed to experiment they will be unable to monitor and recognise their own behaviour as they get older.
Naturally schools have a huge part to play in this, and the new curriculum has given us the scope to do this.
We are all role models
There can be no easy answers, and no easy way to teach responsibility but there can be no doubt that modelling the good use of technology is vital both at home and at school.
- Teachers will model searching online for information
- Model the tools we use to create using word processors, presentation tools and so on
- Explain ways in which specific tools can solve specific problems
- Parents can be encouraged to use technology alongside their children – work on homework projects together, read articles together, connect with family etc.
Mistakes will be made. Children may make inappropiate comments, or play games when they should be working. Thats why school blogs, school infrastructure, is so important. Far better something inappropiate is said on the school system than on the internet itself. VLE’s, private blogs, google apps all provide a safe environment so children can learn, and then practise, the skills needed to be a digital citizen.
We spend lots of time reinforcing friendship and learning behaviours – this is no different. Discussions around bullying, friendship groups, language, anger management; indeed anything that would be covered during ‘traditional circle time’ can also have an online element. Sharing our experience of technology use is important, to our children it will be a norm for them by the time they leave primary school.
Practical ideas for schools
- Have a class ‘researcher’ whose job it is to research tricky questions and report back answers
- Take part in collaborative projects which demonstrate the safe use of technology to both parents and children
- Digital Leaders can be excellent pupil role models – demonstrating safe and sensible use of different technologies
I have to confess to being a bit of a ‘coding’ sceptic – after all it seems everyone has jumped on the bandwagon and schools are being sold new ways to bring coding into the curriculum almost daily! Whilst the government attempt a number of PR ‘ideas’ – such as the ‘Year of Code’ – schools are looking for ways to make it work for them.
It was then with a dose of healthy ‘why not?’ that I decided to do the Hour of Code at my schools last year. The teachers were keen, although we had some attempts at coding in Key Stage 2, not everyone had had a go. I had some great Pupil Digital Leaders – and the resources were easy enough to access.
Thoughts on that? Well, it worked really well! It was a brilliant showcase into what could be done and illustrated beautifully to the teachers how easy it could be. Everyone had a go, many pupils recieved a certificate and they all managed to spend some time with ‘code’ controlling and creating! It made me think that maybe these ‘PR’ events could be useful!
So here we are again, this year it looks like it could be even bigger.There is definitely the backing – this year we have the Kodable Hour of Code and the Tynker Hour of Code. This is on top of the amazing resources to be found at the UK Hour of Code site.
My advice – go for it!
This year I’m in a new school, new role and I’m going to use the Hour of Code as a way in with parents. I’m going to let the (new) Pupil Digital Leaders lead the session with parents and guide them through whichever activity they see fit!
I’m hoping that same sense of ‘ease-of-use’ and the delight in actually achieving something in a short space of time will be catching. Sure it makes sense for schools to foster that, but I’m hoping that parents who declare that they know nothing about computers will see that they do not have to be left behind…
A post I’ve been meaning to do for a while – as I enjoy delivering workshops with parents for e-safety. There is lots of support for schools in delivering the e-safety curriculum – I look at this here, however, many parents can be confused by the advice, and schools can be a great ‘first port of call’ for any concerns. Make your advice on e-safety as clear as possible – and share this with parents. Coffee mornings, evenings, parents invited to assemblies even events led by your Pupil Digital Leaders. I have even share You Tube Clips of some of Playstation / X Box Games with parents so they can see what they look like!
A web page with information for parents is also crucial – and share links on there as well. I also think that it may be necessary to spend time actually looking at what devices children have at home – and what you can do to make sure they are safe. Remember appropiate training for staff, governors and parents should be at least an annual event! I can throughly recommend the Esafety Adviser Site for helpful ideas, and training.
Top tips for parents:
- Talk to your child about their use of the internet! Be part of what they are doing…
- Make sure you know what devices connect to the internet and how.
- Set boundaries! Be clear about how long they can be online and what they can do online.
- Keep all equipment that connects to the internet in a family space.
- Don’t forget though: Encourage your child to go online and explore! There is a wealth of age-appropriate sites online for your children. Encourage them to use sites which are fun, educational and that will help them to develop online skills. They can have a play at this site.
- Don’t let them lie about their age, most social media sites (such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat) are not for children under 13. There is more guidance here
Get Safer Online also covers many aspects on online security such as online banking, identity theft and keeping children safe.
There is a great Digital Parenting guide from Vodafone here – this contains details of setting up mobile phones with parental controls and how to use safety modes on other apps and services.
Reminding parents of the nature of Social Networking sites – a great childine leaflet can be downloaded here.
If you have a child who is due to start Secondary School find more information here.
Remember – Internet Service Providers (such as Virgin, BT, Sky and PlusNet) all have parental controls which you need to ‘switch on’ – just contact your provider, or take a look at these videos here.
Prompted by a recent twitter chat for #ukedchat which examined social media in the classroom, I began to think about just how relevant this is for our Primary schools.
It all starts with the curriculum…
Interestingly, in Key Stage 1, we are asked to cover this:
communicate safely and respectfully online, keeping personal information private, and recognise common uses of information technology beyond school
Communicate safely and respectfully online
Seems straightforward, part of e-safety and online bullying. I have been developing a scheme of work for internet safety here – lots of this can be covered within schools PSHE curriculum.
Keeping personal information private
This is an area that will need some work, and the development of social media that children may access makes this all the more important. It can be taught, rote style, as in 'rules', but modelling this with a school account, and teaching them how to make comments can be much more powerful.
Recognise the use of information technology beyond school
A tough one. There is no doubt that any access to technology is modelling this, however we have little control over what they can access at home and beyond. Also, we need to have access to this in our classroom, which is often easier said than done!
The key Stage 2 curriculum involves a little more:
understand computer networks including the internet; how they can provide multiple services, such as the world-wide web; and the opportunities they offer for communication and collaboration
describe how internet search engines find and store data; use search engines effectively; be discerning in evaluating digital content; respect individuals and intellectual property; use technology responsibly, securely and safely
Here we have the notion of 'communication and collaboration' and the idea of 'using technology responsibly' – again modelling the use of social media seems to be key.
Do you ask your pupils to contribute online? Do the classes have shared blogs that they use?
Do you model how you find information? Ask the pupils what they use?
So what, practically can we do in the classroom for these 'social' elements of the computing curriculum and should it include recognised Social Media? I think the key here is that the staff and school have to model how these technologies can be used. If the school team are reluctant, begin by trialling an open 'showcase' type blog (best work blog for example) – or investigate some of the 'education blog' services. Piloting a school twitter account, or a facebook account for linking with authors, for example, can also be useful.
Some sharing element can also be useful, for example a school Scratch account, where the children can view others' work and comment on it.
Technical support will be needed, particularly if you are finding sites blocked. See my Digital Strategy ideas for more.
There are some key questions we need to consider here:
- Is it okay to set homework which involved an online element?
- How much prior knowledge to parents have? How explicit should home/school agreements be?
- How much can we expect from teachers? Should updating a homework blog really be part of our PPA expectations?
Note, it is no longer about using a computer programme to complete work, but more about the 'connected' – can we expect our children to have internet access at home?
Ideas to get started…
The type of Social Media that we use can have an impact too, I recently used the school twitter account to ask Astronauts questions about the ISS. The children contributed these questions to a Padlet on their blog and I tweeted them. Undoubtedly a great use of social media, giving a learning experience they wouldn't otherwise have, and learning how it can be used responsibly.
I've used class blogs built on blogger, which the children can leave comments on. We teach them how to leave them, but stress the e-safety aspect continously. It's really important that any issues are dealt with immediately, a responsible adult needs to monitor the comments.
There are plenty of services which offer a closed VLE type of experience, if privacy is a concern, consider trialling one of these. They have their downsides, but many schools still make use of them.