August 5

A Digital Divide in Schools?

Is there a divide with educational technology in schools?

 

Up and down the country the experiences of technology in schools are incredibly different. If you take part in regular twitter chats, or follow sites such as this one, it is easy to imagine that all schools have decent wifi, take on board new technology or allow teachers to experiment as they see fit. We are, however, sleep walking into a situation where pupils have radically different experiences depending on the school they attend. This is not about parental choice, it's not about a school that chooses to opt out of technology, it's about schools that cannot provide these experiences.

What divide?

Some of us take for granted cloud computing such as google in school, or work email use at home and school, reliable internet that works all over the school building, even computers that don't take a long time to turn on. The experiences of teachers up and down the country however vary widely.

However these are common examples:

  • Not replacing old computers / updating operating systems (renders their use pointless)
  • Pupils not experiencing a wide range of devices (the experience at home being completely different to school)
  • Staff email experience – no working email, not expected to use email
  • Concerns about security leading to a completely different internet experience (everything blocked)
  • No training for software, hardware and new expectations of curriculum (staff confidence and experience)

What is the impact of a widening digital gap?

It is much discussed and open to a certain level of argument, but the good use of digital technology can time save at work. Disseminating information via email (secure email) and then sharing updates with parents and the school community; electronic registers can then automatically record data, assessment data which can be picked apart and recorded, planning stored and shared on a platform that anyone can access, resources shared with all teachers. Websites which the school has control of, and can truly meet the needs of the schoo community. The list goes on, but a key point is the expectation that the professional can use technology in this way if they wish to. Sharing resources via the cloud, and then being able to collaborate on these resources has changed the way we work.

 

A growing digital divide manifests itself in other ways as well.

Internet connectivity is key to schools. To be clear I'm not talking about wireless and mobile digital devices. Instead, just basic high speed broadband. This has a huge impact on school life. Before we think about pupil resources and pedagogy think about the office. School management software, instant email communication, website management etc. Schools that can run the register completely electronically and downloading key documents from government.

Internet connectivity also impacts in the classroom – think of communication such as skype, streaming services and online resources which would not be available, or would be so slow that they are unuseable. Unreliable internet which means any online lessons could not be relied upon, or pupils rarely get the chance to experience the internet in any meaningful way. We have had days where the internet is not working and can quickly realise the impact this would have in the long term. A key aspect of online safety and curriculum experience has to mean that the internet, to some extent, can be relied upon.

Opportunity!

There is an expectation that school will offer computing and digital literacy as part of the curriuculum – this expectation has worked wonders for the provision in school – but many are completely reliant on outside advice and expertise. Not that this is always a bad thing, but any work with outside experts should be sustainable and supported by a school SLT. Staff who are able to experiment and who are secure with technology themselves can be a huge push on the provision in schools, sad to say but the attitude of the headteacher or governors can shut down potential projects instantly. Some schools still have access to all social media shutdown, without any conversation as to the learning opportunities, or put no budget towards updating computer systems which means that the technology is unuseable and off-putting before we begin.

What is your experience?

I would be very interested to hear of your experiences at school and whether or not the new curriculum has had an impact on wider technological provision in school.

 

Resources:

Prensky's 2001 paper: Digital Native, Digital Immigrants

BBC report – Sep 2014 – Digital Divide opening in UK schools

 

October 11

Online Safeguarding – who is responsible?

Another day, another online data leak. Yes we know, we really shouldn’t expect online storage to stay private any more… We are working hard to educate children, parents and the community. However Snapchat’s leak caught my eye because of one of the ‘facts’ that went with it. It said that around half of the users were under 17, sites seem to differ on the precise number but they all seem to agree that around half of the users are under 18. Therefore, for the purpose of child protection, and safeguarding they are children, vulnerable.

Think about that, this company knows that half of it’s users are under 18. It has recently been valued at over $10 million based on it’s potentially lucrative user base. What then does it have to do as part of it’s responsibilty to these children? I know what schools have to do, what youth groups have to do; the training; the form filling in; the checks. I also know what would happen if schools managed to leak data at the rate at which these companies do – and it would not be okay to say ‘but we told them not to use so and so…’.

 

What then do these companies have to do? It seems, nothing – it seems that it’s okay for a company to make a huge amount of money from children, and have no corporate responsibility to those children.

We must do something about this. There must be a way that we can force these companies to take some responsibility for their ‘customers’. A look around the internet and you find several examples of Snapchat in particular being warned about leaks and possible security issues. Facebook had similar issues, thought it is impossible to find out from any of these sites if they have any policy at all to the teenagers and children which use their sites.

Maybe the answer is fines, responsibility for the leaks. Maybe it is statutory guidance and training, and a names safeguarding laision officer. Perhaps they’d find a way to ensure all users were over 18 if legal action accompanies it. Maybe it is impossible without some sort of international guidance, but you cannot deny that these corporations are letting this happen, profitting from it and then walking away from it with no accountability at all. I really think we will look back on this era of child exploitative social media in horror.

 

Further reading:

http://www.zdnet.com/snapchat-names-aliases-and-phone-numbers-obtainable-via-android-api-say-researchers-7000019992/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/16/snapchat-government-data-requests_n_5337473.html

 

 

April 12

From Padlet to Twitter – a Digital Classroom Journey!

I thought I would share a recent example of of the integrated way in which various digital/social platforms can be linked and used in the classroom.

Context first:

Y6 class, space topic.

The pupils have a blog, created on blogger, which the teacher updates.

 

Literacy unit (and linked work) was newspaper linked, journalistic writing and so on.

 

How we started:

A very simple lesson – aimed at questioning skills and linked to interviewing an astronaut – the children had to think of questions they would ask and build these into a report they were writing. These were collated on a Padlet, which was embedded in to their class blog.

 

The pupils are well versed in contributing to Padlet – and did so at home.

 

Next we linked to Twitter. The pupils are aware that there is a school Twitter account, it has been used before for contacting local businesses and sharing photographs of work. We discussed how we might limit the questions in order to keep to the restricted number of characters, and, more importantly how we could find someone to ask…

It's all about relevance…

Luckily for us the Channel 4 Space Season and been a hit – and that has hash tags and twitter handles all over it. So we started there… It's worth mentioning that I did do 'live' twitter search – but I used an iPad and Air Server and so was able to put Air Server on once search completed….

We then tweeted what looked like a willing volunteer, an Astronaut who had been on the Space Station itself – who – amazingly replied!! (Huge thanks to him!!) He was able to answer several questions, and used photographs and links to the Space Station live to get his messages across.

 

Every day that week I was able to show the children more photos, more answers and really keep the topic alive! – The links for their writing, and with the blog at home were really clear – genuinely exciting (for staff and pupils) – and produced some awesome, genuinelt motivated work! Enthusiasm was everywhere, and the whole school buzzed with the pictures and replies we were getting!

 

What we learnt:
  • It was great for e-safety, the other twitter users who got involved provided the perfect opportunity to discuss advertising and online 'stranger danger'.
  • Use of the blog both in and outside the classroom was also beneficial, those children who cannot access the blog were still a big part of the lesson.

 

 

March 30

Social Media in the Primary Classroom?

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

Let's consider:

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:
  1. Is it okay to set homework which involved an online element?
  2. How much prior knowledge to parents have? How explicit should home/school agreements be?
  3. 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.

Programs which let you contribute and collaborate, sharing a link, can be used to great effect. I've used Popplet (for mapping ideas) and Padlet – but many more are out there.

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.

If you need some ideas to get started – this may help:

 

 

 

February 9

Safer Internet Day… What I’ve learnt!

Safer Internet Day – or indeed any online safety focus is an ideal time for a school to review their policies and curriculum when it comes to e-safety. On this site I have posted my scheme of work for e-safety (under review) – but there are many ideas and resources which can support a focus on e-safety in the school!

Here's what I've learnt from organising Safer Internet Activites:

Use the children! Get the school council involved, or indeed Digital Leaders if you have them. The children can create a presentation and try out some of the activities ready to share with the rest of the school. There are many great activities – and the Think U Know website is a great place to start.

– Create time to share the e-safety policy, and update if necessary – it's worth looking at Ofsted's latest requirements as well. This information needs to be on your school website, and a staff need to be regularly trained.

– Take a look at your curriculum. Linking with the new computing curriculum means that children should be thinking more about digital literacy anyway. Ideally these skills and e-safety awareness should be revisited each term.

– Key Stage 1 can often be harder to engage, so keep the message simple. The Digi Duck story can be used for younger age groups.


Take the chance to engage parents, and share their questions on the school website. Not only sharing the school curriculum, but also the help that is out there for parents. There are some great discussion questions here on saferinternet.org

Give staff an activity – or a bank of activities – it can be as simple as leaflets and posters or can be using scratch to create a link game. 2Simple, Espresso and Education City all have their own resources and ideas too.

Use the opportunity to teach vocabulary and engage staff e.g. Asking children to design their own avatar before a discussion around what information they give out online. There is more about this in my scheme of work here.

– Don't make it only a 'once a year' focus – use literacy units, citizenship focus lessons and the School Council to keep it on people's minds.

 

There is also plenty of help and advice to be found out there – on twitter I can recommend @esafetyadviser

 

September 22

e-safety – A New Curriculum?

Recent changes to the National Curriculum here in the UK have meant that teachers and school leaders are having to rethink many aspects of their curriculum provision. I have already begun my look at computing and how teachers can bring the new elements into the classroom.

E-safety is one aspect that is definitely due an overhaul!

There is lots of information for e-safety around, and many higher-level courses are on offer to fulfil recent requirements that Ofsted are making. These requirements change regularly, and I must mention here the ‘e-safety adviser’ website : http://www.esafety-adviser.com/ which has been a valuable source of these ever-changing recommendations. (@esafetyadviser on twitter!)

I have been working towards making changes as easy as possible for staff – it seems to me pretty crazy that all elements of the curriculum change at once and can make some staff feel incrediby overwhelmed.

Linking to the Key Stage 1 curriculum requirements we have this:

  • recognise common uses of information technology beyond school
  • use technology safely and respectfully, keeping personal information private; identify where to go for help and support when they have concerns about content or contact on the internet or other online technologies.

and by Key Stage 2 – this:

  • use search technologies effectively, appreciate how results are selected and ranked, and be discerning in evaluating digital content
  • use technology safely, respectfully and responsibly; recognise acceptable/unacceptable behaviour; identify a range of ways to report concerns about content and contact.

I began by thinking of key skills that we may not always cover but which pupils use from an early age – for example children will regularly play online and may be familiar with websites that you are not. Key questions and discussion around this can help, often within PSHE or Circle Time. Why not discuss their online play at the same time? Why not spend some time creating avatars and ‘toys’ in such websites such as the Lego one and then discuss what sort of expectations would come from controlling an avatar.

Large companies such as Sony, Moshi Monsters and Microsoft all produce their own content and guidelines, so if you find a particular website that your pupils are using do tap into that. Share this information with parents as well!

I also thought about how pupils are expected to select and use content, and be responsible for their choices. This led me to think about the use of photographs and the ‘cutting and pasting’ content that can come from researching and using websites such as wikipedia.

I then thought that for each year group a few key questions could be discussed – questions that could prompt a discussion about e-safety – and begin to introduce the correct language.

My plan for internet safety year by year are below – I would love to know what other schools are doing – please feel free to share resources and thoughts.

Download (PDF, 619KB)

Thanks for reading!