05 Aug

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

 

11 Oct

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

 

 

20 Jul

Twitter for school – How to get started!

Twitter as a social media network is well and truly established now. Chances are that you also have a personal twitter account. I prefer using twitter to facebook for schools as it just feels that little more ‘secure’ and easy to manage the connections.

Support and help for teachers using twitter is also available – and the great twitter account @battt provides plenty of links; resources and advice for using twitter as a teacher.

As an educational network tool I have found Twitter invaluable. Creating school accounts has allowed us to link with parents, the local community and to engage in national and international events. This has directly impacted on the pupils in schools and has created some real ‘buzz’ moments. See this post about our twitter conversation with astronauts! Our schools have linked with local authors, shared events through a local news hashtag, received support and sponsorship from local businesses (and then been able to thank them) as well as countless other smaller connections with parents.

Where to begin?

Choose a name!

Sounds simple – but you need to make sure your school is identifiable!

Read / adapt / create a policy.
You should already have an e-safety / safeguarding policy – and the schools’ use of social media should be part of this. Referencing Twitter directly will ensure that you:
– are clear about the use of photographs of children / use of names etc.
– name the staff who are responsible for updating the account.
– ensure that the account only ‘follows’ those that the school want to; it is not a personal account.
– ensure there is a ‘professional’ feel to the account and nothing is said that could reflect on the school

For clear guidance, and example policies take a look at the always useful ESafety Adviser site.

 

Spread the word! 

I started by linking the twitter accounts on the website and advertising it on the school newsletter. Staff enthusiasm can also be harnessed – although it’s worth limiting who has access to the account. Reassure staff that if they follow the school account the schoo l account won’t follow them unless they want it to.

Offer Support

If you are serious about enganging the community you will need to support them in the use of the media. Holding a Parents’ guide to twitter session can be really useful – and people tend to find it genuinely useful. It can also be a good time to discuss more general social networking concerns.

Get Tweeting!

Besides general admin type notices you can start by tweeting places where the school visits-  or linking up with events such as World Book Day! Local schools and local businesses can also be great Twitter pals as you can share events and exchange local news. If you have a school facebook account it is possible to link the two.

 

wpid-Photo-20140412134008.jpg

It then needs to be integrated with the school ‘life’ with Tweets sent on a regualar basis by the same member of staff. Integration with the website should also be set up so the tweets can be read there.

Have you had any great success stories with your school twitter account? I would love to hear them!

Thanks for reading!

30 Mar

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: