April 15, 2007

ICT Coordinator: doing your job?

I'm preparing to speak on Thursday to the next batch of school leaders at the second keynote of a series at the National College for School Leadership, and have found a few recent words from the Becta "Safeguarding Children Online" handbook for leaders, which should reassure these decision-makers that blogging, podcasting, vodcasting and social networking are both Good Things and possible provided we're all doing our minimum best. Question is - are you?

The stats would suggest that many Local Authorities are not doing what they should be: 46% divulge 'personal information' online; 57% of regular users have come into contact with pornography; 31% have received unwanted sexual comments, 33% nasty comments online or by text message.

The key groups to target are the eldest kids in primary school and the older kids in secondary (a case of feeling brazened 'old-timers' perhaps?).

If there are three elements of e-safety inspection and standards - education and training; infrastructure and technology; policies and practices - it is the first that often gets missed out as the other two (in the form of "don't dos" and "don't bring it to schools") get the heavy-handed treatment. It's not working.

Importantly, on page 23, the need for education and training in digital literacy of both learners and the teachers supervising them is highlighted.

The point will hopefully be further rammed home with the imminent publication of the final draft of the report from the Home Office's first Task Force on Child Protection on the Internet. Far from saying that social networking and mobile devices should be banned or blocked, a quote from page 13 of the draft, leaked out to the public domain in December, says:

"Education and media literacy is a critical part of keeping children and young people safe online and empowering them to manage their online experience. Responsible use and keeping safe online are now advocated as essential elements of a broad curriculum."

If Digital Literacy isn't written into your school plan for the next year the chances are you are already falling foul of these sound recommendations. If you're banning social networking sites and social media such as blogs, podcasts, vodcasts and photo sharing sites then you're hardly a whisker away from the same thing.

If you're an ICT decision-maker in a UK school - or anywhere else, for that matter - answering the questions in this booklet and putting the recommendations into action might be the best singular thing you do this year to make social technology and mobile learning a reality in your corner of the country.

Update: My brother Neil has written a good piece on his personal blog about why codes of conduct, safety measures and new agreements for social media are not really always necessary. When you read all the links I've mentioned in this post you'll see his point - they sum up what, for most of us, is common sense. Unfortunately, education does seem to have its fair share of folk who just don't get common sense, so making it explicit is still a must in our realm, methinks.

Update 2: Jane Nicholls, in the comments, has realised the hard way how much work is required to lay the ground with this "common sense":

I spent so much time convincing teachers of the educational merits of Web 2 tools and too little time laying the ground work. I like the example of teaching kids how to drive. Cars are great for getting from A to B but there is so much more to driving than just moving a car around.

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I couldn't agree more. I am an ICT Facilitator and have spent the last year enthusing teachers that blogging and podcasting etc are great learning tools. Then to my shame one young eager teacher gave all his kids blogs without laying the ground work first. These kids (year 8 students) used the blogs as a way to flame each other.

I spent so much time convincing teachers of the educational merits of Web 2 tools and too little time laying the ground work. I like the example of teaching kids how to drive. Cars are great for getting from A to B but there is so much more to driving than just moving a car around.

Hi Ewan,

Thanks for the link to the Becta report - I'll share this with the teachers I'm working with.

Can I ask why is it the ICT Coordinators remit? Surely it could be argued that its under PSE or student support. This is not a case of passing the buck but making the wider school community aware that this about the social issue and not just a technical one

It certainly is the job of everyone to know about the issues and be aware of how best to handle the learning of media literacy. However, the buck has to start (not stop) somewhere, and Becta obviously believe the ICT coordinator is (should be?) best placed to do that. In theory, an ICT coordinator should have the time and remit to formulate policy and advice which can be used by staff in their immediate situation. The publication, at least, is aimed at leaders and many of the issues in it are of the kind that individual teachers in some schools may find hard to do without buyin from their management.

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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