65 posts categorized "Safety"

May 28, 2008

What the updated GTCS professional guidelines really mean

Teacherstudent The General Teaching Council for Scotland has updated its guidance on professional standards for teachers to include conduct in online spaces. Far from the "devil machines" attitudes the mainstream press would have most people believe, the actual document presents a common sense approach to interaction online.

The Scotsman, like many other press and media outlets have done, mixes up social networking, email and other online activity. The guidelines, of course, have a much more carefully worded approach. The subtlety in the text will hopefully not be lost:

"be aware of the potential dangers in being alone with a pupil in a private or isolated situation, using common sense and professional judgement to avoid circumstances which are, or could be, perceived to be of an inappropriate nature. This is also the case in connection with social networking websites, outwith the school/college setting and in subject areas such as music, physical education and drama...

"Exercise extreme caution in connection with contact/web cam internet sites (for example chat rooms, message boards, social networking sites and newsgroups) and avoid inappropriate communication with individuals under 18 or with whom you may be in a position of trust."

Not one teacher would see this as controversial, and not one teacher, hopefully, would see this as an inhibitor to make appropriate use of social networking sites in their personal lives. In the same way a teacher has to take responsibilities in their personal life, when they are out and about on a Friday night, for example, a teacher has to take reasonable care not to be seen to be in an inappropriate communication with a youngster.

Common sense, and not a "warning" so much as a reminder of what teachers have been good at, generally, since at least the term 'profession' was applied to our work.
Pic: Teacher-student

May 12, 2008

Facebook's safety oxymoron: Facebook Connect

Anonymity Facebook is appealing to the education community with its raft of proposed measures against morally ill-fitting content for its teenage audiences, but is simultaneously introducing Facebook Connect, a background service that will propagate your social networking identity far across the web, as you surf it.

With so few social network users understanding how to personalise the privacy of their profile, this seems a digital breadcrumb nightmare for unsuspecting teens leaving their digital trace all over the place.

Trusted authentification sounds great, but is only as good as the user's knowledge of the security and privacy of the third-party site in question. The same issues that arose around the security of third-party applications - could they be replicated here?

Real identity, rather than pseudonyms, certainly helps Facebook follow up on misuses of the site, as per the reasoning given in their new ramping up of safety, but regularly changing pseudonyms have helped to some degree in making youngsters less searchable, and less connectable with their real-life locations.

Friends access will help propagate even more return traffic to the Facebook site, and more conversations between users based on the shared interest they had in site x, y or z, but it also means that, without my wanting to, friends and family can see where I've been. This is what Beacon was slammed for - is it not sneaking in here, too?

I'm not sure about any of this - portability sounds great, as long as you're in control of it. However, if this is introduced as an opt-out then most Facebook users won't find the privacy changing settings to do that. Facebook need to make their privacy control not only easier to use, but they need to help users learn the consequences of keeping certain elements private, and moving others into the public sphere.

Pic: Anonymity

May 06, 2008

Getting down to the nitty-gritty of filtering - it's not got a future

Mobile_net AB has taken the previous arguments on a stage, by pointing out what those of us with 3G wireless internet have known for a while. Whitelists and blacklists mean very little to someone who's simply bypassing your whole system.

So, maybe the arguments about how a whitelist is formed or what sites should go on it are all futile - Local Authorities, companies and other organisations maybe need to speed up the urgency in the answer to the question of December 25, 2008 (and almost certainly 2009):

when a minority of your students can provide unfiltered access to the web to their mates in our increasingly collaborative classrooms, and their teachers may start doing the same with their own technology, what will be the response?

Mobile phone blocking, à la Russian opera, or an educative approach to making net use worthwhile? What's happening with cell phone and mobile internet usage in Asia will come to these shores soon (and, some would argue, already is) so the urgency can't be underestimated.

May 03, 2008

If real life were like Facebook...

...it may not be worth living. Idiots of Ants have an amusing sketch that shows how anyone who says online social interactions "are just like face-to-face friendships" aren't living on the same planet as the rest of us.

May 02, 2008

Florence of the North?

Firenze I'm currently taking some time out in a beautifully spring-filled Florence, Italy. Along with my 7am shot of espresso, I'm getting that early 15 minutes of solitude in the morning getting my injection of RSS watchlists and email. I found something today that draws a rapport between some Scottish Local Authorities and this amazing city I'm in.

This post has an update, which would be more apt to read, and certainly needs read after the following text.

Update: AB sees the real argument being about mobile internet and (the lack of potential in) filtering.

Now, Florence's success was arguably built on the slightly overbearing and corrupt shoulders of  Niccolò Machiavelli whose leadership style was more about "political expediency" than any democracy or providing a voice to the various poets, architects and artists that inhabited the city. It worked, of course: commerce always makes more money than art, doesn't it (as many school systems still attempt to exemplify in 2008)? Eventually, though, the Renaissance won out, the artists had their day, and Florence became better known in the long-run for its incredibly invigorating creative scene than for its cotton traders, most of whom were wiped out by the Black Death.

Unfortunately, it seems that a little expediency goes a long way in cleaning up the web in Highland Local Authority, and others too many to mention, who continue to use the blanket coverage of Websense to outlaw any form of 'unauthorised' self-expression on the web. Not only are their teachers now not capable of blogging their own views, professional practice or students' work, but they're also unable to find out what's going on in the minds of those who are trying to help teachers get to grips with the new curriculum, new national intranet and new technologies. Nearly the entire learning and technology team at Learning and Teaching Scotland now have their own blogs, where we think out ideas we're having and guage the reaction before setting out on a project.

I know that AB and I are both deemed unacceptable (I'd love to know Websense's reasoning: dating, entertainment, pornography...?), but my guess is that many more in the Scottish innovation scene are blocked from use by Highland educators.

As AB says, this isn't a snipe at Highland in particular, more at Websense. However, councils employing filtering systems that work on blacklisting genres still need to work harder at whitelisting specific sites within that genre that people should have access to. It's a huge task, but one could start using the lists on ScotEduBlogs to find interesting material teachers and students need access to. Or one could whitelist all blogs, teach people how to use the net responsibly and sanction those who don't in the way one's acceptable use policy states.

Choices, choices everywhere, yet, it would seem, not one that can yet be used effectively. If we want prosperity in our schools we need to have teachers that can think and share views with one another, within Scotland through Glow, for sure, but arguably more importantly throughout the world. Reflective teachers are generally better teachers, and allowing effective flow of ideas and practice is the key to achieving this.

March 27, 2008

Early reaction to the Byron Report on Gaming and Net Use by kids

While the Byron Report, which I blogged about earlier, is itself is fairly unremarkable, sensible even, it will be the reactions of those in Government, in schools and in homes that will make or break it.

Thanks to Peter at Softease I was brought to a (shock horror) balanced piece in the Telegraph (our right-of-centre rag) about this potential risk:

Let us, by all means, have a clampdown on a dodgy industry and computer classes for grown-ups. Even if we cannot persuade our children to take up jigsaw puzzles, we will be better at ordering our Tesco shopping online. But equipping children to thrive on the internet cannot be learned from any social rulebook or state-sponsored seminars in geekishness.

Online security is best taught in the offline universe. That means giving children, of whom one in 10 has never been read a bedtime story, more parental time... It also means crushing some adult myths of lost innocence.

As Robin Alexander, who is heading the Primary Review of education, hinted last week, we don't have a crisis of childhood. We have a crisis of alarmism. There is a risk that the Byron report, however sensible, will unleash that panic.

Children have always been seen as prey, at the mercy of any demon invented by adults. Just as the wolf did not kill Red Riding Hood, the big bad internet will not swallow up our babies. Some of its risks are avoidable and unacceptable. But children, resourceful and resilient, have always sought a private world, free from adult scrutiny. When playing fields are concreted over, playgrounds deemed out-of-bounds and youngsters plagued either by failure or the pressure to succeed, it's not surprising they retreat into a techno-Narnia

Parents and politicians cannot make this world wholly safe. Maybe the best they can offer, for all the talk of education and crackdowns, is to equip children better to deal with hazards placed in their way by adults. Byron's findings sound moderate and balanced. That may not defuse a media firestorm about the (largely unproved) evils of the internet. As the Queen shouted across the courtroom where Alice sat: "Sentence first - verdict afterwards."

Jolly good stuff. And, unfortunately, maybe correct. The Times concentrates on the comparison of the evils of the net, the evils of gaming and the evils of cancer sticks in its rather mumsy piece, the core message being hidden deep in para five:

She will call for a massive campaign to educate parents, teachers and childcarers about how to ensure that children get maximum benefit from the digital world without being exposed to its dangers.

Quite how we don't expose the danger and educate about it remains to be seen. It's like trying to teach our children to swim with no pool, to look at the view with no window, to come up with metaphors with no Pablo Naruna.


Meanwhile, the BBC has a cryptically entitled video report you can watch ("Children on violent computer games"), which from its title alone seems to immediately go against the spirit of the report. You might be better off watching the news report from this morning's BBC Breakfast, illegally captured at personal risk to life and limb by yours truly:

The Byron Review unveiled: better information for parents

  Tanya Byron 
  Originally uploaded by Edublogger

Parents need to be better informed about the net, accompanying their children more online, and the gaming industry needs to make its content ratings clearer. Tanya Byron's report for the Prime Minister on children, the net and gaming holds few surprises for any teacher that has worked with either gaming or the social web in the classroom, and might just initiate the kind of support parents need to make in-school projects more 'acceptable' in their eyes.

The report will recognise the excitement, learning and skills that are learned by using these technologies, and its author does not want children to be stifled in their surfing, their self-discovery on the net; it's about finding that 'collaborative relationship' between parent and child, knowing when to start easing off the accompaniment. It's about trying to replicate the releasing of control and accompaniment that happens in meatspace as children get older.

When Al Upton's class blogs got shut down after parental intervention, the frustration was not down to parent choice but parent ignorance. Trying to use any form of recent technology in the classroom needs to start with parental 'education' if it is to be sustainable in the longer term, and if the students are to have the beginnings of an authentic and appreciative audience for their work.

So while Byron's desire to see a national information campaign on the potential dangers of the net could be seen as a campaign against the net, I don't think that's the spirit of it at all. I hope we'll see more informed parents (a good thing) wanting to understand more (good thing) and seeking that information from such a national campaign, a national internet agency but, more likely, from their local school (yet another good thing).

In terms of gaming, she requests an additional 12+ rating for games. I doubt that any of those we've found useful at the Consolarium for that transition age will fall on the wrong side of that for any one group.

Read some of the reactions, see her interview and news report from this morning's BBC Breakfast and examine some of the potential for misuse of the report.

January 07, 2008

One click from danger... really?

Panorama Panorama, the BBC's flagship of partisan ill-researched pap, is back tonight with One click from danger, an expose of how every child must be fending off pedophiles with a stick as they surf the net.

Indeed, some do unwise things on the web, and the best piece of advice from the programme comes not from the reporter, the police or a Government task force, but from a pedophile: keep the computer out of the child's bedroom. Advice many a teacher with their own children could do with following.

But rather than spend money giving us one-sided scaremongering stories about how are children will be fried by schools' wifi and molested in their own bedrooms, could the BBC not continue to create top quality education resources that help keep these very same children wise when surfing?

And rather than leaving it to parents, could schools not up the anti this week and start teaching students how to use Bebo and their other favourite tools in situe, in the classroom, rather than leaving them work it out home alone?

November 12, 2007

Draft Code of Professionalism from the GTCS

Gtcs_draft_code The General Teaching Council for Scotland, the independent regulatory body for the teaching profession here, has today released a Draft Code of Professionalism which is up for feedback until the end of November.

It's of particular interest to those working with new technologies, as the potential teacher-student relationships outside school hours that social media can facilitate require thinking through from a 'professionalism' point of view.

Personally, I think the Draft Code stands up rather well, and helps offer the guidance that Don was maybe looking for in his Web 2.0/Public Service dilemma. However, there are two angles which remain open to misunderstanding by teachers, yes, but also to parents and students, who do not fall under the GTCS's regulations:

  1. The liaison between social networks and "being in an isolated space" in the school building is true where the social network is closed, but I wonder whether the comparison stands where the network is open for all to see (which is more often the case). Is it, in this more common example, more like being in a conversation in a common area, canteen or classroom? If so, then the Draft Code fails to cover the media literacy obligations of teachers in order that they can handle themselves appropriately in these online social situations.
  2. There's also an issue of how these guidelines play into the use of Glow, the national intranet, which arguably has more isolated, closed-off, special access spaces than Bebo or Facebook. In these situations, teachers can be mindful, but might the Draft Code lead to some teachers just staying away from the learning opportunity in the intranet? Better safe and offline than sorry?

Once again, we see that a clear cut strategy on Media Literacy formed with the people, and revisited as often as humanly possible, will help us interpret these and other Codes of Conduct more 'professionally'. Update: Already the insinuation through people's interpretation is that the GTCS would attempt to control what a teacher puts on their own, personal profile. I don't think this is the intention at all, but the wording needs cleaned up to make it crystal clear.

You may want to have an influence on the English and Welsh Byron Review, covering media literacy issues with social media and video games south of the border. As for Scotland, we'll just have to watch this space...

August 13, 2007

Harry, Hermione and Ron give a clue on digital literacy

  They've got it! 
  Originally uploaded by Edublogger

After witnessing the madness of the last Harry Potter book going on sale in Harvard Square, Boston, last month, I wasn't too sure why so many young people (actually, increasingly aging fans) were so keen on the books. But Mrs Edublogger didn't have to drag me out too hard to see the latest Potter film yesterday, and I think I might have touched on one reason why: it translates a lot of the frustrations and excitement of being a teen today.

This morning I see in the paper that an Australian academic reckons there are more lessons on how to teach in Potter books than there are in most post grads. But I already knew that.

For me there was a key moment in yesterday's film which reflects all too well what much classroom teaching involving the web is about these days:

Dolores Umbridge: Your previous instruction in this subject has been disturbingly uneven. But you will be pleased to know from now on, you will be following a carefully structured, Ministry-approved course of defensive magic. Yes?
Hermione Granger: There's nothing in here about using defensive spells.
Dolores Umbridge: Using spells? Ha ha! Well I can't imagine why you would need to use spells in my classroom.
Ron Weasley: We're not gonna use magic?
Dolores Umbridge: You will be learning about defensive spells in a secure, risk-free way.
Harry Potter: Well, what use is that? If we're gonna be attacked it won't be risk-free.
Dolores Umbridge: Students will raise their hands when they speak in my class.
Dolores Umbridge: It is the view of the Ministry that a theoretical knowledge will be sufficient to get you through your examinations, which after all, is what school is all about.
Harry Potter: And how is theory supposed to prepare us for what's out there?
Dolores Umbridge: There is nothing out there, dear! Who do you imagine would want to attack children like yourself?
Harry Potter: I don't know, maybe, Lord Voldemort!

Does this not just sum up the problems I alluded to in the last post, regarding internet safety and its long lost cousin digital literacy?

I'm not spoiling the film to point out that Lord Voldemort, while being the baddie, is not the only baddie in this story. The teacher, Dolores Umbridge, is 'old school', uses techniques which are outdated and discipline which is archaic, "never liked children anyway" and works for the Ministry. Sound familiar?

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