June 06, 2006

New internet safety qualification avoids the 21st Century Internet

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) started a large consultation exercise this year to construct a qualification in Internet Safety (a bit like proposing a qualification in handwriting, if you ask me) which seems to have ended up with a ridiculously small number of people sat around a table coming up with multiple choice questions on the Internet.

The final draft outline of the qualification has been published and is, frankly, a real disappointment. I'd go as far as to say it probably needs a rewrite from page 1 if it is to make a difference to what is actually going on in the 'real' cyber world of our kids.

There is no mention of learning how and why weblogs, wikis, podcasts and social networks work for learning or business applications. In fact, the document recommends fleetingly - with no guidance on possible pitfalls at all - that teachers encourage students go onto and subscribe to MySpace and Facebook pages which might be of personal interest to them. There is no specific mention from what I can see of mobile technology and its safety implications.

It hints of what happens when public consultation takes place without enough consultation from those working in depth on what is coming next in the internet. You end up with a concentration on resolving past errors, rather than looking at how to avoid future ones. Far easier to do, of course, and it lends itself to multiple choice because we know all the answers already.

My greatest concern is that there is currently no guidance for teachers on how to guide students on what they are actually doing other than what inaccessible edubloggers are putting out there (how many teachers do you know read blogs?). First, there should be some serious teacher-focussed qualifications on internet safety that all staff must undertake and then digital literacy, concentrating on safety but above all on the positive uses of technology, should be taught across the curriculum.

The world apparently admires Scotland for the work we do in breaking ground on new technologies, yet this Internet Safety document would not have seemed out of place 10 years ago, and since then so much has changed.

I have offered my point of view as a Web 2.0 enthusiast and have been kindly rejected, and told that I might be able to take part in a pilot application of the qualification. Anyone else fancy putting together an alternative to this qualfication with me? We'll do it for free and put it forward to try and make a difference.


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count me in, Ewan.

Count me in ... after exams are done. ;-)

Not sure I'd be of much use, other (and I think this is quite important) to tell you how user friendly it is. I spent a bit of today reading the unit specs for Internet Research and Presentation, although these are things that I do all day, every day some of it still reads like Double Dutch (not a language we're covering in school yet)

I could commit to a time limited, online or face-to-face session, written-up on a wiki, therefore allowing for after-the-event modifications.

I have had a quick scan of the unit spec and to be fair it does cover stuff that students should be aware of. It strikes me that it is yet another example of what can be reduced to rote learning. It is more important that people have understanding of potential threats than know all the jargon. In that sense Outcome 4 becomes the only really valuable outcome.
I would certainly be willing to help in whatever way you suggest, Ewan

I agree with Bob. The problem is not that the content is particularly bad, just that ir doesn't go far enough. My worry would be that teachers will feel if this is taught in their schools that they have prepared children for the real world. As with all SQA qualifications nowadays, everything has to be reduced to what is easily assessed, not what is actually important.

It certainly doesn't go far enough but I do feel that these technologies will (are?) integrate into the fabric of good teaching in the next decade. If it's going to be integrated then it needs to be integrated throughout the qualification/course, hence the need for a rethink.

Andy, you're spot on about teachers believing this is 'it'. I think they will look to this as the 'answer' to their supposed 'problem'. It's vital that it is as sustainable, long-termist and full as possible. Even if it is just Int 1.

MFLE was set up partly to provide ONE portal to provide links to as many relevant areas as possible. Internet safety seems to me to be an area which requires the same approach. Since I am a user rather than a geek I learn a LOT from compteractive (written in language someone like me can understand) and they are on the ball in an ever changing world. Rather than learning the status quo today which will be obsolete tomorrow I think it is important that people know where to go on a regular basis to get reliable information which is up-to-date.

can English people do this?
yup, I'll do it, let me know... can it be a summer project pls?
I have Breeze VC and collaboration space if that helps.

I would hope that the largest number of varied experiences possible would come together to put their ideas forward. That includes people who deem themselves 'non-experts' or 'beginners' and those who are trying to spot trends in the future.

I think Eva's point about being able to go somewhere on a regular basis to get up-to-date information is essential. MFLE tries to do it for some areas and to cover those areas well, but I'm not sure cross-curricular sites exist, keep up-to-date enough and/or are advertised well enough in 'conventional' staffroom environments.

That's why a wiki is probably the best way to go in preparation and maybe even for the 'final' ever-changing draft.

Good idea. But how complex does it need to be? Don't invent a huge mechanism when a tiny one will do.

You're right Bud, but if you look at a qualifications document it is short and only provides a framework. The idea is that the content can change and is up to the teacher, but the framework remains. The problem with the current framework of this proposed internet safety qualification is that it does not provide any scaffolding for teachers to include material on web 2.0, web 3.0, web 10.0 technologies. It needs built in. Are you up for helping?

Of course I'm willing to help. My experience, though, with similar documents here is that too often, a "framework" becomes a script that tries to anticipate every possible situation -- which results in lots of effort for a poor product.

Hi Ewan, I got rejected by the SQA too :-) I'd still be keen to help with this though.

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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.

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