In today’s ICT session we re-visited the potentially life-saving topic of E-safety. The verse and video below illustrates very powerfully the dangers children may face on the internet.

He said he’s 11 but he’s really 20 sayin’ she

looks pretty and leavin’ her head empty.

Emma, Ballyholme Primary School

 

The verse was published on KidSMART a website dedicated to E-safety. This website has encouraged pupils to submit verses for an online music competition outlining the dangers of the internet. Websites with competitions like these may be a very useful resource for teachers who wish to povide pupils with a motivating and engaging context for learning about E-safety and expressing their understanding. The publishing of children’s work on the website reinforces the positive uses of the internet and gives pupils the important role of helping to educate others. This context for learning about E-safety is likely to be memorable as it gives children responsibility and ownership.

The video was made only very recently by a young girl who wanted to tell the world her story of cyberbullying. It illustrates the tragic consequences of an exteme case of cyberbullying. For this reason it is not something I would feel comfortable showing to children in primary school. However, it could perhaps be used with older pupils in secondary schools to highlight the dangers. An excellent resource that I did find addressing this area was a website called CyberMentors. This site has been set up to support children who are being bullied either online or offline. The best thing about this site is that the cyber mentors are all young people between the ages of 11 and 25. Children can talk to someone privately between the hours or 8am and 2am weekdays and 9am and 2am at weekends. There are also qualified counsellors available for more serious issues. The site does use chat rooms but there is a system in place which screens all messages for inappropriate material such as swearing or anything which gives away personal details. At age 11 children can train to become a cyber mentor themselves. Training can be organised in schools and therefore primary schools may be able to give some their oldest children a high level of responsibility for educating and helping younger members in the school. Click here for more details of this programme.

The rapid growth of new technologies such as iPad’s and smart phones and the growing popularity of social networking sites have increased the need to educate young people about E-safety. Figures from Ofcom (2008) (well worth a read) have revealed that 22% of adults who use the internet have set up a profile account on social networking sites compared to 49% of children aged 8-17. Worryingly, Ofcom (2008) found that around 27% of children aged 8-11 were using social networking sites despite being under the minimum age limit. Considering these figures there is no doubt in my mind that this agenda should be given equal importance alongside other aspects of safety education in schools such as drugs and alcohol. Let’s also not forget the other important reason for teaching children to use the internet wisely – if used appropriately the internet can open up children’s world to an infinite range of learning opportunites which can enrich not only the school curriculum but also their personal lives. I think it is therefore important that any E-safety programme strikes a balance between informing children of the negatives and postitives of internet usage. An E-safety programme that scares children half to death about using the internet kind of defeats the object don’t you think?

As I was well reminded in this session E-safety and Information Literacy are vast topic areas as the Wordle below demonstrates.

Briefly, off topic, Wordle enables you to create a word cloud from any text that you input. The best thing about this resource is the fact that it recognises the words which appear the most frequently in your text and gives these more prominence. This is a potentially useful resource for teachers and pupils. How? I have used this resource to examine the contents of a school physical education policy. Pasting the introductory paragrahs into Wordle quickly gave me a visual image of the schools ethos for teaching and learning. I have saved the Wordle on my computer as the key words it produced will certainly help me one day when I am responsible for updating my schools physical education policy. It could help children in a similar way. Asking them to create a word cloud using sections of their writing will enable children to visually examine the content. For example, children could see wether they are are using a range of different connectives or repeating the same one’s over and over again. Children could also be challenged to highlight all the verbs, nouns and adjectives in their writing. Teacher Reboot Camp is a blog certainly worth checking out. It reviews 19 other word cloud resources, gives useful tips for getting the most out of Wordle and has a slideshow with other teaching ideas.

Anyway back to the topic of E-safety…

The Wordle shows a range of potential E-safety topics. However, reflecting on my school experiences to date the E-safety curriculum in some schools appears to be narrow in terms of content and teaching and learning activities. In my experience schools have tended to focus on cyberbullying and the importance of keeping personal information private on social-networking sites and chatrooms. Arguably these are perhaps two of the most important topics in terms of children’s physical and emotional safety (unlike viruses or spam which are just downright annoying). It is easy to see why schools might focus more of their attention on these areas. Even so I believe it is important for schools to diversify their E-safety curriculum. At one school I attended E-safety was taught as two stand alone lessons in PSHE. Children watched the following video and then discussed it as a class.

Now don’t get me wrong I think this video is an excellent resource from CEOP’s Thinkuknow education programme for use with upper Key Stage 2. The use of analogies to portray the risks of sharing personal details online is hard hitting and helps to get the message across to children in contexts they can relate to. What isn’t so great is if children’s E-safety education consists of reviewing this video on an annual basis to simply refresh their memories (I have witnessed this!). Intergrating E-safety into ICT lessons or across the wider curriculum on a more regular basis would, in my opinion, be more effective as it keeps the learning fresh in children’s minds. It could also promote a wider coverage of E-safety issues and an increased range of teaching and learning activities. Starter activities in ICT lessons or even utilising time at registration now and again could help to ensure E-safety advice is drip fed to children little and often. This approach would have implications for planning. Careful planning would be necessary to ensure progession across Key Stage 1 and 2 and avoid repetition which could lead to boredom and children being desensitised to key messages.

During this ICT session we explored a range of different ICT resources on Helen’s Sqworl set which could be used in the classroom. I honestly didn’t realise that there were this many high quality resources available free of charge on the internet. There is certainly no reason for any school to continue showing the same E-safety video year after year. I particularly liked the CEOP’s Thinkuknow site for Key Stage 1. Children can be introduced to safety issues through either the adventures of Lee, Kim and Sid (the superhero) or through Hector’s World. The site is highly accessible for Key Stage 1 pupils as there is a read aloud button so children who are not confident readers can access the material. The Hector’s World section of the site has several informative cartoons for children to watch. The lovable characters in the cartoons present E-safety issues in a fun and enjoyable way that Key Stage 1 children will understand. I am sure many teachers out there would also thoroughly enjoy sitting back and watching these videos with their pupils. I know I did.

Lovable Hector and Sprat from Hector’s World

On this site there is also a Hector’s World Safety button which parents and teachers can download free of charge. Once installed Hector (the dolphin) will swim in the top right-hand corner of the computer screen. If children see anything which they don’t like they can press this button and the computer screen will go blank whilst they find an adult to help them.The CEOP’s Thinkuknow site for Key Stage 2 children is also well worth looking at. I particularly like the way this site balances the positives and negatives of internet usage and instead of showing cartoons this site has an interactive cybercafe where children can be involved in making various decisions for the cafe residents. The Key Stage 2 site builds well on the resources available for Key Stage 1 and I will definitely be using these resources in school.

Another great website to check out is Childnet International. This is a non-profit organisation whose aim is to make the internet a safer place for children. At the bottom of this website is a portal to all of Childnet’s projects. I checked out Chatdanger and was reminded of the need to extensively check the content of all websites carefully before asking children to explore them. Intially I thought this would be a good website for primary children to use; however, when I delved into it further I found this article on the site. Personally I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking pupils to read this article at aged 8-11 and having to explain to them what ‘indecent assault’ or ‘rape’ mean. Although I believe children need to be informed of the risks of using the internet and some resources need to be ‘hard hitting’ I think at this age discussing these consequences with children might best be left until secondary school. If I did decide to use this resource at primary school then I would certainly feel the need to obtain parental permission to discuss these topics.

Maybe I am being naive. Children may have seen these issues on soaps such as Eastenders or on the news.

I’d be really interested to hear what other people think about how ‘hard hitting’ we should be when teaching E-safety at primary school.

Finally I would like to raise the important role parents play in educating young people to use the internet safely. Going back to Ofcom’s (2008) figures 27% of children are accessing social networking sites under the minimum age limit. At the previous school I worked at just under half of the pupils in year 6 admitted to being on Facebook. Most of the pupils said that there parents knew they were on Facebook and some even said that their parents had set the account up for them. I believe that there is a need for schools to work more closely with parents to educate them about the dangers their children face on the internet. Schools could hold an E-safety evening where they invite parents into school to discuss the dangers their child may face on the internet and how they can help to protect them. There are a number of good resources on the internet which schools could use to facilitate discussion at an event like this. For example KnowItAll for parents has a fantastic interactive resource which is available in many different languages. There is also a very useful PowerPoint which you can view below. I also found an interesting news report which may facilitate some good debate at an event like this. Off the back of this schools could organise an E-safety afternoon where children and parents could work together on a variety of different activities e.g. writing E-safety raps or designing quizzes for a parent versus child E-safety contest.

Anyway I hope you have found reading this post interesting. I have certainly found many useful resources in the process of writing it. I must admit blogging is much more enjoyable and less stressful than I first thought.

Watch this space…

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One Response to “Educating pupils to be E-wise – An appropriate curriculum?”
  1. Jennifer says:

    Wow Alicia, unfortunately i missed this session, but by the looks of it there are a number of e-safety websites that can be used and i love the dolphin one and it is something i would consider using in the classroom! 🙂 Fantastic….

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