As argued elsewhere, e-safety (which, ultimately, is the focus of the article) is an output of digital literacy, not an input. There is no course that an individual can take that would teach them to be completely ‘safe’ online. Immersion and a the ability to critically ‘read’ online is key. As in life offline, scams and deceptions evolve as they are practices originating in human thought and action.
If e-safety is an output then digital literacy as a concept needs to explicitly address the ‘critical’ element of literacy involved in reading and writing online. There is, however, no ‘body of knowledge’ or skills that can be packaged up and distributed as cyber castor oil.
Increasingly, I’m realising that there are unsaid words that precede almost any statement involving a connotative element. What are those words?
Let me tell you a story…
Given the potential for almost any word in any language to be used metaphorically, storytelling is happening pretty much most of the time.
So here’s my story.
Digital literacy, despite the heated debate going on behind the relevant page at Wikipedia isn’t computer literacy. It isn’t media literacy either. And it’s certainly not e-safety.
Including e-safety as an input, as a constituent part of, digital literacy makes no sense at all. It’s like defining traditional (print) literacy by describing behaviour in libraries (or what you can do with a book). What lies behind this approach is the assumption that a collection of competencies makes a literacy, which isn’t true: a collection of competencies is a skillset. And one only has to refer to Searle’s Chinese Room argument to see the fallacy behind equating a skillset with any form of understanding.
No, e-safety is an output of digital literacy, something that flows out of it once an individual is fluent. Fluency is the top end of the literacy scale – and fluency is the result of practice. To divorce e-safety from practice, to conceive it as something that can be taught in isolation is ill-advised and, ultimately, futile.
So stop building your creepy treehouses, and start thinking holistically about literacy and education more generally. Avoid digital Taylorism, and start debating about what it is we’re trying to do here. If we’re truly trying to protect and educate our young people we need to know what it is we’re protecting them from, why we’re doing it, and the best ways of going about it.
Scaring people with statistics and horror stories perpetuates the wrong type of responses (e.g. blocking) and avoids the problem. Let’s tackle it head-on. Let’s start focusing on digital literacy.
Any educator launching into the world of social media has to know its risks.
One evening, after reading several posts on Twitter, it was mentioned that school Acceptable User Policies were declaring that all contact with students on social media was to be avoided.
There are strong cases for and against its use. Most important is where the very public nature of social media spotlights professional conduct, where it is used as a vehicle for bullying, or presents us with evidence which we might need to flag up or report to a higher authority. Teachers worry that their natural way of conversing; expressing themselves after a frustrating day, or humorous posts about their personal life could compromise their position at work and result in a telling off from a superior. Yet we teach children to mind themselves online. Within reason, do we not need to consider the same? My belief is that as more students and NQT’s are educated about their use of social media, so the number of incidents which have resulted in censure will become less.
IF “teacher” AND “http://www.google.com/search?&q=teacher” = “unprofessional” THEN “censure”
Goodness knows I’ve tried my best to put together some reasonable Acceptable Use Policies and ‘Digital Guidelines’ in the past. I think that we have to come to terms with the fact that people live increasingly large amounts of their lives connected via social media. So if you’re a teacher, use Twitter and occasionally swear, then protect your updates. If you don’t, and mind what you say, then as you were.
Using Google (or any search engine, for that matter) to search for an educator should bring up positive results on the first page. If it doesn’t, you’re doing something wrong.
After all, anyone can find out something negative or ‘unprofessional’ about a person if they do enough digging. :-p
I have to keep telling myself that we’re only five weeks in to a brand new, 10-site all-age Academy. There’s so much I want to do this academic year in my first year as Director of E-Learning that it’s frustrating when it’s not all up-and-running straight away! However, that’s because of a number of factors largely beyond my control. Things will settle down! :-p
The above diagram is a very simplistic representation of how I want the E-Learning ‘ecosystem’ to function by summer 2010. It’s a 4-stage process:
1. Roll out Google Apps to staff
This has already been done. We were going to use just instance of Google Apps at ncea.org.uk but decided against it. Why? Because we want to turn on as much functionality as possible for staff (e.g. Google Chat, Google Sites) whilst having the option of turning of these for students.
Rolling out Google Apps to staff first enables them to play around with it and get used to a slightly different way of working before they start interacting with students through it.
2. Get forensic filtering & monitoring software up-and-running
Whilst we’ll have some filtering provided through the Postini services that can be turned on for free with Google Apps Education edition, I (and Northumberland County Council) want more than this. We’re going to be going with an offering by the name of Policy Central. This allows us, amongst other things, to do the following:
Automatically take screenshots based on keywords typed into any application.
Block websites locally.
Whitelist persistent offenders.
We need to have this in place before rolling out anything to students from an e-safety point of view.
3. Roll out Google Apps to students
I’m planning to roll out Google Apps to students (nceastudents.org.uk) strategically. I’m going to start with the Sixth Form (ages 16-18) as they’re likely to be the most responsible and give the best feedback. Once I’ve collated, reflected, and acted upon this I shall then roll it out to Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14). Key Stage 4 may or may not get Google Apps depending on conversations I have with various people.
Finally, Key Stage 2 students will get access to Google Apps on the Primary sites. This will start with Year 6 (10-11 years old) and work downwards. This should allow me to go into assemblies and iron out any problems as they happen. I had hoped that this would be completed by Christmas but because of various events that have taken place it may take a while longer.
4. Open up the Learning Platform to staff and students.
We’re going with Frog for our Learning Platform. They are not only the market leaders in the UK, but have a track record of producing easy-to-use software which can incorporate and work with that from other providers. We’ll be looking – as other institutions are – to integrate Google Apps and Frog via a Single Sign-On procedure. That is to say, signing into Frog will automatically sign you into Google Apps.
Once this is in place, I think teaching and learning interactions should begin to be transformed. I’m not going to dictate workflows, but I can imagine something like this happening:
Student collaborates with another student via Google Docs.
Students complete document, export as Word document or PDF and send to teacher through Learning Platform.
Teacher takes submitted work and opens in their Google Docs area.
Teacher stores students’ work in a relevant folder within Google Docs.
You may wonder why I’m allowing only student-student collaboration and teacher-teacher collaboration. This is because I want the Learning Platform for the official submission of work and Google Docs for drafting, collaboration, and more informal interactions. At least in the first instance.
Other than that, I’m happy for things to grow organically. I’ve already seen some teachers begin to experiment with Google Sites, despite my only mentioning it in passing. Encouraging! 😀