The world is a scary place. It’s seemed to become even more so in the past 16 months with the arrival in the world of my one-and-only son, Ben. Young people need protecting from the dangers and perils that we, as adults, either know to avoid or can take somewhat in our stride.
It’s the same online. There’s websites and links I know not to click on as my home Internet connection is unfiltered. At school, however, I’m subject to the same restrictions as pupils, which is annoying. I’m a responsible adult and can navigate to relevant parts of websites for lesson preparation and delivery. There’s no good reason for my having the same level of restricted access as pupils.
I had a discussion a month or two back in which my interlocutor, sounding reasonable at the time, said that wireless Internet access should be opened up to students. It’s filtered, so there shouldn’t be a problem. That’ll be why I keep seeing pupils trying to hide that they’re on Bebo via the newest proxy server to have sprung up, yes? Unless you have a whitelisting system, where the Internet is blocked except for those that are put onto a list, then filtering via blacklisting will never be 100% effective.
But pupils accessing Bebo via a proxy server through the school network is small potatoes compared with what’s about to happen. Here’s the five steps:
Schools allow students to bring in mobile devices that can connect to the Internet, realising that having policies which ban them whilst some teachers promoting their use is problematic.
The cat-and-mouse game of students trying to access blocked sites and administrators blocking them continues.
In the wider world, unlimited mobile broadband data plans become commonplace.
Students from wealthier families start being able to connect to whatever they want, bypassing the school network.
A trickledown and pester-power effect begins; soon most students can access the Internet in this way.
This is going to cause a HUGE problem. Why? Schools haven’t realised that the only way to have students behaving responsibly online is to teach them how to do so from an early age. We’re going to see reactionary administrators floundering in an attempt try to claw by some type of control, when all along we should have been educating pupils instead of blocking them… :-s
We need to start planning for this eventuality NOW.
Enough is enough. I think it was Clay Burrell who (via Twitter) initially pointed me towards this quotation by Gandhi: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Unhappily, teachers in many UK schools (and further afield) are forced into a kind of cognitive dissonance as a result of official mobile phone bans being flouted by almost every student in the school. In fact, it’s more than that. Teachers are made to feel guilty when they encourage students to use the technology they have for learning.
Andrew Field and I had a brief Twitter conversation about this situation recently. As a result, Andrew started a thread on the EffectiveICT.co.uk Forum to discuss the issue. I’d like to bring more people (i.e. YOU) into the discussion, especially if you’ve got any links to good and forward-thinking Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs)! 😀
A brief search for AUPs relating to mobile devices brings up the following problematical example:
Mobile phones must not be used during the college day, including break and lunchtimes. Phones must be switched off during the day. If any student is found using a mobile phone at any time during the college day it will be confiscated until the end of the day
Of course, one can see why this particular college, like many educational institutions, has gone down this road. They’re protecting their own back; it’s the reason why networks often blacklist sites that teachers want to use for perfectly sound pedagogical reasons.
But then, there’s the rub. As Andrew Field pointed out, if the Internet connection’s already filtered, why lock pupils out of wireless networks and the like when they’re using their own devices? He cites using an iPod touch for accessing online content through the wi-fi connection in his department. There’s no reason why I couldn’t do the same – give out the password to students.
A big stumbling block is insurance, I suppose. But then, I’m only supposing. What exactly is the legal situation? Surely if a student damages their mobile phone/MP3 player in school it’s covered by their parents’ home insurance in the same way it would be on their way to and from school? Andrew quotes the following from Halifax insurance:
For those items that are normally worn or carried in everyday day life Halifax Home Insurance offer Personal Belongings cover away from the home both in the UK and abroad. This cover complements their unlimited sum insured contents insurance* and provides cover for items such as jewellery, money, credit cards and mobile phones.**
* Inner limits apply to certain areas of contents cover, including; money restrictions, single article & high risk item limits and contents left in the open. High risk items are subject to a £2000 limit per item. Details are available within the policy and schedule.
** Aggregate limits of between £2,500 and £10,000 apply. Individual limits apply to mobile phones, money, credit cards and pedal cycles.
I wonder if there’s anyone reading this who has links with those in the industry who could give a definitive answer?
Becta provide some reasonably helpful (general) advice on the subject, stating that an AUP should not stand alone, but instead be part of a ‘safe ICT learning environment’, including:
an infrastructure of whole-school awareness, designated responsibilities, policies and procedures
an effective range of technological tools
a comprehensive internet safety education programme for the whole school community.
I agree. Unhelpfully, they state that there “are many sample acceptable use policies available, both online and via local authorities, which schools can use as a basis for their own policies” – but then fail to link to any. 🙁
To their credit, however, they have a PDF document from 2006 on E-safety which could provide an excellent platform to spark a discussion within your school. It covers everything from the potential dangers of online access, to the responsibilities for those with various (already extant) roles within the organization. It’s focus, nevertheless, is on prevention of abuse rather than enabling and opening-up as much as possible!
Diagrams are powerful tools when trying to effect change. This one, from the PDF mentioned above, demonstrates a sound (if slightly conservative) process. As technologies change, so must AUPs and, most importantly, the whole organization’s response. ICT lessons, as many teachers of the subject have realised, cannot simply be focused on learning how to use Microsoft Office and the like. They need to prepare students for the 21st century online world.
We need to create responsible users of the Internet and mobile devices. Yes, there are risks. Yes, there might be financial and other costs to the school. But isn’t it worth it in the long run? 🙂
I’m selling my AppleTV. At the end of the day it was all very pretty and had the usual Apple goodness, but didn’t live up to what I was used to with my modified Xbox running XBMC. So I’ve put it on eBay (ends 23 March 2008).
I was delighted, therefore, to come across a short Engadget post entitled Myka sneaks Bittorrent into the living room. So delighted, in fact, that I’ve pre-ordered one of the units which should appear sometime in the summer. “What is it?” I hear you ask…
Well, quite clearly you can see that it’s a box that connects directly to a TV and, excitingly, it sports the official Bittorrent logo. This means that various TV shows and films can be downloaded directly to the device instead of having to download separately and then transfer over.
You see, I don’t really want companies telling me what I can or cannot do with my media. I also don’t want people telling me what I can or cannot download from the Internet. I just want a device that can play everything I throw at it, without complaints. Oh, and if I can download stuff straight to it, so much the better. Enter Myka and ‘her’ tech specs:
WiFi enabled – 802.11/g
Direct ethernet connector for direct connection
HDMI, Composite, S-Video and SPDIF ports for maximum flexibility
Internal hard drive choice of 80, 160 or 500 gigabytes
BitTorrent peer to peer software built in
USB port for expansion
More geeky specs here. You can gather the sheer wonder and joy it’s likely to bring by just gazing at the plethora of ports at the back of the device:
Component and S-video in, digital out, LAN, USB, HDMI… wonderful! I’ve gone on the pre-order list for an 80GB version ($299) with no obligation to buy. It’s all done via Google Checkout, so I’ve every confidence in my (potential) purchase.
The BBC reports that a leaked Green Paper obtained by the Times newspaper suggests the UK government is planning to bring in a ‘3 strikes then out’ policy for ‘illegal’ Internet downloads. First, the user’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) would issue an email warning. Second, the user will undergo a period of suspension. Third, the user will have their Internet access cut off. ISP’s who fail to enforce the rules would be prosecuted.
I think everyone knows my stance on copyright and which side of the fence I sit on. Given that literally millions of people download TV shows, etc. from the USA before they air in the UK (technically illegal) then I think the government could have a bit of a fight on their hands (ID cards anyone?)
There’s going to come a time in the next 10 years when wireless networks are available pretty much everywhere in the world. They’re also going to be free or so cheap you won’t even think about the cost of using them. In fact, I should imagine that for Ben, my one year-old son, he’ll never know any different.
There’s sea of information and knowledge out there. I do the best I can, strapping together several planks by way of information channels into a raft to stay afloat. I thought I’d share those here – both online and offline sources – and I’m definitely open to suggestions and comments!