We have spent the last six weeks immersed in the world of ICT’s. Through a constructivist style of learning we have begun to understand how the technologies work and how we can use them to enhance, support and transform student learning.
It is clear that digital tools have enormous power to engage and challenge learners and that meaningful use of these kinds of technology in the classroom can have huge benefits.
Enthusiasm for embracing these new technologies and the digital world in general is at an all time high. Therefore, it is crucial that both students and teachers model legal, safe and ethical behaviour in the use of ICT’s.
Risks that come with the use of ICT’s need to be addressed and strategies put in place so that learning can be managed in a safe and supportive environment.
Generally the issues can be grouped into the following.
It is up to us as teachers to educate our students about the safe, responsible and ethical use of digital technology. It is also up to us to model this behaviour at all times.
It is clear that through the use of ICT’s in learning, students might be put at risk from various things. These include exposure to inappropriate material such as that of a pornographic or explicit nature. Exposure to inappropriate material for a particular age bracket. For example, it may be considered acceptable for a senior class to watch a news report about the war in Afghanistan but that same news clip may be highly inappropriate for a Grade 2 class.
There is also the risk of stranger danger online, and sexual or inappropriate contact from the outside world. Other personal risks include the release of personal information such as names and addresses online through interaction with some websites, blogs and wikis. On a practical level there is also the threat of security and how students need to learn to protect their own computer from scams and viruses. Students need to think about their own personal digital footprint or trail that can be left through the sharing of information.
Also on a personal risk level there is the threat that comes from the use of ICT’s in the school environment. This can include cyber harassment and cyber bullying amongst students. Mobile phones are prevalent and these come with video and photo applications. The ability to text and rapidly disseminate information can be an issue, as can the ability to log on to social network sites whilst in the school environment. Cyber harassment and cyber bullying is a very real problem and strategies need to be put in place to deal with this.
All schools will have their own policies regarding the use of mobile phones and personal computers at school. They will also have policies detailing bullying and harassment. As a teacher you need to familiarise yourself with these.
There is also the threat of overuse of some of these technologies. In an effort to embrace everything digital we might also overlook the fact that too much of a good thing can also be bad. Some students may already have issues with overuse of the internet and gaming. Again we need to be aware of this threat and ensure that as always our teaching strategies contain balance. The use of ICT’s should always be scaffolded by a solid framework that ensures sound pedagogy is always considered. We also need to be familiar with any issues individual students might have.
Students should also consider what has been labeled on some websites as Netiquette. This can be really simple lessons like learning to log out of a computer after you have finished so that the computer is free and not locked. Ways to communicate can also be covered under this. From my own personal experience I learnt that Capital Letters in texting or posting to blog forums can indicate shouting. I was unaware of this and it could have had implications for the way I was communicating with my peers. Education about polite behaviour is essential.
The good news in all of this is that the Australian Government, the State and Federal Education Departments, the Internet Regulatory bodies and schools themselves are all aware of these risks and the need to educate adults, teachers, parents, students and kids. It is therefore easy to find excellent information and resources online.
What follows is a list of resources that students and teachers may access to educate themselves about the challenges and risks of using digital technologies in the classroom.
Smart copying http://www.smartcopying.edu.au/scw/go is a website dedicated to educating people about copyright in all Australian schools. It contains the National guidelines, FAQ’s and Fact Sheets that can be accessed online. This site also contains excellent information about creating ICT’s and what is possible within the law. These can be found under simple headings and links such as Podcasts Using and Podcasts Creating – What Am I Allowed to Do?
For more information follow this link.
Cyber smart http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/ is the Australian Governments Cyber Safety program providing. It provides “activities, resources and practical advice to help young kids, kids, teens and parents safely enjoy the online world.”.
The links contained within the statement above, are aimed at each particular audience and are really effective at presenting simple and straightforward information in a digital format. The issue of netiquette is also covered.
Education Queensland (http://education.qld.gov.au/) also has a range of information and initiatives designed to deal with the issues above. One initiative is the Cyber Safety Help Button that enables students to talk to a counsellor, report cyber bullying, offensive behaviour and inappropriate websites, twenty four hours a day. There are also opportunities to learn about Cyber Safety.
Stay Smart Online is the Australian Governments cyber safety website. This is targeted at a larger audience outside of the classroom but is still relevant to any user of the internet. More information can be found by following this link. http://www.staysmartonline.gov.au
The Learning Place http://education.qld.gov.au/learningplace/ also seems like the ideal place to operate within a safe eLearning environment. While we have been denied access until we become employed by Education Queensland it is my understanding that the site contains “safe” resources for teachers to use in their classrooms and is a safe place for children to engage with online learning.
Ethical safe and responsible practices when working with ICT’s along with operating efficiently and safely is also covered across every year juncture in the Student ICT Expectations Document. Click on this link for more information. http://education.qld.gov.au/smartclassrooms/strategy/dp/studentict.html
In conclusion we shouldn’t be wary of using ICT’s and operating within an online environment. By all accounts this is the future of education and the goal of producing digitally literate students is high on the agenda from an early age.
We should however be educated about those risks and challenges and we should also educate our students about how and why they should take these issues seriously.
At all times we should model ethical and legal guidelines to our students and encourage them to do the same. Be alert to the issues that can arise but not alarmed. The opportunities ICT’s in eLearning can provide far outweigh the risks, and it is my opinion that those risks can be dealt with through information and education.