Thursday, June 24, 2010

Making the most of learning and teaching online: Fostering skills and strategies to stay safe

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 25: In this photo ill...

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I believe strongly that it is never too early to help students realise that there is a risk when using social networking, and to help them assimilate strategies and skills that will assist them to stay safe online, while also enjoying the huge benefits of being online and part of learning communities.

As such, I would argue that there should be age-appropriate, engaging, interactive, multimodal safety sessions every student in every school, college, and university. Approaches such as showing videos with hypothetical situations, and taking students through role plays and ‘authentic’ experiences can be very effective.

Policing and ‘locking down’ is an almost irresponsible action by schools because it does not help students raise their own awareness, or to stay safe in environments outside of school. It is a little bit like keeping your children inside your house because there is a busy road outside. Better to give them the skills to cross safely, and the option to use the pedestrian crossing just up the road if they wish to...

It is also important to educate parents – to give them hints and tips about how to help their children stay safe online. Although it is necessary to not panic parents, and to still stress the benefits of helping their children have access to education opportunities online.

Educators can know what knowledge and strategies learners bring to their online activity by engaging the students in active, engaged tasks around staying safe in social networking sites. They should also be able to recognise cyber-bullying and have strategies to address the problem. There are some really good, accessible multimedia resources available such as (and these can be downloaded for free):
Resources such as those on Teachers TV (a UK-centric site, so a NZ contextualised set of resources would be great in the future :-)) are superb at supporting educators, and giving them ideas and strategies about making the most of learning and teaching online while helping everyone to remain safe:

Schools, parents and teachers can also access resources from organisations such as Netsafe that seek to provide suggestions around policies, procedures and acceptable use agreements to help build a school cybersafety programme. From this foundation, the students themselves could be asked to contribute suggestions to further inform these policies, procedures and acceptable use agreements - for home as well as within school and the wider community.

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