Teaching e-safety

In today’s world there is no escaping the internet and all the advantages, as well as disadvantages, that it brings with it. It is inevitable that the children we’ll be teaching will have come in touch with technology in the very first years of their lives and it should not be discouraged. Instead, just as we do with many other possible dangers that children are faced with, we should teach them how to be safe. Children participating in the Byron review said:

“Kids don’t need protection we need guidance. If you protect us you are making us weaker. We don’t go through all the trial and error necessary to learn what we need to survive on our own… don’t fight our battles for us just give us assistance when we need it.Byron Review, 2008

This really got me thinking about these issues and how they might affect me as a teacher in my daily practice. There are many issues with the internet we as adults are aware of – there is inappropriate content, children can be approached by people who might pose danger to their safety as well as be part of the e-commerce. However, we need to be aware that just as the internet and its use changes at dramatic speeds, so do its dangers. As teachers we need to be in tune with what children do on the internet and most importantly learn to listen to our pupils in order to be able to pick up new risks they’re facing on-line (Livingstone et al. 2007).

At the school I’m placed at every single child has got an iPad that is owned by the school. Children are often using the technology to do their research in literacy, teachers use it as an assessment for learning tool, but also as a behaviour incentive. Children are allowed to take their iPads home with them if their behaviour was good that day. They are allowed to have up to 4 apps of their choice on their tablets, however, they are not allowed to access these at school. Also, a lot of websites are inaccessible and children are blocked from using them. Whilst this is a good approach, questions have been raised over its ability to empower children to be able to protect themselves (Allen,2012) .

The most valuable thing that we as teachers can do is to create a classroom environment in which children are not afraid to share and report the things they saw online which made them uncomfortable. This will promote the sort of attitudes that we want children to adopt not only when using the internet, but generally as they grow into responsible citizens (Allen, 2012).

How can we create such culture? This goes beyond hanging posters promoting being safe online (like the one below, which you can find in every classroom in my school).

SMART

Firstly, I think such proactive interventions should be taken from a very young age. For KS1 children we could use fun videos such as those found on thinkuknow.co.uk. With older children, we could play games such as this one – it is a fun way to introduce safety online and raise issues of safety in a non-threatening way. Websites such as this can also help children develop skills that they might need when faced with a threatening content. For upper KS2 this video sends a powerful message:

It is a part of the Teachers’ Standards to create a safe environment for our pupils (TS1) and these pre-emptive approaches to safety can help us with that. However, it is important to remember that pre-empting the issues will not make them disappear. It is important for teachers to respond to incidents in a professional, decisive manner (TS 7 – acting decisively when necessary). Should anything happen we should know how to respond  appropriately, for example by reporting incidents to the School Management, informing the parents, speaking to the pupils, but most importantly do it all with the child’s wellbeing in mind.

References (where links not provided):

Allen, J. (2012) Primary ICT: knowledge, understanding and practice. London: SAGE

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First thoughts on teaching and learning

There is no doubt that in order to teach well we need to firstly understand the process and theories of learning but also the children that we are going to teach.

I feel that, as a student teacher, it is important to not only familiarise yourself with the theories of learning, but also start considering how they “sit”against the realities of the classroom experience. I tried to find a video similar to the one we watched in the lecture, showing a child playing with the treasure basket.

We can observe how the child explored, experimented with and tried out different objects; he made eye contact with  his mum, cooed and gurgled.  Learning in the early years, as shown by the example of little George, is experimental, social and physical.

So how can those theories relate to the children of today? Contemporary childhood seems to be portrayed at the two extreme ends of the stereotypical spectrum – on one hand we have the failing, obese and technology obsessed generation whilst on the other we are faced with “brave little angels” who cannot cope in the world in which they are over-worked but at the same time seem to always be underachieving (Alexander, 2008). As David Didau, aka Learning Spy, suggests, because of that diversity of pupils’ life experiences, their learning will be just as diverse. It is not just about what they encounter in the classroom, but also what they bring to the classroom that will influence their learning process. In the face of the unstable image of a contemporary child, schools, primary schools in particular, have been cited by children themselves as places where sense of stability, security and optimism for the future is created by the means of promoting the achievement of, amongst others, economic well-being:

“We have schools because we need education and to prepare us for secondary school. Secondary school then helps us to get a good job”. Pupil, Year 6

Looking both at the theories of learning as well as the issues surrounding the contemporary childhood, it is clear that the environment in which the child is exploring and therefore learning is of great importance. Effective learning occurs when it is well facilitated. This doesn’t mean that we should water the curriculum down or lower our standards. Let’s take a minute to consider how George’s learning was facilitated in the video above – he was comfortable with his surroundings, he was reassured when he made eye contact with his mother, he had time to explore and try various things out, nobody was telling him what to do.

Our role as primary teachers is to make sure that learning is facilitated in a way that allows for that exploration to happen in an atmosphere in which learners feel comfortable to consider new ideas and are not threatened by external factors  (Doyle, 1985; Laird, 1985). This notion of teacher as a facilitator was present in the video we watched right at the beginning of the lecture, of children constructing a bridge or a ramp together. The teacher was not visible in the video, however, we can assume that they set up the task and were there making observations. This student-centered learning (SCL) example shows how the teacher influenced the learning process by not focusing on “giving” the knowledge but by stepping back and letting the children get on with it. Some research suggests that SCL, if put into practise correctly, can increase the motivation for learning, understanding and positive attitudes to the subject taught.The role of the teacher therefore is not transmission of knowledge, but that of creating a learning environment.

Eccles Group building

However, as Moore (2000) has argued, there are some tensions between the theories of learning and teaching and “the realities and actualities of classroom experience”. This tension relates to how we as teachers ensure that we bridge the requirements of national curriculum and the standards of pupils’ achievement  (or generally speaking policy) with the theory and practise. For me, this is about a teachers’ toolkit i.e. a range of resources and activities which create opportunities for progress, but also about continuing your own development as a professional, not being afraid of taking risks and keeping in mind that growing teachers equals growing learners. 

References (where links not provided):

Doyle, W.  (1985).  Effective teaching and the concept of the master teacher.  Elementary School Journal 86, 27-33.

Laird, D. (1985) Approaches to training and development. Addison-Wesley: Reading, Mass.

Moore, A. (2000) Teaching and Learning. Pedagogy, Curriculum and Culture. London: Routledge