Use & Abuse

e-Safety Guidance: Supporting Learners on the Autistic Spectrum

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Yesterday saw the launch of the Childnet STAR Toolkit . The toolkit offers practical advice and teaching activities to help schools explore internet safety with young people on the autism spectrum. The launch took place at Leicester’s New Walk Museum, in the beautifully just-refurbished Victorian Art Gallery.

The STAR toolkit is one of Leicester City Council’s DigiLit Leicester projects, a professional  development approach designed to make sure that staff have the confidence and skills to get the most out of the investment being made in technology for schools through the city’s Building Schools for the Future ProgrammeChildnet worked closely with three of Leicester’s SEN schools – Ellesmere College, Nether Hall School and West Gate School, to design the resource.

Will Gardner, CEO of Childnet, said:

“The Childnet STAR toolkit is designed to give schools the building blocks they need to develop a tailored approach to online safety for their pupils with ASD. By working with Leicester City Council and three fantastic schools in Leicester we have been able to develop a practical online toolkit that addresses the online risks faced by young people living with autism spectrum disorder, such as cyberbullying, contact by strangers and exposure to inappropriate content. Importantly, this resource is available to all UK schools free online. Through the teaching activity ideas and forum we want to encourage educators across the country to use these resources, and also to feedback and share their ideas and materials so we can collectively and collaboratively provide excellent e-safety education for young people with ASD.”

The STAR Toolkit

The STAR Toolkit is designed to assist teachers in educating their pupils with ASD about the internet and support them in managing online risks.

The four sections –  Safe, Trust, Action and Respect – all feature the concept of friendship and emphasise the importance of finding the balance between online and offline interactions. At the same time, the resource promotes a positive, fun and safe experience for young people with ASD.

The online resource includes a forum to encourage educators to share their teaching ideas and how they have used and adapted the STAR Toolkit in their educational setting. This will provide a platform for sharing best practices in online safety for those working with young people with ASD.

The resource is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Launch event in Leicester

The event was opened by Councillor Vi Dempster, Leicester’s Assistant City Mayor with responsibility for children, young people and schools. Councillor Dempster said:

“I’m really pleased to be launching this innovative resource as part of our commitment to transform learning through the Building Schools for the Future Programme.

“It’s vitally important that we keep young people safe online. This resource will help to tackle some of the challenges involved in ensuring young learners who could be more vulnerable are aware of the risks.”

“It will help make sure that all our learners get the chance to benefit from the many positive learning opportunities the internet can offer.”

Twitter for School Staff Professional Development

All school staff benefit from engagement with continuing professional development (CPD) – keeping up to date in their subject and curriculum area, and in teaching approaches and methods. Web and mobile based technologies have changed the landscape for school staff in terms of how they can connect to other educators both locally and across the globe. Personal learning networks (PLN), developed and managed by educators, allow school staff to discover, discuss and share relevant ideas, resources and approaches.

Twitter is jam packed with educators from all over the country and world, who are interested in sharing with and learning from colleagues. I ran two Twitter for Educators CPD sessions in March, designed to support staff in using Twitter in developing their professional networks. The workshops support work around the DigiLit Leicester project sixth framework strand – Technology supported Professional Development, and were designed to help staff improve their confidence and skills in this area.

Two sessions were held at De Montfort University: a beginner workshop, aimed to get staff up and running with Twitter and to introduce the basics and an intermediate workshop, offering essential tips and tools for improving the Twitter experience.

Create your Twitter Presence

This session was aimed at absolute beginners and assumed no prior use of Twitter. Staff were walked through the sign up process and introduced to the basics: creating a username, choosing an avatar (profile picture) and writing a 160 character biography. The interface and functionality of the site were explored through a desktop tour.

Twitter worksheet

Understanding the component parts of a tweet is important for beginners wanting to get to grips with the service. This Twitter basics worksheet (word) was created to help staff identify and become familiar with the key conventions used in tweets.

Twitter tips focused on the use of Twitter as an educator, and issues relating to online behaviour and identity for educators. These include advice about connecting to and communication with students, parents and carers,  and validity checking information before retweeting.

Developing your Personal Learning Networks (PLN) on Twitter

The second session was designed for staff who are familiar with Twitter basics and already have profiles. This session focused on engaging with school communities on Twitter and using the site to establish and develop personal learning networks.

This session included a discussion about tools and approaches to help staff manage and work with Twitter: goo.gl – Google’s URL shorting service which provides users with useful, basic engagement measures,  a review of mobile  and desk-based clients, and sites for saving and sharing useful tweets.We also reviewed Twitter user info using this Twitter network building worksheet (word).

 

Bonus links:

 

Understanding Open Educational Resources: Information for Schools

CS Icon 130411I'm happy to announce that  Dr Björn Haßler, Helen Neo, and Janet Blair, who will working with Leicester City Council's DigiLit Leicester project to create guidance for secondary school staff, designed to introduce and promote the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) across city schools.

OER describes teaching, learning, and research resources that are shared by people in the public domain, or released under an open licence which allows others to use and remix them.

There are millions of free to use resources that have been shared globally as Open Education Resources. These resources have been created and openly licenced by and for educators to use – for example  lesson plans, courses, classroom activities, and revision materials.  If school staff don’t know what Open Licences are or how to find OER, they are going to miss out on the benefits of making use of existing, high quality resources. Staff and students in our schools create amazing resources all the time – if they openly licence these they could share them nationally and globally – helping out other educators and learning communities.

FEO Icon 130411The OER project is part of the Council’s DigiLit Leicester initiative, designed to support schools in making the most of the city’s current investment in technology, as part of Leicester’s £340 million pound Building Schools for the Future Programme. The project has identified a gap in support and information for teachers relating to the use and creation of Open Educational Resources. An understanding of OER and open licencing will support schools and staff in sharing and accessing resources, and in developing staff and learner digital literacy skills and knowledge.

The team have previously worked on several initiatives which support the creation and use of use of Open Education Resources by schools across Europe and internationally, including the ORBIT project and the OER4Schools programme, at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge.

 

 

Cross-posted from LCC SchoolTech

Notes on the NYC Department of Education Social Media Guidelines

NYC laptop

NYC Department of Education (DOE) issued their Social Media Guidelines this week. As someone working to develop digital literacy for school staff and learners at city wide level in the UK, I'm of course very interested in the approach they've chosen to taken.

It's disappointing, although not surprising, to see that the media coverage of the guidelines was predominantly limited to negative framing of the friending issue – one of the least controversial elements of the guidance. That school staff should not friend learners (in particular, connect to learners existing personal accounts) on social media sites, is advice you'll find in the 2009 Cyberbullying: Supporting School Staff that I led on for the UK's Department of Children Schools and Families, on behalf of Childnet International.

Some of questions I asked myself when reading through were:

1. Does this policy help keep learners and staff safe? By that I don't mean, does it prevent them from doing anything that carries risk, but does it support them in recognising risk and managing risk, and responding to harm?

2. Does the policy support NYC staff who are already using social media productively and responsibly with their learners, for their own professional development, and/or for school communication and activity?

There are some great things going on in the NYC public sector – in Government, schools, museums and libraries – in terms of the social and educational use of technologies. And there will be DOE employees already using social media effectively and responsibly with their learners and for their own professional development – how does the guidance support them? My comments on the guidance are limited to how it reads as a stand alone document – there is reference to implementation activity but no detail.

3. Does the policy encourage staff and schools who don't currently use of social technologies to develop the skills and confidence to make critical and effective use of techniques and resources?

I've responded directly to the policy and reproduced it (without permission) here. I'm happy to take the DOE text policy text down if they'd like me to (please just ask); my comments are obviously clearer if you can read them in direct relation to the text. DOE text is in bold throughout, my comments in regular.

A warning for people clicking through – it's a long document.

My summery thoughts (aka 'the short version'):

Although the guidelines open with a positive statement about the potential of educators and schools use of social media to support learners, the content of the policy doesn't really support or develop this opening stance.

The broad approach is to draw a line between two kinds of engagement with social media – 'personal' and 'professional'. These are not defined particularly clearly, and the binary doesn't reflect most peoples – including learners and education employees – actual engagement with and experience of social media.   

This effectively de-legitimises existing practice that doesn't conform to the distinction of 'work/not work', and provides an extremely limited model of how technology might be used.

This post: Personal – Professional – Organisational: three basic online identities is useful in terms of my questions and arguments, but basically – organisational use of social media (what I do on behalf of my employer an in direct relation to my role as an employee) is not the same as professional use of social media (professional development or engagement activities relating to me as a professional, but not as an official employee or in an official capacity).

The guidelines decouple 'personal' and 'professional' use, and defines all 'organisational' activity as 'professional' activity. I'd argue this approach isn't a productive one. The guidelines risk stymieing the development of staff skills and confidence in the use of technology to support learning an learning communities; it doesn't attend to common safeguarding situations; it could potentially derail current effective practice; and I'd also say it oversteps the employee-employer relationship with regard to existing and new effective and responsible use of social media.

Additionally, the centralisation of regulating network activity is always going to be, at best, a very limited approach. There's a basic misunderstanding of the nature of networked activity going on if you think that the most effective way of addressing behaviour and safeguarding issues is not by supporting and prioritising whole community engagement and development. 

While official guidance is usually written by people who have a nuanced view of the complexity of their area, it's issued and often expected to be implemented by people who may have limited experience of the topic being addressed. It's crucial then to ensure any guidance is clear enough to not just end up being used by gatekeepers to discourage potentially positive activity.

Comments on NYC Department of Education Social Media Guidelines

photo credit: by Ed Yourdon, shared under a Creative Commons licence

Should you friend your students? The short answer is no

Earlier this year I delivered a further cyberbullying guidance document on behalf of Childnet International for the UK Government's Department for Children, Schools and Families. The Guidance follows up (and designed to compliment) cyberbullying guidance, a comprehensive document  that formed part of the Safe To Learn: Embedding anti-bullying work in schools suite of advice. While the initial document was really well received both within the UK & internationally, teachers unions and associations were increasingly being asked to deal with school employee cyberbullying cases – in which the staff member was the person being victimised. I welcomed the opportunity to produce further guidance which would both support employees in term of basic digital literacy information and encourage employers to meet their statutory obligations. The document set out, ambitiously, to encourage policy and procedure be put in place for preventing and dealing with cyberbullying as a whole school community issue – which includes meeting and recognising the specific needs, rights and responsibilities of employees. In no other area of harassment would it be acceptable for an employee to be expected to deal with cases that rose within the work place on their own – yet the reports from school staff included cases where cyberbullying was not taken seriously or understood, and where they had been expected to sort out situations for themselves.

Cyberbullying: Supporting School Staff (PDF) was released in April this year (Google doc version here).  I've been talking about the document a lot recently, and I want to just explore in a little more detail the thinking behind the advice given to school employees regarding friending students in social networking services. The actual text is (with my emphasis):

‘Friending’ refers to the act of giving contacts permission to view information or contact you within web-based services. The terminology will vary from service to service – ‘Friends’ may be called contacts or connections, for example. Most social sites enable you to give different levels of access and set privacy levels on your own content and activity. These functions will vary from service to service but typically include:
•     Information that is only available to the account holder
•     Information that is accessible by contacts on the account
holder’s approved list, and
•     Information that is made publicly available, either within
the service or across the whole of the internet.

‘Friends’ does not necessarily refer in this case to people who are your actual friends, although you may choose to restrict your connections to that. ’Friends’ in this context may also be work colleagues, family members, and people that you have met online.

If you have a social networking account, do not friend pupils or add them to your contact lists. You may be giving them access to personal information and allowing them to contact you inappropriately. They may also be giving you access to their personal information and activities

So the text above outlines three basic levels of permissions granularity that can be found on most sites, gives a definition of friending, and very explicitly says don't friend pupils. This is explicitly prescriptive advice, based on the case studies reviewed during the document negotiations, and an implicit understanding that the school staff accounts referred to are either personal, or contain elements of personal activity (I previously posted on a definition of three basic online identities, characterised as personal, professional, and organisational).

The approach taken then – don't friend pupils – reflects the kind of boundaries between staff and learners that we'd expect to see in offline behavior. You wouldn't expect a teacher to give a school aged pupil their home phone number, show them pictures of their friends or regale them with the weekends social exploits. Obviously friending isn't the only issue here – managing publicly available information so that you are comfortable with what co-workers, learners and employers can access about you is also addressed in the document. The research and anecdotal evidence indicates that we operate within social network services as if we were in a closed, private world. This isn't naive – I think it's a necessary fiction which makes social networking services human spaces. The do not friend advice is there to reinforce the message that private online is typically back of a post-card private, especially if we are within environments where we're not entirely sure who has permission to see what (*cough*Facebook*cough). It also reflects the leakiness of our online identities, the way in which the personal is often hand in hand with the professional.

What the advice isn't trying to do is to put anyone off evaluating social networking services to see if they could support learning & teaching effectively. The advice goes on to state:

If you want to use web-based social networking sites for a class or for the whole school, use a service that doesn’t give contacts access to personal information and updates, or allows collaboration without requiring permissions.

Alternatively ask pupils to create new, work-focused accounts for themselves, and run them as they would an online portfolio or CV.

You can find more information and advice about Social Network Services at www.digizen.org/socialnetworking.