guidance

Cyberbullying Guidance for Schools

Cyberbullying: Understand, Prevent, Respond

I’ve been privileged to work with Childnet International leading on national cyberbullying guidance under two very different governments in the UK. The original guidance blazed a trail as the first government supported work of its kind produced anywhere in the world. Cyberbullying, Safe To Learn was released in 2007, and followed by Cyberbullying: Supporting School Staff in 2009 – the first national cyberbullying guidance for school employees.

Co-funded by the European Union’s Connecting Europe Facility and the UK’s Government Equalities Office the new guidance, Cyberbullying: Understand, Prevent, Respond builds on the success and lessons learnt of the original work, and responds to changes in online abuse and young peoples experience of mobile, internet and gaming technologies.

The guidance is also critically informed by those working in schools (145 schools and organisations supporting schools took part in the research and consultation) and by the voices of young people. Five groups of young people from secondary schools in London, Manchester, and from the First Out group for young people, Leicester Lesbian Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Centre gave us their time and opinions. We learnt some very important lessons, and these were included the guidance, including a section on What Young People Have Told Us (& if you work with or know any young people, you should read this.).

Several people have asked me recently about the difference between the new guidance, and the guidance produced in 2007. There are several, not least that the new guidance is considerably shorter.

A key change, and one I am very proud of, is that discrimination, hate speech and hate crimes are addressed from the outset. The guidance opens:

Cyberbullying, or online bullying, can be defined as the use of technologies by an individual or by a group of people to deliberately and repeatedly upset someone else.

Cyberbullying is often linked to discrimination, including on the basis of gender, race, faith, sexual orientation, gender identity or special educational needs and disabilities. For example, girls report experiencing a higher incidence of cyberbullying than boys, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are more likely to experience bullying, including cyberbullying.

The guidance is also clear in terms of the responsibility for education providers to ensure learning communities are places that welcome and support all children and young people:

Bullying may also be, or felt to be, supported institutionally and culturally. Young people may be bullying within environments where respect for others, and treating others well, is not seen as important – or where disrespect and poor treatment is tolerated or encouraged. Individuals who do not conform to social norms may face discrimination within intolerant communities.

The guidance can be downloaded from Childnet, along with a range of practical resources including lesson plans and short films.

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Print Ready OER Schools Guidance

OER GuidanceStaff at Hazel Primary School in Leicester taking part in Open Education Week

 

Very happy to share this print ready version of the Open Educational Resources Guidance for Schools document:
OER Guidance for Schools 2015 print version (PDF)

This version includes the four key guidance documents – Open education and the schools sector; Understanding open licensing; Finding and remixing openly licensed resources; and Openly licensing and sharing your resources. It also includes a very nice cover.

The OER Guidance for Schools was originally commissioned by Leicester City Council as part of the DigiLit Leicester project. In November 2014, the African Virtual University translated the OER Guidance into French and Portuguese, for use on their teacher educator programmes.

The original guidance can be accessed at http://schools.leicester.gov.uk/openeducation and is also available below, shared under open licence (CC-BY 4.0) for other educators to use and build on. All documents were updated in January 2015.

Main guidance documents, G0-G4 all in one PDF, with cover:

Main guidance documents, as individual PDF files:

Supporting Documents (activities, walk-throughs and information) (PDF)

All documents are available in editable versions (Word and ODT) from http://schools.leicester.gov.uk/openeducation

 

 

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OER Schools Guidance

OER Schools icons

 

I’m very happy to be letting people know that Leicester City Council has released guidance and a range of practical information for schools to support staff in understanding, finding, and creating Open Educational Resources (OER).

The resource packs can be downloaded from http://schools.leicester.gov.uk/openeducation.

I’ve worked with Dr Björn Haßler and Helen Neo to produce the resources, which have also benefited from the input of school staff, through review and trialling in pilot workshop sessions.

OER are learning materials (including presentations, revision guides, lesson plans) that have been released under an open licence, so that anyone can use, share and build on them for free.  Many openly licensed resources are available for schools to use and develop. At a time when schools increasingly work with, and rely on, digital and web based materials, understanding how copyright works, and making the most of available resources, is essential for staff and schools.

Creating OER allows schools to connect and collaborate with others through sharing work. Sharing can also help promote the great work that school staff and schools are doing.

The DigiLit Leicester initiative, designed to support schools in making the most of the city’s current investment in technology, identified a gap in support and information for school staff relating to the use and creation of OER. In response to this, Leicester City Council is releasing a range of resources to help schools in the city and beyond get the most out of open licensing.

The focus of the OER Schools project is to providing information to school staff about open licencing, and in particular, Creative Commons. Leicester City Council has also given permission to the 84 community and voluntary controlled schools across the city to create and share Open Educational Resources (OER), by releasing the learning materials they create under an open licence.  By default, the rights of work created in the course of employment are assigned to the employer, unless a specific agreement has been made. This permission makes sharing resources simpler for everyone, and provides additional opportunities for schools and school staff. Leicester City Council is the first local authority in the UK to provide its school employees with permission to openly license their resources.

The OER Schools project resources include:

School permission & policy documents:  This pack includes notification of permission from Leicester City Council to city community and voluntary controlled schools, explanatory briefing notes relating to this permission, and model school policies (which builds on the Albany Senior High School Creative Commons Policy) for schools where the LEA is the employer, and for schools where the governing body (or equivalent) is the employer.

Guidance documents: Four documents which introduce OER and open education; look at copyright and Creative Commons licences; support staff in finding, attributing and remixing OER; and cover creating and sharing OER.

Supporting Documents:  Six supporting documents designed to help staff in delivering OER workshops; provide walkthroughs for finding, using and attributing CC Licensed materials; and include an extensive list of annotated resources and related materials.

Additional materials:  A pack of existing openly licensed resources that are either referenced in the guidance or in activities in the supporting documents, provided on a standalone basis to make life easier for school staff.

All of the materials build upon existing openly licensed works and are themselves released under a CC-BY licence, and provided in editable doc formats as well as PDF.

The Council is also encouraging voluntary aided schools, foundation schools and academies across the city to review their own approach to digital resources, and to see how they can make the most of open licensing.  At these schools, the governing body is usually the employer.  All schools in the city have been provided with information about the permission, and the Council has produced model policies to discuss, adopt and adapt.

All of the resources can be downloaded from http://schools.leicester.gov.uk/openeducation

 

 

 

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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

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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.

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