young people

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.

The digital native question

NIACE debate 2014

Picture credit: Sarah Knight


NIACE, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (the UK’s lead organisation for lifelong learning) held its annual digital learning conference last week. I was very happy to be invited to contribute to the conference debate, ably chaired by Go On UK CEO Rachel Neaman.

Panellist were invited to put forward and argue for a key action to help “prepare learners for life, work and learning in the digital age”. My proposal was that we stop using the term ‘digital native’ to characterise young people (and by extension, the term ‘digital immigrant’ to describe not so young people). My notes are here:

The term ‘digital natives’ was coined by Marc Prensky in 2001. It’s the most popular of several terms that characterise young people as different from those born before the early-to-mid 1980s –and brought up in a society where mobile, gaming and internet based technologies have become pervasive. Prensky describes this group as fundamentally different from those born later – not just culturally but neurologically – his writing at this time suggests that engagement with (then) new technologies from an early age means that the brain development of digital natives is significantly different from previous generations. Digital natives have grown up with technologies, and are “used to receiving information really fast. They like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics before their text rather than the opposite. They prefer random access (like hypertext). They function best when networked. They thrive on instant gratification and frequent rewards. They prefer games to “serious” work” (Prensky, 2001). Digital immigrants have difficulty in accessing new technological cultures and practices, and are characterised as learning “…like all immigrants, some better than others – to adapt to their environment,” But “…they always retain, to some degree, their “accent,” that is, their foot in the past” (Prensky, 2001).

This idea of a clear-cut, homogeneous generational divide has been disputed by researchers since at least 2006 – see for example, Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in Internet Skills and Uses among Members of the “Net Generation” (Hargittai, 2010); The Net Generation and Digital Natives (Jones & Shao, 2011); Beyond the Net Generation Debate: A Comparison of Digital Learners in Face-to-Face and Virtual Universities (Gros et al, 2012).

The immigrants/native dichotomy has however persisted in its popularity. ‘Digital native’ recently made it on to the shortlist for the Chambers Dictionary word of the year and the nostalgic spectre of digital immigrants is periodically raised again. I’d argue that this popularity in part is down to its easy adaptability into a blunt metaphor of difference. This populist use equates young people’s immersion and proximity to mobile, gaming and web-based technologies with knowledge, skills and confidence. Young people are ‘good’ at tech stuff, older people aren’t. ‘Tech stuff’ is a thing, rather than a diverse, overlapping and developing landscape of technologies, practices and environments.

Assumptions about young people’s familiarity with technologies risk exacerbating inequality. Access to devices and connectivity isn’t equal across all young people, and neither is support in developing skills – from peers, parent/carers, or schools, equally distributed. Socioeconomic status remains a key issue in relation to access, with a small but significant number of young people having very limited access.

While the majority of young people do have more routine access, it certainly doesn’t seem inevitable that these young people have innately developed the kinds of creative and critical skills that support active citizenship in digital environments. Ofcom’s 2014 Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitude Report reports improvements in young people’s understanding of search engine results, with just over half (52%) of 12-15s who use search engines now understanding that some of the sites returned will be truthful and some won’t be, compared to 45% in 2013. While the picture in terms of basic digital literacy is improving, it’s still a long way from the glossy wholesale assumptions called up by the idea of a ‘digital native’

Search engine understanding Ofcom 2014

We need to continue to challenge unhelpful assumptions and stereotypes about people based on when they happened to be born, and ask people what they mean when they use these terms. Native and immigrant assumptions obscure the actual picture for both younger and older people. We need to ensure learner of all ages have access to the  knowledge and skills necessary to make to most of technology in terms of educational, social and economic opportunities and challenges.



Leicester In Minecraft! Young People Design New Buildings for their City

James (age 8, Dovelands Primary) Glass pyramid indoor park

James (age 8, Dovelands Primary School) Glass pyramid indoor park

To coincide with our Leicester in Minecraft event, and to celebrate the building work Leicester City Council is carrying out across the city, we invited children and young people between the ages of 6-16 who live or attend school in Leicester to create a building in Minecraft that would make Leicester even better. Entries came flooding in, amazing us with the creativity, ingenuity and thoughtfulness they demonstrated.

A huge thank you to every one who took the time to enter!

The judging panel

The panel looked at the creativity and imagination demonstrated by the entries, as well as technical skill and ability, and the building’s potential to make Leicester even better. The standard of entries was excellent – making the judging an extremely tough job.

Highly commended

James, from Woodland Primary (age 8),  Rufus Avenue Primary School (aged 8) and Abdulrahman, from Kestrels Field Primary School (aged 11) were all highly commended by the judging panel for their amazing creations.

James - glass pyramid indoor park (interior)

James (aged 8, Dovelands Primary School) glass pyramid indoor park (interior)

James writes:

I have chosen to create a massive glass indoor park, made from different coloured glass. There are pools on each side of the pyramid and underneath the floor is a large but shallow pool of water.  My pyramid has two open doorways on each side of the pools so that people can walk in and out easily.  Inside is an open space for anyone to enjoy, there are benches to sit on and sculptures to look at as well as the colourful view of the city. I chose to make this building because it is a very colourful sight and it is free for everyone to use!  It is a very different type of building for Leicester.

Rufus - Treehouse Library

Rufus (age 8, Avenue Primary School) Treehouse tree library

Rufus 2 Tree Library

Rufus (age 8, Avenue Primary School) Treehouse tree library (from below)

Rufus writes:

I have chosen to build a tree library.  It is basically a tree house with a library that has books about trees. I chose this building so children could learn more about trees.  There are lots of trees and parks in Leicester so it would be nice to have somewhere to learn about them.  I thought it would be exciting to make it in a tree house because it’s a library about trees.

Abdulrahman (aged 11, Kestrels Field Primary School) Hotel LOL

Abdulrahman (aged 11, Kestrels Field Primary School) Hotel LOL

Abdulrahman’s entry was Hotel LOL, an “extremely big and luxurious” hotel for homeless people, made with sand, brown wool, glass and oakwood.


The three winners selected by the judges are Sean from Montrose Primary School (aged 11), Oliver from St Cuthbert’s Primary School (aged 11), and Gurinder from Soar Valley Community College (aged 12).

Sean (aged 11, Montrose Primary School) Three in One Building

Sean (aged 11, Montrose Primary School) Three in One Building

Sean (aged 11, Montrose Primary School) Three in One Building - sweet shop and Korean barbeque seating

Sean (aged 11, Montrose Primary School) Three in One Building – sweet shop and Korean barbecue seating

Sean’s entry particularly impressed the judges with the level of detail and design of both exterior and interior design. The building provides sweets, comics, and Korean barbecue. Sean explained that families don’t all like the same thing, so his building provides something for everyone:

“I chose the look of the building to be different from others since it has a balcony on the second floor and it has windows on the roof. Also it has a water fountain at the front, which is a nice view. I chose this building because it is different, it has something for everyone.”



Oliver (aged 10, St Cuthbert’s Primary School) Under- and Overground Roller Coaster

Oliver 4

Oliver (aged 10, St Cuthbert’s Primary School) Under- and Overground Roller Coaster – birds-eye view

Oliver (aged 10, St Cuthberts Primary School) Under and Overground Roller Coaster - lava section

Oliver (aged 10, St Cuthbert’s Primary School) Under- and Overground Roller Coaster – lava section

Oliver’s entry was an dramatic under- and overground roller coaster – something currently missing from Leicester. The ride features scenic views of trees, vines, as well as having water and lava features. Oliver writes:

I chose to build a roller coaster for my Minecraft project. I thought about building a tall tower for Leicester so we have a famous land mark but then I wanted to have a bit of fun so I wanted to build something else and a roller coaster came into my head.  It has multiple vertical drops.

I’ve lived in Leicester for all my life. There are a lot of good things in Leicester but there are a few things missing, like some famous land marks. I thought about building a religious as we have lots of unique religions. I then thought about building a tall building like the Empire State building, but then I realised the main thing we were missing was a roller coaster.  I really love roller coasters, but there are no roller coasters in Leicester.

Gurinder (aged 12, Soar Valley Community College)  FUN HUB - crazy golf

Gurinder (aged 12, Soar Valley Community College) FUN HUB – crazy golf

Gurinder’s building was the FUN HUB, a multi-purpose activity centre with floors providing an ice skating rink (with “classes and fun disco nights”) and indoor crazy golf.  Gurinder writes:

This building is the FUN HUB. It is a multi purpose building with lots of fun things to do on every floor. There is a café and ice rink, crazy golf, restaurants with flavours from around the world, a library, terrace area. On the terrace you can sit to relax with a book, or go to the stargazing area in the evenings to look at stars with a cup of hot chocolate from the bar. The FUN HUB would be a cool place to go with friends and family, and I would want to take my relatives that visit Leicester to see the building. There are conference rooms and halls that have different workshops going on like cooking or baking classes, dance and beatboxing workshops and arts and crafts days.

More amazing entries

Eden 1

Eden (aged 10, Buswells Lodge Primary School) Leicester Sky Scraper

Eden’s sky scraper included a basement for “relaxing and looking at art or old items or fossils”, as well as a party room, and “awesome views of the city”.

Issac 1 - KR3 Hotel

Isaac (aged 8, Christ the King Catholic Primary School) King Richard III Hotel

Isaac writes:

I have chosen to create a hotel called ‘The King Richard the Third’ hotel. It has many floors which are all made out of different materials. There is a pub on the side with a swimming pool on the top and a number of rooms have balconies where people can sit outside. Each bedroom has a library and all are child friendly family size rooms. There is also a helicopter pad on the top in case any celebrities want to come and stay here.

Alijawad (aged 12, Soar Valley College) People's Art Gallery

Alijawad (aged 12, Soar Valley College) People’s Art Gallery

 Alijawad created a People’s Art Gallery:

You can give in your art so you won’t just look at art you can also give it in if you would like. This will encourage others to embrace their creativity and imagination.


Jill (aged 6, Dovelands Primary School) Leicester Airport - runway and the control tower

Jill (aged 6, Dovelands Primary School) Leicester Airport – runway and the control tower

Jill (aged 6, Dovelands Primary School) Leicester Airport - passengers boarding plane

Jill (aged 6, Dovelands Primary School) Leicester Airport – passengers boarding plane

Jill designed an airport for Leicester, with direct routes to Singapore.

Stan (aged 15, Beauchamp College) Learning Centre

Stan (aged 15, Beauchamp College) Learning Centre

Stan (aged 15, Beauchamp College) Learning Centre

Stan (aged 15, Beauchamp College) Learning Centre – entrance

Stan writes:

I have created a learning centre with many functions such as computer training, engineering and inventing. I have attempted to create a calming environment to learn in using balconies and plant life. It is elevated on a wall and I mainly used dark oak wood, spruce wood and cobblestone for the exterior with lots of flowers.

The entrance “includes hanging chandeliers and an underfloor area with shrubbery and a tree which protrudes up to the staircase.”

Thomas (age 11, Leysland High School) Underground School

Thomas (age 11, Leysland High School) Underground School


Thomas (age 11, Leysland High School) Underground School - utilities supply

Thomas (age 11, Leysland High School) Underground School – utilities supply

Thomas’s underground school design made use of solar panels and took into account environmental issues.



Digital Citizenship

Digital rings

My notes from a  recent interview on Digital Citizenship for TES:

I see digital citizenship as a distinct but overlapping area in relation to digital literacy. Digital literacy is the ability to use, critically engage with and make use of digital tools and environments – it’s not just about supporting learners to understand and engage with the world, but about enabling learners to challenge, shape and change their worlds. Digital citizenship for me addresses political, economic and legal participation in relation to the use of technologies and online environments. It isn’t an ‘add on’ to the area of citizenship as a whole, but a recognition that technologies and digital environments are a part of the real world, and they mediate all aspects of UK life: from meeting partners, finding jobs, contacting the local council, protesting, organising, developing our social and professional networks – the list goes on.

Children and young people grow up and develop their identities in both physical and digital environments. While they might be confident users of mobile and gaming technologies, and online sites like Facebook, YouTube, Wikipedia and Google, it doesn’t follow that they are socially and politically aware and engaged citizens in these spaces – just as simply being in the physical world doesn’t guarantee they have the tools and self confidence to understand their rights and responsibilities, and to take an active part in their communities and in governance.

Citizenship education is a well articulated and understood area in England, where it has been a part of the curriculum for over two decades. It’s defined by the Citizenship Foundation as “enabling people to make their own decisions and to take responsibility for their own lives and their communities.”

Many of the issues addressed through citizenship education are inseparable from the use of technology and digital environments, and I’d like to see citizenship within the curriculum reflect the realities of learners lives. Although it obviously depends on the teacher delivering the curriculum, typically schemes of work and lessons don’t address rights and responsibilities in digital environments, or political and  legal  issues online, or identity, conflict, and communities in online environments. The internet is still broadly framed as a place to get resources from, rather than as an active site of political life.

There isn’t a transparent relationship between how we act, are acted on and represent ourselves in physical environments and how we act, are acted on and represent ourselves in digital environments.  While most of the key concepts of citizenship education apply to activities in online environments, a range of digital-specific issues have been left largely under explored. I’d include issues around the use of technologies for mainstream and grassroots political organisation and representation, the use of technology for governance and decision making, freedom of speech and censorship, digital copyright laws, privacy and data protection, harassment and discrimination. These are all issues that impact on young people’s lives and their everyday use of technology that we aren’t addressing at national level.

Citizenship is a social responsibility. Any citizenship agenda that stops at ‘behaving well’ is potentially a dangerous one – the point of citizenship is not just to understand and do what you are expected to do by your community and by law. Citizenship should be about equipping young people to actively and critically engage in the local, national and international agendas and decision making that affect their lives and the lives of their communities. There are specific social, economic and political differences, as well as significant similarities, when it comes to rights and responsibilities in physical and digital environments. The social and legal challenges that life online pose are substantial and changes in these areas are rapid. The integration of mobile, gaming and web based technologies into everyday life means that new social norms are emerging and being argued over now.  Privacy is one of the key examples of this. What is a reasonable expectation of privacy, at time when many people are publishing personal information about themselves online? How do laws that aim to regulate and monitor online and mobile activity in order to protect people impact on our individual rights to and expectation of privacy? How are companies whose income is based on the tracking and selling of user activity data regulated?

Schools have a critical role to play and I would love to see citizenship education really get to grips with digital issues. Parents and carers, as citizens themselves, are having to engaging with digital citizenship issues, and I think there is a huge role to play for parents and schools supporting young people in using and understanding the ways in which technology can help them organise – school councils have a vested interest in active engagement in the digital citizenship agenda. Young people are already using Facebook, Twitter and mobile technologies to effectively organise campaigns, protests and establish their own interest groups. How are we supporting them in this? What can we learn from them?

I’d identify three priorities in taking forward digital citizenship education. Firstly, schools need to understand the importance of digital literacy for all staff members, as well as for all learners. If a school doesn’t have an appreciation of the critical role technology can play in learning and teaching (and that it already does play in informal learning and in the social life of its community) it’s missing out on key opportunities to support all learners. Secondly, national and local citizenship education needs to integrate digital citizenship into curriculum design, resources and delivery. Thirdly, students need to be supported in their use and understanding of mobile and web based technologies, tools and environments for organising, collaborating and for governance.