Today I attended a professional development session run by ACMA on teaching cyber-safety as part of the Australian Government’s cybersmart program. The day was broken down into 4 modules: booting up, ethical online behaviours, the bottom line and plugging into the curriculum.
We began talking about the digital footprints that we all create and how this generations’ footprints often start before birth through parents announcing the imminent birth of their child on Facebook, sharing ultrasound photos on Instagram and messaging friends and family of the birth.
This led to the discussion about how our role as educators has changed in regards to teaching students about online safety. Five years ago the message was about protecting students from the inappropriate materials that they might see on the Internet. A common message that we all heard was the need to keep the family computer in a place where you could see what your child was doing online. Now kids have access to the Internet anywhere and everywhere, through iPods, iPads, phones and electronic game devices. We now need to assist and teach students how to self manage their behaviour and activities online. They need to learn to be good digital citizens and to take responsibility for the things they do and say online. We need to give students the opportunities to discuss the online challenges they face (formally and informally) and support students to use the different technologies and programs safely and responsibly.
We spoke in detail about the different apps that students of different ages are using, such as Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters, Facebook, KIK, tumblr, snap chat, etc. We discussed the fact that it is not the app that can be the problem but the way that it is used. I really liked this quote from Sarah Darmody on the ABC splash blog:
“You don’t need to know what a passive-aggressive hash tag looks like to ask: What did you intend that person to feel? How did it make you feel? You don’t need to understand the mechanics of a particular game to advise that spending nine hours in a row playing it is not a reasonable or balanced approach to a healthy life. Teaching young people about respect, privacy, responsibility, literacy, care for others and care for the self – that is what adults do. It’s what they’ve always done. Don’t let the pixels fool you.”
My view is that bullying, kids being irresponsible, kids making ‘silly/risky’ choices has always happened. The difference now is that it’s more difficult for kids to switch off from this bullying because it can be happening 24 hours a day and the risks and mistakes that young people make can be part of their digital footprints forever.
Ethical Online Behaviours
After the morning break we moved onto the second module: Ethical Online Behaviours. During this session we discussed the role of the school in supporting students to make ethical choices and to behave ethically online. We discussed the need for good policies and one participant mentioned they had changed the name of their school’s Cyber Safety Agreement to a Good Digital Citizen agreement.
This discussion led onto the power of the bystander in any bullying issue. For a number of years our school’s counselor, Karen Robinson, has talked to students at our school about the power that bystanders have to add to or to stop a bullying situation. I really liked this video that was made as part of the Back Me Up project run by the Australian Human Rights Commission. I am looking forward to sharing other videos from this site with my class and seeing what discussions come out of them.
The Bottom Line
After lunch, we moved onto Module 3: The Bottom Line. During this module we discussed the legal side of cyber safety and the need to keep both students and teachers safe. There was a lot of discussion around social media and the use of it by teachers. Teachers need to be aware that we are in a profession were what we do in private and post online can effect our reputation as a professional and our school’s reputation.
This session included a lot of “what ifs…” We discussed how technology has really blurred the boundaries between our private and professional life.
Plugging into the Curriculum
The final module was Plugging into the Curriculum. Here we delved into the Australian Curriculum and how cyber safety links into the curriculum. Cyber safety discussions need to occur when needed as well as part of the planned curriculum. The Australian Curriculum includes seven general capabilities: literacy, numeracy, information and communication technology, critical and creative thinking, ethical behaviour, personal and social competence and intercultural understanding. Activities teaching cyber safety and being a positive digital citizen can, and should, easily be built into all of these capabilities.
What a day! It was an incredibly informative and thought provoking professional development session. I now have a lot of information that I am keen to share with our staff about teaching and supporting students to become safe, good digital citizens.