This is cross-posted from a guest piece I recently wrote for CORE Education:
Feel the fear – and do it anyway
And can schools embrace the learning opportunities presented by the web, by ultra-fast broadband, if they focus only on cybersafety?
We’re only a few weeks into the new school year, but there has been a slew of stories in the media about cybersafety – sexting, Facebook bullying and the like – and we see the inevitable banning of technological access as a result. A recent talk I gave at a local college to launch their e-learning professional learning for the year, saw excitement among staff but also concern about student safety and online bullying. A 2010 report, commissioned by the Ministry of Education, reminded us that “Preventing access in schools to mobile technologies or firewalling some sites does not teach effective and critical uses of these technologies that students have ready access to outside of school” (Wright, 2010)
Despite all the potential and promise that technology might offer to educators, to what extent do we still have a deficit model of technology?
The New Zealand Curriculum (NZC) advocates for e-learning as a way to “open up new and different ways of learning” (e-learning and pedagogy, NZC). And yet, for many schools, it is the very ‘opening up’ that is so challenging. School leaders understandably have to balance the opportunities for learners presented by, for example, ‘web 2.0 technology, with managing parental expectation and the duty to keep students safe.
Perhaps a marriage of the Key Competencies and digital citizenship might offer a potential pathway through the minefield. The NZC is littered with phrases that clearly align to the potential of e-learning; for example, the “active seekers, users, and creators of knowledge” (Vision statement, NZC) should arguably be “confident and capable user[s] of ICT” (myLGP: Learn, Guide, Protect – Netsafe) in order to create and seek knowledge for themselves.
Most importantly, the Key Competencies of managing self, relating to others, and participating and contributing clearly align to the importance of students becoming confident in the way they manage challenges online, in the way to they relate to, and communicate with, others in cyberspace.
Embracing the teachable moment, managing risk rather than banning access, and looking to the opportunities rather than the dangers are approaches far more likely to foster students’ integrity and responsibility. Especially when they will inevitably have to face cyber challenges without adult supervision.
Like Hilary and Armstrong, perhaps those schools that interpret the NZC through the lens of digital citizenship have found a way to navigate the possible risks and dangers while maintaining their focus on a greater goal – that of students being able to fully participate in the digital world.