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Allowing students on the internet…A Worthwhile Risk? November 11, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — lauraduff @ 10:32 pm

Since reading around on E-Technology and writing this blog i’ve realised that many of the concerns surround the children’s safety and the idea that the children may misuse the technology, yet David Gilmour in my first blog commented telling me about research he conducted:

‘In East Lothian schools YouTube has been available to all staff and students since November 2008, when we introduced it on a 6-month trial basis. There are 6 large secondaries and over 30 primaries, so it’s a large sample. Plan A was that we would review after 6 months, but by that time continuing with it was such a “no brainer” that surveying staff was rejected as it would have been a waste of their time. We did, however, ask those who wanted to let us know their thoughts by email, and received a wealth of positive stories in response. If it was to be blocked now we would have a revolution on our hands!

Part of our thinking was to improve teaching and learning opportunities. Another less high-profile aim was to improve knowledge of internet safety and responsible use not just by lecturing, but through active use of social media in our classes. It has been striking that misuse has never really been an issue over the entire time…’

So within 6 large secondary schools and over 30 primary schools they experienced no misuse (or no misuse that was picked up) and it seems to suggest that it worked well.. maybe allowing children on websites such as YouTube is a risk but a risk that needs to be taken?

By focusing on the risk, the worries and the ‘What if’s’ are we forgetting the real impact these E-Technologies could have on students learning? Maybe we should all relax a little bit and just allow the children to take these risks? Is it a healthy risk? With most phones having internet connections and most children having phones is there really much difference apart from if we allow them in schools, as educators we can guide children into how to use the internet as a powerful learning tool?

All thoughts are welcome 🙂


13 Responses to “Allowing students on the internet…A Worthwhile Risk?”

  1. […] Click here to read the original article on the author’s site where you can also comment. […]

  2. Colin Steed Says:

    Laura another excellent topic. There are a couple of points here to address. Should we allow access to YouTube – I have commented before that being unmoderated is risky. I also think much of the content is poor. I have said that a teacher could find good content and perhaps download it for classroom use or possibly get it approved for Teachertube.

    The second point is that it’s true that having mobile access means that if it is blocked by school then they have means to access it anyway and perhaps because it is banned will be more attracted to it.

    Like all media that is banned it does take on an attraction for most so this is a huge hurdle to negotiate for teachers and of course parents.

    The way I handled issues like this with my two boys at home many years ago was to point out that it was not my preferred way because… And the better way was because…

    That seemed to have worked. Obviously their naturally curious and inquisitive mind meant that they looked at the ‘no no’ and discovered for their self that I had a good point.

    So really it’s about letting them explore but give them both sides of the position. Providing boundaries and guidance, with an explanation, is my answer to your blog question. As I’m sure you know, they will more often than not choose what is right.

  3. Emily Says:

    I’ve just had a tutorial where we were discussing the pro’s and con’s of privacy within something called GIS (Geographical Information Systems), basically the internet, and other modern location technologies and advances.
    The things we were discussing focused not on the content of the internet sites, but of their issues concerning the information that is revealed by the user.
    YouTube especially, uses something called Geolocation Technology, which reads the IP address of a computer and then looks at where that computer is in the World. This server can then transmit the information to the host company (in this case YouTube) and then the access can be denied (for example when you want to watch a video and it says that it’s not available in your region) or accepted (in which case you watch the video) iPlayer and 4OD are also other examples of this, as you can’t watch them outside of Britain.
    I know this is slightly off-topic, but I just wanted to address some of the other issues with letting younger people have complete access to the internet. Any information that they share about themselves is then public knowledge and the databases are just sold to anyone who wants to by them from these companies who have collected it. Obviously, Facebook is the biggest culprit at the moment, especially as every single piece of information that people put onto it is stored, from statuses, to the games you play, to the people you’re interacting with.
    I think that the main issue arising from all this jargon I’m typing, is that younger people may not be aware of just how much they are revealing about themselves, which is why so many people are concerned about the amount of ‘internet’ that they should be subjected to. Do the benefits from these GIS systems to the global community really outweigh the violations of privacy to the individual?!
    Something to think about…

  4. gareth Says:

    As someone who earns his living providing IT support in primary schools I think there are some interesting points being raised here.
    At LEAST twice a week I am asked about website blocking in schools and/or access to youtube. By default the South West Grid For Learning (who control all the proxy filters through which a school must connect in order to get web access) block any and all objectionable material and sites like facebook, twitter and youtube. Schools do have the right to apply to the swgfl for control of their own web blocking policy (which is then controlled via a password protected web-based interface), but this is far from common knowledge- in fact I’d say at least 8 out of 10 schools I mention this to have no idea- and it has to be fought for, the swgfl aren’t happy to relinquish control which, although it may not seem so at first, does ultimately make sense.

    As understandably aggravating as the filtering is for any staff members when they find the resource they are looking for lying behind an almost blank, thoroughly infuriating (and embarrassingly dated and cheap-looking) cartoon animal who regretfully informs them that is considered threatening and dangerous for our poor, impressionable youth. But as understandable as the frustration of the educator may be the “if in doubt, filter it” methodology of the swgfl is equally logical when considered.

    By way of explanation I offer the following tale; a few years ago a well-known and well-used educational website found itself embroiled in controversy when a very senior member of it’s hierarchy was accused of some misbehaviour that was at odds with the website’s target market (to put it very lightly). I shan’t go into details as I have no verification of what I only heard on the proverbial grapevine. What I can say, however, is that this was the subject of many delicate discussions between myself and various ICT co-ordinators, head teachers and even some members of the Local Education Authority but, even more pertinently the allegations resulted in a blanket ban on this particular website in every school I visited.
    Some people, although they understood why it had happened, bemoaned the loss of this site’s resources and hypothetically questioned whether the action taken was an overreaction and, on the face of it, I can see their point; after all, this man was apparently involved in running the company and likely had nothing whatsoever to do with the content of the site. However take into consideration this; suppose no action was taken, the allegations became public and a child came home with resources bearing the website’s URL. A parent or parents, if they were so inclined, could (and likely would) raise huge concerns and potentially complaints with the school about allowing access to this content. This would invariably lead to questions being asked of the swgfl, hence it being logical that they would play it safe and blanket ban the site, no questions asked.

    This tends to be the swgfl’s attitude to filtering in general which I can say from experience infuriates teachers all over the south west. I have been told more times than I can recall how annoying and counter-productive the filtering can be in day-to-day educational work, how lazy the filtering policy is. I tend to agree but feel a responsibility to point out that they have to filter hundreds (thousands?) of schools around the area and a single, default policy is the only logical way of dealing with the issue without incurring huge additional costs in terms of manpower and/or software, the cost of which would, of course, be footed by us, John or Jane Taxpayer.
    While most (but not all!) teachers understand and agree with this point they always bring up youtube and the blanket ban on this. It is, after all an astounding resource that should be being fully exploited in the education of our future generations.

    I think the only course of action is an understanding that, if we were to allow full access to a site like youtube there would unequivocally HAVE to be a number of caveats, such as:

    – parents having to sign consent for their offspring to be able to use ‘unfiltered’ (or less filtered) internet in schools. This would absolve the school, LEA and swgfl from responsibility in the event of objectionable material being viewed.

    – The use of a less tightly controlled world wide web would HAVE to be done only under supervision by an adult. This would serve to assuage parents’ concerns over the possibility of the child in question searching for anything inappropriate.

    – The employment of child protection software in all schools. These are already widely used in schools I work with, they consist of a ubquitous, clickable cartoon character that pulls up a full screen, innocent picture which remains until an adult removes it and subsequently the offending page(s).

    The most important thing to consider in all this would be the value placed on responsible use of the internet in schools, both the teaching of by staff and the demonstration of by pupils. The bottom line is a giving of trust, both in a child’s sense of responsibility and a school staff’s ability to educate their charges in safe usage of the web.
    In all honestly, the amount of trust required, not to mention the amount of red-tape to get through plus adequate communication between the educational establishment and the parents they answer to, will mean any sort of upheaval in the regulation of educational networks will be a long time in coming, if it comes at all.
    Although it is interesting to note that adults with learning difficulties- many of whom would be considered at a “child’s level”- currently have no state-sanctioned filtering in place if their home or day centre decide to get a business internet line. Their use of the internet and their safety when doing so is the responsiblility of that centre’s staff to oversee and educate the service users. And I speak again from experience where I have seen this working very well by anyone’s definition.

    And nursing/caring staff get paid a lot less than your average teacher…

    • lauraduff Says:

      Hi Gareth,

      Thanks for your comments.

      I think maybe a better filtering system would be beneficial!! OR even if the children went on a website and a filtering system meant it wouldnt let them on it untill a teacher had authorised it. This would then allow the teacher to also view content at home and then use that website in the classroom.

      I also work with adults with learning difficulties and it is down to the staff in the centre’s to monitor what websites they go on but i guess the difference there is the ratio as we never have 30 adults to one member of staff!

  5. Sid Says:

    As a primary school teacher, I feel I can see both sides of the coin. I believe that websites such as youtube and twitter can open up a huge bank of resources not currently easily available for children or teachers.

    For children, the age that I teach, unlimited access would not be appropriate but I think that more power should be given to the teachers to decide what should be used and when.

    You would need the support of parents, to provide consent, but which could also be used as a way of educating them to allow responsible use for the children at home.

    In this day and age, it seems strange to have so much internet access filtered out that could be highly educational. It is generally recognised that children will go on to use the internet and such sites as youtube as they get older, do we not have a duty to educate them on using it responsibly. We are lowering the age for sex education, knowing that if we do not educate them, they will still engage in such activities but without the knowledge of safety and responsibility that we impart upon them. Should we not do the same with such a powerful and highly popular resource as the wider internet?!

    In summary, I feel that children should have some monitored access to sites such as youtube, but I feel that the teacher or school as a whole should be given greater responsibility to decide when and how such things are introduced.

    • hornets Says:

      Some good points here. Another alternative is that you can download Youtube videos so those that have been approved by the teacher/school can be used in lessons, alleviating the need to enable Youtube being available to the children. There are some free programs that will enable video downloads – just search on Google for them.

      • gareth Says:

        I’ve floated the idea of various youtube downloaders to various teachers when having this discussion and, although around half of them give it a try and can use it in lesson planning, I usually get told that it’s no good if they need to change their planned lesson, if a classroom discussion takes an unexpected turn but most of all they say that it negates the idea of the students using youtube as a valid resource when doing their own research on a particular subject. Downloading clips is becoming more and more widely used in order to circumvent the filtering but it only addresses half the problem IMO.

      • lauraduff Says:

        I think it limits the access and doesnt let the students use YouTube in the classroom plus makes showing a clip in the classtime a lot more effort – more likely to put teachers off doing it!

    • lauraduff Says:

      Hi Sid,

      Thanks for your comments. I totally agree… we need to allow children to see the content in the safety of a school. By not allowing them will only tempt them to look at content at home when there is no one around.

      It seems like every one agrees that schools need less filtering and need to allow more access to the internet for their students!

  6. Chris Says:

    Filtering is bollocks. I am LEGALLY required to teach students about mobile phones, and how they work, and am LEGALLY required to use IT in my teaching, yet ALL websites about mobile phones are blocked. Some of the NASA website is blocked, and I’m supposed to teach them about space. This theme continues through a wide variety of things I am LEGALLY required to teach, and all the kids learn is that filtering is a crock of shit. It’s just another obstacle that prevents me from doing my job properly, which is why I’m f@*king off out of it asap…

  7. hornets Says:

    Hi Laura – just seen that YouTube has announced a service for Teachers! They must have been following your blog!


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