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John Pallister :: Blog :: eSafety approaches – the teacher and the learner

February 02, 2009

While preparing for an eSafety meeting I found that I was motivated to; I wanted to; I was driven to, write this post. But that does not really make sense; I need to get all of the issues sorted out/organised for my meeting, so why, at this stage should I share my thinking with others?


Over the years I have read a lot about eSafety. A lot of the advice/articles/Blogs have been brought to my attention via Twitter and the numerous on-line discussions that have taken place in a wide range of communities. I think that I have a fair handle on eSafety, so if I do a bit of research and a bit of reading, I should have something to offer the meeting. But again something is telling me to write, to Blog, to share!


It must be because I have not really got all of the issues sorted out in my head and so feel the need to go through the writing/Blogging process to help me to sort out my thinking.


I need to decide where I sit along the continuum of eSafety that at one end, has  the walled garden, where learners are protected by a rabbit proof, giraffe proof and social software proof ‘fence’, while at the other end learners are allowed open access to all of the available resources and tools.


Looking at the extremes; the walled garden is an attractive proposition for schools. Learners only have access to what (the opportunities) that the gardener (the teacher) thinks that the learners (the plants) need to grow (learn) and thrive. So long as the ‘fence’ is designed to keep out all of the nasty experiences, all should be well. The school (teacher) defines what should be allowed to get through the fence; the learners are safe and get on and, hopefully learn, in a ‘safe’ place. Duty of care fulfilled. Philosophy, if you do not understand it, or you are not ‘told’ to provide learners with access to specific tools, applications or experiences, do not do it, fence against it.


3.30pm arrives, the learners are let out to roam their Personal, home based, Learning environment. There are fewer fences in sight; they have access to tools and applications that provide a wide range of opportunities and experiences. Many experiences will be positive and support their learning; some could be detractors and some could put the learner at risk.  So we cannot rely on ‘fencing’ systems to protect out learners 24 hours of the day, 7 days of the week.


Historically we have educated/taught our learners how to survive, that is, what they need to do, or not do, to stay safe in the big, bad world. We teach them the Green Cross code; we promote Cycling Proficiency; we provide information about the risks of alcohol and drug abuse and we advise them not to talk to strangers.  We do not have fences along all of the pavements that run along the side of every road, we   do not have footbridges over, or under-passes under, all major roads. We educate young learner to behave in a safe fashion.


So thinking about the other end of the continuum, would it be better to provide learners with access to ‘everything’ and then ‘educate’ them in eSafety?


If that was the chosen strategy, one challenge would be to make sure that every teacher fully ‘understood’ the potential, for learning, of the current and evolving Web 2/social tools, and that they appreciated the risks. Without this background and understanding we could not expect teachers to teach the skills and understanding that our current generation of learners will need if they are to stay safe. Somehow we would need to spend a lot of time working with teachers before we could begin to move towards ‘un-fenced’ personal learning environments.  How can we do this? Can Emerge help?

  @orunner , from Twitter, reminded me that 10th February was eSafety Day. http://tinyurl.com/d6trru 

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  1. I think this is the workable strategy - that staff have to be supported & have the skills and confidence to model responsible & safe behaviour in online spaces - and also the one that the major government level agencies, including the DCSF, have come round to. The bottom line is that most of our learners are already operating, posting and working on relationships and self representation in the unwalled space, so we don't have the luxury of worrying to much about a staged aproach. Schools, FE & HE already have various duties of care to learners and staff who might come unstuck in these spaces, wether or not the school, FE or HE organisation supports them. My take on the current situation is outlined here: http://fraser.typepad.com/socialtech/2008/10/notes-towards-d.html - happy to talk more! Also, have been asked to talk about Digital Literacy at this years Shock of the Old: http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ltg/events/shock2009/

    Can't spell check within the box fr some reason, please excuse the probably numerous typos :) 

    Josie FraserJosie Fraser on Tuesday, 03 February 2009, 14:44 GMT # |

  2. I think emerge can help, as can other communities, and as should the institutions near us too.

    What’s the value of education if not to guide people in their learning and create friendly environments where people can discuss the issues they are struggling with, experiment new ideas and evolve in their practices. We learn with people, and our practice also develops as we see others in their practice. It helps even more when they invite us to get actively involved in it.  Many times our attitude is influenced by our peers, and our practices are shaped by what we think we can do and also by what we fear not to be able to … for not knowing better. In the end what we need is a helping hand to keep us going, and mentors to 9en)light that road, that sometimes seems to dark and narrow.

    Before running, we need to be able to walk with confidence…so goes the saying.


    We have already started this conversation in another network, and I think you are absolutely right John. We need to provide learners with ‘real life instances’ all the time and guide them to act with responsibility. That is what education is all about. You said that Universities should adopt a school for a week and work with them. I sometimes also feel that schools should adopt a University and work with them. I think we all have a lot to learn with one another and such divisions shouldn’t exist... not like that. These are the first psychological gates we encounter at the door of such institutions. It’s as if we lived in separate worlds. Then there is also the physical fences and now even the virtual ones. We need to break through, but we need to do so responsibly and in a safe way.

    I believe in peer teaching and would love to see people ‘adopting’ one another as learning buddies, independently of their institution being a school or a university (although I would really welcome the exchange of expertise and points of view from people working in different environments). I think that would be a great way forward. That would also be the value of a learning community.

    If a community is supposed to be composed by people with different levels of expertise and experiences (that being one of its added values), then we should take advantage of that while fostering new learning opportunities. In an ideal world, I would like to see the more proficient in this area to come forward and present themselves as learning buddies ready to befriend another learning buddies, and work with them until they feel ready to go and befriend other people. Of course, they would also need to be prepared to accept that challenge.

    I am not sure why, but think if people showed such availability to work in small groups, sometimes even in pairs, more people would be up to that challenge. And in the end everyone would benefit from it. Because it has been my experience that the ones who address the online world from a different point a view are the ones with whom we also have a lot to learn, simply because they are able to challenge our ideas in a way we have not considered before. It leads us to explore a reality we think we know through different eyes. And that is, for me, for me an exciting challenge. That is indeed exploring new learning possibilities! J

    What do you think?

    Cristina CostaCristina Costa on Tuesday, 03 February 2009, 19:52 GMT # |

  3. I enjoyed watching/following the Twitter 'snow story' yesterday. I was amazed at the speed at which the simple message spread.


    If there is some mileage, some advantage in trying to promote collaboration, shared learning and dialogue between schools and Universities on the eSafety issue, how can we do it?  We have the tool-set, we have the audience. All we need is some one, or some community, that has authority and 'clout' to decide to do it, to kick-start it.


    At the speed of snow, by the 10th February, we could have paired up every University with at least one school. The objective, to share experinces of using Web 2 tools; to promote a dialogue about the potential and the risks created when learners are 'allowed'/encouraged to use the tools. Then a national, Web-enabled debate about eSafety.

     I can see the Wiki growing; the UK Map riddled with People Pins; Blogs blazing; communities created; Skype sizzling; people collaborating - just another day in Web 2!  - Oh lots of folks better able to make decisions about eSafety.

    Anyone for eSafety?


    John Pallister

    John PallisterJohn Pallister on Tuesday, 03 February 2009, 20:23 GMT # |

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