The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) have numerous resources to help schools develop plans which promote responsible and critical use of the the internet and social media tools. They recommend a ‘holistic approach to cybersafety’ wherein they recommend that schools establish a cybersafety group and provide 18 points to consider when guiding the group to take a holistic approach.
Stephen Harris (2010) writes that ‘Today’s students are immersed in a world of technology from birth. It is natural for them to live within the internet, rather than using the internet as is likely the case for their teachers and parents.’
Innovation and change can produce fear of the unknown in some people. There are views that the internet is ‘bad’ because ‘bad’ things van happen on the internet. This contrasts with the view that technology is value-free and that it is how technology is used which determines whether it is a positive or negative influence on students’ lives. Tom Johnson has created a blog ‘Adventures in Pencil Integration’ where he parodies the integration of Web 2.0 tools with that of using pencils in classroom settings. It serves to highlight the fears some may have about the social nature and inherent possibility for danger in Web 2.0 tools.
Given that the internet and social networking tools can provide both support and danger for students, it is important that schools develop policies which promote students’ learning and independence, while at the same time protect them and give them the skills to deal with inappropriate content or communication.
ACMA list available National and State cybersafety policies here. In the section on strategic planning, they list the important factors to consider when developing a plan.
‘Schools preparing an ICT plan need to understand:
- their overall strategic plan, including its vision, objectives and priorities for teaching and learning
- their administrative needs
- the opportunities offered by ICT for supporting and improving teaching, learning and school administration
- the strategic priorities and policies of the school system or sector to which they belong
- their current level of readiness against the appropriate ICT planning framework
- the financial, human and other resources available to them.’
Cyber Bullying poses a threat to all students. ACMA describe cyberbullying as:
- ‘Abusive texts and emails
- Imitating others online
- Excluding others online
- Tagging others inappropriately
- Posting unkind messages or inappropriate images on social networking sites‘ (2011)
Because the person who is bullying does not need to be in the same physical space and time as the person being bullied, it is contended that this makes bullying easier to accomplish. The threat of cyberbullying should be made explicit in learning and pastoral programs, so that students can relate their experiences and develop skills to deal with it if it occurs to them.
What does social media afford students?
‘Here Comes Everybody’
Clay Shirky’s 2008 book ‘Here Comes Everbody’ has a central argument that social networking tools make group action possible in ways that were not previously available. By utilising the ‘anywhere, anytime’ nature of social networking tools, individuals can communicate and form groups in much faster time and over greater geographical distances than was previously possible. This means also that groups can form and act in response to an event or initiate action very quickly. Clay Shirky elaborates on these ideas in this presentation:
Given the ubiquitous nature of internet-connected devices, and students access to them, emphasis should be placed on helping students develop their responsible and critical use of the internet and social networking tools. Schools may implement web filters, but any students with a 3G enabled device can bypass those filters.
Cybersafety programs should be an integral part of learning programs in schools from Kindergarten onwards. Learning and pastoral programs should have an emphasis on developing students who are aware of the benefits and dangers of the online world, and can make responsible decisions when encountering inappropriate content or communications.
Australian Communication and Media Authority. (2011). ACMA. Retrieved August 18, 2011, from http://www.cybersmart.gov.au/
Harris, S. (2010). The Place of Virtual, Pedagogic and Physical Space in the 21st Century Classroom. Sydney Centre for Innovation in Learning.
Johnson, T. (2011). Retrieved August 19, 2011, from Tom Johnson’s Adventures in Pencil Integration: http://pencilintegration.blogspot.com/