Since the dawn of internet being available in our schools, there have always been students accessing inappropriate sites at school. Up until recently, many school boards have imposed internet ‘filters’ to block inappropriate sites, and to prevent students from engaging in Social Media while at school. However, in this day in age, filters have become more and more complicated, and with many school boards opting to lift the sheer number of filters at play, we as educators need to understand how to effectively help our students manage technology and the internet.
The lifting of filters may sound shocking to some people however, because with less filters, students can access even more inappropriate sites, including Social Media sites that provide distractions. Anything and everything is instantly available at our fingertips. Further, we end up asking many more questions including those that address the interrelationships between internet and social media behaviours and physical and emotional behaviours that can manifest within a learning environment.
Our teaching practice can evolve to incorporate these realities into our existing curriculum!
Many of us would like to believe that we can keep our schools walled and safe from negative outside sources, but the truth is, we cannot anymore. (Especially with more and more schools adopting a BYOD strategy.)
The truth is, that we as Educators need to be aware that students will always try to access inappropriate sites. We have a new reality at our fingertips, and we need to strive toward new and innovative ways, to ensure our schools remain safe places for students to learn and take risks, and without worry that they will be socially or emotionally harmed in any way.
5 Ways our schools can be proactive:
1. Have active digital citizenship documents within every school. Personalize these documents to that school and community.
2. Have clear and equitable BYOD policies within your school. All schools have staff and students who are bringing their own device – and even if there are no ‘official’ policies, how many of us have allowed students to use them?? Understand and set clear parameters when students can use them, when they can’t; where devices can be safe and secured, what devices will be available to those students who do not have them.
3. Set clear parameters for internet usage, reinforce them, and embed them into daily practice. These parameters cannot be effectively reinforced and embedded when students are only using computers for one period, once a week. We need a new mind-shift that incorporates this kind of critical thinking into other periods of the day, everyday.
4. Provide students with safe and educational options for using, and interacting with each other on the internet. Give them a clear purpose, and safe options.
5. Never forget good pedagogical practices. Continue to use effective teaching strategies and practices, and always promote Higher order thinking skills for our students to use and apply to situations outside of the school environment.
We can all work together to help each other educate our students about the great big world that exists on the internet, each and every day. Our students look up to us as leaders, and also look toward us for safety and security. We can still provide this for our students, they need us more than ever.
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