Is that a phone in your pocket?

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

Words are important!

Although there is ongoing debate as to the degree, most linguists would agree that the principle of 'linguistic relativity' suggests that language has an influence on certain kinds of cognitive processes.

In short, vocabulary can effect not just the ability for an individual or society to communicate a concept, it may have an effect on their ability to formulate certain abstract concepts.

In '1984' Orwell famously explores the link between language and cognition as his authoritarian state implements their created language "Newspeak" to make it impossible for people to think critically about the government.

In everyday life we can cite examples of the sanitising of our own language through the use of euphemism to soften impact or deflect deeper thought. Corporate executives talk of 'down sizing' rather than 'mass redundancy' or the reality of putting people out of work. Our military reports on 'Collateral Damage' rather than civilian casualties.

Whether by nefarious design or for social expediency, the use of these terms arguably lessen the emotional impact of the signal.

Within a specific domain words are used to communicate meaning with precision. Where a lay person may attack the use of 'computer jargon' there is very good reason why a computer scientist may wince when someone says Internet when they mean World Wide Web - they are very different things.

Language can be fun too of course. Where would a comedian be without the ambiguity in language that is the basis for all puns? The lyricist, novelist, playwright or poet would be rendered impotent without the tools for linguistic mis-direction, simile and metaphor.

What has all this to do with e-safety?

Well, let us consider the Smartphone.

Although the term originated in the late nineties it is really the release in quick succession of Apple's iPhone in 2007 and the Google Android operating system in 2008 which defines the characteristics of what we currently think of as a Smartphone.

Curiously though, if you list the features and functions of a Smartphone, those that would be considered to be characteristics of a telephone pale when stacked up against those which would be associated with a computer.

Would it not be far more sensible for Smartphones to be known as 'Pocket Computers'? They are, after all mostly powerful computers in a small form factor with telephonic capability rather than telephones with extra features.

For a while, the pocket computer and the mobile telephone coexisted, though the pocket computer itself had developed out of the 'personal organiser' - a glorified electronic diary and address book.

As technology improved it was inevitable that the inefficiency of carrying two devices when the functionality of both could so easily by combined within a single box, would see their eventual combination.
In fact, strictly speaking we should add the camera and personal media player to the list of discrete gadgets which have also be subsumed into this single class of device.

There are several obvious reasons why the resultant devices would popularly derive a name evolved from phone as opposed to computer, among them:
i) More people habitually carried mobile phones than personal organisers
ii) The devices required monthly contracts with telephone companies for their primary network connection
iii) Personal organisers had something of a corporate or work related air about them
iv) Verbal communication is an extremely prominent facet of the human interaction
v) Telephones are 'old' comfortable technology whereas computers still have a certain perception of geeky complexity to many

It is partially recognised that these devices are not just 'telephones with extras', hence the coining of the term Smartphone.

When it comes to e-safety, most problems are caused by a mis-perception as to the level of risk. Problems arise when inadequate precaution or education is put in place due to holes in knowledge or gaps in understanding.

The concern is that if our language guides us to conceptualise Smartphones too much in terms of 'Telephones with extras' rather than as powerful portable computing devices, there is a real e-safety risk. Locking down a computing network or adding parental filters to computers in the home have no impact on a device which is capable of independent connectivity and can attach to any number of WiFi networks in cafes, shops and urban areas.

Smartphones are capable of communicating with pretty much all the social networks and other online services which cause e-safety concerns.

In reality, the capability these devices provide for computing, education, communication and organisation are extremely positive and do out-way the risks, but more can be done to mitigate potential problems.

These devices are in the hands of young people and are in your schools and in your homes. They need considering with the same importance as other more obvious computing devices and where prohibition or technical encumbering of capability is not possible or appropriate, education must fill the gap.

Now it is quite likely that the etymology of the word 'phone' will fall out of the public consciousness and be banished to antiquity along with many words we still use today, the origins of which have long been forgotten. In time the word 'phone' may well change it's meaning to 'pocket computer' or encompass whatever this device's next evolutionary step may be. Until that happens however, we must make sure that we don't underestimate the risks and capabilities of these devices by continuing to conceptualise them as being at their heart, a simple portable telephone because we lack the appropriate language to describe them otherwise.



Photo from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Written by E-safety Support on November 13, 2013 16:23

A school e-safety policy is so much more than a set of rules

In the months since the inclusion of e-safety as part of the Ofsted inspection criteria, many schools are beginning to come to terms with the e-safety inspection criteria which includes; having a whole school consistent approach, developing robust and integrated reporting routines, having staff training and responsibilities identified, delivering age appropriate education, having the correct infrastructure, monitoring and evaluation, management of personal data and last but certainly not least, a school e-safety policy.

In the most recent Ofsted ‘Inspecting e-safety in schools’ briefing, they identify key features of good or outstanding practice for e-safety policies as:

  • Rigorous e-safety policies and procedures are in place, written in plain English, contributed to by the whole school, updated regularly and ratified by governors.

  • The e-safety policy should be integrated with other relevant policies such as behaviour, safeguarding and anti-bullying.

  • The e-safety policy should incorporate an Acceptable Usage Policy that is understood and respected by pupils, staff and parents.
  • Significantly, there is only one indicator of inadequate practice:

  • Policies are generic and not updated.
  • It is easy to see why schools could fall into the latter category, not least because the e-safety inspection is a relatively new addition to the Ofsted inspection and may not yet be fully integrated with the other school procedures and policies. Downloading a 'one size fits all' policy template from the internet is a quick fix, but isn’t ideal and indeed, not a satisfactory solution where Ofsted in concerned.

    If e-safety issues are global and the associated risks applicable to all young people, why is an off-the-shelf policy inadequate. The answer to this lies with the whole school community involvement. If a policy were aimed at just students in a single year group, then it’s possible that a generic policy could well stand up to interrogation. However, add several more year groups, plus their parents and not forgetting their teachers, governors – the entire school community – and the parameters for the policy become vastly different.

    Each school will have a different relationship with its stakeholders – some school may have a locked down IT systems which prevent certain websites within the school, however once outside the school environment, pupils could have unrestricted access. This situation would require a different policy for pupils and parents to those which allow unrestricted (but monitored) access to the internet.

    Alternatively, a school may have a defined code of practice about personal social media accounts for teachers, while others may have accounts set up specifically for school use – again in each case, a different policy would be required.

    One area which all schools should have in common is the involvement of the students in the creation and implementation of the school e-safety policy – how this is applied however is again down to the individual school.

    These highlight just some of the areas where a policy would benefit from being unique to the school – let’s not forget, that there are several more areas from the Ofsted indicators that could also be interpreted differently. With all the possible variables, it becomes clearer why each school requires its own policy, even to the extent that schools sharing the same site could very well require different policies despite their shared location.

    On a final note, there is also the issue of a policy being ‘updated’. While the digital landscape is constantly changing and schools are become more e-safety aware, the school policy will need to be adjusted appropriately. There are no hard and fast rules about how frequently this will need to happen, but Ofsted suggest that a good policy should be updated regularly.

    If you would like to share your experience about implementing an e-safety policy in your school, we would love to hear from you – simply complete the comment section below.

    Written by E-safety Support on October 31, 2013 17:42

    E-safety – Facing the Facts

    As part of our partnership with Fantastict, a national provider of educational consulting and training services, Joe Basketts, Education Director at Fantastict, shares his thoughts on e-safety strategy.

    The new briefing paper from Ofsted (released September 2013), is much more detailed and comprehensive than previous, making specific reference to an e-safety curriculum, how parents are engaged, training for staff and how the school website can contribute to informing parents and keeping them up to date. Reference is also made to schools that have obtained the E-Safety Mark or other recognised standard.

    The Ofsted briefing paper lists indicators of inadequate practice as:

  • Personal data is often unsecured and/or leaves school site without encryption

  • Security of passwords is ineffective, for example passwords are shared or are common with all but the youngest of children

  • Policies are generic and not updated

  • There is no progressive, planned e-safety education across the curriculum, for example there is only an assembly held annually

  • There is no internet filtering or monitoring

  • There is no evidence of staff training

  • Children are not aware of how to report a problem.
  • Understanding responsibilities with regard to e-safety is the first step towards achieving Good or Outstanding practice. However, the critical success factors lie in having the knowledge and skills to translate this understanding into workable strategies and processes within the school environment.

    There is a wealth of support available to assist schools in raising e-safety standards in line with the new guidance, an excellent example of this being E-Safety Support. Given the breadth of materials and sources available, it can sometimes be difficult to navigate the choices and identify which are most relevant to specific needs or will help address the most pressing issues.

    At the same time, some learning experiences are much more effective when supported by directed or face-to-face training. For example, online resources are excellent for providing insight into a topic, but cannot replace valuable peer-to-peer engagement which can only truly be realised through group workshops.

    In the same way as some content is better delivered in a workshop environment, when it comes to e-safety and indeed wider ICT and school strategies, external benchmarking will also provide great insight and a fresh perspective. For example, 360 Safe is a leading audit tool which can give a complete picture of a school’s current e-safety policy and practice. Working with an approved 360 Safe consultant, the school can then prepare a development plan which ensures the very best practice according to Ofsted guidelines.

    As with any aspect of school operations, understanding where you are as compared to where you need and want to be, is an essential part of strategy development – and a process where an external viewpoint and objectivity can help save a lot of valuable time and add significant value.

    Written by Joe Basketts on October 22, 2013 09:26


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