The Teacher View - using technology in the classroom

So following on from my recent post on how students perceived e-safety, I’ve also done a survey of staff in school, in order to find out how teachers perceive the current risks and how they use technology.

I'm a big advocate of online tools, I'm a sucker for signing up to find out what it's all about (then deleting my profile when I never use it of course), but as an ICT Teacher I’m also aware of the inherent risks of what I put online and how I am perceived. I think this is a big issue for teachers as pre-Internet you used to be a bit uncomfortable if a student saw you out at the weekend, now they can find out all they want an more with a bit of work on Google!

A lot of staff realise the use of ICT and social media tools and how they could be used in education to enhance lessons, however are very aware that the students probably know more than they do about how to interact with these media. There are some brilliant ideas out there of how to embed media into subjects like history, like this one from Fractus Learning, but there is a lot of mis-information and lack of training. Teachers when asked were really keen to use the media (65% of my school wanted ideas on how to embed social media in the classroom), but it was also felt that there was a trepidation and fear as to how to use it and "not get in trouble".

As an ICT Teacher, and tech enthusiast I feel like I have a bit of a leg up in this area, and I discuss how other schools have done work like this via my twitter account. Yes, I have a YouTube channel for uploading video, I have also set up a school twitter feed, but was very careful as to how I did this in order to make sure I was transparent in its use. Read about how I did it.

Recently I’ve been using the 360safe website in order to analyse how schools can embed social media technology in the school and as long as there is clear, laid out policies and advice on how to implement the tools, then this can avoid issues.

As one of my colleagues so brilliantly put it: "Technology should NOT be demonized as it is full of great good things for the kids - and I know they have to be aware and parents too - but I think we should fill their heads with the good it holds rather than be majorly focused on the bad that could happen! "

In this world of social media, schools must look to making sure that there is policy and advice for teachers using these tools to enhance student's education, but also to make sure that teachers and staff are trained to avoid issues that can come with using websites that are not developed and run by the school.

Written by Ben Gristwood on March 25, 2013 14:59

What is ask.fm?

ask.fm is an online question and answer website, which has been in the news recently due to links to cyberbullying and two tragic teen suicides in Ireland. So why is the site so controversial?

Anonymity. It is sad but true that people are far more likely to post negative or abusive comments online if they are able to do so anonymously. Ask.fm allows users to do this, meaning that anyone can say anything they want. As a result you get posts such as “why are you boring and stupid?” (posted onto the profile of a teenage girl), “who would you f**k at our school?” (on the profile of a teenage boy) and “One good reason you should live” (on the profile of a 16 year old girl).

Tip: If your students use ask.fm, recommend that the ability to answer anonymous questions is disabled in their account settings.

Unmoderated content. As you can tell from the questions above, the site is not moderated, so there is no-one sitting in ask.fm’s office with responsibility for removing offending posts. As they state in their terms and conditions “You understand that in using the ask.fm service you may encounter content that may be deemed objectionable, obscene or in poor taste, which content may or may not be identified as having explicit language. The ask.fm service allows for anonymous content which ask.fm does not monitor. You agree to use the ask.fm service at your own risk and that ask.fm shall have no liability to you for content that you may find objectionable, obscene or in poor taste.”

Minimum age. The minimum age to use the site is 13, two years younger than Facebook. This inevitably means that children younger than 13 are using the site. This is the core of the controversy around ask.fm - presenting young teens with the opportunity to post online in an unmoderated environment where they can post anonymously is asking for trouble.

ask.fm is the brainchild of web entrepreneur Mark Terebin, who is based in Latvia. In the face of media criticism of his site, he has denied any responsibility, blaming a lack of “…values in families and schools” for the bullying, suicides and suicide attempts linked to ask.fm. The website, he claims is “…just a tool which helps people to communicate with each other, same as any other social network, same as phone, same as piece of paper and pen.”

ask.fm lesson

Talk to your students about ask.fm, and ask them if they understand why the site is in the news. Use it as a discussion point on the topic of online safety and cyberbullying, and encourage the students to challenge the way the site works if they think it is wrong, or could be improved. Use the site as a way of exploring issues and asking the questions:


  • Can online comments really make someone suicidal?

  • Why do people post negative comments online?

  • What do they think of Mark Terebin's comments about the site?

  • Should ask.fm be banned from school networks?


ask.fm into policy and practice

The outcome of these discussions could be incorporated into your school e-safety policy, or students could draft recommendations to be emailed to parents who may be concerned about this issue.

Written by E-safety Support on March 25, 2013 14:59

How do you manage passwords with primary school children?

It’s a dilemma. More and more of the work we do now in class is online. This could be an online cloud such as Google Apps or Microsoft 365, it could be a VLE or their email, or it could just be a simple website like animoto.com where they create photo galleries. The truth is that there are so many potential usernames and passwords that it is obvious that for many users, teachers as well as children, they will find one password and stick to it.

So let’s assume that the majority of users in your school have a single password. We can pretend that most of them have a different password for every tool, but it just won’t be the case. So is that single password secure? How can we make it a good password? How can we check that our password is good enough?

Luckily there is a free website called How Secure is my Password that gives a rough indication of the strength of a password. You simply type a password into the box and it will change colour to hopefully orange or better yet, green, if the password is secure. It is a great visual way of seeing the effect that adding a number or character can have on a password.

Password advice often suggests using a mixture of upper and lower case letters, numbers and punctuation. There is also the idea of changing letters for numbers so even the humble password could become Pa55woRd? And this then becomes harder to crack. Of course it also becomes harder to remember too.

When it comes to actually choosing a password to remember, one great tip for younger children (probably around Year 3) is to pick two unrelated words that they can spell such as house and flower. On their own, they could both be cracked by a computer instantly but together they would take 10 days. Better yet, by making the first letter a capital (Houseflower) and that ‘score’ jumps to 59 years. But there is much more chance of a child remembering that password than there is them remembering a jumbled-up selection of letters. Although I am sure the site is fine and doesn’t track passwords, I wouldn’t suggest doing it on a personal computer, just in case. You can’t be too careful right? Oh, the example above (Pa55woRd?) would take a year to hack, apparently.

Another top-tip is to search online for “top 10 passwords” and there will be a range of surveys and lists giving examples of common passwords. This can then lead into a debate about why these are so common and why they should be avoided.

So what seems like a simple task of choosing a password can be used as the starter of a discussion and the stimulus for teaching others. Give it a go, how secure is your password?

Written by Ian Addison on March 25, 2013 15:00


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