This month’s guest blogger is Neal Packard from The Mirfield Free Grammar and Sixth Form (MFG). We love Neal’s title, as we think it demonstrates the MFG’s commitment to e-learning and getting students enthused – he’s the Vice Principal (Director of e-learning and engagement).
If you’d like to be a guest blogger, get in touch with us. But for now, read what Neal’s up to at his school with regard to e-safety.
“All schools have a responsibility to educate their students on e-safety, from a younger and younger age. This education gives them some much needed life skills that help them to use communication tools, such as mobile phones, the Internet, email, instant messaging etc. I suppose we’ve all gone through the routine of raising this important issue in assemblies, ICT lessons on and so on? But, once students go out of these sessions have they actually taken any of it in? Do they go home and put any of it into practice?
One of brilliant things about the Internet is that it’s available 24/7, and it’s well known that learning can take place at any time because of it, not just in lessons or assemblies. So, I decided to use the power of Frog to make sure students are thinking about e-safety outside lessons. So far, I’ve used three different functions depending on what I was trying to get from the students. They are providing evidence which can be used in self-evaluation and for third parties to examine how effective e-safety strategies have been – but more importantly – my students are talking about it!!
Prize draw quiz: After one assembly, I asked all the year groups to complete a quick multiple choice quiz through Frog. Each question was scored so I received immediate feedback from all the students who completed it. Out of 50, most scored 45 or 50, providing evidence that they had understood what I’d been talking about.
Cyberbullying pledge: On another occasion I talked about issues surrounding cyberbullying and the effect it had on teenagers and their families. I asked all the students to sign up to pledge agreeing that they wouldn’t take part in anything which could constitute cyberbullying. I asked the ICT teachers to give all students time to complete this and discuss it further. Again a very simple form was produced within a Frog widget, and put on the dashboard of all students. A very powerful message from the school community, especially for the younger students to see their older role models sign up as well.
e-safety ideapad: In one of Frog’s recent releases, the Ideapad has made an entrance. Using this has brought about 24/7 discussions around e-safety in a really engaging manner. In a competition setting, students were asked to post an idea about how to keep safe online. Using the Ideapad, they could comment about somebody else’s idea and use the voting system. The idea with the highest number of votes, by the end of term, wins a prize, plus, we’re also running a prize draw for anybody who comments or votes. The great thing about the Ideapad is that students easily understand how it works! They are familiar with the idea of posting, commenting and voting and so it’s a medium that offers instant appeal and engagement.
I’m not sure what it’s like in your school, but often, when we start talking about “collaboration functions” some people hear imaginary klaxons and see red lights flashing (Red Alert Scotty!)? However, we have found collaboration in Frog to be very safe. The issue still remains that students are reticent to submit suggestions or comments as they realise the whole Frog community can see them. At the opposite end of the spectrum, we have that immortal utterance, “somebody else must have written it as they must have found my password” !! Well, we’ve got a dead easy solution. The rule at The MFG is that you are responsible for anything written under your name. Students are told they must have secure passwords and that they must never share their password – they are encouraged to keep it as safe as a credit card PIN. Not only does this help security within school, it hopefully will help them to stay secure in the future.
I plan to continue using the tools in Frog to drip-feed consistent e-safety messages to students indefinitely. For those of you old enough to remember, e-safety is a bit like the new version of the Green Cross Code (By the way – I met the Green Cross Code man at Primary school. Obviously, it’s much cooler for me to say I met Darth Vader – for those who don’t know it’s the same chap!!). The Green Cross Code drilled into us that we should be aware of the traffic and not to talk to strangers (Another late ‘70s reference – Charlie’s cat said meow, meow, meow – not met Charlie or the cat, but have a cat called Nelson who sounds like him . . .). Today is no different, it’s just the dangers our children face may also be online. The Internet is just like going for a walk – mostly it’s a very safe occupation, but you wouldn’t want to wander down a dark alley, on your own, in the middle of the night – or indeed, walk out in front of a bus. We need to make sure students don’t walk down the Internet’s dark alleys and that they use proper crossings. Amongst other things, Frog is helping our school to do exactly this!
Vice Principal (Director of e-learning and engagement)
The Mirfield Free Grammar and Sixth Form