One thing we can all identify with is the call to ‘Stay Home to Stay Safe’ from contracting and spreading the corona virus. With our real life engagement limited to online and every part of daily life merging on digital platforms – there are other risks to consider.
Julia Taylor, Jisc subject specialist in access and engagement reminds us about eSafety.
How safe will we be communicating, working and learning via online platforms. This is a major challenge for educators and students alike. What do we need to remember as we go all out for online delivery?
In schools both the threats and responsibilities are clear and mostly covered by institutional systems and policies that already keep a tight rein on Esafety. The challenge will be in the practical adjustments to using an online classroom; what works, what doesn’t. How to keep students attention, enable equal access, encourage interaction and evaluate learning.
These challenges face us in post 16 too. Responsibilities are less defined and that may prove to be the biggest threat to safety online. It is vital we review roles and responsibilities in the context of our changed delivery.
Most institutions manage safety online through established safeguarding professionals. There will be an Acceptable Use policy that staff and students sign up to. With other policies, (PREVENT, anti-bullying, ED&I) this will define a code of online behaviour designed to limit the possibility of bullying, illegal activity, inappropriate contact or reputational damage.
When policy breaches occur, there will be a clear path for reporting, managing and resolving the incident. So your safeguarding procedure must anticipate any additional potential threats. This is about risk management and there are new risks to consider.
Improving Digital Skills and esafety confidence
Many teachers and other staff have had to go online reluctantly with little preparation or guidance. Many would say they have little confidence in being able to avoid online risks. Think about what skills are needed, and support staff to work and communicate safely online. Make sure they are aware of and can address any scams or misinformation with confidence.
This could be as simple as providing links to reliable feeds, CPD webinars or modules. The Education &Training Foundation (ETF) Enhance Digital Teaching Platform offers accredited and self assessment modules on teaching digital wellbeing, responsibility and communicating and sharing online.
Online delivery allows for more varied interaction and greater personalisation – which is to be encouraged – but there need to be clear boundaries:
- Don’t simply transfer classroom lessons to online sessions. A full day on-line won’t work and will take it’s toll on both staff and student wellbeing.
- Stick to institutional accounts, platforms and systems that can be monitored.
- Be inclusive, use a range of activities and media so all students can participate.
Set appropriate guidelines and consent levels in your adapted policies.
- Don’t ‘go it alone’, always have a ‘buddy’ in a live classroom or webinar, avoid (or record any unavoidable) 1 to 1 interactions.
- Prepare live lessons carefully in advance with clear expectations for live interactions. If there’s no clear outcome don’t do it.
- Build-in self-assessment at manageble levels and focus your feedback and discussion on enabling students to progress independently.
It’s clear, the role of EdTech in teaching will increase. Planning, delivering and evaluating remote teaching requires additional skills to be both effective and safe. The Digital Teaching Professional framework provides a framework for building and rewarding these new essential digital skills.
We will be staying home for a while yet. As with the virus, we must learn to adapt to ensure we all stay safe online.