8th ICE CONFERENCE 2012

January 25, 2012

I have been fortunate to be invited to speak at the  8th International Conference on Eduction CONFERENCE 2012 on Samos Island Greece, July 05-07, 2012

The Conference will build on the success of the previous ICE 2010 and ICE 2011 Conferences, which were held in Samos.

8th ICE SAMOS 2012 aims to facilitate the discussion on the problems of education internationally providing a forum for scientific debate and constructive interaction in a multi cultural social environment. The conference provides a platform for scientists and teachers and researchers to present their work; to exchange knowledge, ideas and experience and to identify and discuss the challenges and solutions to existing problems worldwide known in education.

Ph.D candidates are explicitly invited to present and discuss their research ideas and work in progress.

A bridge between the East and the West for centuries, Samos is located in the heart of Aegean Sea, where you’ll find a harmonious blend of culture, cuisine, arts and architecture along with fascinating beaches and sea.

The 7th ICE Conference was a great success proving it is still the must attend Conference of the year in this field.

I am looking forward to meeting some of you in Samos in July at what promises to be a most stimulating and enjoyable event!


Cyberbullying

January 4, 2012

With increasing new communication technologies being made available to children and young people, there will always be a potential for them becoming a victim to online bullying. Online bullying, e-bullying or cyberbullying, is defined as follows: ‘the use of information and communication technologies such as email, [mobile] phone and text messages, instant messaging, defamatory personal websites and defamatory personal polling websites, to support deliberate, repeated, and hostile behaviour by an individual or a group, that is intended to harm others.’

Children and young people are keen adopters of new technologies, but this can also leave them open to the threat of online bullying. An awareness of the issues and knowledge of methods for dealing with online bullying can help reduce the risks. The issue of cyberbulling must be specifically addressed within a school/academy’s anti-bullying policy.

 Text Messaging

Bullying by text message has become an unfortunate and unpleasant by-product of the convenience that SMS (short message service) offers. Children should be advised to be careful about giving out their mobile phone number, and ask that those that have their number never pass it on. If only known and trusted friends know the number, it is less likely to be abused in this way. If being bullied by text message, children should immediately seek help from a teacher, parent or carer. They should not respond to the messages, but should keep a detailed diary recording information such as the content of the message, the date, the time, the caller ID or whether the number was withheld or not available. If space permits, the messages should also be stored on the phone in case they are needed later as evidence. Abuse in the form of bullying should be reported to the mobile phone company who can take certain steps to try to resolve the situation, and in some instances it may also be necessary to involve the police. In some cases it may be necessary, or easier, to change the mobile phone number or to purchase a new phone.

Like bullying by text message, email provides a reasonably ‘anonymous’ method of communication which bullies have seized upon to harass their victims. If being bullied by email, children should not respond to the messages, but should seek help from a teacher, parent or carer. Likewise if they receive an email message from an unknown sender, they should exercise caution over opening it, or ask an adult for assistance. Don’t delete the message but keep it as evidence of bullying. If the email is being sent from a personal email account, abuse should be reported to the sender’s email service provider. Many email programs also provide facilities to block email from certain senders. If the bullying emails continue, and the email address of the sender is not obvious, then it may be possible to track the address using special software. Email service providers may be able to offer assistance in doing this. In certain cases, it may be easier to change the email address, and exercise caution over who this new address is given to.

Instant Messaging and Chat Rooms

Aside from the general risks of using chat rooms and instant messaging (IM) services, these services are also used by bullies. Children should be encouraged to always use moderated chat rooms, and to never give out personal information while chatting. If bullying does occur, they should not respond to messages, but should leave the chat room, and seek advice from a teacher, parent or carer. If using a moderated chat room, the system moderators should also be informed, giving as much detail as possible, so that they can take appropriate action.

Instant Messaging (IM) is a form of online chat but is private between two, or more, people. If a child is bullied or harassed by IM, the service provider should be informed giving the nickname or ID, date, time and details of the problem. The service provider will then take appropriate action which could involve a warning or disconnection from the IM service. If a child has experienced bullying in this way, it might also be worth re-registering for instant messaging with a new user ID.

Websites

Although less common, bullying via websites is now becoming an issue. Such bullying generally takes the form of websites that mock, torment, harass or are otherwise offensive, often aimed at an individual or group of people. If a child discovers a bullying website referring to them, they should immediate seek help from a teacher, parent or carer. Pages should be copied and printed from the website concerned for evidence, and the internet service provider (ISP) responsible for hosting the site should be contacted immediately. The ISP can take steps to find out who posted the site, and request that it is removed. Many ISPs will outline their procedures for dealing with reported abuse in an acceptable use policy (AUP) which can be found on their website. Additionally, many websites and forum services now provide facilities for visitors to create online votes and polls, which have been used by bullies to humiliate and embarrass their fellow pupils. Again, any misuse of such services should be reported to a teacher, parent or carer who should then take steps to contact the hosting website and request the removal of the poll.

Specific issues regarding online bullying should be dealt with by the school or academy under its existing anti-bullying policies.


Social Networking

January 4, 2012

Social networking software such as Facebook and Twitter are providing opportunities for personal expression, the creation of communities, collaboration and sharing. Other examples include blogs (personal web-based journals), moblogs (blogs sent from a mobile phone), wikis (modifiable collaborative web pages), and podcasting (subscription-based broadcast over the web) supported by technologies such as RSS (really simple syndication – an XML format designed for sharing news across the web). They enhance or gain value from social interactions and behaviour. They can also provide opportunities for collective intelligence and thus add value to data. Digital video, photography and music technologies have democratised the process of content creation and distribution. Recent studies of children and young people’s online behavior indicate that there are a wide range of activities undertaken, from using the internet for homework and research to a wide range of entertainment and edutainment activities. The benefits for children are well documented, but so too are a number of risks of which young people must be made aware.

Risks

Initial concern for children was largely centred on their use of social networking sites and the possibility that young people could be ‘groomed’ by those with a malicious intent. This is made possible by the amount of personal information that children can disclose online allowing predators to manipulate children by becoming their online friend, often hiding their true age and identity and developing close friendships by pretending to share common interests in music, personalities, sport or other activities for which children have expressed a specific liking. The huge publicity surrounding chat rooms and the decision by some leading commercial companies to close their chat rooms to children led to the focus switching to social networking applications. In some respects these are more of a problem than chat rooms, as young people share ‘friend lists’ and pass on contacts one to another. As instant messaging programmes allow private one-to-one correspondence with or without the use of webcams, they also can give even greater privacy to predators developing relationships with children online. It is important to understand that social networking sites are public spaces where adults can also interact with children, which obviously has an implication on child safety. Whilst encouraging young people to be creative users of the internet who publish content rather than being passive consumers, there is a balance to be weighed in terms of the personal element of what is being published. The concerns are shifting from what children are ‘downloading’ in terms of content to what they are ‘uploading’ to the net. In some cases very detailed accounts of their personal lives, contact information, daily routines, photographs and videos are acting as an online shopping catalogue for those who would seek children to exploit, either sexually or for identity fraud purposes. These sites are very popular with young people as not only can they express themselves with an online personality, but they can use all the applications the site has to offer to chat and share multimedia content with others – music, photos and video clips. Unfortunately, these sites can also be the ideal platform for facilitating bullying, slander and humiliation of others. The better sites are now taking this issue seriously and ensuring that they have safety guidelines and codes of practice in place. In drafting an AUP, students, where appropriate additional consideration should be given to boarding pupils. For example, additional privileges may be given after school with access to allow less restrictive filtering but keeping in line with the overall ethos of providing a safe environment. The management of mobile devices and laptop dongles that allow unrestricted access in dormitories should also be carefully managed with a view that such usage should be viewed on its merits and with due consideration to the in loco parentis nature of boarding supervision.

Implementation

Clearly banning activity of any sort merely heightens the desire of young people to explore and push the boundaries. We have a responsibility to understand what children are doing by talking to them about their online activity and educating them to the possible downsides – encouraging safe use and enjoying the benefits whilst minimising the risks. It is recommended that schools and academies use CEOP materials to educate children about risks and benefits, look at recommending social networking sites that safely enhance education experiences. Schools and academies should also look to provide timely and accurate information for parents and teachers, provide safety tips and good advice and stay up to date on developments.


Sexting, Griefing, Piracy, Privacy and Massively Multiplayer Thumbwrestling

October 31, 2011

Last week I was fortunate to be at the First International Symposium on Digital Ethics hosted by The Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University, Chicago. The first keynote speaker, Jan McGonigal (author of “Reality is Broken”) had us playing Massively Multiplayer Thumbwrestling, a good way to boost oxytocin levels and a metaphor for online gaming. All the presentations were excellent indeed but for me there were several highlights: Jo-Ann Oravec talked about the ethics of sexting and
issues involving consent and the production of intimate content. Richard Wojak examined griefing through the virtual world and the moral status of griefing. Brian Carey took a controversial look at piracy and the times when it may be ethically permissible. Alex Gekker offered some fascinating insights into ‘Anonymous’ and the governmental oversight of the internet. A lunchtime treat
was Julian Dibbell reprising his seminal 1990s piece originally published in the Village Voice entitled “A Rape in Cyberspace“. Charles Ess provided an insightful view into privacy, the self and new media.

There is much to be learnt in this provocative and emergent area, and I look forward to hearing and sharing some further thoughts
on digital ethics.


ELSE Conference in Bucharest, Romania

October 13, 2011

I have had my paper on an analysis of national patterns of learning platform use by students in schools and academies accepted for the  8th International Scientific Conference eLearning and Software for Education, Bucharest Romania,  April, 26th – 27th, 2012. Conference details are at http://elseconference.eu/. I hope to see some of you there.


ICT Visions

March 14, 2011

The use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT)  schools and academies is about learning, especially e-learning. It is about improving children’s life chances in education through the use of established and emergent technology to enhance learning outcomes. It is about academic results, certainly, and the tangible results that show improved breadth as well as depth of achievement. But it is also about those activities and experiences that enhance leadership and teamwork. In this sense, the Communications element of ICT sometimes takes precedence over the Information element. The use of interactive communications technology can enhance those attributes that are valued by further and higher education as well as by employers and parents. However, the use of ICT brings with it new concerns about attitudes and values. It is our task to ensure that these attitudes and values evolve to maximise students’ opportunities to evolve into responsible citizens.

Adherence to a common mission  is one of the tests that must be applied to the use of ICT in schools and academies. Clear goals should be spelt out in each school and academy, a vision must be articulated for the way forward and leadership needs to be shown in the implementation of ICT at all levels. Underpinning all of these is an ethos in which shared values and beliefs are reflected.

For ICT to be used successfully in a school or academy there must also be a climate conducive to success. This is predicated on the involvement and responsibility of all those who contribute to the use of ICT across the institution, from those with strategic responsibility, teaching and learning support, network planning and technical support.  The physical environment and resources to support this must also be in place. Systematic network migrations and upgrades must help improve ICT infrastructure, and schools and academies must continually work together to ensure that the resources are in place for curriculum and administration delivery. It is important that policies are in place to guide and support those who utilise ICT.

Positive outlook and behaviour should be promoted through a number of policies, including sections on responsible ICT usage and Internet safety. Technological safeguards go hand-in hand with promotion of best practice, responsible and appropriate usage.

In the implementation of ICT to support e-learning, there should be a commitment to raising standards. Although there is a great deal of technical infrastructure to maintain it must never be forgotten that ICT in education is about learning and teaching. Schools must put in place educational and technical policies that will make ICT live up to its promises.

Each school and academy should have a curriculum that is designed to specifically reflect national and local aspirations, career and Higher Education opportunities and the skills and talents required in the community. ICT installed in institutions should reflect this curriculum, as well as providing technological tools to enhance high-quality teaching and learning.

Both students and teachers should have access to computer resources, e-learning material and a learning platform. The ICT should be driven by sophisticated Local Area Networks (LAN) that ensure safe, secure and timely access to e-mail, e-learning resources, printing, the Internet and educational software.

Other facilities within schools and academies should include computerised administration systems as well as specialised equipment used for specific subject areas. The curriculum should be supported by the learning and teaching resources provided, which must include up-to-date ICT facilities. High quality professional development will help ensure that teachers are amongst the best trained ICT practitioners in the country.  This training, along with ICT resourcing combines with exciting and innovative teaching practices to help ensure that students enjoy the best learning experience possible, giving them the skills and the knowledge necessary for success in the 21st century.

The responsibility for the development of the detail of the specific educational ICT vision policy lies with the individual school and academy. It is the Head’s or Principal’s responsibility to satisfy themselves that policies are in place that  adequately reflect the ethos and curriculum of the school as well as informing practice. It is the responsibility of every staff member, both teaching and non-teaching, to ensure that the spirit of the policies is implemented across all relevant areas of learning, teaching, administration and support.

The use of ICT within the school or academy to support learning, teaching and administration is not an optional extra to be avoided. Neither is it to be used indiscriminately. ICT should be used where appropriate to enhance the learning experience of students and to facilitate best teaching practice by teachers. Administrative systems must be used to improve effectiveness, achieve efficiencies and promote best practice.

 


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