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.


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.


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.


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.


Vision Magazine

February 5, 2010

Checkout the latest free issue of Futurelab’s VISION magazine includes articles on assistive technologies, curriculum innovation, 3D printers, eco-friendly schools and digital media in the classroom. Subscribe now or download the magazine as a pdf. Find it at

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