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Monday, 2 February 2009

e-Safety and e-Portfolios

Today I was challenged by one of the blogs that I regularly read, that of John Pallister's e-Portfolios and PLTS. John has done an exceptional job in developing e-Portfolios both within his own school and in the recent MOSEP publication. I quote his item in full, for those who do not usually see his group's blog, in order to encourage some debate about e-Safety on this blog:

"While preparing for an eSafety meeting I found that I was motivated to; I wanted to; I was driven to, write this post. But that does not really make sense; I need to get all of the issues sorted out/ organised for my meeting, so why, at this stage should I share my thinking with others?

"Over the years I have read a lot about eSafety. A lot of the advice/ articles/Blogs have been brought to my attention via Twitter and the numerous on-line discussions that have taken place in a wide range of communities. I think that I have a fair handle on eSafety, so if I do a bit of research and a bit of reading, I should have something to offer the meeting. But again something is telling me to write, to Blog, to share!

"It must be because I have not really got all of the issues sorted out in my head and so feel the need to go through the writing/Blogging process to help me to sort out my thinking.

"I need to decide where I sit along the continuum of eSafety that at one end, has the walled garden, where learners are protected by a rabbit proof, giraffe proof and social software proof ‘fence’, while at the other end learners are allowed open access to all of the available resources and tools.

"Looking at the extremes; the walled garden is an attractive proposition for schools. Learners only have access to what (the opportunities) that the gardener (the teacher) thinks that the learners (the plants) need to grow (learn) and thrive. So long as the ‘fence’ is designed to keep out all of the nasty experiences, all should be well. The school (teacher) defines what should be allowed to get through the fence; the learners are safe and get on and, hopefully learn, in a ‘safe’ place. Duty of care fulfilled. Philosophy, if you do not understand it, or you are not ‘told’ to provide learners with access to specific tools, applications or experiences, do not do it, fence against it.

"3.30pm arrives, the learners are let out to roam their Personal, home based, Learning environment. There are fewer fences in sight; they have access to tools and applications that provide a wide range of opportunities and experiences. Many experiences will be positive and support their learning; some could be detractors and some could put the learner at risk. So we cannot rely on ‘fencing’ systems to protect out learners 24 hours of the day, 7 days of the week.

"Historically we have educated/taught our learners how to survive, that is, what they need to do, or not do, to stay safe in the big, bad world. We teach them the Green Cross code; we promote Cycling Proficiency; we provide information about the risks of alcohol and drug abuse and we advise them not to talk to strangers. We do not have fences along all of the pavements that run along the side of every road, we do not have footbridges over, or under-passes under, all major roads. We educate young learner to behave in a safe fashion.

"So thinking about the other end of the continuum, would it be better to provide learners with access to ‘everything’ and then ‘educate’ them in eSafety?

"If that was the chosen strategy, one challenge would be to make sure that every teacher fully ‘understood’ the potential, for learning, of the current and evolving Web 2/social tools, and that they appreciated the risks. Without this background and understanding we could not expect teachers to teach the skills and understanding that our current generation of learners will need if they are to stay safe. Somehow we would need to spend a lot of time working with teachers before we could begin to move towards ‘un-fenced’ personal learning environments. How can we do this?"

My first question would be, 'How is this done in other countries?' Does anyone have a magic pill?

1 comment:

Ray Tolley said...


I've been thinking about part of your last paragraph:

"every teacher fully ‘understood’ the potential, for learning, of the current and evolving Web 2/social tools, and that they appreciated the risks."

Is there a problem that even, given the above, teachers will interpret their understanding in different ways and that the kids will still be confused?

On the general problem of e-safety there appears, to me, to be three different areas:

1. The filtering of inappropriate media - in schools we are obliged to provide appropriate protection and be seen to be doing that. Outside of school any devices that our youngsters have access to should have the 'parental controls' set appropriately.

2. Voyeurism, as much as the stranger watching young children in the school playground, needs to be understood in terms of e-Safety. This means that not only official websites but even childrens' own work should not allow the display of personal details. This also applies to various childrens' programs which ask for personal details in a similar way to more sophisticated phishing expeditions which might try to acquire our bank details. This aspect addresses, as I suggested, voyeurism, but not only that, but the potential for any predatory behaviour.

3. e-Portfolios, given the above, also have a third criterion, that of the protection of the owner/author from espionage. What one confesses to mentors, close peers, or one's teachers might be in confidence. In the exciting sharing of ideas in a collaborative competition the members might not want to disclose their new invention. Similarly, a major academic paper might have commercial potential and is shared with one's supervisor in absolute trust.

I believe that it is here that a properly constructed e-Portfolio system can provide that level of security that other 'cloud-based' systems might not be able to provide.