eSafety – Software for schools, have we gone too far?

In the education sector there has been a massive push towards software that makes children using the internet a safer experience. eSafety is commonly taught in all schools and interestingly enough there is also an approach to “schools must teach more” with the recent formal introduction of PSHCE. From an outside point of view that seems to me that the 2 angles of approach must meet in the middle.  

It seems to scream to me “Teachers must teach more eSafety!“.

Consider a man wanting to cross a road, he can be instructed by the signs to a safe place to cross or we can only allow him to cross in one place. By allowing children to be educated into where we cross the road we don’t restrict them to closed options. It seems to me that we actively encourage them to make decisions and therefore learn.

Is our current approach correct?

In many ways no. We still have a compulsive fascination with ways to protect our children. Being that I was brought up in the soils of Yorkshire, I find it hard to understand a constant barrage of rules, regulation and “health ‘n safety”. We are not doing enough to empower pupils to make decisions in eSafety and this is mostly to blame on Software houses and the demand on software houses to make overly protective environments for children to learn in.

Are we confusing eSafety with a need to have extended controls?

The example I like to use is a teacher asking his or her pupils to sign into their hotmail accounts which they created. The pupils begin logging, suddenly a scream from the back bellows “Miss I can’t remember my password!”. The teacher is Shocked and now baffled by the puzzle they face. The teacher doesn’t have time to run through the registration process all over again and they can’t reset the password.

The only way this could be resolved quickly is by giving the teacher the means to reset a pupils password or by having a helpdesk type system.

Another great example where extended controls is Primary School Safe Search. With Primary School Safe Search you can Google search any site you want. Instead of displaying a set of search results from a few hundred sites, Primary School Safe Search displays all the safe search results but prioritises the educational and school related materials to the top of the search – filtering only websites catagoriesed explicitly.

My final example is that if a teacher wants to open a pupils mailbox and its with gmail/hotmail etc. to find out if that pupil is being bullied, can they?

We must educate the pupils, and empower the teacher.