Safe Search: The ‘Anu Ojha’ Test

Anu Ojha, Space Scientist, in action
Anu Ojha, Space Scientist, in action

This is Anu Ojha OBE, Director of the National Space Academy programme in the UK. Here he is ‘making a comet’ in front of a whole load of Primary school children at an event I attended. When I Googled him, I didn’t realise it would test the ‘Safe Search’ of my school.

You see there’s another Anu Ojha on the internet and she doesn’t tend to wear the same quantity of clothes as the distinguished space scientist I was interested in finding out more about.

As you’ll have seen from my recent posts, I’m tremendously proud of how we use Chromebooks at my school, but here is a problem: you can ‘force Safe Search’, but how Safe is Safe Search? And how safe should it be?

I was interested in this part of the admin console for Chromebooks which allows me to lock the Search Provider:

It's tempting to lock the Onibox so only one search provider can be used.
It’s tempting to lock the Onibox so only one search provider can be used.

The problem with Google Safe Search is that you still see some suggested images. And while the other Anu Ojha isn’t entirely naked, I am uncomfortable with the amount of clothing she is wearing and inadvertantly showing those images in a primary school classroom.

There are some safe search options that avoid images altogether. Kidrex and Paws Explore are two I’ve come across that do this and both seem to do a decent job. If you click on those links, you’ll see that both only bring up articles about Anu Ojha OBE, Space Scientist with no images in sight.

But there’s another argument too – should I stop being so prudish and just teach children that sometimes they come across unhelpful images? At the moment I haven’t locked school search to Paws Explore – but it is an option that we can use – I would be interested to hear different views on this…

Update (13:15 8th May 2015) courtesy of @adammcevoy: PrimaryschoolICT.com also pass the ‘Anu Ojha’ test.

 

Don’t use Facebook: it’s naughty and bad.

I’ve been at two meetings this week in which contrasting views on the usefulness of Facebook were shared.

In the first, I was sharing with my Key Stage 2 staff the growing demands on school websites and how it is becoming increasingly necessary for schools to broadcast what they do.

For example, a year by year curriculum is now required on a school website so that parents can find out what they can expect their children to be taught. As this curriculum can be tweaked from year to year, I was arguing that rather than place this on a static website,  updates could be made on something like a Facebook page (or indeed a Google + page, or a blog, or a Google site).

In order that staff can begin experimenting with this, I have opened up staff access to Facebook and other social media within my school. I have had Facebook open on my own computer for a few years so that I can manage the whole school Facebook page; by opening it to the teachers also, I’m hoping that some may start using a class Facebook page to begin broadcasting what they do.

Personally I’ve found that having a presence on Facebook as a school has been quite useful. It means that there is a common starting point in discussions with parents about Facebook and also, in the odd occasion that a child or a parent complains about inappropriate Facebook use, I can address the issue by taking screenshots of what has happened. Recently I’ve also discovered that Facebook are quite prompt in acting on information concerning inappropriate use, especially from under-age users. I found two children using Facebook each other, told Facebook that they were under-age, and Facebook removed their profiles.

I digress. In my second meeting that I referred to, Facebook came up in a more negative context. A headteacher had had negative experiences with Facebook and urged others to consider asking their staff not to use Facebook.

How strange for me. On the one hand I had urged staff to use Facebook to help them broadcast their class news. On other hand I was being urged to ask my staff to stop using Facebook.

I suppose where you fall on this divide will depend on your views on how to educate children for e-safety. But that’s another post, for another time.

Spam? Yes I remember Spam!

It’s not often that SPAM gets through the filtering applied by Gmail. In fact it’s so infrequent that I’ve forgotten what it looks like. It used to be the case, on my old email account that I’d have at least 2 or 3 spam emails each day. In those days my trained eyes would spot the Spam through the tell-tail signs and wearily move it to the Spam folder. It was an automatic process – one that I did mindlessly. My brain would tell me, “Oh that’s Spam,” and I would remove it.

Today I received Spam for the first time in ages and it surprised me. For the briefest moment I thought it was real. That’s not because it looks real. The grammar and capitalisation is terrible and there’s a key spelling mistake that gave it away at the end (and made me laugh out loud I should add):

error code5199AA 

your attention is highly needed to update your account, due to error code5199AA. failure to comply to this instruction will result to account termination click here 

singed management.

Now, you’d have to be extremely naive not to realise that was Spam, but it’s been so long since I’d received Spam that I feel my guards are down. There really are people out there trying to get you and it’s important to read each email from an unknown person with filter applied – do you really want to click here? Can you be absolutely sure that link isn’t going to take you somewhere horrible? (I have taken the hyperlink out of this post just to make sure nobody clicks it).

It made me realise too that in all my recent efforts to get students aware of the dangers inherent in online identity and social media – those friends who aren’t really friends – not keeping too much of your private self in a public space, and all that – I’m not sure if I haven’t forgotten the whole Spam issue. And if the email systems that we use in schools are so perfect and filtered that students never see Spam am I really helping them?

Why I am bothering with Safer Internet Day

Safer_internet

It’s 7:30 as I start writing this and I’m just about to visit my friend and CEOPS trained advisor Craig Gilman to make final preparations for ‘Safer Internet Day’ tomorrow.

 

Safer Internet Day was actually a coincidence. We’re about to start a collaborative project with 4 other schools to design, make and race Scalextric cars, part of which will involve the children staying in touch with each other’s progress via social media. I had decided ages ago that it would be good to have a week focusing around the issues of using the internet safely, and I chose this week, not realising that it contained ‘Safer Internet Day’.

 

So Craig is visiting us tomorrow and will help us train our parents and children to use the internet more safely. We’re holding 2 workshops for parents and have a list of parents who would like to find out more but can’t make these particular days. Despite mainly working with 11-16s, Craig has bravely volunteered to help us out each and every class, including the very youngest, who are only 3. For those of you are wondering how you can possibly teach a nursery child about the dangers of the internet, the ThinkUKnow website has some great resources.

 

I read Kevin Maclaughlin’s post on why he’s not bothering with Safer Internet Day and can see that it’s very frustrating to have an ISP that blocks everything. In Birmingham we are comparatively well-off to have an authority that is forward-thinking enough to let schools use nearly every tool out there. Education first, not locking things down, as this Ofsted report explains. Facebook is about the only social media place that is blocked by Birmingham.

 

The main reason that I’m doing this activity is that the kids really need it. Most of our 9-11 year olds are on Facebook, at least two years before they really should be. Some of them have wholly inappropriate pictures (I could make a link, but I’d be sacked) as their avatars. Others have 200+ friends including many they’ve never met. Some of them have included pictures of younger siblings in their photos. Some of them have left their walls and profiles open. All ‘dangerous’ stuff. So you see, whether or not I can access Facebook in school, I have to teach them to be safe.

 

I have a 5 step plan to achieve internet safety:
  1. Have a purpose. This scalextric project is a purpose. I want the children to learn to use the internet purposefully. OK, that’s not directly to do with safety, but I believe that with purpose the children will steer clear of activities that will lead them into danger.
  2. Raise Self-Esteem. Again, not directly to do with internet safety, but highly important. The children need to learn to value who they are and learn the meaning of belonging to meaningful groups of people. I have resources that I can share if you’re interested.
  3. Demonstrate the Dangers. Don’t do this first – you’ll just put people off using the internet entirely. The ThinkuKnow website includes some powerful and moving videos that aptly demonstrate the dangers in only 5 or so minutes.
  4. Teach the lessons. We will be teaching the children (using the ThinkUKnow resources) at their level about how to protect their profile (for the older children) and about not trusting everyone you meet online (for the younger ones).
  5. Involved the parents. The parents workshops tomorrow are crucial. It’s only together as a community that we can move forward to get their best out of using the internet without being distracted by the bad stuff.
In a couple of days it will be interesting to reflect on how far we’ve moved on as a school community on this journey, and how much further we need to go.

 

And to back up Kevin, ISPs – open up your services please – we educators need to teach as well as to protect.