Having been challenged by Steve Wheeler that maybe primary schools do have a role to play in digital literacy, I’m now thinking about what we actually do at my school to encourage, or even teach digital literacy.
4. Have a safe area to experiment.
Schools are safe places to make mistakes. As the behaviour co-ordinator, I have several incidents throughout the year were children make mistakes and then I try to teach them ways to avoid the making that mistake again. Examples include: using an angry tone of voice; responding violently or aggressively to a stressful incident; using inappropriate language. If an eight year old can be taught to respond to stress without using violence, then that will help them immensely when they are older – the violence a 14 year old or a twenty year old could perpetrate is potentially a lot more harmful than that of an eight year old.
Surely the same is true of online communication.
When children at my school email each other insults, it gives me a chance to talk to them about losing their temper online. We use Google Apps at my school and the system is set so that children can only contact other members of the school – any mistakes are kept within the school online environment, just as mistakes on the playground are kept within the school. This means I can educate children about the dangers of losing their temper when their fingers are near a keyboard; or taking a playground grudge online – such things are recorded. I would far rather children make these mistakes using Google Drive and Gmail within the protection my school’s domain than when they’re older on Facebook and Twitter, or indeed on a public Google Drive or Gmail account.
There are many other alternative safe places to Google Apps that schools can use – Edmodo, Frog and J2E are just some examples that I have flirted with in the past.
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):
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
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?