Schools protecting themselves OR schools protecting children…

The current edition of the International Journal of Learning and Media has an article entitled Limiting Screen Time Is Not the Key to Parenting in the Digital Age (here, PDF, five pages). It is written by Jeremy Sarachan.

I am reading this on a day that there are two, possibly conflicting reports in media in Ireland, regarding the use of digital photography in schools in Ireland.

  1. From the Irish Independent: Schools ban photos to stamp out cyber bullies (here)
  2. From Morning Ireland, our national broadcaster’s breakfast-time radio-programme: Never too young to learn about film, where school-students use of phones, in filming their own poetry was advocated (here)

I am very much with Sarachan who advocates……a more nuanced approach to media use by children (p.2).

Digital technology is here to stay and banning bits and pieces of it, whether at home or in school is simply not going to work.

Schools may feel self-satisfied that photos are not randomly taken in their school but will that really protect children? I don’t believe so.

Children need to be educated regarding technology.

Saracham quotes from two digital-thinkers I frequently cite, Mimi Ito and Howard Rheingold.

Ito argues that technology is here to stay, so get on with using it – of course there are negatives but they are not a reason to ban the technology.

Rheingold advocates mindfulness, thinking about what we are doing with technology, using what he cheerfully calls our crap detection skills (video below) which I believe, which must be taught to children.

I think a huge issue within the Irish education system, is that there are few enough educators with the confidence to teach about crap detection and all the other skills required to live a life creatively online.

This is very serious for a country that is fast becoming a serious player in the Head-quartering of social-media in Europe.

Schools best protect children by teaching good lifestyles and good lifestyle choices.

We use aspects of social-media in Portmarnock Community School, to put our best foot forward. Students see this and we hope they copy this behaviour in their own online applications. We teach each year-group about positive online presence, we talk about cyber-bullying in the context of bullying generally.

Yes, of course we don’t allow random photography in school, but we do allow creative photography and are proud when it is represented online or in print.

The best way to protect children is to allow creative and thoughtful expression. When things go wrong we will deal with the issues, but surprisingly we praise more often that we discipline…

The Cartoon above is from the Digital Signage Forum.


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  2. Donal O' Mahony

    Hi John, Marie and David,

    Thanks for the feedback. John, I came across this yesterday “Changing The culture, one teacher at a time”.

    The clear question is how slow is slowly in regard to change?

    I am very lucky to have a far seeing principal who looks for opportunities with the teachers in the employment of the school.

    It is a pity that some interview boards don’t see such opportunities when they sit in from of them…

  3. Marie Synnott

    A good article Donal. I agree that children need to be educated regarding technology. Whilst we are embracing ICT at primary level we are not educating our pupils on how to be safe etc. Would love to see the mtls you use and see if I could use them for primary level please.

  4. John Heffernan

    I have been DMed on twitter to explain AGILE AMY

    Basically they are IT multinationals
    Amazon, Google, Intel, L??, E-bay AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo of which you could probably add Twitter & Dropbox.

    To follow up on David’s point, I would suggest that during the summer, Principals & deputy Principals attend a digital bootcamp with the aim that they would leave digital literate, digital aware and digital informed.

    Having worked for NCTE for a number of years, I had to deal with lot of principals both primary & secondary, some with their head well screwed on in regards to ICT to one principal who did not believe that Powerpoint was a proven technology and hence was not buying projectors. A lot of the drive for i-pads for first years is coming from BOM & what other local schools are doing rather than ICT leadership from senior management. There are some principals pushing the envelope but not as much as you would imagine.

    I recently was interviewed for an ICT teaching position & as a self professed geek was looking forward to displaying my wide ranging knowledge and experience in the hope I would be able to add value to the school. A number of retired principals sat in front of me and early in the interview, I was forcing to pitch back and back to the level that they were at. No one likes to have to dumb themselves down when you are trying to sell yourself as well informed on future trends of ICT in education when an interview panel is barely engaged with the topic. I learnt later that the panel felt I was over qualified for the position.

    Maybe Mark Zuckerburg wouldn’t have got the job either.

  5. David Clarke

    Agree Donal. The generation that are making decisions to ban or limit technology are acting out of a dangerous mixture of fear and ignorance.
    Until the managers and curriculum creators are populated with individuals who understand and embrace what the students are doing all day with technology this knee jerk reaction will be the norm.

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  7. John Heffernan

    Do we have teachers who care enough to upskill themselves without carrot or sharp stick …. we have a few but not enough digitally literate teachers in the system esp. in second level.

    I done a quick word count on the booklet for NCTE courses,22533,en.html

    the word
    basic appears 21 times
    beginner 3 times
    Intermediate 2 times
    Advanced 0 times

    It is late 2012, some of these courses are covering topics that should have been completed 8 years ago. If CEO of Dropbox read the courses on offer would he believe that we were a digital literate society rather than a low tax haven.

    Education experts need to get head out of their arse if they think the AGILE AMY tech companies are coming here for any other reason apart from low tax.

    My two cents on crap detection….