The Axe, The Toaster And Internet Safety
I met several times in the December with a class teacher and at the first meeting it was decided that this was not going to be a project about the Scots language, as first muted, but would be more relevant and useful IF this planned project would be about internet safety.(suddenly a project on the Scots language seemed a lot more appealing )So this is NOT a project about Scotts language but a project about internet safety led by a Luddite who doesn’t not know how to connect via ‘Snapchat’ or ‘Xbox live’.

Not an easy topic or one that I am an expert on, but one that is essential for a group of P6/7 pupils who are online through many different apps and are maybe not be aware of the potential dangers or consequences of their online life. The teacher and I met several times after that initial conversation, to discuss approaches, topics, the idea that the class should lead their learning about what is relevant to them and I also had to be aware that as a composite class there would be younger pupils with less internet experience, and so I was not to scare them!

I had a real advantage, the Teacher and class had already worked in a creative, explorative and challenging way with Paul Gorman, Hidden Giants and that the Class Teacher was also supportive of a more creative approach to learning and was therefore happy to support the idea that the first session would be planned and follow-up sessions would take the lead from the pupils.

The class started with an introduction of who I was and that I was there to work with them on a project. The pupils could see there was a range of objects around the room (including amongst over things an Axe and a toaster) that they had to look at and see if they could make any connections or work out the uses. There was also a table covered with the mystery objects but no further explanation was given that would be looked at later. As the pupils moved around the objects trying to make connections and discussing amongst themselves what the project could be about, one pupil suggested to me that the project could be about “The colour of romance, because there are paint brushes, red paint, wine on the table, you’re an artist and its February”

A big debate ensued about whether the axe was indeed the most dangerous thing visible and it was eventually decided that it wasn’t, as it was ‘how you use it’. It was only dangerous if used carelessly or if you didn’t follow the instructions on how to use it. They then decided that this was the same for all the objects it was how you used them, and you could get hurt by them if used wrongly, they all had potential danger.

It was at this point that I unveiled the mystery objects – mobile, laptop and iPad instantly the connection was made that these also could be dangerous through the internet, and that “There was a story in the newspaper about cyber bullying and the person died”

As a group we highlighted what we use online and as I didn’t know how to use ‘Snap chat and Xbox Live’ instructions were written up on how to use them. What kept us safe was also identified. What keeps us safe was then unpicked leading to a challenging discussion around whether we can be taught common sense or life experience with pupils giving examples of both.Was this the same for everybody? This information was then used to create a series of Top Trumps recording the perceived deadliness and safeness of the objects on the table. The criteria list included Deadliness, safeness, common sense, Life experience and privacy settings.

Over the next few sessions, we worked together to identify what was personal information, who needs to know what, how we could protect it, and what to do if we share some of this accidentally, as we all can do. We explored how we know if we have upset somebody in class, and online and the differences between the ‘virtual’ online world and the class, what could we do differently and once ‘online’ it can continue to circulate, with consequences for both parties. (While initially being private, all messages are stored for a year by the internet provider and could be used as evidence.) Masks were made, partly to protect identity, but also re-enforcing the idea that you don’t always know who you are talking to online or see if they are upset. Finally pupils worked in small groups and composed a short film to share their learning. (This linked in with a topic that they were working on with their class teacher.)

There were time constraints and challenges such a group not working well together on the final filming but with a bit of support this was resolved and the task completed. Together, we were Inquisitive, persistent, imaginative, collaborative and disciplined with this project.

Having the evaluation sometime after the project was possibly a good thing, we could identify what they had learnt, had used, and the pupils were still enthusiastic about the approach.The evaluation has shown the value of doing an important topic in a creative, pupil led approach. This more collaborative approach has had a deeper impact than just a lesson where the pupils are given the facts as a traditional internet safety lesson. Pupils liked that they were ‘Hands on, and part of it. It was easier to remember because it was fun’ Further more it gave the pupils space to explore issues that were important and relevant to them. The pupils reported that they are consciously acting safer online. The class Teacher indicated that there has been no further reports of online bullying.

“Vygotsky’s Social Learning theory promotes learning contexts in which students play an active role in learning….Learning therefore becomes a reciprocal experience for the students and teacher.” http://www.learning-theories.com/ vygotskys-social-learning-theory.html I know that this how I learn best. This approach to an exploration of online safety with a P6/7 class has shown that the pupils likewise value this way of learning, and we have all learnt something. (Watch out Xbox Live here I come!)