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Archive for the ‘Cybersafety’ Category

It’s just over 12 months since France passed new laws banning smartphones, tablets and smartwatches in schools.  The law came into effect just one month later and aimed to extend an earlier ban of smartphones in classrooms, in place since 2010, to a ban of smartphone use across the entire school premises.

Studies citing the success or otherwise of the ban are hard to come by.  An article in Forbes magazine a year later, The Mobile Phone Ban In French Schools, One Year On. Would It Work Elsewhere? (August 30, 2019) indirectly comments on its benefits by quoting research from the London School of Economics:

  • due to increased concentration, limited phone use in schools directly correlates with exam success
  • restricting phone use is a low-cost policy to reduce educational inequalities
  • reduced screen time reduces the negative impact of social media: bullying
  • phone theft has been reduced

The Forbes article notes that the most difficult aspect of the French ban is enforcing it. Despite the consequences, including confiscation or detentions, students being students, have found ways to get around the ban, mostly it seems by using their mobile phones in either the toilets or in the playground where there is less supervision.

So how does this report bode for schools and students in Victoria?

Announcing the new Government Policy on June 26, 2019, Victorian Minister for Education James Merlino stated quite clearly the bounds of the new policy and its intended aims:

Mobile phones will be banned for all students at Victorian state primary and secondary schools from Term 1 2020, to help reduce distraction, tackle cyber bullying and improve learning outcomes for students.

Mobile Phones To Be Banned Next Year In All State Schools, 26 June, 2019

It sounds good.  Will it work though?  Will students comply or will they rebel against school rules imposed on them by the Government?

Could this ban becomes counterproductive?

Instead of banning mobile phones, should we instead be acknowledging the negative issues raised and do what we know to do best:

Teach students how to use mobile phones responsibly!

The arguments for and against the ban of mobile phones in schools raise many issues:

  • Can we ignore the fact that mobile phones have become the dominant mode of communication?
  • Does a ban of mobile phones in schools inadvertently highlight their negative use: aka cyberbullying?
  • Should we not be tackling the sticky central issue surrounding mobile phones – distractability?
  • Is the onus not on educators to create programs that develop and improve sustained concentration?
  • If mobile phones are a dominant part of our daily lives, doesn’t it make sense to incorporate them into our day-to-day school life?
  • Can educators, by creating positive opportunities for the use of mobile phones in the classroom, effectively teach students appropriate use?

So hot is this issue becoming, that a recent post on Education Review (October 4, 2019) took the question to the streets.  While watching this short video, I couldn’t help but notice the preponderance of mobile phones in the hands of people on the street behind the interviewer!

 

 

As we edge toward D Day – or should we be saying B (Ban) Day?! – educators still have a month or so to toy with some of the positive possibilities of using mobile phones in the classroom.  Take a few minutes to read through Will Longfield’s article: I’m a teacher, and I have no problem with phones in my classroom. Here’s why. (EducationHQ News, November 18, 2019) to glean lots of pertinent insights of the value of mobile phones in the classroom and ways they can be used in a classroom setting.  Some salient points raised:

  • learn what mobile phones can do – recognize an apps User Interface
  • cameras in mobile phones can take photos of teacher’s notes
  • monitor what’s going on – mobile phones should be screen up on desk
  • voice recording between two students = authentic student reflection
  • listening to music may not be all that bad
  • it all boils down to developing mutual teacher-student respect

Yet ….. arguments such as these are countered by the positive results reported in one school in New South Wales which has been trialling lock-up pouches for students’ mobile phones.  Reporting on ABC News: When schoolkids lock their mobile phones away in pouches for the day, amazing things happen (22nd June, 2019) students themselves are saying that they valuing the opportunity to be disengaged from technology.

While only time will tell the outcome of this debate, it is heartening to read positive comments, such as those in a recent KidsNews article which reports findings in schools in which a ban has already been trialed. The article: Kids in schools that have banned devices are seeing the benefits, whether they like it or not (August 12, 2019) reports that:

  • kids are now playing and having conversations with their friends at lunchtime
  • kids are finding it easier to be organised at school without their mobile phones
  • students are doing things together; not sitting on their phones
  • students no longer have to check their phone every two minutes
  • not being able to check emails and timetables during lunch forces students to get more organised
  • fully immersive conversations at lunchtime have replaced conversations that go off track when people look at their phones
  • social interaction among students has improved
  • the absence of phones had helped students to avoid distractions during the day
  • Michael Carr-Gregg (child psychologist) adds that banning phones is a sensible *mental health strategy* that lets children focus on learning

It will be interesting to re-visit this issue sometime in early 2021 to check the impact the ban has had on students in schools throughout Victoria.

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It’s hard to believe, but text messaging reached a milestone last week!

25 years ago – December 3rd 1992 to be exact – the first text message was sent by Engineer Neil Papworth when he wrote “Merry Christmas” on a computer and sent it to Richard Jarvis, the then director of Vodaphone.  It was an event which changed technology forever and along with it, set in motion a colossal shift in social norms.

While it’s debatable whether SMS today is being overtaken by social media platforms, the impact of texting on our lives has been profound.   Twenty five years is a very long time!  A generation of young people know no other way to communicate, a fact which raises a whole range of issues including whether or not the art of interacting face to face is being lost.  Have a listen to this discussion to gain a greater understanding:

I’ve been in teaching long enough to remember the days when fears for students’ ability to spell beyond texting shorthand was a serious concern.

Educational concerns however are constantly evolving.  As reflected in a presentation by New York Times journalist Thomas Friedman at a conference earlier this year and repeated regularly since, he advocates the need to teach all children how to talk to each other on the internet and how to understand fact from fiction:

Believing in the importance of starting to educate children from a young age, the DQ Institute has developed a 15 hour free online curriculum aiming to teach digital citizenship covering a range of key skills:

Underlining the importance of school students learning digital civics, Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) will, from next year, assess ‘global competencies’:

From next year PISA will test not only maths, science and reading skills, but “global competencies”, which its education head, Andreas Schleicher, described as young people’s attitudes to global issues and different cultures, analytical and critical skills and abilities to interact with others. The first results will report in 2019.  (“Don’t teach your kids coding, teach them how to live online” The Sydney Morning Herald, March 25 2017)

How appropriate it would be to see teacher librarians take the lead to ensure the introduction of digital civics lessons during library sessions!

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For years, teacher librarians have been teaching students not just how to run online searches but how important it is to authenticate information found.

But over the last 12-18 months with the preponderance of ‘fake news’ popping up not just on the internet but in usually reliable print publications such as newspapers and journals, the impact ‘fake news’ has had on our world has been the subject of much discussion around the globe.

So it is refreshing to see that the conversation has now started to shift from how dangerous fake news is to how to spot and combat fake news.

Perhaps under threat from mega million law suits, Facebook has been one of the first to take a lead by informing users of some basic tips on how to spot false news.

For a few brief days in mid April this year, Facebook users in just 14 countries got to see this alert:

from where they could read through the following concise and useful tips on how to spot false news:

Why only 14 countries were included in this roll out and why the alert was only live for a few days is a complete mystery.  Given the value this kind of shared information can have in the fight against the spread of misleading and false information, one can only hope that Facebook was testing the ground and will come back to making this a permanent alert available to global Facebook users.

As reported by engadget recently, Google also is attempting to stamp out the spread of fake news by inserting a ‘Fact check by’ tag on searches on contentious issues.

Another interesting development this week is the announcement by Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

WikiTRIBUNE is being developed as a new kind of news platform.  By calling on the community to work hand-in-hand with journalists, the aim is to verify and edit facts before they appear online.  Using crowdfunding to hire 14 journalists, it is intended that WikiTRIBUNE, like Wikipedia, will be free to access.

WikiTRIBUNE is set to differ from other news outlets in four specific ways:

  • the news source will be clearly stated
  • access to WikiTRIBUNE will be free and ad free
  • contributors from both the community and journalists will be equals
  • to achieve full transparency donors will be informed where money goes

Read more about the purpose and nature of WikiTRIBUNE in this excellent engadget article Wikipedia co-founder launches Wikitribune to fight fake news or listen to Jimmy Wales himself as he invites the world to come on board.

 

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Reading an article recently about a program which aims to combat racism, discrimination and cyberbullying,  I jumped online to check it out.

Developed by the Anti-Defamation Commission, Click Against Hate (CAH) is a relatively recent addition to the many programs already operating in our schools which aim to tackle, head on, frightening statistics such as those highlighted in one ABC News report:

From YouTube vid - Click against hate

Through interactive, hands on sessions, facilitators of the program encourage students to assertively stand up to all forms of bullying, hate and discrimination.  Fostering confidence to report all forms of abuse, racism and bullying, students are empowered to be proactive, responsible users of the Internet while learning the mindset of those who perpetrate such hate.

This educational program focuses on the development of an inclusive culture and respectful school climate by addressing issues of bias, bullying and prejudice reduction at its roots and provides the tools to deal with this ugly phenomenon.  The program also focuses on diversity in schools and social cohesion among students.  CAH has been designed as an interactive and innovative program giving students current information that empowers them to deal with these situations showing them what the power of words can do.  (Anti-Defamation Commission)

In addition to the more lengthy video produced and posted on the website of the Anti-Defamation Commission, my online research located two short news broadcasts about the program which are well worth a look.  The first was published August 13, 2015 on ABC News while the second was aired on SBS World News more recently on May 18, 2016.

 

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Hooked on Pokemon?

With more than 30 million players worldwide traveling around catching cartoon characters using phone GPS and cameras, it certainly seems that phenomenal records have been hit.Pokemon

I have to admit though, I did a double take yesterday afternoon when driving down Dandenong Road, a major arterial road here in Melbourne,  to see a road sign hung up over the busy road warning drivers to not play Pokemon while driving!

Photographed by someone at night and uploaded onto the Internet, this is the wording of more than 40 signs that popped up mid-way through last week on our roads.

News reports tell the story!

Hard on the heels of news reports are all kinds of warnings, such as this one from the

I’ve also spotted stranger danger videos posted on Facebook warning of the dangers of following others in the trail of playing Pokemon.

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Common Sense MediaI recently came across the Common Sense Media website and discovered all kinds of valuable info which can easily be slotted into lessons or displayed in a library on a loop to promote cyber awareness.

While there’s a wealth of valuable information to explore on this site, these two short and sharp videos speak volumes.  There quick and colourful format will ensure that their message is absorbed by young students.

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Soon after its publication, I read ‘A letter to our customers’ written by Apple CEO Tim Cook.  Since then, a flood of articles, posts and discussions have followed.  Why should any of us be interested?

Quite simply, the implications are far reaching and scary.

Triggered by the FBI’s need to access the content of the iPhone of one of the key San Bernardino killers, a fight has erupted between Apple and the FBI.  A court order activating a law written in 1789 is poised to force Apple to assist it’s investigations.

For most of us, we have, in a reasonably short time, become complacent about the enormous wealth of data innocuously stored on our smartphones.   Tim Cook reminds us

Smartphones, led by iPhone, have become an essential part of our lives. People use them to store an incredible amount of personal information, from our private conversations to our photos, our music, our notes, our calendars and contacts, our financial information and health data, even where we have been and where we are going.

If you’ve ever misplaced your smartphone or worse lost it, you’ll be very familiar with the overwhelming physical and emotional anguish which engulfs and grips you. Even though most of us don’t understand how, we know that our data is protected and safe.  Data is encrypted.

The right to privacy, the encryption of data on our smartphones is the root of Apple’s concern and is the reason for going public with this open letter.

In short, the US Government is demanding that Apple create a backdoor to the iPhone by creating a new version of the iPhone operating system that circumvents several important security features.

This demand began with the FBI approaching Apple to help them access data on the iPhone of San Bernardino killer Syed Farook.  Apple, for reasons outlined in this open letter, have refused to cooperate.  The FBI has now pursued court proceedings to force Apple to help them with their ongoing investigation of Farook’s involvement.  The Apple CEO is refusing to comply.

Cook’s fear is basic:

The government suggests this tool could only be used once, on one phone. But that’s simply not true. Once created, the technique could be used over and over again (to open) any number of devices. In the physical world, it would be the equivalent of a master key, capable of opening hundreds of millions of locks — from restaurants and banks to stores and homes. No reasonable person would find that acceptable.”

Cook has exposed the demands being placed on Apple for the simple reason that he believes that an open discussion needs to be held.  The issues are complex.  A simple explanation can be found on this post: Apple vs the FBI – a plain English guide.

Scroll to the end of an op ed written by John McAfee, a member of the Libertarian Party, who is running in the US Presidency campaign, to see a short excellent video which captures the argument very succinctly.

FBI vs Apple

This sounds like a David and Goliath kind of battle, one which reminds me of the fight against Internet censorship which was famously waged by Aaron Swartz in 2012.  Swartz, who sadly lost his life during this ongoing battle, was a brilliant contributor to our world.

So ….. are we now staring down the barrel of a government ‘gun’ forcing its demands upon a company to comply on the premise that this will be in the best interests of the people?

Your thoughts?

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