A lot has happened in education over the past few weeks – what does it mean for schools and teachers?
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog offering some tips for schools and educators should we find that schools might need to move towards distant or remote learning. Now not only are all schools closed, but the country is on lockdown and most of us are hunkered down at home.
I have been talking to a number of schools about a wide range of things over the past few days, however overwhelmingly the feedback has been “our parents need help”. Help not just with what their children and young people need to be doing in terms of schoolwork, but more urgently, general information about how to help their young people to be safe when they are online.
Undoubtedly the greatest thing we can do to support our students as they work remotely and navigate some of this challenging time without us, is to support those at home with them. Communicating clearly and providing parents with quick tips around online safety and what they can be doing to support students in this space is vital.
Rest assured that the team at Netsafe are on the case. We are currently compiling a suite of resources schools can access and use to support parents and those at home supporting students. Keep an eye out on our website over the next few days or sign-up for our e-newsletter for educators so you know when these are available.
In the meantime, there is a wealth of information available at netsafe.org.nz, including our Online Safety Parent Toolkit which can be downloaded and shared, or linked to from our website.
There are also many schools who are doing some great things to help support parents and whanau at this time. One of those schools is Wellington College. Check out their website and the online safety information they are sharing with their wider community (link to WC website and downloadable resources for parents). If your school has some great initiatives in place or pressing online safety resource needs, share them with the team at [email protected].
While providing parents and families with support, there is also a number of other things that as educators, we can be working through. To support this Netsafe has a range of other resources to support.
- Talk about expectations – in many cases, school student use agreements will be tucked away in a filing cabinet in the school office and chances are they haven’t been revisited since enrollment. Without having the structure of the classroom environment, now it is even more important that you have clear expectations around interactions online in place. Re-share expectations with students and even better, co-construct those participation guidelines WITH students. We have student use agreement templates on our website which can be customized and used and also guidance for those schools wanting to co-construct these with students.
- Managing online incidents – even though students are not physically at school with us, they will still be interacting with one another to discuss learning, or just to connect with their friends…and misunderstandings and challenges will still occur and impact learning. With more unstructured time online, anonymous Instagram accounts will still be set up, sharing rumours and causing harm and that intimate message shared privately, will still be on-shared. Remember to fall back on school procedures if you are dealing with online issues and download a copy of our Managing Online Incidents Guide to make sure you are ticking all the boxes.
- Evaluate before you download – there is an abundance of apps available to support remote learning. To help you evaluate each app for it’s appropriateness, whether it is fit for purpose and to help mitigate risk, we have our Digital Safety Management Plan. This works a little like a RAMs assessment process ensuring you cover all your bases. Having clarity around what platforms you are using, when and how they will be used and who will be using them will help ensure transparency, significantly reducing anxiety for parents.
- Connect with us – Netsafe’s Contact Centre is fully functional despite the lockdown and so please connect with us if you need support around online incidents or harm. Our Education Team is also here to help with questions, queries and provide expert guidance and support so connect with us on [email protected]
- Shout about it – If you are one of the more than 350 schools nationwide who belong to the Netsafe Schools Programme, make sure you share this with the wider community. Being a Netsafe School and displaying your electronic badge on your website and on communications helps to let parents and families know that the school is proactively supporting students to develop the attitudes, skills, knowledge and values they need to make safe choices online. If your school is not a Netsafe School and would like to be, hop on to our website, create an account and complete an online self-review. The process is quick and free!