Encouraging children to adopt a safe and responsible approach when using social media is fast becoming a critical feature on the curriculum. But for staff at Barrow Hills, where tablet based learning is a key attribute of the School, it is imperative that an early appreciation of online securityis established, as evidenced recently when Year 7 pupils trialled a game designed to improve awareness of the importance of 'e safety'…
Having entered into a ground breaking arrangement with Samsung to deliver a state of the art tablet based integrated IT system supported by Google Apps for Education, Barrow Hills is the first prep school in the UK to move towards a digital school bag, since all children from Year 3 onwards are provided with a device of their own to establish a range of digital learning techniques.
Within this advanced IT environment, the 'connected' School has already incorporated a 'digital literacy' lesson that covers the safe use of the internet and appropriate use of the various social media channels. However, in line with the School's on-going commitment to provide an exemplary level of pastoral care, and in keeping with its continued relationship with the London Knowledge Lab, (affiliated to the Institute of Education) which is recognised as a centre of excellence for research in exploring the future of learning with digital technologies, Barrow Hills was invited to particpate in a pioneering new initiative relating to online safety and security.
Pupils from Year 7 were invited to test out a game that is currently being developed by a student at UCL Institute of Education. Veronica Cucuiat, who is half way through her Masters qualification in Learning Technologies, is working on a dissertation project titled 'enhancing critical and analytical skills of young children as a means of increasing their online safety and security'. Part of the dissertation has involved the creation of an interactive detective game, which requires children to use their wits to identify the true facts within various scenarios, and to establish if there is a potential 'deceiver' who may be found guilty of trying to 'dupe' the children.
The scenarios played out are examples of a wide range of internet security type situations and these include: what can go wrong when using online tools; what can go wrong if you give out your personal details online; what can go wrong if you leave yourself prone to having your account hacked into and what can go wrong if you post a photograph of yourself online. The game concept, which will be developed intoan App, aims to provide players with first hand experience of the over-riding importance of security, privacy and protection when venturing online.
Veronica, who has been working on the game for 10 months, was very impressed with the constructive feedback from the children,
"I was hoping to use the time spent with the children to assess whether the framework of the game / the suggested rules actually made sense and in essence, whether the game was playable - and of course I was keen to identify any potential tweaks which would help to enhance the experience for players. The children's input exceeded all my expectations, those who participated really paid attention and quickly grasped the game, finishing with ease and minimal explanation. There were some great ideas put forward on ways in which the game could be further improved and it was also very encouraging to note the existing awareness levels of the importance of e safety which clearly already permeates throughout theSchool."
Commenting on the children's input into Ms Cucuiat's dissertation, Headmaster Matthew Unsworth says,
"Barrow Hills has always been at the forefront of new digital learning techniques and clearly, the prerequisite for this is to instil a strong awareness of the importance of e safety, which is at the heart of everything that we teach our children in the digital classroom. Anything which we can do to further enhance their acute understanding of the need to adopt the appropriate protocols tokeep safe whilst online, represents a valuable use of classroom time. In addition, of course we are only too delighted to be continue to strengthen our relationship with the Institute of Education, to ensure that Barrow Hills retains its finger on the pulse of modern learning techniques."