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Protect and Survive

by Paul Nisbet

on Thu Oct 18, 2012

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Local authority and school ICT services are rightly concerned to protect their systems from abuse, hacking and from viruses, and to protect their users' privacy and security. 

In most Scottish schools, learners cannot use their own smartphones or mobile devices to access the internet in school, and social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are blocked.

Unfortunately, a side-effect of locking and blocking is that essential software to enable pupils to access the curriculum may not get installed or that simple adjustments to control panels cannot be made (which we think in many cases contravenes Equality legislation), and that useful internet sites are blocked so that staff and learners cannot access educational content.

But is all this locking and blocking really necessary? Not according to a report from the Nominet Trust.

The cloudlearn project looked at the experiences of five schools that have unlocked and de-blocked their ICT, and the results make interesting reading. Professor Stephen Heppell, and Carole Chapman, the authors of the report, argue that schools that have embraced social media and portable devices achieve greater engagement with learners, and that unblocking is actually less dangerous than restricting the use of social media and learners’ own portable devices.

In addition to the case studies, the report offers a set of policy guidelines for using smartphones and devices, and social media tools in school.

In our field, we have personal experience of working with young people with disabilities who need digital technologies to communicate and access the curriculum, yet who are prevented from using their devices to access school networks or the internet whilst in school. If school and local authority systems can be opened up while maintaining security and safety, it will have a real benefit for these learners.

Tags: accessibility, safety, social media

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