I was lucky enough to recently attend a session run by Claire Sutherland for the Alannah and Madeline Foundation around the topic of ‘safe schools‘. I have worked with AMF before in regards to eSmart. Today’s focus was on the trends, policies and resources to support schools around cybersafety. Personally, I have mixed feelings about cybersafety as a topic, as there are some who approach it from the perspective of fear. So here are some of my notes and observations on the presentation …


When it comes to children and technology, there are a number of issues to consider:

In regards to schools and liability, It is important to understand that if you are aware of an issue, you are responsible. In Victoria, this is covered in the PROTECT Guidelines.


For the Alannah and Madeline Foundation cybersafety can be broken down into three aspects:

  • Contact: Do you appreciate who you are sharing with? There is a difference between a ‘friend’ and a ‘follower’, while many of our connections come via acquaintances. We may think that we are not providing much information online, however once we work across multiple platforms, people (and computers) can easily join the dots and develop quite an extensive profile.
  • Conduct: How do you act when you are online? Do you THINK before you post, that is do you consider if what you are sharing is ‘True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind’. Research says that 1:5 students have been involved in cyberbullying online. The challenge is to look out for one another, respecting the rights of others. One suggestion is to ask before tagging, especially in regards to changes in regards to auto-tagging within Google Photos.
  • Content: What information do you share online? Is it personal or private? How authentic is it? How positive is your digital footprint? What is your response to fake news and surreptitious advertising? To plagarism, is it constructive? This can all be challenging as we move into a world that no longer forgets. Something captured by Black Mirror where everyone’s experiences are captured all of the time or we are continually judged by everything that happens in our life.

Associated with the 3C’s, there are four different types of spaces: messaging app, social media, games and dating apps. What entices students is whether they are free, accessible, social and allow experimentation. Constantly changing, these spaces are a part of the yo-yo craze where students move when adults move in.


Some of the challenges associated with cybersafety include: raising awareness with parents, teachers and students, monitor the use of technology, building online resilience and empathy, celebrating the positive, as well as empowering bystanders to stand up by providing anonymous reporting systems. To be proactive, schools need to be as explicit as possible when it comes to policy. This means it does not matter which teacher is consulted. Associated with all this, it is important to document issues when they arise.


Here are a collection of resources – both from the session and some links of my own – to go further in regards to cyber safety and digital citizenship:

So what about you? What are you doing to make school safer? Are there any tips, tricks or resources that you would share? As always, comments welcome.

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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

This year I have taken on the role of co-ordinating eSmart within my school. Although I had always been a part of the process, it was never my explicit responsibility. It needs to be recognised that much of the hard work was already done by Catherine Gatt, who had managed it from the beginning and got the school to the point of accreditation. This meant that it was more about maintenance.

Even though we are an eSmart school, during the handover, we went through some of the challenges that still had to be faced, such as:

  • Rectifying how the data is collected and where it is held
  • Reviewing and refining the Acceptable User Policy
  • Further incorporating the appropriate use of digital technologies within curriculum planning

However, the biggest challenge that is still faced was developing teacher practise around digital pedagogies. None of the rest really matters if teachers do not know what they are doing and why it is important.

Some of the strategies that have been used in the past to develop teacher capacity include: the provision of whole-staff professional development, modelling of best practise in an explicit coaching sessions and supporting staff with questions as they might arise.

In regards to whole-staff professional development, it has been been a case of hit and miss. Often associated with outside products or programs, sessions seem to lack a sense of agency and purpose. For example, a lot of time was spent introducing staff to the Ultranet or how to use some of the more intricate features of the interactive whiteboard. It was just expected that staff would get on this bandwagon without a clear pedagogical reason as to why. Sadly, when you stand back and look at both of these, the Ultranet has been shutdown, in part due to lack of take-up, while the interactive whiteboards seem to be slowly being replaced by television screens.

Something that worked in regards to whole-staff sessions was the introduction of professional learning communities. This allowed staff to collaborate in the development of shared capacity. A particular highlight was the opportunity to share different practises and ideas in an unconference style session where people could choose which session they wanted to attend. This not only allowed staff more choice, but provided staff with an opportunity to build their instructional capacity. However, the PLC’s as they were lacked clear vision, with much confusion as to what constituted success. They were therefore replaced with a more rigid instructional program with little focus on technology and digital pedagogies.

Another strategy that was trialled to help develop teachers was an explicit coaching program that revolved around modelling. This involved staff in Primary attending fortnightly ICT sessions with their classes and then completing a follow up lesson to help solidify what had been learnt. The problem that occurred was that although these sessions may have helped build capacity, there was still a heavy reliance on the coach to guide the learning. Teachers were not necessarily forced to find their own solutions. Therefore, although significant resources were allocated, just as with PLCs, little thought was given to why the program was actually running and what the explicit end product may be, other than improved capacity.

The last strategy used to develop digital pedagogies has been to provide help at the point of need. Whether it be setting up Google Apps to aid collaboration in class or using Adobe Voice to communicate ideas and information. To support this, the eBox blog was developed as a place to go for answers and ideas when face-to-face guidance is not possible. The hope was (and still is) that this would become a celebration of what is happening, similar to what Steve Brophy has implemented at Ivanhoe Grammar. However, not every teacher is as willing to openly share. Like the coaching hour, this feels like it has created a culture of dependence, rather than a collaborative culture of shared development. It was pointed out by a critical friends that a more structured coaching program was probably needed.

In Thomas Guskey’s evaluation of professional development, he provides five critical levels:

  1. Participants’ Reaction
  2. Participants’ Learning
  3. Organisation Support and Change
  4. Participants Use of New Knowledge and Skills
  5. Student Learning Outcomes

Too often we start at the top and work our way down the list. The result being that many experiences, for whatever reason, do not really go beyond personal learning. Guskey argues that if ‘student learning outcomes’ is to be our goal then we need to plan backwards. So moving on with technology, the next stage is to move technology from a timetabled event or some sort of novelty to something that aids and develops all pedagogical practice.

The school has recently started implementing disciplined collaboration, with a focus on a cycle of inquiry to improve student learning. The purpose behind the model is to adjust the learning and teaching to the needs of the students, rather than being dictated by the perceived needs of the curriculum standards. This freedom within form is designed to allow for a more nuanced approach, that is continually referenced by data and evidence. This provides both purpose and direction, it is this that sometimes feels missing when implementing technology and eLearning.

Some of the things that I have been considering in regards to coaching that have been missing in the past:

  • Setting Goals: More than just SMART, Viviane Robinson suggests that the purpose of goals are to provide focus. A useful guide is the How Might We question, as it incorporate the what, the when and who in a succulent manner. In addition to this, I have found the Modern Learning Canvas useful in regards identifying particular points of innovation.
  • Outcomes: Too often the introduction of technology can lend itself to novelty and lack a clear purpose. Whether it be the visible or invisible, social or academic, it is important that there is some point of reference to guide development. For some this maybe a number, some a recording, while others a case study, what matters is that teachers tell their story of development.
  • Follow-Up. There is tendency with technology, whether intended or not, to provide isolated support. Maybe it is answering a question or giving suggestions. Although demonstration and observation is not always possible based on timetable constraints, providing some sort of ongoing conversation is essential to continue the conversation and ingraining practice.
  • Feedback. One of the biggest challenges is not simply giving support to others, but also providing a means to measure the success of the support given. Whether it be short answer questions or checklist, Google Forms offers a quick and efficient method to do this.

Although technology may be seen by some as something that just has to work, I feel that we need to move from discussions of the what, to that of how and why. Incorporating goals in Performance and Development Plans maybe seen as one step in the right direction, what we really need to do is move from push professional development to pull. That is, where instead of teachers being served with endless sets of predefined answers and solutions, they instead act as problem finders where they work collaboratively to identify a problem of practice in order to build and develop more innovative practices. I feel that it is only then that technology can make any sort of difference.

So what about you? Is there anything that you have done? Any thoughts and suggestions you could provide? Whether it be integrating technology or the use of coaching to develop staff capacity and competency. As always, comments welcome.

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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

For as long as I have been teaching, schools have been full of mandatory meetings whose participation and engagement with goes unquestioned. This seems to have only gotten worse in recent years with the requirement to sign off on a range of requirements. I am not saying that the requirement for teachers to engage with Anaphylaxis or OHS is wrong. I just wonder why the automatic model of delivery is the age old lecture. Even worse, the reflections are often forced and lack any conviction.

Last year, as I sat through yet another Anaphalaxsis session wondering how I would do it differently. I wondered if there was a place for a platform like Kahoot or Verso for checking answers and answering ideas. Coming from the perspective of technology, I wondered why instead of watching someone else’s mock scenario whether there was a place for teachers to work together in the creation of their own example and then share it back. Not only would this provide for a deeper engagement, but it would allow for a meaningful engagement with technology.

This year, I have taken on the role as eSmart Co-ordinator. One of the requirements is to induct new staff into the process. In the past, this was another meeting for graduate teachers to attend. Having gone over all the material, I quickly realised that much of it was covered by others, including behaviour management, incident reporting and school values. So instead of going over things again, I decided to make a short video summarising everything and send it with a survey focussing on the questions:

  • What steps would you take if you saw something in class or were informed of something by a student?
  • How do you incorporate technology within your classroom?
  • Do you use technology in anyway to connect and communicate with parents?
  • What support do you feel that you require in regards to digital pedagogies?

My intention was to focus on what was important and provide teachers with an opportunity to reflect on their own practise.

It may not be heutagogy and maybe there is a place for more formal. However, there is surely a better way. As always, I would love your thoughts and opinions.

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creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by Billy Rowlinson: http://flickr.com/photos/billyrowlinson/3515157369
I was talking with a coordinator yesterday and I heard a word that I hadn’t heard in quite a long time – proxies. A few years ago, around the same time as the introduction of 1:1 devices in the school, there was a spait of incidents involving students using proxies to access websites that would normally be blocked. The answer then was two fold: 
  1. It was explained to students the dangers of using such means in regards to viruses.
  2. Students caught lost their laptops for an extended period of time.
As time passed, it stopped being an such an issue. Less and less people were being caught out. However, what this recent situation highlights is that maybe it stopped being an issue for teachers, while for students the practise simply went underground. 
Whatever the exact state of play maybe, it left me searching for a better solution. For the case in question involved a student naively sharing with a new teacher how to access YouTube at school via proxies. What is interesting is that in some schools YouTube is open to students. However, there is a fair fear amongst staff that allowing students to access YouTube opens up a whole new can of worms. Like email, such applications and websites like YouTube add a level of responsibility that not all teachers are willing to accept. The irony though is that we end up dealing with such incidents online whether we chose to ‘accept’ them or not. 
For example, if a student was caught by another student watching an inappropriate clip at school and reported to a teacher, surely the answer given I’d not ‘that clip is not supposed to be accessed at school.’ Instead I would imagine that there would be discussions about why it maybe inappropriate to watch the video at school, whether this be because it may make others feel unsafe and is too often unrelated to what tasks are meant to be completed.
This is no different to when students bring issues associated with inappropriate online activity into the classroom. For although such incidents do not directly occur in the classroom, the fact that they inadvertently impact learning in the classroom means that we do need to deal with them. 
The question then that comes to mind is whether blocking access is the best solution? In an interesting interview that I seem to come back to again and again, +Alec Couros spoke about the importance of bringing social media into the classroom. He suggested that we need to be modelling with students everyday appropriate actions online. Yet, as I have discussed before in regards to taboos, for too many schools it is easier to ignore such issues as if doing so both absolves them of responsibility and means that they don’t exist.
I am not sure of the perfect answer, but I would like to say that simply blocking every program is not it. I would love to know your thoughts. Are websites like YouTube, Twitter and Slideshare blocked in your school? If not, what are the consequences, both good and bad, of allowing students open access? Please share below.

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I recently wrote a post reflecting on the apparent ‘failure’ of the digital revolution. What came through from both my own reflections and the comments provided by others is that the reason for this supposed failure lies whole-heartedly with leadership. Whether it be at a local school-based level or at a governmental level, there has been a litany of errors. One of issues that often arises with the use of technology in schools are the ramifications for staff and students as their sense of citizenship has evolved to incorporate the digital realm. One organisation set up to alleviate such stresses has been the eSmart Schools Program.

The eSmart Schools Program was developed by the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, “a national charity with the belief that all children should have a safe and happy childhood without being subjected to any form of violence.” One of its main purposes is dealing with the threat of cyberbullying and child safety from the ground up. Unlike the reactive fear campaigns too often perpetrated in schools, the aim of the program is to be proactive. Instead of waiting for there to be a problem, the goal of the program is to develop a clear framework that sets in place a range of practises and policies that hopefully means there are no problems or if there are that they are responded to in an appropriate manner. All in all there are six domains that make up the framework which all work towards the smart, safe and responsible use of technology.

At the end of last term, +Catherine Gatt and I had the privilege of being a part of an eSmart Schools forum. The event was designed to get together a range of different representatives from schools around Melbourne to discuss how the program was going. Basically, the purpose of the session was to get as many different perspectives as possible in order to identify what the next chapter would be.

Growing Pains

Some of the problems that my school has had on our journey to being an eSmart accredited school include:


The ideal situation in regards to leadership is to have a flat structure where every teacher and student is responsible. However, too many are still attached to a hierarchical structure where responsibility is carried by those at the top. Whereas the primary classes have had one teacher facilitating the whole program for both staff and students, in the secondary environment, too much is left to too few. Although many of the topics of bullying, digital identity and cyber-safety are often dealt with in Health classes, the message is often missed in other classes where in an already crowded curriculum, various eSmart initiatives are not seen as the highest responsibility.

Scope and Sequence

Associated with a sense of ownership, there is the problem of scope and sequence. Although the core issues around identity are often dealt with in an explicit manner, it is areas such as plagiarism, appropriate researching online and attribution, which are too easily forgotten in the hustle and bustle of everyday teaching. The most obvious example is the use of digital images in the classroom. How often do staff, let alone students, actually consider whether they have the rights to use the images that they do? I must admit that it is only something I have started to consider seriously in the last few years. Basically, it becomes one of those situations where everyone and no one is responsible. Without it explicitly written into the curriculum, such aspects are too easily overlooked.


Along with a lack of clear leadership, the ongoing accountability and administration is left to too few. Instead of everyone having a sense of responsibility, it is too often seen as the responsibility of the eSmart co-ordinator. I understand that someone needs to organise things. However, that does not mean that they need to do everything. The worst thing with this is that such individuals simply can’t do everything as they are not privy to everything.

ICT vs. Welfare

One of the underlying issues I have found with the whole program is where it actually sits within the school. Does it belong to welfare? Or is it an ICT thing? Ideally it should belong to both. However, this is easier said than done. The problem that I have seen is that when it is driven from a welfare perspective, some of the more technological aspects are overlooked, and vice versa.

Solutions, Fixes and Becoming Smarter

One of the best things about the forum was the opportunity to not only share various hiccups faced along the way, but also to brainstorm various ideas and solutions for making things better. Some of the ideas included:

A Letter from Students to Parents about Issues

Too often letters are sent home from staff addressing issues and problems that arise in regards to technology and digital citizenship. A suggestion presented by another school was to get students to develop such letters. Not only do they then own the situation, but such letters have so much more meaning when they come from students. +Bill Ferriter wrote a really interesting post on creating a student advisory board as a medium for providing feedback from those who matter, I think that students writing letters could definitely fit into this.

eSmart Licence

An idea that one school put in place was a licence for students. Like the pen licence, the eSmart licence was for students who had completed a series of modules created by the school. It represented some recognition that students were as prepared for the digital world as they can be.

A Committee is eSmarter than a Coordinator

As David Weinberger suggests, “the smartest person in the room, is the room”. The question then is how many people are in the room? If the group in charge of implementing the eSmart program is only three people, how smart can the group be? So many schools spoke about how the program stalled when it was driven by a couple of individuals. The big challenge moving forward is to create a meaningful committee, that includes a wide range of voices (students, teachers, technicians, parents), which meets on a regular basis. Although a group was formed to review the school’s policy, once that had been achieved, the group soon dispersed. In addition to this, such a program can go into disarray when any one of those individuals moves onto new surroundings.

The Next Chapter

Overall, the big question that was discussed at the forum was where to next. What was unknown was what happened to schools that had gone through the process and received their accreditation. There is currently nothing in place to support schools in regards to maintaining their level of standard. In addition to this, the program is currently supported by the government and will soon come up for review. The question that was posed to those present was whether schools would be willing to pay an annual subscription for the right to be an eSmart School and what this would actually include, whether it be support or simply a recognition of a standard.

I hope that there is some sort of solution that will allow the program to continue beyond the five years. For it has provided a great framework to work with. It really makes me wonder though about the answer for ongoing change in schools? You look around education and see so many examples of people offering programs to implement, but too often the system fails to let them follow through with the initial vigour and see it truly blossom. I hope that eSmart can break that mould.

Have you gone through the process of becoming an eSmart Accredited School? What has been your experience? The highs? The lows? What do you see as the challenges being in regards to the next chapter.

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Whenever I go to ICT conferences there are always companies offering the opportunity to gain complete control over student computers, complete control over their activities, seemingly complete control over their lives. Maybe that is a little bit of an exaggeration, but it does beg the question, when does the responsibility to create a safe and meaningful learning environment crossover to being a situation of control and domination?
I have taught in many schools and been privy to many systems of control, from using software to hijack a student’s screen at any one time, to having open access to the student’s network drives, to using knowledge of passwords to monitor emails, to doing random spot checks of student laptops. Each method comes back to one thing, the notion that we can be watched anywhere, anytime. It reminds me of Michel Foucault’s metaphor of the panoptican in Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison to describe modern society. As Paul Oliver describes, “The principle of the Panopticon was that prisoners could be observed night and day, without realizing that they were being observed.” This sort of approach creates a culture of fear and surveillance, but does it have to be that way?
Now I am not saying that schools shouldn’t have have points of control and surveillance, but in setting the scene this way, what are we really teaching the student? Often when you ask students why they can’t listen to music, why they aren’t allowed movies on their laptops, why they shouldn’t have various games or software installed, there is little discussion of why. Take music for example, other than being a distraction from learning (at times), often the argument is made that the music is illegal. It is then left up to the student to prove that it is not. 
The problem with this situation is that there is little discussion about the consequences associated with downloading illegal music, let alone what other avenues there maybe to listen to and download legal music, such as Soundcloud and radio web applications. The big question is that is forgotten in such situations is what are we teaching students about copy write? Are we taking advantage of the teaching moments? Associated with this, what happens when things change? For example John Birmingham’s article on Game of Thrones for a fantastic critique of the torrent culture, how often do we have such conversations? In the end, we ‘ban’ putting music on their laptops, so they keep it on a portable hard drive or the more savvy students keep it in the cloud. The same can be said about publishing images online. In refusing to discuss these matters, we resort to the ‘no’ just because, instead of using the flowchart from Common Sense Media to develop a dialogue where we can discuss why and develop a better appreciation of technology and the 21st century.

So how do you monitor your student’s activities? Are you creating a culture of fear or a culture of learning? Do you ban or embrace the power of social media? The question that we need to consider is whether we are setting ourselves and our students up for failure, where nothing is ever learnt, but everything is lost.

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