Teachers, pupils and e-safety

Damien O'SullivanBCS spoke with Damien O’Sullivan, CEO ECDL Foundation, about the challenges teachers and pupils face in staying safe online.

BCS: Can you tell us the five most important things teachers need to know about e-safety, in your view?

  1. The social networking tools that young people are using, how such tools are used and the nature of the relationships that are being created.
  2. How to use social network settings appropriately to protect privacy and location details.
  3. The best practice behaviours that limit the sharing of personal information with inappropriate contacts.
  4. An awareness of cyberbullying, how to spot it and how young people should respond to it.
  5. How to encourage young people to share their concerns about online behaviour with appropriate adults and/or relevant authorities if necessary.

BCS: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing schools / teachers around e-safety and protecting children and young people?
Young people lead an ‘always connected’ digital lifestyle, with smartphone usage a constant throughout the day. We cannot rely on our ability as teachers or parents to constantly monitor their digital life styles in order to protect them. Rather we must provide young people with the skills, knowledge and understanding to enable them protect themselves and for them to have trust and confidence in their teachers and parents to talk openly about and seek assistance in dealing with suspect online behaviour.

Many young people are unaware of the basic strategies they can deploy to protect themselves such as using privacy settings on social media accounts and actively guarding their privacy through careful behaviour in engaging with people they do not know. There is a need, therefore, to provide structured education programmes that cover both the technical knowledge and best practice behaviours. However, perhaps the greater challenge is to empower young people to seek help from adults in dealing with suspect behaviour as it requires them to share aspects of their online activities, even at the risk of adult disapproval. It is for the adults therefore to create the non-judgmental environment where young people can share concerns and be supported in dealing with them.

BCS: What are the most important skills children need to learn around digital literacy?
Digital literacy encompasses a range of skills that are required to effectively use a range of digital devices and applications that are commonly used in education and workplace environments. While most young people are competent users of smartphones and social networking applications, they are not naturally competent in the use of PCs and productivity applications such as word-processing, spreadsheets and presentation tools.

Online collaboration tools are also increasingly used in both education and the workplace to facilitate learning and collaborative projects. In addition to key user skills, a solid foundation in computational thinking, problem solving and coding, will deepen their understanding and ability to apply digital technology most effectively in their education, and future workplace.

BCS: What measures need to be taken to improve digital literacy in the classroom?
Rather than providing technology to students and expecting them to develop their digital literacy informally we should provide structured programmes to develop appropriate competence. Basic skills which are taught effectively can then empower students to utilise technology to enhance learning across all curricular areas. Providing certification will further enhance competence development by referencing an established standard and enabling students achieve a recognised qualification which enhances their employability.

BCS: What are your predictions for the future of digital education?
With growing recognition of the digital native fallacy, I believe there will be greater emphasis on providing opportunities for young people to develop their digital competence in a structured and formal approach, with certification options to enhance employability. Such focus on developing digital competence will also enhance the use of technology in all aspects of education. Digital competence students will enable and indeed motivate, all teachers to utilise technology in their own subject areas where the focus can be on the content rather than the skills to use the technology.

Damien O'Sullivan

Damien O’Sullivan joined the ECDL Foundation as Chief Executive Officer in June 2006. With a background in education and training, he has been involved with ECDL since its launch in Ireland in 1997, working on a range of projects to develop and deliver ECDL training and certification to the public and private sector. Prior to joining ECDL Foundation, Damien worked for ICS Skills, the National Operator for ECDL in Ireland. Damien is a Fellow of the Irish Computer Society.

ECDL Foundation is an international organisation dedicated to raising digital competence standards in the workforce, education and society. Our certification programmes, delivered through an active network in more than 100 countries, enable individuals and organisations to assess, build and certify their competence in the use of computers and digital tools to the globally-recognised ECDL standard. For more information, please visit www.ecdl.org


Follow ECDL on Twitter @ECDLFoundation and read their blog.

About this blog

Supporting the government’s ‘Digital by Default’ strategy we’re keen everyone has the skills and confidence to use IT. Here, we share thoughts on a variety of digital matters.

See all posts by Digital Skills
June 2018

Search this blog