Four simple ways you can support pupils with responsible and respectful use of tech, by Kat Cauchi

Set and enforce boundaries

Part of ensuring tech is used safely is having clear expectations of how students will use it, communicating those expectations and enforcing them. For example, you may have particular websites or applications you do not want pupils to access, or perhaps there are certain features of the device you do not want them to use, e.g., the camera.

Although pupils will naturally want to push the boundaries – for instance, by going onto a website they like that is not relevant to their learning or opening a different app because they lost interest in the task at hand – having clear boundaries that are enforced will help to ensure pupils make good choices when using tech in the classroom.

To be extra secure, you can use tools to help you with this, such as classroom.cloud, where teachers can choose which specific applications and websites are allowed and which are restricted, along with the use of features such as webcams, microphones and USB  devices. This is a clear-cut way to enforce boundaries and pupils can see on their screen which features have been disabled, which reminds them they should not be using x, y or z in this lesson.

Modelling and practice

If you want pupils to use tech safely, they need to see how to do it and have the chance to explore it. Model to pupils, give them time to try, re-model, and then let them try again – then, have pupils show each other what they have learnt.

Encourage confidence by allowing pupils to be the experts and demonstrate how to use x, y or z. Sometimes pupils may not make the right choices online because there was a lack of purpose and understanding, therefore it is important for them to have opportunities to put their skills into practice in a realistic context and take risks in a safe environment. For example, pupils could explore platforms such as Natterhub, a gated social media platform where pupils can learn how to use social media and many other online applications safely. Alongside having these opportunities to take risks, pupils also build digital empathy and digital literacy, helping them become responsible digital citizens.

‘Eyes in the back of your head’

Ever heard that phrase? As a teacher, I’m sure you often feel like you could use an extra pair of eyes! Moving around the room to check what pupils are doing can help re-engage those who have become distracted, show you who may need extra support and who needs a challenge. It gives opportunities for conversations and praise too. Use pupils as examples of good behaviour choices by providing rewards – perhaps your school has a points system on a platform like Class Dojo where you can award points to pupils for using tech respectfully and safely, and for being engaged and putting effort into their learning.

If you are lucky enough to have support staff in the classroom, these aspects can be easier to manage as an extra member of staff can help with coverage and give you the opportunity to focus on your most vulnerable pupils.

But what if you don’t have support staff and you have a class of 30+ students on 1:1 or group devices? You may want to look at tools such as those in classroom.cloud that enable you to see all students’ screens at once, enabling you to quickly see who needs support, who is off track and be able to intervene quickly and effectively – all with just the one set of eyes! You can even lock screens for an instant stop on unwanted activity and share screens to model desired behaviour and celebrate students’ work. Additionally, the word and phrase capture can keep track of trending searches and alert you of any potential safeguarding concerns to investigate and address.

Whole-school community collaboration

Ensuring pupils use tech safely is not just for teachers, it is also for TAs, senior leaders, IT managers, SENDCos, administrators, etc.

All members of the school staff have a role to play and need to be able to support the safe use of tech by using it properly themselves, following policies and procedures and working together to ensure the continued use of a good digital strategy.
Additionally, it is important to involve parents to support safer tech use at home. Do not underestimate the impact the triangular approach (school, pupils, parents) can have. Invite parents to workshops and training sessions – and invite the pupils along too so they can have their voices heard. Set up your own pupil digital leaders to be your eyes and ears on all things online and to be ambassadors and support for the other pupils. You may find books such as ‘My Secret #EdTech Diary’ and ‘The Digital Ecosystem: How to create a sustainable digital strategy for your school’ helpful to ensure your whole school community is involved with the digital journey.

Author

  • Kat Cauchi

    Kat Cauchi is a WeAreTechWomen #TechWomen100 2023 award winner and a 2022 Nexus Education 'Classroom and Curriculum' improvement award winner. She is the community engagement manager at NetSupport, editor of R.I.S.E. Magazine, and the host of two podcasts. Kat is a member of the Global Equality Collective, a Global EdTech author, InnovateHer ambassador and Technocamps Girls in Stem role model.
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