Learner Entitlement – relevant to #Glowplus, #EDUScotICT, #ICTEx ?

In my last post I wrote about the concept of Internet Proficiency for Learners and Teachers- see here.

It seems to me that in that post I suggested that GlowPlus should facilitate the progress of young learners from a starting point of being a novice through to being a advanced Internet user.  With this passage comes a gradual move from operating in a very resticted online world to the Advanced state where the learner has full access to the internet.

So how does the concept of internet filtering apply in this situation?  I think the current position in Scotland is one where the Local Authority applies a set of filters which can prevent access by school users to content and service which may be generally accessible from home/non LA internet access services.  I am not about recommend that LAs need to abandon their general approach to interent content filtering – I think that would be wreckless.  I do however want to suggest that when a user achieves Advanced Status that they will enjoy access to the Internet from schools which is much less restricted that may be the case today. This implies that we have a situation where Intenet filter policies need to be responsive to agreed learner/teacher needs.

Coupled with this, there is also a need to ensure that in order for the learner to have access to a much wider range of content than is the case today that LAs will need recognise and be able to meet the increased demands on bandwidth.  This implies that schools will need to have improved bandwidth on the path between the desktop and the Internet.

When considering how Schools and LAs provide appropriate access to online resources, from what ever source, I believe that there is a need to improve on the current situation.  We hear so many reports of pupils and teachers being denied access to many online resources which are considered to be useful in a range of curricular contexts.  So this raises the general point of Learner Entitlement in realtion to access to online resources.  It will be necessary to first agree what this translates to in terms of what services and content need to be accessible and then to apply what is agreed across the country.

I attended the NEN 2012 conference last week where a paper was tabled dealing with his issue.  See the following documents which have been evolved over a few years and which deal with a range of entitlement issues.  Interestingly, these documents were written collabouratively with input from the English RBC/LAs, Wales, Northern Ireland and of course Scotland.  I think these documents are worth reviewing to see what they have to offer in relation to the developing debate and work of the ICT Excellence group relating to GlowPlus.

A short flyer which summarised the main issues

A two page overview of the National Education Network

Future Learning – the Learners Entitlement
The paper which was tabled at the NEN Conference 2012 – which is based on work does previously with input from a range of organisations including BECTa – this is a work in progress.

Building A Broadband Entitlement
A much more detailed paper which deals with a range of issues in relation to the infrastrure needed for connecting the user with the online resources needed. This paper starts to deal with some of the issues which can become a focus for complaint such as lack of bandwidth.  We realistically need to acknowledge that the provision of infrastructure must be provisioned to have the capability to scale as time passes.

Internet Proficiency – some thoughts #EDUScotICT, #GlowPlus, #ICTEx

This is something that I have had on my mind for some time, after a discussion with Theo Kuechel yesterday, I felt the need to commit my thoughts on this to paper!  So here goes…….

I want to compare life “on the internet” to life in the traditional real world – pre-internet days.  Today we take for granted a whole raft of services which are ever more easily accessible through our computers and a host of other devices like smart phones, tablets and other hand held devices.  Access to online services has moved from being occasional to always available  – our young people have this capability from an early age with many primary school children being given their first computer/phone.  Being “connected” in todays society is being a “must have” for a large proportion of todays young people.

As a child I was given my first two wheeled bicycle when I was around 7 years old.  It was too large for me – but that was deliberate to take account of the fact that I was still growing.  My dad fitted wooden blocks to the pedals so I could reach them and this provided the necessary compensation to get me started.  Stabilizers were fitted and I was able to ride it almost straight away.  I fondly recall a serious of lessons/training sessions after the stabilizers were removed when my dad taught me how to ride it solo.  He would hold the bicycle upright, walking alongside, as I would pedal it and try to keep my balance – as I gained confidence I would pedal a little faster whilst dad ran along side still holding me upright.  This carried on until one night he was running alongside but, unknown to me, was no longer holding on…..  I was away 😉  That opened a door of independence for me and allowed me to cycle to places and travel distances that I could not get to on foot.  Dad did also explain the basics of cycling safety – like which side of the road to stick to and how to always stop at road junctions, and more.  I still to this day remember his aid memoir about knowing which side of the road to cycle on – this was to make sure that bell ( fixed to the left side of the handlebar) was always close to the pavement side…….  Seems obvious, but that stuck with me and I always instinctively checked that this was the case before setting off.

A couple of years later I took the “Cycling Proficiency” course and test at school which resulted in me having a certificate which confirmed that I had gained certain knowledge and demonstrated certain cycling skills.

So how can this relate to the Internet?

Seems to me that there is a comparison to be made in that children today are exposed to the internet on an almost hourly basis either via a computer or smart hand held device.  The percentage of children having this capability will be ever greater and I sense that the age of introduction is becoming ever younger.  We have heard the term “Digital Native” and I do really believe that todays young generation are very aptly described by this term.

I think that there is a case for providing children with a staged exposure to the internet whilst ensuring that they collect the necessary skills to be good internet citizens and also to remain as safe as possible.  Children will be exposed to all that the internet has to offer at home, of this there is no doubt, parents will to different degrees facilitate this.  Sometimes children will have access enabled by parents and then be left to their own devices.

I think that there is a case for the country Education system to take some responsibility for ensuring that children have a staged exposure to the internet as a whole and that at the end of this process children be trusted to publish and interact all internet tools.  This should be of course done in the relative safety of the GlowPlus environment, but how might this be achieved.

I propose the idea of having an “Internet Proficiency” scheme which could adopted across the country.  Schools would be encouraged to deploy the scheme where pupils would be introduced to a number of “good behaviours” and “safety awareness issues”.  The scheme might have up to three levels of competence as follows, Novice, Intermediate, Advanced ( Bronze, Silver, Gold ) with all pupils starting at the Novice level as soon as they are introduced to the Internet ( online world )  in any form.  I further suggest that these classifications are include as a core part of the GlowPlus Authentication system and service.

Pupils accessing Glow as a Novice user might have a very restricted scope in terms of who they can interact with.  Perhaps this would be initially restricted to their parents ( parents need to participate in this scheme – its not just a school thing!), their class members, teacher and any classroom support workers working with them.  Progressing to Intermediate level, a pupils capability to interact would be extended to include all classes in his/her school and perhaps also other schools in the LA to which the schools belongs.  Gold level would effectively open the door on the Internet as a whole.

Some examples – email addressing capability would grow as the pupil moves through the grades, blog posts would initially be restricted to only the pupils own class but as their level increases their blogs will be increasingly exposed until they can be seen and commented ( subject to moderation ) on by internet users at large.

A key point here is that if such a system were to be introduced, the Glowplus service should be able to support it through controlling the level of exposure that pupils posts and other communications are granted.  There would also be a facility for withdrawing or demoting to a lower level if the pupil abuses the service in some way.

How soon can a pupil progress to Advanced level?  In my view this should be influenced by the pupils achievements and performance.  I do not mean to suggest that a pupil needs to wait till they are at Secondary school before their posts can be seen on the internet at large – I see no reason that a pupil should be prevent from being an Advanced user at some stage of their Primary school education.  The decision to award an upgrade of status should be made my staff / parents at the local school.  Perhaps when a pupil demonstrates competency’s that equate to an Advanced user the teacher and parent will have the capability switch the pupils status from Intermediate to Advanced.  Note that I see some value in involving parents in this grading process – after all we need parents to reinforce good behaviours when pupils are online and out of school.

Pupils could also have badges added to their profile according their current status.

I recognise that there will be a need to define the “levels” in a way that they can be allocated consistently throughout the country – but I think that this will be a topic for another post.

One other passing concern – we need a profession of capable and competent internet ready teachers to administer this system – I wonder what the general state of readines is that that regard?  Perhaps we also need to similar scheme for teachers????