Last weekend I had the privilege of accompanying Year 5 and 6 girls on their Sports Tour to Manchester and what a brilliant weekend! For me it was a joy to spend time with children who were polite, respectful, impeccably behaved and simply great fun! In more than one of our varied activities, members of public commended the girls’ conduct and I was very proud that they were Westholme pupils. Part of my role over the weekend was to update the blog for families and school followers on the website…what fun! I resisted the temptation to post ‘in jokes’ and concentrated on posting regular updates and photographs of our activities as they progressed. By the time I returned home on Sunday however, I was genuinely happy to switch off my phone and iPad and rest my thumbs!
Whilst the power of this digital technology enabled families to follow and have an insight to the girls’ weekend, this week has also highlighted the dangers and risks associated with Internet Safety Day. I must confess I would feel lost without my mobile phone and if there are problems with the network or computers in school, we all become a little uneasy. The reality is that we are reliant on this amazing technology in so many areas of our lives now and for all of our students, they have never known any different – they are the digital natives. The risks associated with increased digital use are well documented; cyber bullying; identity fraud; stranger danger and so on. Young people rarely now enjoy peace and quiet and in their own rooms their phone, iPad or computer retains their connection with friends 24/7.
This connectivity and digital landscape is not going to change and as a school we need to embrace it whilst ensuring that we educate all our pupils to use this power wisely and safely. It is undoubtedly a wonderful tool for teaching and learning but the dynamic relationship between a teacher and student is equally important. Similarly it is wonderful to be able to share photographs, exchange trivialities and updating your status for others to instantly see but the actual time spent with friends and family should always have the highest profile.
As we hurtled towards half term this week, as well as assemblies on Internet safety, pupils and staff at Junior, Infant and Senior schools have been very busy enjoying a myriad of experiences – all of which are reported (digitally of course) on our weekly e newsletter! The Senior School ski trip has departed for Serre Chevalier where the snow conditions are reportedly good; research carried out via a ski/weather website, not by a visit to France sadly! And infant pupils enjoying their Chinese food celebrating the arrival of the Year of the Goat, this was recorded for us all to share on a tablet: it is clear that we all gain immeasurably from the internet and having digital technology at our fingertips. We do take it for granted but we must ensure that we use it responsibly and that it does not rule our lives. Creativity, conversation, participating in sport, performing a speech, learning a musical instrument, practising a foreign language and spending quality time with family and friends do not require WiFi or 4G – but their enrichment of our lives is invaluable, special and must never be lost.
I hope all staff and pupils enjoy a wonderful half term break!
Lynne M Horner
15 February 2015