As a Headteacher I am bombarded daily with information, circulars, junk mail and speculative chancers hoping to elicit business for their company! The freedom and openness created by the World Wide Web and flexibility of electronic mailing and communication clearly have downsides, as well as advantages. However for our pupils, they are the digital natives and therefore accept all aspects of technology and social media as simply as breathing. At our Junior and Infant Open Morning on Friday I saw IT being used in a range of areas that are a world away from the education I experienced and indeed many parents too! Year 1 were programming the Bee-Bot and were able to explain to me what an algorithm was! Year 2 concluded their cycling safety week and were testing the best materials to use for a helmet, using eggs for demonstration; 7 out of 11 eggs survived the fall! The evidence was recorded on an iPad.
QR codes on the walls gave access to the work that Reception had completed on the weather and the use of the interactive whiteboards at Beardwood Bank was as creative as ever. This is just a small sample of what happens every day in classrooms across Westholme and makes me wish sometimes that I had been born 40 years later! We complete our 11+ entry examinations online; GCSE and A level scripts are marked electronically and training courses for staff are held by webinar to reduce costs, increase interaction and sharing of good practice.
However there are downsides to such freedoms; parents and school need to be vigilant and proactive to the negative aspects of the internet and accompanying technologies. Last week Westholme hosted an e-safety conference for the region and we welcomed professionals from education, social services and healthcare to listen to expert speakers on the tricky issue of ensuring our youngsters are using technology safely and constructively. Our job as educators is to support and prepare all our students for the world they are moving into …… this is undoubtedly a challenge as the pace of change is relentless. Social media itself can be a great enabler, giving a wider audience to new ideas and sharing experiences. The capacity to ‘talk’ and exchange ideas with like minds across the globe is exciting and liberating in equal measure – education after all is about opening the mind. There is a safety warning that accompanies such freedom and it is vital within schools that we embrace the opportunities whilst teaching and safeguarding against the negative aspects too.
There are relevant and useful reference points for parents, schools and communities which, ironically can be accessed easily online…here are a few to consider:
We have a responsibility to ensure that we educate and enable young people but we recognise that this is not always an easy balance. History shows us that change is certain – 600 years ago a population that could not read, and then those that could not read Latin, did not stop the advancement and enlightenment of society and by the twentieth century an expectation that everyone can read. www. /.com /.uk /.org /# / are all here to stay ………. I can direct you to our website at westholmeschool.com or my twitter feed @LynneMHorner just to demonstrate that we are all in this digital amazing, exciting adventure together.
Lynne M Horner
25 January 2016