We need to embrace new technologies safely

I was delighted to be asked to chair todays NIACE annual digital learning conference e-safety panel, sponsored by BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.  The session took the format of a debate, with panel members invited to make brief arguments for or against the proposition, or to propose and argue for amendments.

 Prior to and following the panel arguments, attendees at the conference and at distance were invited to vote in favor or against the propesition, or for one of the proposed ammendments:  http://digifrontier.org.uk/vote/

The motion addressed was:

 

“This house proposes that while beginning to embrace the benefits of online learning communities, the adult learning sector has failed to provide the support adults need in e-safety and e-responsibility.”

 The motion rests on two main points:

  • that the adult learning sector is beginning to embrace online learning communities (the use of online collaborative and community practices to support adult learning)
  • that the sector has failed to address e-safety and e-responsibility issues in relation to adult learners (that online collaborative and community based learning is not matched by robust support in relation to e-safety and digital citizenship issues).

Our first speaker was Rebecca Avery, is the  e-Safety Officer for Kent County Council, where she provides advice, guidance and support to Kent Educational establishments  for 0-18 year olds. Rebecca is an associate member of UKCCIS and 2012 Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency (CEOP) Children’s Champion. She proposed an amendment to the motion:

“This house proposes that while beginning to embrace the benefits of online learning communities, the adult learning sector needs to take steps to provide the support adults need in e-safety and e-responsibility, in particular by learning together with young people?”

Arguing

  •  Progress of “e-Safety” within 0-18 sector – e.g. Ofsted, computing curriculum, UKCCIS, CEOP, UK Safer Internet Centre etc.
  • Digital “risks” and understanding – the role of adult education

  • Family learning & training for professionals

 

The second speaker was Simon Beard, City Lit.

 He argued for the motion:

  •  diversity of student population usually on short subject specific courses
  • knowledge / confidence about e-safety of many teachers low

  • number of at risk groups – older; learning disabilities; deaf…

  • make information available in variety of formats.

Our third speaker was Richard French, who leads the BCS Digital Literacy for Life Programme, which promotes and encourages the widespread acceptance of the need for  digital literacy.

His key arguments, also in favor of the motion were:

  •  We need to consider the requirement for each citizen to aware of their own particular digital identity and that they are responsible for it
  • How is this created  and developed compared with the image we would have considered appropriate in the pre-digital era

  • an understanding by citizens of the  permanence of our digital image (personal brand)

  • Next up was Dr. Bex Lewis, Research Fellow in Social Media & Online Learning, CODEC,  St John’s College, Durham University, and author of forthcoming book ‘Raising Children in a Digital Age’.

Dr. Lewis proposed the following amendment:

“This house proposes that while beginning to embrace the benefits of online learning communities, the adult learning sector has only just begun to provide the support adults need in e-safety and e-responsibility”

Arguing:

Work particularly with church groups

  • ‘Tradition’, risk-averse, and age-heavy leadership means change = slow.

  • Last couple of years discussion has changed from ‘not necessary’ to  ‘how do we do these things’ – safely?

  • Participation is reliant upon enthusiasts, and rarely funded – face-to-face is prioritised

  • Last couple of years have run an increasingly popular course ‘Social Media for the Scared’, and Lion Hudson commissioned ‘Raising Children in a Digital Age’ – which plan to develop workshop with.

Last but not least, Ewa Luger, Research Fellow, Horizon Digital Economy Research at the University of Nottingham, also argued for an amendment:

“This house proposes that while beginning to embrace the benefits of online learning communities, the adult learning sector needs to broaden the focus of e-safety and e-responsibility to better prepare adults for the challenges of new and emerging technologies”

  • We are moving from a world filled with Graphical User Interfaces – users are being decoupled from devices (by design) (e.g. pervasive/cloud computing and the Internet of Things).
  • These technologies increasingly blur the boundaries between public/private and learning/leisure
  • Such technologies seem benign in application, but the risks associated with these new types of interface are more prevalent and more complex.
  • Adult learning has the potential to support the development of a better informed populace, making more meaningful choices about the sharing of their personal data

Speakers had an opportunity to cross examine their fellow panel members, followed by questions from the floor:

All speakers did a terrific job of keeping to time and making succinct, and compelling arguments.  The final vote was for Ewa’s amendment with 40% of the vote.

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