Being a board member in a school, it is hard for me not to worry about protecting our kids from harm. As a board we comply with all MOE requirements with digital technologies, but I can’t help but feel like as a sector we are now more than ever vulnerable to corporate influence (Take the recent example of Google being taken to court for using student data without the permission of the students or teachers).

It worries me that we are not asking enough questions or thinking critically about what products we are using in schools. This is an easy trap to fall into due to the speed at which technology is moving in schools and lure of ‘free’ products. But as Aral has shown us in his talk ‘free is a lie’ nothing is ever free, it always comes at a cost.  The question we need to be asking is: what is that cost and are our parents and children aware of that cost?

We are teaching our kids to produce more and more content online. We are teaching our kids to blog, program and create their own apps and this is fantastic, but I’d argue that if we are going to teach our kids to create online then we also need to teach them how to secure their content online.

Netsafe have some great resources for teaching digital citizenship and basic security. But I wonder if we could be a bit more proactive in the current technological climate.

There are two issues that are on my mind:

1. The school online environment is very different to the home environment. We are teaching our kids in a very heavily protected online environment at school which doesn’t reflect the open Internet in homes. Given educationalists advocate the wall-less classroom and 24/7 learning, how then are our kids learning to create safely and ethically outside the classroom. Not my problem you might say, we can only control what happens in school time you might protest. That may well be true, but I can’t help but think that we probably could do more in schools.

2. I wonder if there needs to be more conversation around privacy, security and creating ethical digital products. After reading this document on ethical programming, I wondered to what benefit this would have if our kids thought about creating online through an ethical lens. If our kids thought about who they were creating for and what harms could come from the products they are creating/developing, then hopefully they will go on to be better designers and creators of products as adults. I know that there are schools out there starting to do this where students as young as 11 are creating online material in authentic contexts. In room 11 At Taupaki school, students are creating maths games for the juniors to play using Scratch. They need to consider the age and appropriateness of the games, they need to listen to feedback and make sure they are attributing and licensing  their work according to Creative Commons and copyright law. They have the benefit of a teacher who can get them thinking about what goes on beyond the surface of computer and the digital environment.

If our kids had a better understanding of privacy and security issues they would be better-equipped digital citizens. Do our kids understand what they are giving away when they click ‘I agree’ to the terms of use for apps and products? Do they understand what goes on behind the scenes of a website and security vulnerabilities?

At NetHui privacy and security were hot topics with lots of great minds thinking up solutions to ensure people are better protected from privacy breaches. Raising the general public awareness of privacy and security issues was one way of achieving this. In my view it is much easier to raise awareness at a younger age than to try to change people’s behaviour when they are older. This article explains why security is a mindset not a product.

We have some wonderful people who work in IT and information security that are willing to work with schools to deepen understanding in these areas. There are also an increasing number of resources available and I have listed some below. I guess the real question here is are these concerns warranted, doe this stuff really matter? That is for each and own to decide I suppose, but if we don’t think about these things and talk about them, then we are all vulnerable to influence and control by corporate companies. (Karen Mulhuish Spencer writes about this far more eloquently than I in this blog post). The last thing I want for our kids, school and society is for one day to look up and realise that we no longer have any choice or control over our digital environment.




Netsafe blogs


Getting kids thinking about infosecurity















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