Educating the Educators: Teachers Get Help for the Digital World
A new website has been launched to help teachers understand digital media and make the most of it in the classroom. New Media Knowledge spoke to professionals at the coal face to see what difference they thought it would make.
A collaboration of some of the world’s major communications providers has resulted in the launch of Teachtoday.eu, a website aimed at helping teachers adapt to new media challenges inside and outside the classroom.
Teachtoday.eu is backed by the likes of Google, Facebook, GSM Association, Microsoft and a host of telecommunications firms, and aims to work closely with the UK government and other professional agencies, to provide “information and advice for teachers, head teachers, governors and other members of the school workforce about the positive, responsible and safe use of new technologies.”
The site also promises to address a wide range of issues affecting children, including cyber bullying, privacy and health concerns such as self-harm and sexual grooming.
The Party Line
Trish Church, Mobile and Broadband Safety Manager at Orange UK, one of the Teachtoday.eu backers, said that teachers play a hugely important role in developing citizens offline and that the site would also help them develop citizens online, too, by providing the technical know-how.
“Teachtoday.eu provides real practical advice to help teaching staff safeguard their own professional integrity and explains what to do if they need to deal with a problem online,” she said.
The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) also backs the scheme, as does the National Education Network (NEN). NEN’s David Wright said: “Teachtoday.eu considers both the personal and professional safety of Teachers alongside resources that can be used in the classroom. Effective and safe use and navigation of the Internet is a valuable life skill for all.”
The Times They Are a-Changing
Teachtoday.eu is the latest of a number of sites, such as Digizen, aimed to educate teachers as to the potential benefits and threats posed by digital media, according to one Hertfordshire-based teacher. Drew Buddie, a school head of ICT, uses Web 2.0 tools in his classes and believes that Teachtoday.eu demonstrates a change in attitude towards IT by senior decision makers within the education system.
“My main issue is obtaining unfiltered access to [Web 2.0] tools or using tools with pupils where the Terms of Service state under 13s can use it,” he told NMK. “My other problem is lack of knowledge on the part of those in positions of seniority around the country who see a lot of what I -and my ilk, for there are many of us - do as 'playing' because it does not involve the use of Microsoft applications all the time. However, models such as TeachMeet and MirandaMods, both of which I am heavily involved with, help to spread the word slowly but surely that change is coming.”
Jason Cobb works in schools alongside teachers to enable technology in the classroom and he remains sceptical over Teachtoday.eu, believing it talks down to teachers, many of whom are young and tech-savvy, and regularly use social networks outside work.
“The site appears to be more concerned with scaremongering than providing useful content to help further the use of technology within schools. Any non-techie teacher may feel threatened by case studies, warning them about losing data, fake social network profiles or cyber-bullying,” he said. “In a crowded school curriculum, technology needs to be encouraged. Teachtoday.eu seems more concerned with potential pitfalls. How can you expect teachers to embrace technology if they are made to feel paranoid?”