Articles

The Role of Digital citizenship & Cybersecurity for Schools

Tuesday August 23, 2016

Karen Spencer is the Director of Education for NetSafe, an independent not-for-profit New Zealand specialising in digital citizenship and cybersafety. With over twenty years in the education sector in New Zealand and the UK, she is internationally recognised for her work in future-focused, inclusive learning through digital technologies, blended/online professional development and online community development.

She joined Ashleigh Tesluk of Legalwise Seminars to discuss Cybersecurity for Schools, talking mainly about the challenges, direction and tips on the issue.

You can hear directly from Karen at the upcoming Education Law Conference in Wellington on Friday, 16 September 2016.

You can find the transcript of the Q&A below.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, Karen?

I have been with NetSafe as their new Director of Education since June this year, having previously held senior consultancy roles across a number of national digital education projects. I have worked in education for over 20 years and have a strong interest in how schools can work inclusively with their learners and whānau to plan for confident, safe, and responsible use of online technology.

What are the 3 big changes/challenges affecting schools in terms of digital citizenship and cyber-security the last 12 months?

Schools and kura are grappling with the continued rise in the demand for, and use, of digital technology. We have see an increase in the use of students' personal devices, and the blurring of boundaries between school/home, as well as online/offline. While this offers exciting opportunities for learning, there is no doubt that many schools are experiencing a range of challenges. These typically range from cyberbullying and managing students' access to inappropriate content, to planning for breaches of security systems. In some cases, these challenges often then prompt schools to tackle the broader challenge of putting processes in place to help foster the digital citizenship capability of their community. There is a gap between the uptake of technologies and schools' knowledge of risk and how to manage it effectively.

What is the one area that people have underestimated/not fully appreciated and why?

The stories which hit the headlines often depict the most dramatic and worrying side of young people online, which can lead schools and families to respond with overly-protective or punitive responses. In reality, while these appear to be quick, short-term fixes, the interventions that are most likely to work require long-term strategic planning and the steady building of capability across the community with learners, their whānau and educators all engaged.

What is the one thing schools could do to improve digital citizenship and cyber-security and why?

NetSafe recommends that schools identify their starting point for proactive planning; begin with a clear vision for the kind of learning you wish to achieve and talk with your learners and community about the reality of what is happening for them online. Our NetSafe Kit has been designed to help schools get started on this process: https://www.netsafe.org.nz/the-netsafe-kit-for-schools/

What should school principals, BOT members and teachers be on the lookout for in 2017 in terms of new technology?

Every year brings a raft of new technology for schools to explore. In terms of online safety, we expect to see content providers continue to offer ways for users to filter and report harmful communications, as we are starting to see ISPs do here in New Zealand. From 2017, NetSafe will be managing and assisting with cases of online harassment as well as piloting new tools for schools to make it even more straightforward to minimise online harm and grow their community's digital capabilities.

You can hear directly from Karen at the upcoming Education law Conference in Wellington on Friday, 16 September 2016.

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