The role of remote learning during lockdown was immense. Many teachers and their children were suddenly launched into an environment that they had never truly considered as part of teaching and learning with primary-aged children.
Remote learning via the Internet was launched and schools found innovative ways to engage their children and to enhance their community communication, whether it was through new ways of using existing provision or suddenly signing up to Zoom, Teams or Google classrooms (there are other solutions available).
Remote learning threw some learning curves
Whilst online safety was always a consideration, it often followed development rather than led it. Who really knows what happened or indeed happens to the data of children signed up to free resources? How many people were shocked when their Zoom call was interrupted by a third party? How many teachers knew how to deal with an online incident between their children orchestrated through their online provision?
But what of online safety teaching?
The focus of the DfE regarding online safety has been very much around secure systems and access to quality resources. It has not been about teaching online safety. The decision to defer the effective implementation of Relationships Education to the 2021 Summer term has further pushed online safety teaching down the pecking order.
But this is only one half of the story
Lockdown not only promoted the use of technology and the benefits of online communication and collaboration for learning, but it broadened its appeal and use in unseen ways. My own grandchildren, who are already familiar with the internet took this to new levels during lockdown. Gone were their face to face meetings with their friends and peers, replaced with remote meetings, discussions and exchanges.
But what about solutions outside of school accredited systems?
To be fair these were in the minority. Far more meetings took place through the environments of Minecraft, Roblox and Fortnite. Had any of them had their own smartphones (owned by many of their peers) these would have been used for FaceTime or Whatsapp video calls. These 8 and 6-year-old children are now as familiar with online meetings as I am. More so, though, they now understand how and why voice changers are used, how they may bypass the communication through one platform and use an alternative more effective (and often more private one) through a third-party app.
The gear change in teaching remotely has also introduced new concepts around how digital learners need to conduct themselves online. Without face-to-face interactions with teachers and peers they have had to learn how to behave via digital learning means. It has also highlighted the need for pupils to understand how their actions can impact the emotional wellbeing of other pupils. Not only that but it is imperative they know how they can report anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or upset. These are all fundamental aspects of online safety, which schools must prioritise as we move into uncertain times, where online learning has and will become more prevalent.
Lockdown has only heightened the need for online safety training
What is clear is that lockdown hasn’t reduced the need for good quality online safety teaching; it has made it even more important. As schools return and are pressured to implement catch-up programmes to replace lost learning, there will be those schools who may feel the need to reduce the curriculum. It is essential that learning about online safety within the context of digital citizenship and digital well-being alongside relationships isn’t one of the areas that gets left out.
Children will need direct teaching and plenty of opportunity to practice their skills and knowledge in safe environments where teachers can intervene. Because of lockdown, the issues that previously impacted upper key stage 2 may well be pushed earlier in the primary years.
How can we help?
Our online learning platform, DB Primary is the perfect tool for both teaching remotely and for teaching first-hand the underlying concepts of online safety.
CPD Accredited Online Safety training
We also run online and in-person CPD accredited training courses to help schools map out their online safety training. If you would like more information on our courses, please contact a member of the New Era team below.