Wrestling with Web Safety:
Managing Experiences to Focus on the Positive
Where do your students go when they need answers quickly? If you are a confident Internet user, chances are that you will head for your computer. What better way to motivate that ‘just in time’ discovery learning that we talk about? The only problem is what you ‘discover’, may well be more than you bargain for.
The Internet has expanded the walls of many classrooms. It has also raised the issue of web safety for teachers who need strategies to cope with the implications of access to the wider world. The Internet offers unprecedented challenges to educationalists due to its global, dynamic nature. Teachers are required to deliver learning in how to use the technology, how to manage the technology, and most importantly, the responsibilities that such access brings with it. Becoming an informed, confident user of the Internet could be a prerequisite to being a classroom practitioner.
To support the safe use of Internet in the classroom, teachers need to experience the value and challenges of the Internet firsthand. This will enable them to make parallels with ways that Internet access could benefit students and give them the confidence to manage those benefits and risks. The Internet can offer the individual teacher access to:
- professional documents, associations, magazines and readings
- online discussion groups for study, or on educational issues
- lesson and unit plans, and resources for teachers’ own background learning
- current events
- Te Kete Ipurangi (Online Learning Centre)
- personal interest topics
Guiding Students to Success
Positive experiences with Internet are equally important for students. The emphasis on safe strategies needs to be balanced with the provision of frameworks for effective use, steering students towards successful, meaningful results. Teachers need to identify how they will customise Internet experiences to account for the age and backgrounds of their students. Younger students may have a selection of sites bookmarked for use. Older students may take more control of their investigation as they develop sufficient understanding of how the Internet works.
The key to using the Internet is planning. "Go and find it on the web", gives insufficient criteria for a successful or safe experience. Students involved in Internet based exploration should be given guidance prior to facing the screen. They should define their intentions in writing, check these with the teacher, and be reminded to apply information selection skills, including skim reading. Guidelines could be included in a sequenced structure like that which follows.
What is my focus?
What key words can I extract from my focus questions that might be used as search terms?
I am finding useful information at these sites: (bookmark or record)
Summarise key discoveries:
What I am going to do with the ideas I discovered:
Something I was not looking for but found interesting:
I confirmed the reliability of the ideas I found by:
-Looking at another site
-Checking in a book
-Checking with a buddy
-Communicating with the site owners/developers
What sites I/my teacher already know/s of that might be useful in my search?
I need to refine my key word search to: (optional, depending on success factor)
Define any new questions that came from search answers:
What am I going to do with any relevant findings?
-Bookmark pages to revisit?
-Copy text into a document for printing and summarizing later?
-Print to summarize later?
-Read information as I find it?
Jot notes and specific answers in note form:
Evaluate sites used:
Evaluate success of searching:
Did I experience any problems with yucky sites?
How did I manage this?
Internet Research Planner Design
Policy and Management
Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs) have been promoted as a way to manage school based Internet activities. Students respond well to such guidelines, and teachers feel more confident in employing Internet when a set of consequences have been identified. Parents are assured that the school is addressing the matter.
Identifying what constitutes ‘inappropriate material’ can assist in addressing how it is managed. Students can learn to discern what may be unsuitable, but they cannot be expected to always know. Consequently teacher supervision not only of the online experience, but also of the student’s whole research process is vital.
Unsafe or inappropriate may include images, text or other features that present:
- Misinformation - an attempt to provide inaccurate ideas
or communicate in a plausible manner to deceive the viewer
- Extremist Groups - those who may use the internet to recruit
- Criminal Activities - sites presenting information to assist
in illegal activities
Preventative measures can be considered and included in an AUP:
- Regular and publicised checks of History on computers
- Posters promoting school AUP
- ISP with filtering protection selected
- Filtering software installed on all computers
- Gain support of parent community, and support AUP carryover to homes
- Teachers receive Internet training and support in curriculum integration
- Teachers select and bookmark suitable sites
- Schools develop intranet to act as a gateway to suitable sites, or cache selected sites
- Students, parents and all staff sign an Acceptable Use Agreement
- Students are taught strategies to manage situations of inappropriate access
- Incorporate safe web use into an existing school wide programme such as Kia Kaha, Skills for Growing, or Keeping Ourselves Safe
So if a student does identify such material in the course of legitimate searching what needs to happen?
- Turn off the screen, OR Click the Stop button, OR Quit with a shortcut
- Report to the teacher immediately
- Discuss with teacher and parents
- Details of the event and how it was managed may be recorded
Safety issues also apply when the school decides to have its own online presence in the form of a school web site. The protection of individual identities and respect for copyright and intellectual property must be maintained. Therefore the AUP may be designed to cover the publication as well as the end use of Internet.
Finally, consider the Internet an ally to learning and focus on the benefits.
Useful Reference Web Sites
Site of the Internet Safety Group of New Zealand - includes
AUP development information, research and contact points.
An excellent site to use in evaluating the quality of sites found for students.
From Jamie MacKenzie’s From Now On site, this address provides links to several pertinent links to start your reflection process.
Use the quick search tool in Te Kete Ipurangi. Type in ‘internet safety’ to receive a wide selection of background material.
An international web safety site.
An American FBI site, directed towards parents, with suggestions of how to identify concerning behaviour in teens and a detailed glossary of web terms.
Click on the link, ‘Good Stuff for Kids’ to see a huge list of safe sites for students to use.