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Education

Not to know is bad, but not to wish to know is worse.

West African Proverb

When it comes to equipping and empowering young people to survive and thrive in an unknown future, everyone accepts that education is key.

However, many of the adults who control the ‘doors’ to unlocking new social media and personalised ICT platforms within formal education remain suspicious and even scared of the power of these new tools in the hands of learners. There are of course really important concerns and protection issues, but to simply fear what we don’t understand or have not experienced personally, is short-sighted.

The task for all of us then is to help unlock the doors and keep them open long enough to be able to glimpse the new future and properly assess the opportunities. We need to accept that as we travel through the doorway the traditional distinctions between teacher and learner, producer and consumer, creator and copier will change. There will be profound challenges, amendments needed to policies and practices, but also astonishing opportunities for children and adults alike.

We do children a terrible disservice if we retreat to our comfort zone and don’t take the time to learn from them; recognise what they bring to technology, trust and support them and find ways of understanding and harnessing the technology together. Schools and families need good policies and secure technical infrastructures but they also need to be committed to developing relevant, imaginative education programmes which equip children.

This is where I can help

Over the last 17 years I’ve worked with thousands of children, young people, parents and in schools around the world, helping others look at ways in which technology can be harnessed and used positively, and teaching children about e-safety and responsibility.

As I continue my work I have set as a target the task of working at least once a month directly with children and teaching staff in schools; listening to and learning from them so as to understand and celebrate how new technology can be used safely to extend learning and engagement and raise attainment. This is a whole-school issue not just an ICT technical one.

We have had incidents of cyberbullying in our school and have had Stephen in to talk to both our year 5 and 6 pupils and their parents on two separate occasions. Following both days the feedback was brilliant and we have been enormously impressed by the way Stephen helped both students, teachers and parents understand the risks and opportunities and how he offered practical advice and follow-up support. It is vital that schools support both learners and carers in using new technology and I would recommend to any school wanting to address issues of cyberbullying that they invite Stephen to work in your school."

Liz Robbinson Head Teacher Surrey Square Juniors School, Southwark.