Tag Archives: schools


Why it's time to regulate social media in schools

It is spring time, and once again I am planning a new network security plan for a school. The same issues as always, and the same questions, many involving social media.
All questions usually have answers with a price tag attached. Value in such planning is very subjective. After all, we spend money every year managing free apps on iPads, how does that make financial sense?
One question cannot be answered. Regardless of my due diligence and the school’s willingness to fund a comprehensive plan, students will still have phones. Those phones will have data plans. Those data plans circumvent all the work we do. Parents do not seem to care, because they are worried about having that device for logistics and emergencies.
These devices are addictive, and the applications are purely for entertainment and dopamine-driven feedback loops.
Yes, the network can manage the problem when students are on Wifi; but not when the students are on their own network.
Jamming signals is not legal in most countries, and localized jamming seems to cover very large spaces. Even if it was legal, it would impact other services.
I believe all problems can be solved, and I believe I have a solution for this one. Generically, I like to call it Social Media for Education.
Social Media for Education Explained
The core concept is simple. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., would offer an educational package. I firmly believe this should be a paid service for schools that can afford it, and free for schools that can demonstrate hardship. If you consider the cost of properly  blocking Apps on Wifi ($10-50 USD per student per year), this service would be viable if priced appropriately.
The social media companies would follow a Google Apps or O365 model for schools to join. They would require any person under the age of 18 to register as a student connected to a school.
For example, schools who sign-up would be given a school code, and could provide a student ID based roster for cross-referencing. Any person under 18 would be required to connect their profile to a school or education program of some sort(some students are home schooled or have other types of educational plans).
Unless they are connected to some type of educational plan, they simply cannot use social media until they are 18 years of age.
Schools who join would receive these benefits:

  1. Social media profiles are deactivated from 8:00 am – 3:00 pm everyday, in the timezone set by the school. This prevents VPN access from spoofing the clock.
  2. Schools could centralized a two steps homework system. Teachers would use Social media to circulate messages related to the school, and unless students confirmed all messages have been received (read), their profiles would not be activated. Although confirming a message has been seen does not equal work completed, it does mean the student acknowledged receiving the message. Blocking all other activities until all messages are cleared would prioritize the school’s notifications.
  3. Since all students can be identified and connected to a school or program, cyber-bullying would be easier to manage. Schools would need to make a request for data, but that data would connect to a student ID (most likely), and a verified location.

I have thought of more options, but, I would consider the above a tier one solution.
See also: The DOs and DON’Ts of social media for teachers
It Cannot Work Unless There is Regulation
It is clear from current practices, such as not enforcing the age restrictions for users, that social media companies will not offer services to schools that help disconnect students during their academic day.
In places like France, the government is physically banning phones from campuses. Other schools follow strict device confiscation policies. These measures only create a black market for phones, theft among students, and a burden on families who are victims of theft.
Trying to regulate property, and potentially facing liability issues related to property, is not the path to follow to solve this problem.
Governments need to simply require social media companies, or any company making a communications product, to provide the an identity and connection management system for those under the age of 18.
Those over 18 already have to use multiple methods to verify themselves when making new accounts. However, students seem to be able to join social media using devices and phone numbers that are not even legally in their own name. Think about that? I give my child a phone and number, they use it to join Facebook? How is that legal or even verified?
Not Enrolled in School = No Social Media
Compulsory Education around the world varies. Very few countries report having no compulsory education requirements.

No Requirement Based on Previous Data
Oman 0 2007
Solomon Islands 0 2002
Cambodia 0 2008
Holy See (Vatican City) 0 2007
Tokelau 0 2007
Bhutan 0 2008

The world-wide impact of adopting social media regulation of this caliber would equate to those under 18 not being allowed on social media, if they could not demonstrate they were enrolled in some type of educational program.
Likely, many countries would not participate in such regulation at all. However, it really only has to be country by country. As international as these platforms seem to be, connections students have are usually very local. Most students have their primary social network within the school they attend. That means their social media time is literally just interacting with people they could easily look at and speak with.
If Facebook in India were not participating, that would not impact a school in Korea. If students were to move from country to country (or school to school), they would have to re-register. The meta data from that behavior alone would help confirm drop-out rates, possible issues within school districts, etc. I believe the unknown benefits of the data would be substantial. Observer effect issues and data manipulation by school administration would be reduced.
I have been working with teenagers since 2005. I have worked with students from over 100 countries. I have been a technology disruptor, more times than I have supported the status quo. I believe in BYOD programs, and any students I have worked with will confirm I empower them to lead and make decisions. I know when I see a problem in the plan and the patterns. I know when students are not engaged, and when they are not learning. Mobile devices with addictive applications are a real problem. The design is an addictive design, and the effects are powerful. I hate regulation, but unfortunately, I think we are there.
More from Tony DePrato here. 
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The timesaving guide to bringing technology into schools

Consider this your straightforward digital guide that will get any school on the path to effective technology integration.

Getting Started

Any educational organisation is looking to see how digital media will disrupt its organisational model. And it will quickly come to the conclusion that it needs, in part at least, in order to be able to offer education across digital media and, in doing so, create different models for education delivery beyond the classroom. It needs to transform the way it looks at delivering education, not just to offer a digital alternative to the traditional model, but also to give students exposure to mechanisms of learning they will use throughout their adult working lives.

There are a number of models of blended learning, but it’s more a matter of the mindset – to allow different schools to adopt different approaches – than it is about being prescriptive. But there are useful approaches to share:

There will be no one-size model for every school to adopt wholesale – the schools will be on a spectrum of digitisation – from fairly basic adoption to a full-scale blended model. To succeed, digital must be a part of the way you do things, and not a separate team or workstream which is all too easy for the rest of the organisation to ignore. This is, therefore, about embedding digital across the whole school, so that, within, say, five years, your school is an organisation which is digital by default.


Photo by Marta Markes on Unsplash

The Ingredients

To create a digital organisation, there must be a number of key ingredients:

Platform: A digital platform that allows for your school to adapt it to your own needs, which is intuitive for the user while containing the functional needs of parents, student and teachers

Content: Content on that platform that meets and anticipates those needs. This content will come from the curation of quality content on the web, the signing of school-wide licencing deals and the creation of bespoke school content (which may have re-sale value)

Format: A policy on formatting which understand the digital habits of pupils, teachers and parents

Digital PD: A program of digital professional development for teachers which encourages them to adopt digital methodologies and encourages them to do so.

IT needs: A program of needs analysis with your IT team to enable them to equip schools with the capacity to deliver digital education and the creation of digital delivery programs for each school.

Digital curriculum: A program to develop a digital curriculum for pupils to set accepted standards across the network (with the provision for different standards for different schools models) on devices, formats, storage, behaviour and so on.

Data: The long-term adoption of better data gathering on attendance, performance, achievement etc to create data profiles of pupils to better personalise and incentivise their education.

– Digital culture: The creation of a culture of innovation and experimentation to allow the digitally savvy to develop their own digital work, with a network to share that best practice

– Partnerships: Your school is new to the market – to fast-track understanding, you could make partnerships with companies large and small to facilitate speedier delivery of projects

– Profitability: Digital content is unlikely to make huge profits, and that may not be the driving force for your school, but there will be instances where you can re-format content and take it to markets outside of the school network to make some money (to be reinvested) and build a reputation for digital delivery and innovation

– Reputation: A newly digitised school needs to change its external reputation to one of a digitally aware company. Much of this comes from delivering rather than talking about it, but you must look to change the way you present ourselves. This starts with the websites, but also includes your presence at conferences, your range of contacts, your external messaging.

See also: 5 digital tools (and tips) that will help new school leaders

Photo: Unsplash


Fundamentals To Consider

As with any digital media project, there are certain fundamentals which have to be thought through:

1) Audience – user-centred learning

Both students and teachers will better engage with digital curriculum resources that explicitly address the target audience profile and the intended objectives and that are aligned with curriculum and assessment standards.

To ensure your resource is focused on the target learner:

  • Describe who the target user is (eg background, age, language)
  • Take into account their prior knowledge of the subject
  • Define the learning objectives of the resource, aligning them with the relevant curriculum content descriptions and achievement standards
  • Be aware of the need to be inclusive (eg by taking into account l earning styles, cultures, disabilities, genders)
  • Consider how the resource is likely to be used (eg alone, as part of a group, with or without teacher support)
  • Plan the context, content and behaviour around engaging the target user (eg visuals, interactivity, humour, media types).

2) Interactivity

Effective digital learning design uses interactivity to engage the user in a meaningful activity with a purpose.

Digital curriculum resources offer opportunities for varied interactive experiences, enabling learners to:

  • Make choices and decisions
  • Inquire, investigate and problem solve
  • Gain feedback on progression and achievement
  • Interpret information and apply new knowledge in a range of contexts
  • Develop and present final products
  • Communicate and collaborate.

3) Engagement

Engagement and motivation are achieved through a mix of aesthetic, technical and educational design.

Things to consider that are central to engaging learning design:

  • How to achieve a high level of interaction (for individual learners, between groups of learners and between learners and the teacher)
  • What sort of innovation and creativity will stimulate highly technology-literate learners
  • The needs of teachers or facilitators at all levels and stages of schooling and in different learning areas, including those new to the online environment
  • The requirements of the learning environment itself (online or classroom-based)
  • How the resource is likely to be used (eg alone, as part of a group, with or without teacher support)
  • The type of content likely to engage the target user (eg visuals, interactivity, humour, media types).

4) Structured Learning

In digital curriculum resources, a structured learning approach can help consolidate the process of learning by:

  • Scaffolding student learning
  • Engaging the learner at various levels of complexity
  • Assessing learning as it proceeds
  • Supporting communication and collaboration
  • Using authentic situations.

  5) Education Value

If a digital curriculum resource is not relevant to the content and achievement outcomes identified in the curriculum, teachers and students will not use it, no matter how interactive and engaging it may be.

Where applicable, the resource should be based on an acknowledged pedagogical framework.

Things to consider when planning the value of the digital curriculum resource:

  • What learners will achieve by using the resource
  • Whether the objectives are relevant to a specific curriculum or pedagogical framework
  • How assessment can be embedded in the learning design.

6) Pedagogy

Formalise and share the digital pedagogy with teachers. Don’t restrict it to blended learning schools or the highly digitised, this must (a) come from the top and (b) be shared throughout the organisation. This would also include the systematic delivery of research findings (both ‘for’ digital learning and against

7) Building Skills

Create a series of ICT/digital training modules within the school’s existing PD framework to build skills and confidence in the use and creation of digital materials. This would nee d:

  • A skills audit to assess the general level of understanding of digital and to pick out exemplars amongst the current professionals to use as leaders and examples to the others.
  • Training resources and materials (digital of course), to be used in PD programs. These may even be distributed/sold outside of the the school network, to create revenue streams and show your school as a leader in the field. These may also be created in partnership with other organisations
  • Develop materials especially for non-ICT and non-science teaching to drive digital learning away from the ‘easy wins’
  • ‘Buy in’ digital professional development materials from third party organisations
  • A series of workshops and seminars to create and discuss best practice
  • A series of guest speakers to present and discuss broader digital issues and practices
  • Strong assessment tools to show whether teachers are progressing

8) Sharing Best Practices

Develop ‘lighthouse’ schools that show off the best in breed in digital provision. This could include partnerships with corporations (Apple for example) to deliver such excellence and to do so publicly.

Establish ‘digital champions’ – a teacher (or two) in each school (ideally not the ICT guy) who will be the evangelist and supporter for digital teaching. Allow other teachers to sit in on their lessons to pick up tips to apply within their own lessons.

Establish a communication network across the school to facilitate cross-school professional relationships aimed at building digital capacity.

Embed the best digital work in public facing websites – both the open (marketing) sites and the VLE environment

9) Embedding Skills

You should think about appointing a specialist digital learning coach in your school – training up existing staff but freeing them up to work on the wider brief, and ensuring their skills and knowledge are embedded with the wider school body.

10) Innovation

The key to the success of the digital element of a School of the Future is constant iteration and innovation. The platform that waits for the next version every two years; the formatting protocols which don’t change and the awareness of the possibilities of the innovations brought about by others.

You have to encourage your school – teachers, but also parents and pupils, to use digital to innovate. Innovation is not top-down and is not (always) controlled. You need to give teachers the opportunity to create content, create products and deliver them in new ways. Some will fail, but you need to be more relaxed about that.

11) Embedding a digital culture

You need to set out how you do this in three ways:

i) Encouragement

The best licence to do something is to go ahead and do it. You need to encourage the development of new approaches. You could bring in a series of guest speakers to speak to both the teaching and student bodies; set up ‘hack days’ with local developers to build new teaching tools; contribute and even host conferences on digital learning – become part of an educational digital learning community. This kind of collaboration is also a licence to individual teachers.

ii) Tools & Technical Help

You can’t do a hack day if the wifi doesn’t work, if there’s no in-house APIs or content to work with or if there’s no support. Teachers are there to teach and while some will innovate, you will also need a small enclave of professional and amateur coders and developers to help develop the platform, create or re-format content and so on. These would best be pulled together by a semi-formal group of ICT digital teachers. It already exists and can be put to good use.

iii) Boundaries

Teachers will need to know when they’ve crossed a line – exposing too much pupil data to public view, perhaps, or crossing boundaries on social media. The boundaries are exactly the same on digital as off-line, but a working document about what you expect (including social media policy especially) would be a useful way of making sure that problems encountered are ones of implementation not privacy law…

And finally you need luck, patience, persistence and a little nerve. Good luck…

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Education Health

Later school starts lead to better attendance

When high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later, attendance rates and graduation rates improve, according to a new study.

The study backs previous research that says additional sleep boosts psychological, behavioral and academic benefits for teens.

“So much research explains the impact of insufficient sleep on suicide, substance abuse, depression, auto accidents and more,” said lead study author Pamela McKeever of Central Connecticut State University in New Britain.

“This connects the dots between the world of science and education,” she told said.

“Through this, educators and parents can see how lack of sleep impacts the school indicators that we use to measure student success.”

McKeever and colleague Linda Clark looked at school start times, graduation rates and attendance rates for 30,000 students in 29 high schools across seven states. They found that two years after a delayed start was implemented at these high schools, average attendance rates and graduation rates had increased several percentage points.

For example, the average graduation completion rate was 79 percent before the delayed start was implemented, and it was 88 percent afterward.

“This doesn’t only impact our high school students. This impacts all of society,” McKeever said. “As graduation rates improve, young adults experience less hardship after graduation, a lower chance of incarceration and a higher chance of career success.”

Delayed bell times could close the achievement gap as well, McKeever and Clark wrote in Sleep Health, the journal of the National Sleep Foundation. When schools start later, students in lower socioeconomic categories are more likely to get to the bus on time. When they arrive at school on time, they’re more likely to stay in class and graduate.

“When kids miss a bus early in the morning and that’s their only form of transportation, they miss class and then soon the credits,” said Kyla Wahlstrom of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who wasn’t involved with this study. “People don’t understand the link between early wakeup times and graduation rates, but it’s that direct.”

Since the late 1990s, Wahlstrom and other researchers have suggested that delayed high school start times may help students. In 2014, she and her colleagues reported that in a three-year study with 9,000 students in eight public high schools across three states, attendance rates increased with a start time of 8:35 a.m. or later.

In December, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine advised that later school start times could improve sleep, reduce car accidents and reduce sleepiness. The American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends 8:30 a.m. as the earliest time to begin school.

But school policies have yet to change nationwide. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 42 states, 75-100 percent of public schools start before 8:30 a.m.

Teens are “driven by biology to go to sleep later, and there’s not much we can do about that, but school start times are the main reason they get up when they do,” said Anne Wheaton, an epidemiologist at the CDC in Atlanta. Wheaton wasn’t involved with this study.

A limitation of the study is that many variables affect attendance and graduation rates. Changes at the school level, such as different teachers, policies and the surrounding community itself, could affect students and their ability to complete class credits, extracurricular activities and afterschool jobs. Also, the data didn’t measure sleep time or indicate whether students slept more due to delayed start times.

“The debate about school start time and adolescent sleep patterns has been going on for a number of years,” said Mary Carskadon of the Sleep for Science Research Lab at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, who wasn’t involved with this study.

“Efforts to delay the school bell are more likely to succeed best when parents and the teens themselves use better choices,” she told Reuters Health by email. “This includes having a set bedtime and limiting arousing activities in the evening.”

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