Up to the age of 19, when I flew the family nest to go to University, my ‘world’ was the sum result of all that I had experienced within the rather small parameters of my hometown combined with a few flashes of what else was ‘out there’ glimpsed in teen magazines, read about in the novels I devoured from the library or saw on the television screen. I recall being quite confused the first time I saw the list of schools my fellow trainee teachers and I were assigned to for our teaching practices. My hometown offered a three stage schooling system: First School, Middle School and College; therefore, based on my experience, I assumed this was the standard system across the country. It was quite a revelation to find that this was indeed a much lesser used system of schooling and that the two stage system of Primary and Secondary were much more common. I vividly remember how my previous perception of my hometown being the centre of the universe diminished as my ‘world’ grew and the overwhelming feeling of disappointment that followed; it was a similar feeling to learning the truth about Father Christmas all over again!
Fast forward a couple of decades and I look at my own children (both under 10 years old) and I have no illusion that their world is in many ways already much bigger than mine was at 19 years old. I would like to say that this is because we have travelled vastly and they have had opportunities for the most awe-inspiring experiences. However this is not the case. So far, their travelling experiences have only taken them as far as France and we live in a small village on the Somerset levels……but the power of the internet has opened a huge door for them which has given them access straight into the world way beyond France and our village and a knowledge that surprises me on a daily basis. On the whole I am a fan of technology (although have no idea how it all works) and continue to be amazed by what can be achieved. It saddens me to read articles that claim knowledge is now ‘obsolete’ owing to being able to find out what you need to know at the touch of a button and that libraries are closing due to under use as people choose digital literature over paper copies; a library is still a special place for me and the sensory joy of a physical book, in my opinion, cannot be replaced. However when balanced with the many positive advances technology has enabled us to do I can resolve with myself some of the things it has extinguished in its path.
As much as technology amazes me it worries me in equal measure too. In my small hometown up to the age of 19 my parents / teachers job was largely to keep me ‘physically’ safe. Most of this education was courtesy of the very short cut-out animated cartoon public information films for children, Charley Says, which pretty much provided me with the basics of what I should / shouldn’t do if I wanted to stay out of trouble and served me well given my childhood was devoid of any remarkably terrifying moments. With digital doors exposing children to the world and all the peoples in it, my job as both a parent and a teacher seems significantly more challenging.
Tomorrow is Safer Internet Day and in assembly this morning we thought about how it is important to learn how to stay safe when using the internet. All children love technology and just as we teach them to know the Golden Rules for staying safe and happy in the real world it is perhaps even more important to teach them how they need to apply the same rules when in the virtual world too. The focus for tomorrow is ‘Create, Connect and Share Respect’ and so we thought about how we should communicate with people digitally and what to do if you receive something worrying or upsetting. It gave me great confidence to see that the vast majority of the children already knew the answers thanks to our comprehensive Computing Curriculum which has an ‘online safety’ unit running throughout as well as supportive parents who are doing a great job in safeguarding their children’s digital interactions at home.
Hopefully as we continue to teach our children about the incredible world they can step into via a digital door and equip them with the tools they need to keep both themselves and others safe and happy their worlds will be bigger, bolder and brighter as a result.