Friday, 27 April 2012

E-Safety: Developing effective Practice.

I know this blog post is quite late after the event but I was going to use some of its contents to write an article (a proper one) for my workplace. As I am now leaving there, I will no longer be doing this so I thought I would share it as a post instead...
On 8th February 2012, I attended the very swish JISC headquarters in London. The event was free and was aimed at raising awareness and highlighting issues so practioners could ensure their organisations were providing safe environments for young people. I was attending because I had recently been involved in creating web safety guides and intranet pages for my place of work and had also been involved in putting together an event for the, as was, Colleges of Further and Higher Education London and South East Committee. CoFHE LASEC.

Firstly, Martin King from Ealing Hammersmith and West London College (EHWLC) started by quoting from Douglas Adams:

“Everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal”

“ Anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative”

“Anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation"These quotes to me accurately sum up people’s approaches to the internet and how we should approach web safety. For adults involved in teaching and promoting web safety we often see the virtual and real world as two different entities, however, young adults and children have become used to the two becoming intertwined and now see them as one.

Martin elaborated on the evolvement of the internet:
Web.1 (1990-2004) when only organisations published pages to sell products or services
Web.2 (2005 onwards) which is more collaborative and involves people networking and participating rather than having static web pages

Web 3 (2010 onward) the internet is not only being used socially but in real time and having an immediate and outstanding effect on the world, from the Arab spring to computer hacking.

He then went on to explain that due to the increase in smartphones, a symbiotic relationship was developing between people and their technology and as change becomes increasingly faster it is made much harder for educators and trainers to promote and teach safety.

He claimed in his research that students and institutions wanted very different things from safety. Students want privacy i.e. they want to know who is monitoring them and what they are going to do with the information they have and senior management want control and protection so are highly concerned with access issues. Those in the middle who teach and promote safety are mostly concerned with protection and guidance.I found this to be thought provoking and surprising where the students were concerned. I wasn’t surprised regarding the comments of those in senior management athough s often banning everything can often seem like such a simple and easy solution, if not a very enlightened or democratic one.

Amrik Aujila was also from EHWLC. His presentation focused on raising awareness of online risks and the responsibilities of members of staff in promoting and maintaining good safety practice. He gave us these OFCOM statistics:

50% of British teenagers (12-15) own a SMARTPHONE 60% of which classify themselves as 'addicted' / crackberry?

Top 3 - Social networking, Music, gaming and apps by comparison, only 27% adult own a SMARTPHONE, 37% 'addicted' Top 3 - email, surfing, social networking/apps.

He emphasised:

  •  the importance of having all policies in a well known and easily accessible place
  • ensuring they are consistent and also compatible with each other
  • all staff must be trained, even contractors, as everybody has the opportunity to come into contact with students and/or computers 
  • they ensure students know what is going on by integrating their policies and guidance into the SHAPE agenda, the Student Portal and National Be Safe week
  • Esafety has to be driven from the top down for it to work and have any impact
At EHWLC, elearning is embedded throughout the entire college. They have created a central staff resource for safeguarding including; policies, procedures, training materials, report abuse button. A ‘keep safe week’ is run once a term.

Nicola Prime, the elearning manager from Uxbridge College, like Amrik, emphasised the need to take a whole college approach.  All students have to go through a tutorial during safety week.
  • They have a panic button on Moodle where any type of abuse, not just web, can be reported.
  • There is a monthly esafety report which keeps staff up to date so they can alter the pages accordingly
  • All new staff have online web safety training within two weeks of joining and a face to face training session within 6 months. Non-contract people are included in this, including cleaners, volunteers etc.
  • An safety resource tutorial and quiz was created so that students could go thought it in one sitting or refer back to it over time. I particularly liked the getting students to locate on screen where the Facebook privacy settings were.
  • They have a dedicated Moodle course for esafety

Graham Francis from Havering Sixth Form College spoke about the issues from an I.T. perspective. He emphasised the importance of getting everyone to sign an acceptable use policy as otherwise people who commit misdemeanours cannot be punished as they can claim they didn’t know. 
  •  Havering College only blocks the category porn - they don’t block large categories, for example, violence.
  • hey use E-safe and Palo Alto 2020 to monitor what people are looking at
  • The college doesn’t allow people to use their own devices, however, this may be subject to change   
  • Documentation needs to be very clear and accessible – not hidden away on Sharepoint
  • Have to be reliant on third party software but means no personal agenda
  • There is a very big grey area with regards confidentiality versus duty of care – should parents, carers be told what students are looking at? No test case as yet
  • Tumblr now becoming an issue for phishing and spam

 To me this all seems very time-consuming to keep a check on what everyone looks at but it seems to work for them. An example was given of a young student looking at how to write a suicide note who had no reason to for their classwork. This person was then being offered counselling within fifteen minutes of typing. I can see that a duty of care is needed for youngsters but something about this freaked me out slightly. These comments all led to much discussion amongst the group over whether the education sector’s response to safety is to create a police state, much as they often went overboard with health and safety initiatives. Questions raised include: where does duty of care start and finish – just in school? Does filtering raise awareness?


 Other comments which arose during the discussion were that safe searching tips need to be taught so that students studying controversial topics don’t get blacklisted and that students are using encryption to maintain privacy so the students who lose out are the ones without the knowhow and/or technology as it becomes an ‘armsrace’ to stop students getting round access.

Dr Emma Bond from University Campus Suffolk spoke about students' perception of risk compared to ours. Below are some highlights:
  • We shouldn’t treat esafety and responsibility any differently to safety in the real world. For many young people the virtual world is part of their real world. It is the responsibility of all staff to promote safety and not just pass the book to the elearning or I.T. people because it has an e in front of it. It has moved on from I.T.  to safeguarding to everybody’s responsibility
  • Schools blocking social media are disadvantaging students who don’t have internet access at home
  • Higher Education is an area which isn’t being looked at despite older people not being brought up with it and often having children of their own
  • We should promote responsibility rather than lock down
  • Not all teachers know their legal responsibilities
  • Risks and opportunities are different from students and professionals views
  • If students are going to do things then offer practical advice, for example, if you’re going to take a naked pic of yourself then don’t put your head in it
  • Some sales jobs now use Facebook as a way of you getting a job, e.g. must have over 5000 friends to get job
  • Should be advising anxious and depressed students to go to welfare rather than go to pro ana or suicide sites
  • Emphasis should be on talking to someone after they’ve seen something or having an issue

Questions/considerations I have passed on to my instution are:
  • Do we have clear e-safety policies?
  • Are they clearly accessible?
  • How is filtering decided?
  • How do students disclose?
  • Do students and staff know what they should do?

 For more information about the day, including the presentations and useful links go the JISC RSC page. I really hope the web safety issues aren't dropped when I leave because I think it is very important and I have passed on the details of the follow up event for someone to attend. Dr Emma's comments about esafety not being a consideration in universities is an interesting one for me, especially as I work mostly with higher education students. My new job will be in a university so there may be some scope for starting something there - we will see...






Wednesday, 18 April 2012

If at first you don't succeed....

Over the last few years I have entered numerous library (and non-library related) competitions to attend conferences, events (or win shoes and theatre tickets) and have won absolutely nothing. I'd started to wonder whether it was worth it as it can be quite demoralising to keep getting rejected, especially after sometimes having to write essays or ask people for recommendations which can make all concerned feel a little cringy.

Last year I entered the Special Libraries Association (SLA) Early Careers Conference Award (ECCA) award in the Leadership and Management division and was beaten by the indefatigable Ned Potter. Even though I didn't win, it introduced me to the SLA and I have been paying it a bit more attention by reading their magazine have so far attended one of their events and a webinar. However, I digress. I decided that by entering so much I was just rattling off applications and possibly not putting enough thought into the specifics of each one I was applying to. So, as I realised that by putting thought and consideration into every single competition going I would have less time to spend it elsewhere I decided instead to be more picky. This is the reason why I almost didn't apply again for the ECCA award this year. It seemed like one of those too good to be true awards that only went to the great and the good. So off I toddled and applied for some money and time from work to go to LILAC - having never been before I keep hearing lots of good stuff about it and I know I would get a lot out of it. As it's directly related to what I do I thought it would be a doddle. In the meantime, I read this encouraging post from Bethan Ruddock and it gave me the final push I needed to complete the SLA application. Needless to say I didn't get the bursary from work but, wait for it reader, I am going to Chicago!

I am incredibly grateful to SLA and the Leadership and Management division for sponsoring me. I am very excited about it and I hope I do them proud.

So the moral of this story is what? I'm not quite sure. I guess don't just go for things that seem like an easy option. Don't be put off by something that looks too good to be true (unless it involves paying cash up front and claims that you will grow another five inches/lose five inches from your waist!) and keep trying.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Facilitation Uncovered

On Tuesday 20th March, I attended my first SLA Europe event - Facilitation Uncovered. We were told this was SLA Europe's first attempt at arranging smaller, more intimate training events alongside larger conference style ones and, I have to say, I really liked the format.

The root of facilitation, according to the blurb we were given, comes from the Latin word facile or without difficulty (it didn't just mean superficial which is how I'd always thought of the word). The training event was intended to give us guidance on how to make ideas flow and actions happen within meetings. I have led several staff development events in the past where I had to give lots of information, for example, feedback statistics, and encourage the team to come up with ideas on how to best respond in order to improve the service. As I'm a firm believer in continual improvement and had been meaning to get more out of my SLA membership I decided to go along.

The speaker, Linda Cockburn, started the session by promising to give us tips which would definitely work. This sounded promising. The first tip was to say a person's name three times (to yourself so you don't look too weird) in order to remember it. She did this as we introduced ourselves and she did get everyone's name right so maybe there is something to it. This is one I will have to try as I'm not very good at remembering names..

We were asked in small groups to come up problems we all had with facilitation and then discussed then. Some common problems were:
  • how to bring session to a close
  • how to encourage quiet people to contribute
  • how to get overbearing people not to dominate
  • how to stop talking to fill quiet spaces
  • how to record and contribute at the same time
Possible solutions were:
  • plan - planning is crucial
  • get people to write something down so even the quiet ones can contribute and aren't stuck for words
  • small groups help conversation and water down dominant people
  • counting to 5 before filling quiet space - otherwise others will not feel the need to speak if you're doing it all
  • set rules - there's then something to go back to if you lose track
  • tell people whether you really want their ideas or whether you just want them to agree to your plan - very important to get this one right
  • it is not possible to record and participate - the facilitator must stay out of it as they should remain neutral
  • get people speaking as soon as possible otherwise there's the risk they won't participate at all
  • treat all ideas equally and check that you are capturing all the information - have I got everything?
We then went on to discuss how to ensure actions occur. This I think is where lots of meetings go awry - people get so excited talking about the issues but don't come out with anything constructive. To get round this problem, Linda told us that a meeting should be split into three sections; divergent thinking (where everything that needs to be said is said), convergent thinking (where what's really important is looked at in more detail) and the end point (where the application is considered).

Further tips related to this were:

  • the sections should be given equal amounts of time, e.g. if a meeting is an hour then each part will last 20 minutes
  • if people are stuck on a slot then the facilitator should remind participants of the endpoint
  • keep things fresh during long sessions by using pair and group work, setting challenges etc
I'm glad I attended this event. Linda applied all her tips and tricks within our session and it flowed well. I won't be doing much facilitating at work for a while but I think it is a good skill to learn and one which I may be able to utilise within the ARLG LASEC, both in the committee meetings themselves and the events we hold.