The primary school, where I currently work, is in the midst of investigating safe social networking sites for children. There is an acceptance that children are connected to technology on a daily basis, using it for educational and recreational purposes and in support of global citizenship. As a consequence, cyber safety is a significant focus. Currently, our students participate in many online environments including blogs, and posting to Vimeo.
The release of national statistics in 2012 by the minister for education, Peter Garrett point to disturbing figures of the prevalence of cyber bullying in his Be Bold Stop Bullying Facebook Campaign Launch. This is a major concern for the school community highlighting the need for constant revision of cyber safety practices. This has contributed to a greater focus by the school in assessing our current efforts and discovering where we can improve.
As part of this school-wide initiative, I investigated library based initiatives in support of schools’ efforts to promote cyber safety. I discovered the 13 project via a thread on the OZTLnet list serve and then investigated further. 13 Project was launched on 1st March 2013 by school library associations across Australia in recognition of the important role of school libraries and participation of school library staff in schools’ efforts to help keep their students safe online.
As a librarian, in a school based environment, being able to locate resources and provide access to these resources is of primary importance. This professional learning activity enabled a connection with the information needs of the school community and the library in resourcing those needs. Via the 13 project, some of the resources mentioned were areas our school identified for investigation, namely social networking sites that are safe environments for children in this age group. I evaluated the suggested social networking site Skooville. After the initial evaluation I shared the online resources from 13 project with teachers in our school and provided a recommendation of the Skooville program to be considered for implementation across the school. I attended the morning briefing during Cyber safety week and discussed this resource with staff thus saving them time in investigation of this important area.
Discovering a national library-based advocacy initiative, with a focus on cyber safety, was the most significant learning from this activity. With the networks to library professionals accessed via OZTLnet I can transfer the learning and extend the library into the school. This affirms the importance of the library for school based initiatives with a focus on curriculum and community needs. One of the tools particularly useful to school administration is the Safe Schools toolkit as it provides an online audit tool to help with school prioritisation in this area. This information was shared with the leading teachers.
At this stage, I can see there is more that can be done by the library and staff in this area. Prior to this, our library had no knowledge of 13 project and the Skooville site. This activity has enabled the beginning of this knowledge and connecting with the wider school as a result.
The next step in this professional learning will be to involve the school in some of the other suggested initiatives as part of the National Cyber Security Awareness week. This will be explored for the next year.
Cybersafety is an ongoing learning curve needing constant evaluation and awareness raising. 13 project is a great starting place and resource.