One of the many things that MECS has invested in over the past 10 years has been our IT department infrastructure and resources, for all settings right across the school. This has benefited teaching and learning significantly and has also opened many exciting paths that both teachers and students can take, not only in delivering core curriculum but further opportunities to extend students.
Looking back to my own schooling journey at Bayswater South Primary, in 1994 my class was the test class that was the first to experience a room full of new, somewhat shiny PCs that were loaded with the latest and greatest software seen in schools to that point in time. Windows 3.1. This included access to the first touch typing programs as well as world class computer games including Minesweeper.
At that same point in time, a myriad of video game consoles were not only being released, but were also becoming increasingly affordable for families. For my 10th birthday, I was fortunate enough to receive an Original Nintendo NES that was released the year before I was born. Mario Brothers and Battletoads were the games in fashion; however, you were not able to save your progress after each level. No one cared, it was just how it was.
Console and computer graphics (while groundbreaking at the time) were terrible by today’s standards. There were no wireless headsets or controllers, and the only person you could chat to was whomever was in the room at the time playing with you on your console. Internet was dialup and most kids who grew up in the early to mid-90s were out kicking a footy or climbing trees, not glued to a screen. While video games and communication devices were entertaining, there wasn’t a huge range of them back then and the capabilities that each one had, were incredibly limited.
When comparing today’s students in upper Primary to those back in 1994, a lot has changed. One would hope so, given the time that has passed. While these changes and the developments made globally each year, come with many blessings, they also pose several serious challenges for parents and educators alike. This is seen in homes and schools every day across Australia. While curriculum around the country in 2021 ensures that Schools are preparing their students for today’s online world, parents need to be involved as well, especially in the area of Cyber Safety.
At MECS, we use several programs and initiatives to ensure that Cyber Safety is at the forefront of what we do. Expectations were clearly defined around how students should behave on MS Teams when we transitioned to online learning across the past couple of years. Classrooms are incorporating strategies and programs into their planners each term, from how you safely search on Google to taking students through online Government Cyber Safety lessons recommended for schools. This happens multiple times a year.
We also incorporate guest speakers to educate our students on all areas of Cyber Safety, including our very own Mic Dempsey. In Senior Primary, students have had the performance company ‘Class Act’ come to MECS many times over the years, to present a humour filled but important message to our students based around gaming safety, mobile phone and online communication safety, and what to do with your personal details in today’s online driven world. Middle Primary is now a part of that too, as we look to engage our students earlier than what we have needed to before.
It leads me to ponder as a parent of 3 boys starting their journey in the online world, albeit watching Octanauts and occasionally Rusty Rivets, am I doing all that I can to ensure their safety at home?
One part of me thinks it is all a bit over the top, but the other part of me thinks, what would I rather? My boys conduct themselves safely online, maintain safe online practices or become one of the increasing number of children who are either bullied online or are bullying someone else online (perhaps unknowingly).
My aim is to have open discussions as a family that provide a space that my 3 boys feel safe enough to talk to my wife and I, if they see something that makes them feel uncomfortable, or something is happening to them online that they can’t quite articulate.
It’s an ongoing challenge, but it is one that I am up for. I must be, for their sake.