As our education system evolves; are our internet security policy options keeping pace?
Education today is in revolution. Technology is playing a major role in both teaching and learning across all levels of educational institution. Content is going global, most of the required resources are on the internet and this transformation is creating classrooms that are required to be connected to the digital world. The changes happened rapidly, ten years ago Facebook, Youtube and iPads didn’t even exist, these are now all integrated parts of our everyday lives. Things are not slowing down in the foreseeable future, not least for the education sector.
Is what we’re teaching changing?
Due to these changes, education needs to be teaching how to learn and manage a cyber life as opposed to just teaching content. Current students will be doing jobs tomorrow that don’t even exist today. Whilst this is exciting for educators and the broader teaching departments, the challenges and issues it presents are many. One crucial area is in IT security management. This move into the digital era means the one size fits all security management system is totally outmoded.
Why can’t we access content when we need it?
Traditionally IT Departments set the internet security levels at an institution in a conservative manner. This protects both teaching staff and students from veering into unofficial usage areas and the consequences of that choice. Unfortunately these levels often restrict material that is required for classroom learning. Common requests such as, “Can you disable the web filter for my biology lesson on anatomy?”, arise daily and often multiple times in any one institution. The timeliness of these requests would vary widely depending on the staff, their individual training, the department and institution size. We all know in-class questions sometimes crop up unexpectedly. The potential burden on any IT department in this one area is obvious.
Access all areas – with knowledge
So how do we change this situation so the teaching and learning remains vigorous but the safety of the individuals isn’t being compromised? The key lies in training and awareness around web filtering. Effective web usage by both students and staff isn’t about restricting all areas but should be more focussed on educating everyone on how to use it more productively.
As Pip Cleaves, Senior Education Consultant from Design Learn Empower, puts it, “In my perfect world, teachers would have the ability to add or subtract departmental filters on a need-by-need basis. Very importantly we also need to teach the students how to self regulate. I’m of the ‘We have a swimming pool fence, but we still teach our kids how to swim.’ school of thought. These are skills these students need in life now. Not just whilst in an institutional context.”
So while the filters are less restrictive and more responsive to the needs of the institution, everyone is still aware that all their online activities are being closely monitored. It becomes a ‘life skill’ learning activity of self accountability and responsibility in the modern era. This is relevant and important stuff.
Empowerment is the key
Empowering the teaching staff and school delegates with the knowledge and training to be the decision makers for internet security versus curriculum requirement is a turning point in teaching today. Bringing this power and IT knowledge closer to the classroom level means more responsive and interactive classroom activities therefore the required learning outcomes are achieved using relevant and inspiring methods. Education should be happening with currency so it seems only natural that the educators understand and have power over the means by which we educate.