To block or not to block

February 15, 2010

Very often in education it is decided that the best way to “protect” learners is to block as much of the internet as possible. This is more often than not the policy in schools, nearly just as much in Further Education, and even in Universities.

I have for many years that technological solutions such as blocking are a blinkered approach to e-safety and that educating and training learners in how to use the internet safely and to be aware of the issues relating to digital identify was a much better and superior answer. If you block and lock down the internet, it can result in a false sense of security, this could result in learners not been fully protected.

It would appear that this viewpoint has been echoed in a recent Ofsted report on e-safety.

There was this interesting article from BBC News on this report:

Pupils given a greater degree of freedom to surf the internet at school are less vulnerable to online dangers in the long-term, inspectors say.

“Managed” online systems were more successful than “locked” ones at safeguarding pupils’ safety, they said.

The article continues…

The five schools judged outstanding for online safety all used managed systems to help pupils become responsible users of technology.

So what was the difference?

…while the 13 schools using locked down systems kept pupils safe while in school, these systems were less effective in helping them learn how to use technology safely.

Now this is interesting. You decide that the best way to protect learners is to lock down your system, the end result is that they are less protected.

One of the key reasons that this happens is that as the teachers and management perceive that the network is locked down and thus safe, they don’t need to worry about informing the learners about e-safety and digital identity. Of course once that learner goes home to their unlocked home internet, their smartphone, their 3G dongle, a friend’s computer… they have no concept of how to act responsibly and safely online and as a result put themselves at risk.

I would suspect that those schools that lock down their systems, have no real idea themselves about the issues and potential dangers of the internet for their learners; and feel that their responsibility only lies with their own computers… let the children fend for themselves outside school….

Whereas those schools which manage their systems, allow learners greater freedoms, have a much better awareness of e-safety and have ensured that it is part of the curriculum or tutorial programme.

If your institution is serious about e-safety and safeguarding, it will know that technological solutions are in fact not solutions at all, merely simple aids in supporting a coherent, robust practical strategy and policy based on education and training.

So what type of institution is yours?

Who helps your learners “become responsible users of technology”?

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Transforming the World

March 13, 2009

A quarter of the world use the internet and half the world now has a mobile phone.

The Guardian has an interesting article on an UN report.

The speed and scale of the world’s love affair with mobile phones was revealed yesterday in a UN report that showed more than half the global population now pay to use one.

The survey, by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), an agency of the UN, also found that nearly a quarter of the world’s 6.7 billion people use the internet.

I assume that if you are reading this that you more than likely have access to the internet (unless some kind soul prints out my blog articles for you to read) and if you do have access to the internet then more than equally likely you have a mobile phone.

The world is changing and the world is changing fast.

Transforming the World

We can’t as a sector afford to stand still, nor is it merely a matter of moving from one state to another. Society and our learners are changing and we need to ensure that not only we keep up with the technological changes, but that we also support our learners to keep up too.

The problem with ILT and e-Learning is that it will never be a place we can get to, it is much more a moving target and we need to keep moving to keep up.

For example new services come and go.

I use to demonstrate Gabcast which was a fantastic free podcasting tool, now it is no longer free. Should you stop using it, well no, it might cost money, but it might be money well spent. College systems may need to change in order to make it simpler for them to pay for services such as Gabcast, but the issue is less money (colleges spend money on lots of things) and more about processes and procedures.

This doesn’t mean that you should never use Web 2.0 and other free services.At the end of the day, things change, things close down.

My view is that institutions and individuals need to be more flexible, responsive and robust in how they use services and resources so that when things do change, break, close, or whatever, it has a minimal impact on the end user, the learner.


Mobile internet usage on the rise

November 25, 2008

Mobile internet usage on the rise

BBC reports on the fast growth of mobile internet usage.

Mobile internet use is growing while the number of people going online via a PC is slowing, analyst firm Nielsen Online has found.

Some 7.3m people accessed the net via their mobile phones, during the second and third quarters of 2008.

This is an increase of 25% compared to a growth of just 3% for the PC-based net audience – now more than 35m.

One thing which the survey also found was:

It also found that the mobile net audience was younger and searched for different things.

What this demonstrates is that our learners will be (or already are) using mobile devices to search for things on the internet.

Our learners will also as a result be more likely to utilise their mobile devices to access college web services, so we should ensure that ours are accessible from a mobile device.


Using more comms stuff

August 14, 2008

Ofcom have published a report, according to a BBC article, on the use of communication in the UK.

Britons are spending more time using communications services but paying less for them, says an Ofcom report.

Every day in 2007, the average consumer spent 7 hours and 9 minutes watching TV, on the phone, using the internet or using other services, it says.

Since 2002, mobile use has doubled and PC and laptop use has grown fourfold, says the watchdog’s annual review.

Though with falling costs of internet and mobile phones, though the UK is using more comms stuff, it is in fact spending less…

But the average UK household spend on communications in 2007 was £93.63 a month – a fall of £1.53 on 2006.

This certainly reiterates that our learners are well versed in the use of digital communication tools and therefore would probably be quite at home using them for learning.

Using more comms stuff

Photo source.


Intel says “world of mobile internet devices is set to explode”

July 25, 2008

Intel says world of mobile internet devices is set to explode

BBC reports on research carried out on behalf of Intel says that we will see a huge increase in the use of mobile internet devices.

The world of mobile internet devices is set to explode in the next four years says chip maker Intel.

Research carried out for the company suggests portable net-enabled devices will grow to 1.2 billion by 2012 as the need to be connected increases.

Intel’s predictions were unveiled as it launched a series of chips designed for portable web-browsing gadgets.

I certainly find I am using the internet on mobile devices more then ever.

I expect that learners will also be doing the same as devices get cheaper and smaller; and (importantly) internet access gets cheaper too.


Making it easier to get a signal

April 23, 2008

If you are like me you depend on your mobile phone.

Actually if you are like you depend on your mobile phone and 3G dongle for data.

I actually rarely use my mobile phone for actual phone calls, for me mobile data is what I use all the time.

I use it to allow my laptop to connect to the web, for all those kind of laptop based activities, browsing, e-mail, etc…

I use mobile data to Shozu my photographs from my phone to Flickr.

Making it easier to get a signal...

I use mobile data to update my Jaiku feed and use SMS to update Twitter.

I (now and again) browse the internet on the web browser on my phone – usually t find out if my train is delayed or cancelled or for traffic reports.

I use mobile data to allow me to stream live video from my phone via Qik.com to other locations.

If you are like me you depend on your mobile phone for mobile data, or you might just use the phone for phone calls!

Anyhow I was interested to read on the BBC website about a new technology which will make it easier to get a better signal.

The signal strengths of laptops and mobile phones are set to be radically improved if new technology developed by Oxford scientists comes to fruition.

Engineers at Isis, a technology transfer spin-out company of the University of Oxford, have found a way of creating antennas which can work in three “planes” but that are small enough to fit in hand-held devices.

Now if you are making a phone call and the signal strength drops, what you notice is a reduction in the quality of the call.

However with mobile data, if the signal strength drops, you find that internet access crawls and often you are faced with timeouts. You can replicate this by using 3G in a moving vehicle such as a train or a car.

If the signal strength can be increased this means that you can have greater reliability in using mobile data then you can now, which means you would be able to rely on it working rather than hoping it would work.


Apple iPhone’s Ease of Use Encouraging Mobile Internet Usage

February 15, 2008

Apple iPhone's Ease of Use Encouraging Mobile Internet Usage

Macrumors reports on how the fact that it is so much easier to use the internet on the iPhone that this is encouraging more people to access the internet on their iPhone.

Indeed, it appears that iPhone owners are using the internet many times more than their non-iPhone counterparts. Google revealed that there are 50 times more searches originating from the iPhone than any other mobile handset. The discrepancy was so great that Google initially thought it was a mistake. This finding has also been reported by O2 who found that 60% of U.K. iPhone users are sending or receiving more than 25 MB of data a month.

Read more.