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Guidelines on e-Safety in Schools: Educating towards responsible, accountable and ethical use of ICT in education

Goal 16 of the DBE’s Action Plan to 2019: Towards the Realisation of Schooling 2030 commits the Department and its partners, to improve the professionalism, teaching skills, subject knowledge and computer literacy of teachers throughout their careers. The DBE is responsible for ensuring access to the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) environment if our education system is to be relevant and in keeping with current practices globally. The integration of ICT in education is essential for learners and teachers to develop and support their education needs throughout secondary, post-secondary and tertiary levels. The early integration of ICT into primary and secondary education is therefore vital for ensuring the integration of ICT into educational institutions and classrooms. Cell-phones in particular, are endemic in this country, having a far-reaching footprint, even in the most rural of areas, so education needs to be a step ahead in ensuring that learners are equipped to manage both the risks and the benefits.

The revised Guidelines on e-Safety in Schools: Educating towards responsible, accountable and ethical use of ICT in education, published by the Safety in Schools Directorate, will ensure that current practices in ICT in education is provided within a framework that promotes a safe and caring environment for learners and teachers. Furthermore, it ensures the delivery on our constitutional and educational imperatives such as the protection of human rights, redress and equity, social cohesion, accountability and independent learning.

The advantages of using ICT for education far outweigh the disadvantages; however, these disadvantages need to be managed thoughtfully and responsibly in order to ensure the protection of our children through proper Information Security (IS) education and awareness within schools. The e-Safety Guidelines seek to identify the different ICTs currently used by school communities, teachers and learners, and to recommend strategies around managing ICT for the appropriate and optimum use in, and for, education.

Issues of concern regarding ICT access in schools include online harassment and cyberbullying; physical danger and sexual abuse; exposure to unsuitable materials; plagiarism and copyright infringement; and the obsessive use of the Internet. These could also affect the physical health of the learner. Children need to be encouraged to play outside, read physical books, and engage directly with physical persons, too.

Although these guidelines have been written specifically with schools in mind it is also essential that parents, Provincial and District officials also take cognisance of the content and apply it in their own situations where relevant. Ethical and accountable use of technology applies at district level as well as in the schools. They should also support the school in the implementation of the Guidelines. Technology, as per its broadest meaning, has an imperative role to play in today’s classrooms. The use of the technology, however, must be carefully and strategically implemented in order to be of the highest value to both teachers and learners. Recognising that the use of technology will increase exponentially in all our lives, the responsibility of the school is to not only incorporate technology as a valuable learning tool, but to also equip the learners to be discerning, responsible and ethical participants in the information age.

Through the Safe School Committees, schools must develop their own Acceptable Use Policy (AUP), as it must be recognised that children will bring an increasingly sophisticated range of handheld devices into schools, giving them separate access to content that is not necessarily appropriate. The AUP should be linked to, and the penalties defined by, the existing Code of Conduct that must be adopted by every public school. Teaching and learning can be greatly enhanced with increased access to communication and information and this potential needs to be maximised by teachers. Integrating technology appropriately into teaching practice is important. The teacher has to ensure that they themselves are digitally literate and can teach technology with confidence. Learning to take responsibility for one’s behaviour is an important element in the education path and this includes the use of technology.

 

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