eSafety Label+ Final Conference “Safer schools, confident teachers, happier pupils”
On Wednesday 20 November 2019, the “Safer schools, confident teachers, happier pupils” conference took place in Brussels. Based on the experience of the eSafety Label+ project, teachers and online safety experts discussed how to implement online safety education in today’s curricula and the classrooms of tomorrow.
The conference started with a welcome speech from the eSafety Label+ Project Manager at European Schoolnet, Sabrina Vorbau, who remembered the history of the eSafety Label initiative and its aim of being a one-stop-shop, sharing best practices and helping schools to review and develop their own ecosystem. She also presented the eSafety Label+ manifesto “Lessons learned and how to move forward...”, which is a publication that summarises the eSafety Label+ project and highlight lessons learned.
The eSafety Label+ Project Coordinator at the Computer Technology Institute and Press "Diophantus", Thomas Zarouchas, also took the floor to welcome participants to the conference.
Keynote speech by Boris Radanovic
The online safety expert Boris Radanovic gave a keynote speech in which he analysed the current online safety landscape. He started underlining the omnipresence of the internet and its importance in our lives nowadays. Then, he stressed the convenience of learning about the apps and social media platform where children are. “Children know that some apps are serious because adults are there. TikTok is still fun because adults are not there, so it is important for teachers and parents to download the app and open an account to know what children find on it," he explained.
Radanovic also highlighted the importance of talking to children about taboo topics because “if we consider a topic taboo, internet doesn’t.” Thus, children will find information online from other sources. An example of this are the Blue Whale and Momo challenges and the huge amount of children that searched for them on the internet.
He concluded underlining the benefits of a whole-school approach and encouraging participants to keep engaged, learn about digital developments and discuss with children about their digital life.
Online safety: A whole school approach
The conference continued with a world café session in which participants addressed four questions in regards online safety:
- What are the greatest challenges facing the children and young people that you work when they go online?
- How do we address these – should we?
- What works? How do we know if it has been effective?
- How do we reach parents?
eSafety Label and school accreditation
At the end of the morning, participants split in two rooms. In one room, Viola Pinzi (European Schoolnet) lead a discussion about the eSafety Label initiative with Aris Louvris (University of Athens), Elizabeth Brodsky (Liberty Global), Steven Opsomer (Scholengemeenschnap Sint-Vincentius, Belgium), and Despoina Andrigiannaki (Junior High School of Gazi, Greece). Speakers discussed the role of the initiative helping school lead with online safety issues, the role of technology companies on eSafety issues, and the importance of training school staff and involving parents in school initiatives.
“The reason we really like the eSafety initiative is because it gives schools clear ways to assess their strengths, their weaknesses, and become part of a dynamic community,” stated Elizabeth Brodsky. “We had quite a few problems with online safety in our school. For us, the eSafety label was an eye opener to start to take action,” added the teacher Steven Opsomer.
In the other room, Jan De Craemer (Ministry of Education, Belgium) chaired a panel discussion about school accreditation programmes with Deirdre Hodson (European Commission), Teresa Godinho (Ministry of Education, Portugal) and Irene Pateraki (European Schoolnet). Speakers presented different accreditation programmes, such as the eSafety Label, eTwinning school label or SELFIE, and discussed their relevance in the education landscape. While education experts and policy makers consider the process to achieve the labels the most important output of accreditation programmes, teachers are mostly focused on the labels themselves because they don’t have many opportunities to have their work recognised at an international level.
In the afternoon, participants split into little groups to join short presentations focused on different aspects of online safety led by online safety experts from across Europe. They were able to select four different presentations on topics such as cyberbullying, sexting, inclusive learning, Social and Emotional Learning, digital ethics, online safety challenges, digital ethics, passwords, security policies, Tik Tok and cloud storage.
In one of the workshops, eSafety Label+ partners Thomas Zarouchas and Aris Louvris presented the booklet “Security policies for safer internet”, a collection of policy tips on eSafety issues aimed at parents, teachers and students. The booklet, that was created by the Greek eSafety Label+ Ambassadors, is complemented with a set of posters that can be used in educational activities in the classroom and in information sessions, as well as in parents’ evenings at schools.
In another table, the online safety expert Verónica Donoso presented a booklet that appeals to teachers everywhere, but especially aims to ‘convince the unconvinced’ that the internet is here to stay and it will continue to play an ever-increasing role in everyone’s lives, which is why teachers should feel prepared to address the topic of online safety in their classroom. The title of the booklet is “Not concerned about online safety in your school? Here’s why you should be” and it was developed by the eSafety Label initiative with the sponsorship of Liberty Global.
The future classroom
The Digital Transition and Transformation in Education Expert Louise Jones looked at online safety in the classroom of the future in the second keynote speech of the conference. She noted that education has changed more in the last 20 years that in 1000 years and it has now “been freed from a specific place and time.” Since education is changing, the classroom has to change too.
In order to engage teachers with online safety issues, she suggested to build confidence little by little because it might be intimidating to start addressing it directly in the classroom.
The conference was closed by the Executive Director of European Schoolnet, Marc Durando. In his speech he remembered the beginning of the eSafety Label initiative back in 2012 and thanked all partners for their involvement in the project.