Raising a new generation of digital citizens in Armenia
- Safer Internet Armenia (safe.am)
The launch of the Armenian version of the Web We Want resource, published by European Schoonet (EUN), marked the ninth edition of Safer Internet Armenia. The programme, launched annually on Safer Internet Day (SID), currently unites public organisations, private organisations and educational institutions with the aim of raising awareness and educating about internet risks, privacy and security issues.
In the framework of the Safer Internet Armenia programme (http://safe.am), each year schools in the capital city and regions of Armenia host open lessons and meetings with parents, during which issues related to safer use of the internet and digital technologies are discussed, and educational materials are disseminated. Participants receive relevant information on how best to use the internet for educational purposes, safely and effectively, while Armenian language resources are published and disseminated among different age groups.
Training programmes for teachers and parents are also organised during which internet privacy and security issues are discussed, and information on technical solutions and on how to make the internet a better place for children is provided. Workshops with parents generally discuss various strategies aimed at preventing unethical use of new technologies by children. Competitions for "Best open lesson" and "Best meeting with parents" are held annually to promote key internet safety messages, to showcase educational activities by schools, and to encourage creativity and media production skills of participants.
"When it comes to ICT and youth, an Armenian fairy tale ‘The Brother Axe' comes to mind. Instead of serving its purpose of chopping wood, the Brother Axe injured innocent villagers, since they had never before used axes. The Brother Axe was bitten, burnt down and became a cause of a big fire destroying the granaries of the village… This fairy tale reminds us about negative effects new technology can have on human life," Anahit Khosrovyan, principal of the Yerevan School N 20 after John Kirakosian said during Safer Internet Day, celebrated annually at the school.
"With ‘The Brother Axe' story we start our lessons, trainings and workshops in internet safety for children, teachers and parents, trying to stimulate a debate around protection and empowerment, dangers and opportunities, negative and harmful use of new technologies and creative production, participation and citizenship," she said.
Safer Internet Armenia also has an educational component for teachers of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), aimed at engaging them in online projects. A new e-platform for STEM is being established where teachers can publish their educational materials, lesson plans and moderate discussions. The website will allow school children and students to find educational resources, watch lesson recordings, and follow topical discussions moderated by teachers, while educators will be trained in using e-learning tools. Such educational initiatives aim to help people to acquire the new skills and competencies necessary to take advantage of new technologies and gain from new education and learning opportunities, while overcoming the possible risks.
"We used to say that ‘ICTs are double-edged', since along with risks of isolation, anti-social behavior and harm, digital technologies can facilitate people's socialisation, integration, learning and, in some cases, protection," says Anahit Galfayan, teacher of informatics of the Yerevan-based inclusive school N 78 after Hayrapetyan, where children with and without disabilities study. Anahit is one of over 20 Armenian teachers who is taking part in the Online Safety MOOC offered by European Schoolnet and Insafe (the network of Safer Internet Centres (SICs) in Europe). This online safety course is delivered via a range of modules covering topics such as cyberbullying, hate speech, communication and media literacy.
Media literacy education has been one of Safer Internet Armenia's priorities over recent years. "Not only writing and editing, filming and video producing, but critical thinking or digital citizenship skills are equally important for the people of the 21st century. Along with other Armenian inclusive schools, we participated in media literacy trainings, during which we established our school website (http://school78.safe.am/) and learnt how to turn them into a creative environment for students' media production," says Anahit Galfayan, participant of the EU project "Voicing the Hopes & Concerns of Children in Armenia", for children with and without disabilities. "Children with disabilities particularly gain from mastering ICT, and the media production activities during our classes are generally welcomed and encouraged in school," says Anahit Galfayan.
This year's ninth edition of Safer Internet Armenia has been launched with support and participation from various stakeholder groups, and more than 800 schools (from a total of 1,300) have been reached so far through open lessons on internet safety. Schools have been provided with lesson plans and a variety of tools in the Armenian language, such as European Schoolnet's eSafety Kit and WebWeWant resources, and the Council of Europe's Internet Literacy Handbook. Recently, the materials of the STOP.THINK.CONNECT global online safety messaging campaign have been disseminated among the educational institutions of Armenia.
Safer Internet Armenia is a public-private partnership supported by !UCOM, National Center of Educational Technologies of the RA Ministry of Education and Science, Yerevan City Municipality. Activities are coordinated by the Armenian Safer Internet Committee. More information about Safer Internet Armenia can be found at http://safe.am and specific resources are as follows:
- eSafety Family Kit - Armenian edition
- Council of Europe Internet Literacy Handbook - Armenian edition
- STOP. THINK. CONNECT. online safety resources
- Internet safety open lessons
- Internet safety video materials
- Digital World Survival
- The WebWeWant - Armenian edition
- Council of Europe Wild Web Woods game
- BIK team
From the 3-14 October 2016, the Insafe Coordination Team is hosting an eTwinning plus learning event addressing teachers from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Tunisia and Ukraine. The learning event will focus on eSafety and digital skills, and will cover a wide range of issues including cyberbullying, privacy and online reputation, as well as risks associated with cybercrime, viruses and malware. Schools have a key role to play here in terms of providing education to pupils (and possibly parents also), in order to provide them with the skills, tools and resilience that they need to stay safe online.