Positive online content in the classroom: balance and empowerment for pupils

  • Awareness
  • 28/09/2017
  • BIK Team, Dr Jacqueline Harding

The second day of the Positive Online Content Campaign (POCC) Awareness Week was dedicated to teachers and educators; one of the main stakeholders when it comes to ensuring today's children and young people grow up stimulated, engaged and empowered in the online world, while at the same time preserving their privacy and safety online.

On this occasion, our invited expert on the topic, Dr Jacqueline Harding, CEO of Tomorrowschild.co.uk, declared that "building digital skills for the next generation is a priority. Our children and young people deserve the best online experiences and it is up to all of us to step up and make the difference. Of course, protecting children in the digital environment is essential but at the same time, we must take strides forward around empowering them."

That said, with children going online and developing a "digital footprint" from increasingly younger ages, it's no wonder that digital content is also becoming an integral part of the school curriculum. This is where both teachers/educators and positive online content come into the picture. Academics argue that "children can carry themes and ideas across digital and non-digital spaces in highly creative ways" (Mash, 2010) and that they "very often don't use technologies as adults might expect them to" (Sakr, 2016). For this reason, according to Dr Harding, online content should be included in the school curriculum in a balanced manner, making sure it empowers its young users and does not threaten their mental wellbeing through overuse. In this respect one useful initiative is the UK Children's Commissioner's "Digital 5 a Day" proposing a balanced use of technology in their daily lives.

Commonly accepted benefits of using online content in the classroom include the fact that, online, kids learn and develop while having fun, being stimulated, enhancing their creativity and fostering their participation in society. Certain precautions are necessary, however, in order to ensure that the chosen online content is indeed beneficial to pupils. The main advice in this respect is, of course, to follow the guidance offered in the criteria checklist to ensure that the chosen digital content is indeed positive content.

Once digital content has been chosen, especially with very young children (0-12 years of age), teachers should look out for certain body language signals, for instance:

  • if the pupil points at the screen;
  • if they start chatting to the characters on the screen;
  • if they are simply laughing/smiling at the show;
  • if they are eager to share their experience after it's over with an adult or their peers.

Such behaviours suggest that it was probably a positive experience!

According to Dr Harding, some final advice on how to harness the creative potential of online tools and content is for teachers and educators to team up with their pupils' parents in order to make sure they are on the same page, as kids require consistent messages about what is and isn't good for them.

Would you like to learn more about positive content and how you can integrate it in your daily school activities? Explore our Positive Online Content minisite at www.betterinternetforkids.eu/positive-content and follow the Awareness Week (25-29 September 2017) activities on social media by using the #positivecontent hashtag!

Unfortunately, the eTwinning webinar on positive content with Dr Jacqueline Harding, scheduled for 26 September 2017, had to be cancelled due to technical problems; we are currently working on rescheduling it during October 2017. If you are an eTwinning community member, stay tuned for updates by following @Insafenetwork and by checking the #positivecontent hashtag on social media.

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