Post-COVID classrooms may never be quite the same, if Australian students get their way. Amid calls for more flexibility and greater use of online platforms, a renewed focus on student-centred learning may be the silver lining to the pandemic disruption. But it will also move cyber safety concerns front and centre as schools prepare to tackle their digital future.
According to a survey by the Victorian Student Representative Council (VSRC), the peak body representing school-aged students in that state, enforced remote learning during the lockdown taught students some unexpected lessons. Now that physical schooling is mostly back in session, students are pressing for change.
The survey asked K-12 students in 500 schools across the nation for their thoughts about the remote learning experience and how to improve education moving forward.
Technology, mental health and wellbeing emerged as key themes.
Students told the VSRC that all learners should have access to the necessary devices and the internet. It was also recommended that there was an ongoing need to use online platforms to allow greater flexibility in teaching and learning to enhance communication between home and school. Promoting student wellbeing by scheduling a shorter school day with longer breaks was also at the top of students’ wish-list.
“These recommendations can be managed and can be achieved," said VSRC spokesperson and Bendigo Senior Secondary College VCE student Emily Gundry. "They had to be achieved during home learning so why not continue them in normal school environments?"
Expanding the role of online platforms will inevitably place greater emphasis on student-centred learning. But in a digital world, that raises a host of new concerns.
Meeting the goals of student-centred learning over the long term, say experts, will require schools to implement a broad program of cyber safety - including flexible tools that allow them to meet their duty of care, reduce risks and ensure students stay on-task, no matter what device they use or where they use it.
At the same time, comprehensive online safety education will need to become a priority for all K-12s.
Parents too will need to be supported with cyber safety tools and training, to keep children safe and distraction-free during remote learning and to enable communication between home and school.
Finally, as more and more teaching and learning takes place online, both in the physical classroom and remotely, promoting student mental health and wellbeing will be increasingly tied to cyber safety education and student internet management.
“The shift to schooling online has also reinforced the need for increased digital citizenship for students, particularly how they show up online, their online etiquette (or lack thereof), and behaviour through on-screen interactions,”
- Alison Griffin, Senior Vice President of social impact agency Whiteboard Advisers.
Schools with mandatory 1:1 programs have no alternative but to manage potentially damaging student behaviour online.
The threat of online bullying is a clear and present danger in an environment dominated by digital learning. And suicide is currently the leading cause of death among Australian young people.
The good news
Thanks to cutting-edge advances in AI and machine learning, Linewize's digital safety solutions empower schools to spot the warning signs of misuse, following the “digital breadcrumbs” at-risk students leave online and making early intervention possible.
To better understand how Linewize's unique cyber safety solution ensures students are safe and focussed online - whether learning at school or from home - click here to arrange a meeting with one of our education experts.
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