While educators were adapting their lessons to teach from afar, Sydney Catholic Schools’ (SCS) Child Protection Team had been bracing for these changes by creating remote learning guidelines to ensure young isolated learners are safe in their (home) school.
“Zoom and Google Hangouts are new mediums – it’s quite a novel thing to have your teachers teach into your home,” said psychologist Sandra Reynolds, who has been part of the Child Protection Team since April 2015.
“When used safely, online resources and programs can significantly enhance a student’s understanding of a concept. Children can be easily deceived online, it is far too great a responsibility for them to manage on their own.
“These guided cyber experiences in the classroom allow for exploration to occur within a safe and supervised environment. Simply said, feeling safe makes learning possible.”
Sydney Catholic Schools’ psychologist Sandra Reynolds. Photo: Kitty Beale
Ms Reynolds said the team based the new remote learning guidelines for parents and teachers at SCS on existing distance education and tele-health videoconferencing models, including those of Alice Springs School of the Air (ASSOA) and the Australian Psychological Society.
“People in remote areas have been accessing tele-health and online learning for a long time,” she explained.
ASSOA, for example, has been broadcasting to children in isolated communities throughout the Northern Territory and parts of South Australia and Western Australia for more than 49 years.
In ASSOA’s 1.3 million square-kilometre “classroom” students take part in online lessons with their classmates and then complete follow-up activities at home, with support from their home tutors (mostly parents).
“Feeling safe makes learning possible” – Sandra Reynolds
Closer to home, the Catholic school system in the Archdiocese of Sydney is educating more than 70,000 students, at different levels of learning, affluence and technological savvy.
“Sydney Catholic Schools is striving to achieve the right balance of learning modes within the classroom, to allow for optimum learning and skill development in all areas,” Ms Reynolds said.
“Teachers play such a large role in a student’s school day, making them perfectly positioned to model safe online practices, and teach students about the importance of online safety.”
ADVICE FOR PARENTS
“Parents also play a significant role in ensuring their child has online safety knowledge, and adult supervision to make certain safety strategies are put into practice,” Ms Reynolds said.
“For example, having a ‘no devices in the bedroom’ rule allows parents to keep an eye and an ear out for any inappropriate content. Another good strategy is to set up some ground rules for the home.
“One that I feel is necessary for primary school-aged children is that parents must know their child’s passwords, with the understanding that, from time to time, you will be checking that all online activity is safe.”
A student uses a device to learn. Photo: Kitty Beale
ADVICE FOR STUDENTS
Sydney Catholic Schools has also created handy videos for primary and secondary students on key online safety issues, which are available here. The tips, created by SCS’ Student Wellbeing team, encourage students to engage in an online environment, while also remaining safe and proactive.
Primary school students
Here are some tips to support your safety online:
- Always use the internet under the supervision of your parents or another trusted adult
- Don’t share personal information online, e.g. your name, where you live, name of your school, your phone number or passwords
- Always keep your profile private when online – if you play games or communicate online, ensure you talk to your parents before you chat with other people
- Always ask your parents before sharing or uploading photos or videos
- If a person or something online makes you feel uncomfortable, confused or worried, talk to your parents or carer
Secondary school students
- To minimise the risk of being in an unsafe or dangerous situation, consider accepting friend requests only from friends you know in real life
- Stop or block online contact with anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable or unsafe
- Stop and think before you share or upload anything to social media – it could become part of your digital footprint and may seriously harm your future job prospects
- Think before you type and press send, and always consider the impact of what you write on the reader
- Never meet a person you have known or met online – people with bad intentions can create false identities and profiles
- Make sure your privacy settings prohibit the sharing of any personal information. That way you can stay in control of your personal information
- Don’t share or upload illegal or inappropriate content as it may have serious social and legal consequences
- If you feel bullied, unhappy or worried due to the online actions of another person/s, tell your parents or carer immediately about the issue. If you are unable to tell a parent or carer, then contact Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Sydney Catholic Schools’ Child Protection Team is on the front line providing expert advice to our schools on student safety and wellbeing matters. Click here to find your closest Sydney Catholic school and to start your child’s learning journey.