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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

School-based social networking in multiple countries

Great idea: Help students avoid cyberbullying by requiring them to sign up for a moderated social network site. That's what Baranduda Primary School is doing, the Border Mail reports. It's among 100 schools in Australia trying out SuperClubsPLUS, a UK-based site designed for school use by kids aged 6-12 and now also in use in Europe, Kenya, Malaysia. Features include chat, email, blogging, discussion boards, and building Web pages (maybe profiles?), according to the Border Mail, which adds that "La Trobe University researcher Jennifer Masters, who is helping co-ordinate the launch in Australia, said [the site gives] children a deeper understanding of Internet ethics." Teachers are involved in the site moderation (though the Border Mail piece doesn't make it clear if they're local to member schools or employed by the site in the UK). An even better idea, I feel, is using Quest Atlantis, an educational virtual world designed at the University of Indiana, in schools. The program trains teachers before they use it in their classrooms. It also monitors all student activity in-world, but most effective in teaching positive social development and good citizenship is collaborative learning in the form of the virtual world's curriculum-tied quests. One could argue (and kids do) that learning citizenship is boring; learning it as you're learning social studies, science, etc. in an environment that kids find very compelling – a virtual world – is a whole lot less boring! [Meanwhile, the Australian government will soon be piloting a $3 million (Australian) anti-cyberbullying project in 150 schools. Computerworld.com.au reports but without much detail on the actual program, though saying it's not without its critics.]

9 Comments:

Blogger Martyn said...

This does seem under-informed, to say the least. I would have expected Anne Collier to have confirmed the information from SuperClubsPLUS Australia, beyond simply taken a local news story at face-value?

Where did they come up with 100 schools - there are thousands of Australian schools and families already registered?

And suggesting it is a UK site - when the site is uniquely Australian and has over 85,000 Australian kids registered to date (with 2,000+ new kids registering every week)?

Maybe this indicates the limitations of NetFamily News to fully understand what is going on in the cybersafety world beyond the USA..

8:41 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

Tx for your comment, Martyn. Never did purport to check out every story I post about in the US, much less internationally. Couldn't possibly. I just annotate them a bit. I'm guessing your affiliated with SuperClubsPLUS Australia? Is the parent co. not in the UK? Glad to have you tell us more - especially how SuperClubsPLUS keeps users safe. Thanks again.

9:15 PM  
Blogger Martyn said...

Hi Anne, thanx for responding. My main concern here, is that it is relatively easy to confirm the voracity of the information in the news article you annotated/reported - by following up with me or any of the SuperClubsPLUS staff here - email contact is provided on the site (www.superclubsplus.com.au).

And given the extremely high quality of your usual commentary it struck me as disappointing to read this short and rather vague piece on SuperClubsPLUS. But as you say, maybe you don't have the time or opportunity to check everything first.

Yes, I am both an academic at La Trobe University in Melbourne (Honorary) and also coordinate much of the work of SuperClubsPLUS Australia (with others, of course - including Jenny Masters who is quoted in the news article and your blog, and has done a huge amount to build SuperClubsPLUS in Australia).

Yes, our older sibling is the UK version of the site (www.superclubsplus.com). But I'm at pains to point out that the global team believes SuperClubsPLUS works so well precisely because we localise it to different cultural conditions - hence the UK and Australian (and soon to be, New Zealand) versions of the site are at one level, different to each other - with for example, content, activities, Cybersafety learning, mediator support, etc, all localised to a geographical region (usually a country). We don't believe in a one-size-fits-all approach - although our teachers and children members definitely see themselves as part of a global community (very important).

You asked about how we keep children safe online?

SuperClubsPLUS keeps children safe in four main ways:

[see next comment - not enough space in this one!]

7:45 AM  
Blogger Martyn said...

[Keeping kids safe in SuperClubsPLUS]..


1. First we validate (or age authenticate) EVERY child, through their school. This is partly a manual process (but not entirely), and works by auditing unique identifying information about each child and working with their schools (and parents/carers) to do this.

2. We then pro-actively 'mediate' (or moderate) the children's activity on the site - all uploads, all profile and web page building/edits, all posts, all chat, all emails. Mediators are trained (across 4 cybersafety dimensions, including child-safety and online facilitation) for about 120 hours each. All come to us as teachers or past-teachers or academics/educationalists.

3. Thirdly, using an implicit cybersafety learning programme built into our Mediator tools and technologies, we pro-actively change children's online behaviours. In fact, our own research indicates we are successful in changing the vast majority (over 78%) of children to 'safe online' behaviours. Further, these children then transfer these behaviours to their use of unsafe sites (like Club Penguin, Bebo and MySpace); and they also prove to be resilient (i.e. the safe online behaviours persist in children as they grow and develop in online confidence). We will publish the latest of this research in Sept this year (I can send you a copy of our work if you are interested).

4. We deliver an explicit and coherent series of cybersafety learning activities or 'events', in collaboration with the Australian Commonwealth government's peak agency for Internet Safety, (the Australian Communications and Media Authority). Successful completion of these activities or events, provides each child with an accredited 'Cybersmart Badge' and online certificate.

We work with a range of highly respected organisations in Australia (and in the UK), including Alannah and Madeline Foundation, an Australian national charity keeping children safe from violence; the Dept of Education and Early Childhood Development in Victoria; the Australian government (through ACMA); and many more. We are funded by the Telstra Foundation.

This is probably enough for now - but I'm very happy to answer more questions.

In essence, the value of SuperClubsPLUS to children's cybersafety learning, lies in the success we have in helping change, or form, a child's early internet behaviour. And we do this by a unique combination of pro-active mediation, explicit teaching and personalised responses to a child as they undertake their learning in an authentic, protected social network.

Of course our kids, the 'superclubbers', are for the most part, not conscious of any of this - they simply see the site as a great way to socialise, to make friends, to collaborate on global and local projects, become active participants in their own learning, and of course, simply to have fun!

SuperClubsPLUS is in the final analysis, a site by kids, for kids.. and that is as it should be..

7:46 AM  
Blogger Anne said...

Good to get the SuperClubsPLUS perspective, Martyn - and certainly appreciate your concern about how your organization was represented (in the Border Mail, which did the original reporting linked to here). A blog, especially one that tries to be somewhat international, is not (can't feasibly be) original reporting, which would require following up with all perspectives on any particular topic, not just that of proponents of a program. But I really like what you say about localizing a program, and am glad you're telling readers more about SuperClubsPLUS here in comments. Do the students sign up just because they want safe social networking, or are they encouraged to in school as part of the curriculum (and, if so, what parts of the curriculum)? Would you like to write a 400-word guest commentary?

9:31 AM  
Blogger Martyn said...

How does SuperClubsPLUS keep it’s kids safe?
1. First we validate (or age authenticate) EVERY child, through their school. This is partly a manual process (but not entirely), and works by auditing unique identifying information about each child, and working with schools (and parents/carers) to do this.
2. We then pro-actively 'mediate' (or moderate) the children's activity on the site - all uploads, all profile and web page building/edits, all posts, all chat, all emails. Mediators are trained (across 4 cybersafety dimensions, including child-safety and online facilitation) for about 120 hours each. All come to us as teachers, past-teachers or academics/educationalists.
3. Thirdly, using an implicit cybersafety learning programme built into our Mediator tools and technologies, we pro-actively change children's online behaviours. In fact, our own research indicates we are successful in changing the vast majority (over 78%) of children to 'safe online' behaviours within 6 months of their joining SuperClubsPLUS. These children also transfer these behaviours to their use of ‘less-safe’ sites (like Club Penguin, Bebo and MySpace); whilst these learned behaviours also prove to be resilient (i.e. the safe online behaviours persist in children as they grow and develop in online confidence, over years). We will publish much of our recent research projects (in conjunction with Victoria University, in Sept this year (please let me know if you are interested) in receiving a copy of this work).
4. We deliver an explicit and coherent series of cybersafety learning activities and online 'events' within SuperClubsPLUS, in collaboration with the Australian Commonwealth government's peak agency for Internet Safety, (the Australian Communications and Media Authority). Successful completion of these activities provides each child with an accredited 'Cybersmart Badge' and online certificate (parents love this).
We work with a range of highly respected organisations in Australia (and in the UK), including the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, an Australian national charity keeping children safe from violence; the Dept of Education and Early Childhood Development in Victoria (as well as other state-based education departments and agencies); the Australian government (through ACMA); CEOP (in the UK) and many more. We are centrally funded by the Telstra Foundation, keeping costs to schools very low (per child).
The value of SuperClubsPLUS to children's cybersafety learning, lies in the success we have in helping change, or form, a child's internet behaviour very early on. Of course, we find we are more successful in this when a child is 7-8 years of age than say, 11-12 years. And by the time a child is developing into adolescence the opportunities to change already formed unsafe behaviours are far fewer, something the seminal Byron Report (2008) was also very clear on.
Our success is built on a unique combination of pro-active mediation, explicit teaching and personalised responses to a child as they undertake their learning in an authentic, protected social network. We don’t pretend our ‘superclubbers’ only use SuperClubsPLUS – for example, Facebook is one of the most popular ‘other’ social networks with our 8-9 year girls. But we do believe that a child’s experience in SuperClubsPLUS is a crucial part of their early learnings in the responsible use of the Internet.
Of course our kids, the 'superclubbers', are for the most part, not conscious of any of this - they simply see the site as a great way to socialise, make friends, collaborate on global and local projects, be active participants in their own learning, and of course, simply to have fun! To our members, SuperClubsPLUS is a space they inhabit, rebuild and customise for themselves.
SuperClubsPLUS is in the final analysis, a site by kids, for kids.. and that is as it should be..

6:48 PM  
Blogger Martyn said...

Hi Anne - yes, I'd love to write a guest commentary. But not sure if I have already used my 400 words (and more!). Pls let me know - and thank you for the interest in SuperClubsPLUS... and also for your erudite and very useful NetFamilyNews.

A brilliant initiative.

6:50 PM  
Blogger Anne said...

Martyn, pls email me at anne(at)netfamilynews.org when you have a chance.

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Jonam said...

Its good idea

4:15 AM  

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