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Episode ten transcript

The Virtual Staffroom Podcast

Episode 10: Safer internet day

 

Joachim Cohen:

Welcome to the Virtual Staffroom, a podcast made for teachers by teachers, and all with a dash of educational technology thrown in. My name is Joachim Cohen, and today like every day, I am joined by two rather awesome members of our Technology 4 Learning team, Yvette Poshoglian and Linda Lazenby. Welcome team.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Hello guys.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Hey, welcome back.

 

Joachim Cohen:

It's 2021, yes we've made it. How were you breaks? What did you get up to Linda?

 

Linda Lazenby:

Well, I had a great break. Every break is great, but I was down the South Coast at the glorious Narooma.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Managed to get out of the city limits.

 

Linda Lazenby:

I did. How about you Yvette? Where did you go to?

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

First week or two was in wonderful Northern beaches lockdown, so got a lot of reading, a lot of writing done, beaches were closed so there was a lot of sitting at home. But hey, it was good. It wasn't scheduled or anything, it was just a fun time.

 

Joachim Cohen:

So much time for relaxation, reflection, and ready to power up. We've got no bags under our eyes. We are excited for 2021 on the Virtual Staffroom. So, what do we have in store for you today? Let's get straight into it. We'll in case you'd not heard, Tuesday, the 9th of February is Safer Internet Day. And so to learn all about it and how it applies to the classroom, we are lucky to be speaking to the Manager - Education, Training and Enquiries, from the eSafety Commissioner, Kellie Britnell. Welcome, Kellie.

 

Kellie Britnell:

Thanks, Jo.

 

Joachim Cohen:

But before we get into the nitty-gritty about Safer Internet Day, Kellie, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how your passion for working in eSafety was sparked?

 

Kellie Britnell:

Oh, that's a history lesson, Joe. But I was actually teaching, and this was around 2007, I think it was. And I was in a school that was very technology-rich and all the students had one-on-one laptops. We were probably a little bit ahead of the game. And I was working in the welfare pastoral area, and it became apparent that the students I was teaching were doing what students do and sometimes doing the wrong thing, and I could see what we were doing as educators and we were punishing them. And I thought, 'There's something wrong with this. Why are you not teaching them how to use the internet safely?' And it was kind of that that sparked my interest in online safety, and what I decided to do was a little bit of a community practice of like schools where I was teaching. And I decided to focus on online safety and that was really the start of me getting interested in wanting to keep students in particular, safe online.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Awesome. Thanks, Kellie. Obviously, times have changed and now this is becoming even more important than it ever was. But maybe if our listeners haven't heard of the Office of the eSafety Commissioner, could you tell us a little bit about the organisation itself and what the role of the eSafety Commissioner is?

 

Kellie Britnell:

Sure. The eSafety Commissioner actually started about five and a half years ago, and we started as the world's first government agency. So we're federal government, committed to keeping all the Australians safer online. So we started as the Children's eSafety Commissioner, and we had a focus on youth cyber bullying, illegal and harmful content, which a lot of that is child sexual abuse material, and education and awareness raising for children and young people. But it didn't take very long before we started getting new responsibilities, and that's when we dropped children's out of our name in 2017. And so now we've got a broader role, and it includes functions related to people at risk of family and domestic violence, and particularly the impact of technology on domestic violence. We also have a team that looks after image based abuse, which is the non-consensual sharing of intimate images, and then we've got a whole lot of resources and information for the safe use of the internet by older Australians as well.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Quite a piece of work you're working on there, Kellie. Can you tell us a little bit about Safer Internet Day and what does it aim to achieve for our schools?

 

Kellie Britnell:

Well, Safer Internet Day is a global campaign and about 170 countries get involved in it. And the eSafety Commissioner has been tasked with kind of organising some events on the 9th of February. And it's a day where the world comes together with a shared vision of trying to make online experiences better for everyone. And so it's raising awareness about the safe and positive use of digital technology. So it's a good time to explore the role we can all play in creating a better online community.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Oh, I just love the sound of that, getting everyone across the globe really united in this effort to leverage the resource for good. And I'm excited that the theme for 2021 is start the chat. Can you unpack this for us and tell us what the aim is?

 

Kellie Britnell:

Sure, Joe. It's really a great opportunity for all Australians to start the chat about being safe online, whether it's at home, whether it's at school or work or in the community, and then keep building the digital skills throughout the year. And one of the things we know at the eSafety Commissioner safety commissioner is that kids as young as two are now accessing the internet, and if they're starting that young, we really need to be starting the chat early. And as young people start their digital journey, we believe it's really important to provide them with age appropriate advice and resources to help them keep safe online.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Kellie, one aspect of that awareness raising is around critical reasoning and around being a critical digital citizen. Are you able to expand on or give us some thoughts on how to become a critical online operator and the kind of persona that we want our students to build?

 

Kellie Britnell:

Yeah. This is a really big question about how do you create or help someone become effective with these skills? So we're talking about questioning and examining ideas that you might see online, being able to analyse and interpret and evaluate, but there's... When I was thinking about this question, I've actually thought about something that some people may have heard about, and that's recognising our own echo chambers. And if you haven't heard of that term before, it's really about taking stock of who you follow whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, for example. We do have a natural tendency to interact more with people who echo our beliefs, and this echo chamber at times is probably comforting if you've got people that are reinforcing your ideas, but sometimes that can do some damage in understanding issues and the information that is highlighted in our feeds in our viewpoints. And it's really important I think as part of this skill of being a critical digital citizen, that we need to be more discerning at analysing our sources. And I think it's a great idea to follow others that may think differently. So that's one aspect.

 

Kellie Britnell:

For teachers, I think it's really important that educators know how misinformation impacts young people whether it be with their health, might be democracy, and might also be relationships. And it's one of the reasons why in 2021, we have created some teacher professional learning to help teachers because we're focusing on misinformation and emerging technologies, and I think it's really challenging to keep up to date. And I definitely think this will help in the classroom when it comes to helping young people develop those key skills that they need.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Absolutely. And the whole work around echo chambers has been coming up a lot, and I think it's important that we analyse who we get that information from. And so much of where we're getting your information from is around algorithms in the digital world. And could you tell our listeners briefly about how they're used for good?

 

Kellie Britnell:

Sure. To put it really simply, algorithms are a mathematical set of rules specifying how a group of data behaves. And there's lots of concerns and challenges, and you don't have to go far to find that information with the use of algorithms. But if you think of things like material, like terrorists photos and videos that are published online, are often automatically identified by its algorithm and are removed before anyone actually has a chance to see them. If it wasn't for algorithms, we wouldn't be getting the most useful information because it does pick up on the user and the sorts of content that we like, and consume, and enjoy. And so it can steer us to useful information a lot quicker if we didn't have it.

 

Kellie Britnell:

But I think algorithms effectiveness often depends on the type of content that it's tasked with detecting. And so an example of that is there's some limitations in natural language processing, often prevent algorithms from correctly understanding the meaning, nuance, and context of language. And this is really important when trying to identify things like online bullying and harassment. And so it's algorithms and plus the need for humans to be looking at some of these content to ascertain whether it is harmful to other users or not.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Gee whiz, that really makes you think doesn't it, because we often easily accept that devices, the internet computers, they're really smart, but really it's all about how a human programs it to understand the input that it receives. And you're really emphasising that I think for our listeners just there. And I think it's a good segue into the question that I've got because we here at the Virtual Staffroom we're often talking about that I accept button that we see appearing when students are about to share their data, and give that data to maybe an engine that's going to make some decisions. What does clicking it actually mean, and what should students and what should teachers be aware of before they go and click it?

 

Kellie Britnell:

Well, Joe, when you sign up to a new account, almost a hundred percent of the time you are asked to press the I accept button. And most times what you're accepting is to the terms and conditions that that site sets out. Something probably a little bit more common at the moment is that every web page that you visit has a message about cookies, and it asks you to actually accept whether cookies can be saved on your computer, or your phone, or your tablet. And these cookies actually store the website's name and also a unique ID that represents you as a user. And why they have these cookies is that they... well, they contain a lot of things, but they'll be able to do things like know the amount of time that you spend on the website, maybe the links you click while you're using it, some of the options and preferences or settings you choose. Maybe you've been online shopping and so you put some things in a shopping basket but then you decided, 'Oh, I mightn't buy it just yet'. And so that's what cookies are recording.

 

Kellie Britnell:

So there's some EU laws that have come in last year, and so that's why we're seeing all these messages now. But basically, in short it means that companies need to get your explicit consent to collect your data. And so you don't have to agree to the cookies. If a cookie can identify you, you can decline the cookie completely. And so you don't have to, but sometimes the flip side is some of these companies simply won't let you use the website if you don't accept a cookie or the website doesn't work as intended. So there are implications when you click I accept, and we do need to be more informed about what that actually means.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

And with cookies in Australia, Kellie, you can't see the faces that we've all been sharing here about our cookie usage and acceptance of cookies. Is that different here in Australia?

 

Kellie Britnell:

Well, we don't have the same laws, but what we do know is that there are a lot of the companies trans-boundary. And so they've made universal laws that if it doesn't matter where you live, you might even be in the EU resident, but under the legislation, they actually have to have it as part of that. But one of the things that's happening as we speak is looking at the act in which we operate. And I suppose some of the things that are happening at the moment in terms of some of the overseas political things that are happening in terms of Twitter, that a new parliamentary group has just been formed looking at the regulation of social media and some of their powers. And so I think in the next 12 months in Australia, some of the rules that pertain around what social media companies can do in terms of some of our data, I think will be very much highlighted through the press and through our politicians.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

It's changing day by day almost, isn't it? The Safer Internet Day tagline is 'together for a better internet'. I guess that that is kind of giving us this impression that we as the power of people, we can do something together to change practice. Is that something you perceive happening or is the ground laid there for us to be able to do something about this?

 

Kellie Britnell:

Well, I do think we can see things that are happening and we know that people are becoming more aware of the risks of the internet, but also the power of the internet. And I think more people are questioning large organisations, they're questioning government, pressing all its forms and even social media companies related to their practices, both what they're doing on and offline. And so I think it's a watershed moment when people around the world are using their collective power to speak out and amplify their voices through all forms of media, but particular on social media platforms.

 

Kellie Britnell:

We know that technology can be used to perpetrate abuse. Technology can also be a tool to fight harassment and hold perpetrators to account. So it also promotes other benefits such as diversity and inclusion, as well as transparency and engagement in things like the political process. So I do think that we do have power as people to force change, and more people are becoming aware of that power.

 

Linda Lazenby:

So Kellie, in terms of Safer Internet Day and the work of the eSafety team, I know a lot of our schools use your resources a lot. What resources do you have that people might not be aware of that you could direct teachers to?

 

Kellie Britnell:

Well on the website as you know, we've got a lot of resources, we've got video content, we've got lesson plans. But to mark this year's Safer Internet Day, we're actually releasing some new research and it's called digital lives of Aussie teens. And it's a good little short research piece which is the most up-to-date information you're going to find out about what teens are saying. They want more support with when it comes to online related issues, but one of the things we're really excited about is we're launching two new resources for young children. And by young children I mean your preschoolers, because like I mentioned before, kids are getting online earlier and earlier so the Swoosh and Glide. They're two little... I should know this but they are sugar gliders. That's what they are.

 

Kellie Britnell:

And a great picture book as well as a song by Lah-Lah. So if there's anyone that's got young children you know who Lah-Lah is. You know who she is. But we're also kicking off our new virtual classrooms and that happens to be around fake news and real harms. And so that's for the years three to six. For our high schools, we've got a whole list of resources that can be used as part of our promotion package. So make sure you check out esafety.gov.au to see all the downloads we've put together for Safer Internet Day.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Fantastic.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Oh, yeah. I agree. I'm just actually looking at it now and I can see how you've divided the site up into those different categories that'll really help our teachers to be able to jump in and find the resources that relates directly to their classroom. And some of those sound really exciting. And I do confess as soon as you mentioned Lah-Lah, the only thing that popped into my head was Teletubbies, so I'm sure I'm not right there.

 

Kellie Britnell:

No. Yeah, you got to get with the program Joe, except definitely not... We're not reinvigorating the Teletubbies. But I also forgot to mention Joe, we've also got a great new webinars for parents and carers. And so if there's educators out there, we're running quite a number of sessions for parents and carers, and we've entitled this one, cyber bullying and online drama. And so I would highly recommend schools promoting that to their parents and carers.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Ah, sounds fantastic. The work you guys are doing, I think blows all of our minds, open up a whole plethora of extra resources we can go and touch base in. But Kellie, it's time for the most exciting component. No, not really. The only component that is repeated in every one of our podcasts, it's called rocket ship robots. And we challenge every one of our guests. You're on a spaceship, you're heading for outer space, what is the one piece of technology that you would take with you?

 

Kellie Britnell:

Oh gosh, Joe, I wish I would have listened to other podcasts, I would have been ready for it. But I have to say it's probably my latest technology purchase, and it is the iWatch. And because it does multiple functions, I don't know about the battery life though, because it's not fantastic, but I would take that along because it would keep me in touch. And it's really interesting. I've purchased this mostly because I have an aging mother who's about 87 or not about, she actually is 87. And I purchased one for her as well. And to see her being able to engage with technology, I think whether you're on earth or in space, you can't but really wonder about how far we have changed and moved, and the fact that there's so much information in a little device that sits on your hand, that's what I'd take with me because I think it's got multi-function so that might be cheating.

 

Joachim Cohen:

No.

 

Linda Lazenby:

No such thing as cheating.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Exactly. And I think we're seeing a couple of our watch wearers here, and I can tell you in the Virtual Staffroom as well. And I think you've really highlighted an amazing alternative use for those kinds of devices. Wow! I like it. Thanks for making us think. And, Kellie, we just want to thank you. It is such important work you do. You've introduced all of our listeners to some great resources and a really important way of thinking for the start of 2021. We can't thank you enough for speaking to us here in the Virtual Staffroom.

 

Kellie Britnell:

Thanks, Joe. And thanks for the support of New South Wales and all the teachers that are doing the hard yards every day that make sure if you need information about online safety, come to esafety.gov.au, I'm sure there's something that will help you with whatever you're trying to find.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Linda, Yvette, there is so much more to online safety than meets the eye. Is there one thing from our discussion with Kellie, that stood out to you?

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Well, it's that term echo chamber. How am I going to break out of my own echo chamber when I know it exists, but I don't want to move out of my comfort zone? I'm in my little world of hearing things that I want to hear, reading things that I want to read. This is a challenge for everybody.

 

Linda Lazenby:

But that's what you do in the real world. You're friends with people that agree with you mostly, so it makes sense that on social you would do the same.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

I know. But it's becoming increasingly a microcosm of life. That is what I see. That is what I look at. That is what I watch. That is what I listened to. Anyway, it's a real thing for us.

 

Joachim Cohen:

The world is bigger, but it isn't bigger unless you make the effort.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

It's getting smaller. Yes. So anyway, it really it is about how we educate kids to understand that that's a thing. And some of the things that Kellie's mentioned have also been created there are some fantastic resources on the ABC website around media literacy, lots of online interactive workshops for students around understanding misinformation versus disinformation which is... That's a new phrase within itself, disinformation. It couldn't be more pertinent than right now.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Yeah, absolutely.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Look at what's unfolding.

 

Linda Lazenby:

I'm really interested to see the research they're bringing out about teams, and what teens think they need and what they know, because I think for a long time as educators, we've thought what we think teens need to know next about being digital citizens, but maybe it's not aligning with what they want. So yeah, I'm excited to read that research.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Yeah, me too. Absolutely. And I think what stood out for me and probably will come out, I imagine out of that research if we act on it is that we have to act together because these companies are big, and if we don't respond as a collective, then they're going to continue to think that they can railroad us. But we actually hold the power if we think about it. So that's what came up to me that together for a better internet. Absolutely. That's for sure.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Now if you are all little like us, you'll be seeking out some resources and activities to explore with your students surrounding digital citizenship. So team can we help? Yvette, what have you got in store?

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Well, as I just mentioned, the ABC resources are very cool go-tos for primary and secondary students, so I'd really recommend you check those out.

 

Joachim Cohen:

No, I took a look on that site as well. I love it. It's from the ABC experts.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Well, they're using the familiar figures, but are they in my echo chamber, Joe. This is what I've got to grapple with.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Well, see they're not in my echo chamber, so they're not in most teachers echo chambers.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Okay, very cool.

 

Joachim Cohen:

So you're our super awesome journalist/ teachers/English guru.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

No, I think I'm an ABC junkie.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Oh, it's fantastic though because we know... Well, I think we know that the ABC is a pretty unbiased source of information, and they're showing you how to be unbiased in your search for information. I love that. So that is my pick. I reckon you just have nailed it there. Yvette, with all those eSafety Commissioner resource and this one as well, pretty stellar. Linda, what did you find?

 

Linda Lazenby:

I would recommend people jump around in the Department of Education's digital citizenship website, sorry. And that's broken up really well with resources for teachers, for parents, and for students, and it's really all about that respectful, responsible, and safe use of digital. So I'm very much encouraging people to go there.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Fantastic. And I'll tell you though, my one resource is a little bit of a gamification, and it's been produced by the team from Google. And it's about 'Interland' where you go and actually engage with this really cool character, and start to learn about what they consider to be the pledge to going online, where you're looking at things like share with care, don't fall for fake, which is in line with those ABC resources I reckon. Yvette, secure your secrets about cookies that we were talking about earlier on today, it's cool to be kind, and when in doubt talk it out. I really like that mantra that they've come up with that kind of brings it into a realm to talk to students about. So there's some great resources there.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Yeah, it's interesting how there's all these sort of more holistic approach to lots of programming, like with the Minecraft hack challenge last year that had elements of compassion and understanding your neighbour's point of view. So yeah, we're really moving into this territory now where we're really unpacking these bigger ideas for kids. So that sounds great. I'm going to check that one out, Joe.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Yeah, absolutely. And I'm really glad to see all these companies around the world starting to realize their responsibility. So congrats and hats off to Google for that one. So whilst we often have the last word in our podcast, from now on we want to give you a voice. So do you have a top tech tip, a review of a piece of technology, or a small story of how you've used technology in your classroom? We're going to challenge you to record it just on your iPhone, on your computer, on your Android phone, on anything you can, and send us your MP3 file and we will insert it in here. So there is a challenge we've laid it down. Linda, Yvette, can you wait to hear these top tech tips?

 

Linda Lazenby:

Absolutely pumped.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Blown away is all I can say. Yvette and Linda, as always, it has been an absolute blast. And I think this one has been the one where I've learned the most.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Very, very interesting today.

 

Linda Lazenby:

Lots to think about.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Absolutely. And this podcast has been produced by the masterful Jacob Druce, with the assistance and supreme coordination of Heather Thompson, as well as many more awesome members of the T4L team.

 

Yvette Poshoglian:

Just a little note, please be aware that all views expressed by the podcast presenters that's us, are our personal opinions and not representative of the New South Wales Department of Education. Discussions aren't endorsements of third party products, services, or events. And please note that as much as we sound like it, we are not experts in legalese, tech speak, or anything in between, we're just passionate people keen to boost technology for learning in the classroom and to help build the skills in your students, and for you to solve the problems of tomorrow. Do your due diligence, read further, and if we've got something wrong let us know. We too are always learning and always improving.

 

Joachim Cohen:

Before we go, please make sure you send us through your comments, your word of techno wizardry wisdom, and your thoughts for new guests and segments. And if you liked the podcast, give us a rating so more and more educators find us and be inspired to get a little techie in the classroom. Stay compassionate, stay curious, stay excited everyone, and thanks for joining us.