This was published in the NT Sun Newspaper on February 19 2019 under the title ‘Flaws in a digital Plan’.
The newest educational bandwagon appears to be a push to digitally licence all Australian students. This would seem to indicate that until students have received some confirming certificate, they will not be deemed ready to manage online learning. The program would be “… similar to the old fashioned pen licence…” with children “ … required to sit the digital licence test … before entering year three under a plan put to the Federal Government.” ( Lanai Scarr, ‘Test kids’ for digital licence’, NT News, 28/1/2019).
There is a misnomer in this proposition. ‘Pen licences’ were never required under education department directive or curriculum mandate. If organised, pen licences existed at school and classroom level. Some schools and teachers supported the initiative and issued children with pen licences. Others did not use the idea of ‘licensing’ as a motivation or incentive toward the development of handwriting skills.
There has been a call for “ … national leadership on (digital testing) to stem the risks kids face online and (to) combat the increase in cyberbullying.
The test would be required before children were … allowed to bring their own devices to use during school hours for educational purposes.” (Op.cit)
The proposal to carry out Australia-wide digital testing overlooks a number of salient points.
Attitudes toward digital use have their foundation in the home and begin to develop in children long before they begin preschool and transition. Licensing students entering year three is too little too late. Many use devices at home from very young ages. The home is where attitudes about digital use and responsibility should commence.
Parents and students are asked to sign agreements on digital access and device usage at their schools. That takes into account the responsibilities children must exercise when accessing sites and using the web. Breaches by students have consequences, including the withdrawal of Internet privileges. This process has been in place in most schools for many years.
Many schools have specialist computer teachers or technicians who ensure that appropriate firewalls and barriers are in place. The NT Education Department also bars entry by school systems onto some inappropriate sites.
A great deal of cyberbullying occurs on Facebook and other sites. Facebook urges parents not to allow the creation of accounts for children until they turn thirteen. However, many far younger children access Facebook and this can lead to bullying issues.
The use of devices and online technology must be predicated by care, vigilance and wise decision making. This goes far beyond earning a one off digital licence.