All teachers, in loco parentis, have a duty to protect the children in their care. So as a teacher, if you are responsible for learners when they are using digital devices, you need to take steps to stop them coming to any harm.
The first thing we would look at is the hardware. Computers per se are not harmful. Even if children poke their fingers or other objects into holes in a computer, they are not going to be in physical danger. Far more of a problem is children having unsupervised access to computers – for example if you have computers in your classroom and children have to stay in the room during rainy lunch hours. We would be absolutely ruthless about this – no computers to be used without supervision, preferably yours.
Our own preference is that the teacher passwords all the computers (or terminals) in their class with the SAME password and tells no one except a designated person (there has to be someone in case you have a supply teacher or in case your classroom has to be used for something else). Before you are going to use them, you need to go around and log on before the children start using them. If the computers are networked or you are using a designated computer suite, the rules will be different. At the end of the lesson – walk around and make sure everyone has logged out. Do change this password regularly; students have an uncanny ability of discovering what the password is!
Beware the blank screens and the kids who tell you they have logged out – if there is a blank screen, click the space bar to make sure it’s not just sleeping but properly logged off.
Digital cameras and camcorders that do not connect directly to the Internet are relatively safe. The only thing to watch out for is that children are not left with cameras at break or lunch times. It is tempting to let students have free access to cameras to work on a project. Be warned – if you do this, initially you will have to contend with children deciding to film other children in the lavatories or changing rooms. They do get bored with this very quickly; especially once you have done whatever teacher-ish thing you personally do in these circumstances. However, in the meantime you are likely to have had visits from irate parents. So be careful – unlimited access to cameras is a real privilege to be earned and handed out sparingly.
It is much the same with audio – the first time kids get to play with microphones and digital recording you may have to contend with excited and over-zealous students being silly or undisciplined. How you deal with it is again to do with your own classroom technique. As with everything else, it usually wears off very quickly. The good news is that you can erase it very easily. That said, this behaviour can become quite persistent with some groups, in this case you must depend on your own professional judgement as to how to stop it.
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