Quilliam Foundation will be presenting at Online Safety in Education events

The impact of technology on our daily lives is difficult to understate, so it should come as no surprise that it’s having considerable impact on the classroom. It’s important to stress that this is far from a bad thing, and any attempt to blame smartphones, social media, or Netflix for cultural ills is ultimately misguided. Technology can be used for ends both good and sinister; it is inherently neither.

In the British education system, technology is overwhelmingly used to positive effect by educators and students alike. The rise of classroom tablets and PCs has facilitated easier communication, fostered more creative approaches to learning, and even made it simpler to personalise learning for students with cognitive and physical disabilities. Above and beyond all that, however, newly IT-literate schools are equipping students for a world where digital skills are highly sought after – and digital competence a basic requirement.

That said, just as educational institutions put technology to good use, the internet remains open to abuse by those with less admirable motives. Amongst other things, we have seen high-profile cases of racist abuse, homophobia, and sexual grooming in recent years – and this year, in particular, we have become all too aware of the dangers of online radicalisation. The departures of three schoolchildren from Bethnal Green Academy to Islamic State territory earlier in 2015 highlighted an urgent need to provide more comprehensive education about extremist narratives. It also emphasised a need to provide teachers with better ways of identifying problematic behaviour among pupils.

It must be stressed that this does not mean making these children feel isolated, persecuted, or in any way ‘other’. But there are ways to monitor the online activity of pupils without restricting their access to vital learning resources – and doing so is essential if schools and teachers are to protect them from the dangers of predatory extremists. Furthermore, with the introduction of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act and the revision of existing Ofsted guidelines earlier this year, this has become a legal duty as well as a moral one.

Online safety in education: keeping up with change

At Impero Software, we’ve been working with the Quilliam Foundation to produce an anti-radicalisation keyword library. Defining terms such as “YODO” and “Message to America”, the software provides a way for teachers to spot potentially troublesome patterns in a student’s online behaviour as they emerge – and the opportunity to intervene before curiosity becomes something more dangerous altogether.

And our collaboration with the Quilliam Foundation doesn’t stop there. We’re delighted to welcome Quilliam to our upcoming events, which focus more broadly on the ways schools and educators can ensure their pupils have the safest possible online experience – one where they are free to learn without succumbing to corruption from more unsavoury elements. Entitled “Online safety in education: keeping up with change”, the teacher-centric events will be held in London and Manchester – on September 24 and November 4 respectively.

Jonathan Russell, Quilliam’s political liaison officer, will attend each event and provide a topical keynote speech to be followed by a workshop later in the day. In light of the new regulations imposed on educators across the country, the keynote will focus on the rising profile of radicalisation in UK schools, as well as the ways in which teachers and other personnel can fulfil their duty of care to pupils. The session will include an in-depth look into the factors that influence a student’s susceptibility to radicalisation, the steps staff can take to protect students from charismatic ISIL recruiters, and the role the internet plays in both fostering and countering extremist narratives.

The later ‘breakout session’ will build on these themes, exploring the development of radicalisation into a multi-layered phenomenon, and some specific methods of response to suspicions of extremist indoctrination. The interactive session will include two sub-talks, ordinarily targeted at regular pupils: “Is it okay to be British and Muslim?” Aimed at an 11-year old audience, and “Why do some people join ISIL and why is it bad?” aimed at more mature 15-year old students. Each workshop will be interactive, and include time for questions and broader discussion.

The conferences will feature contributions from other sources. Amongst other speakers, Childnet’s Alan McKenzie and Caroline Hurst will appear at the London and Manchester events respectively, and will run workshops about engaging the wider school community in e-safety and exploring the role of peer education in protecting pupils from common online dangers. David Wright of the South West Grid for Learning Trust will offer a keynote talk on trends, issues, and the very latest in online safety. Impero Software will have a presence throughout the event, and will elaborate on the role initiatives like the keyword library have to play in safeguarding UK pupils.

To find out more about the events, click here.

To read more articles on our blog, please click here.

Twitter: @QuilliamF

Facebook: Quilliam Foundation

YouTube: QuilliamFoundation