E-safety in a time of pandemic

Monday, 27 April, 2020

E-safety in a time of pandemic

One of the most striking things about the COVID-19 pandemic is the rate at which we have all adapted to new and different circumstances... including a swift move to remote learning. As physical distancing and self-isolation became the norm, online connection became the imperative for students, teachers and parents.

Of course, increased time online comes with increased risk, leading the Australian eSafety Commissioner to release a raft of information and tools designed to minimise exposure to harm. The Office of the eSafety Commissioner is responsible for coordination of online safety efforts across government, industry and the not-for-profit community. In response to the current extraordinary circumstances and in recognition of the social and emotional impacts that isolation can bring, the Office developed dedicated guidelines and resources for both parents/carers and for educators.

At the time of writing, Australian states and territories appear to be favouring differing attendance approaches for terms two and three, suggesting some degree of remote learning will be in place for a few weeks, or months, yet. Indeed, it’s not unthinkable that an online component in some form will become a permanent part of the education landscape.

Current eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant authored an open letter to school principals and educators, not only thanking them for their incredible efforts during trying times, but additionally recommending everyone in the education sector remain up to date with the continuous flow of information being published by her office. Guidance is available on a range of topics including ‘5 steps to keep students safe during online learning’ and how to assess the benefits and vulnerabilities of available online collaboration tools.

Grant’s letter also advises that online safety is largely addressed through the Australian Curriculum and that her office provided significant input into the recently developed online safety curriculum connection, “a guide for educators to identify content that supports the teaching and learning of online safety”.

The eSafety Office is hosting a NESA and TQI accredited professional webinar-based learning program for teachers, covering the latest online safety research, case studies and strategies to help integrate online safety into teaching programs and student wellbeing planning. On completion, participants receive a certificate for two hours of professional learning. This program will be offered throughout terms 2 and 3, and a list of dates and times for live webinar sessions is available here.

Image credit: © stock.adobe.com/au/metamorworks

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