Can't say the NSA/PRISM security services surveillance controversy has got me very hot under the collar. Maybe its just that I struggle to get excited about Big Brother-esque snooping, when privacy is something of a redundant concept these days - CCTV is everywhere in the UK, even in Welsh forests!
Though phone tapping is another issue, I have always taken it for granted that electronic communication is a public forum. Though I must admit I have broken my own rule a few times in the heat of the moment, I would never send an email or put a post on Twitter or Facebook that I wouldn't be happy for the whole world to see (including MI5 and Mr Gove). Which is why I am taken aback by those who very obviously perceive that these are private means of communication - they are not!SXC.hu
Only the other day, I had a very reputable company requesting that I send financial details via email (I didn't). Last night's BBC Question Time audience (made up entirely of 16 and 17 year old 'digital natives') were getting very exercised by the idea that the security services might take a look at their Facebook accounts! If they genuinely think that social media is a secure means of communication, then our e-safety education is seriously flawed. And maybe it is? Perhaps the emphasis on caution, secure passwords and restrained profiles gives the impression that social media and digital communication can be private and safe if we do the right things. Yes, being e-safe is important in terms of avoiding contact by undesirables or those outside your social circle, but it doesn't mean that posts and images are private. Whether it be for the greater good or not, the state has the potential to see everything posted online, so we need to get over it ...
Thanks to Irritable Tech for pointing out the South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL) Swiggle website, which has a Google-powered safe search tool on its home page. According to SWGfL, the tool 'is created using Google Custom Search with Safe Search functionality enabled. The Search promotes specific educational keywords in order to help provide results with an educational focus. In addition some sites have been blocked to help prevent inappropriate results being provided'. The site still suggests that filtering should be enabled when searching, but this looks to be a useful tool for primary children's research. It also links through to some of the best online e-safety resources, including some really useful child-friendly advice on effective searching.
Also, not a search tool, but yet another really good free online photo editor has come to my attention - Picadilo has all the usual filters and effects in a straightforward interace. Reminds me a little of the late, lamented Picnik; which is high praise!
Finally, an invitation to all primary teachers to a TeachMeet! Details in the poster below. If you would like to attend, please leave a message in the Comments box and I will pass it on.
Had a query the other day about safe, learner friendly sites for research in primary and teaching/learning about web searching. Everyone is so used to Google now as first choice for web search that other very useful sites tend to be ignored and (worryingly) Google is often used in schools and settings without an awareness of its potential dangers. First off, it is very easy to make Google relatively secure and child-friendly - on all computers that you are using, go to Google settings and set the SafeSearch filter to Strict (set a password, if learners are likely to interfere). Alternatively, set up a Google Custom Search for the topic that children will be researching - very easy to do (just make a list of sites that you want to be included), though it could be argued that it rather defeats the point of web searching by taking away the unexpected(?). On Bing, safe searching is set up in much the same way as in Google - trust Microsoft to be a copyist!
Always remember that image searching can never be 100% safe, so always proceed with caution - Google Safe Images purports to offer safe image searching, but should never be used without close supervision. The only site I would be entirely confident about is pics4learning.com.
Away from the corporate search tools, other specific tools for children include:
Tony Pickford is a tutor and writer on primary education.