I was having lunch with some children in Year 3 this week and they were asking each other what they thought Siri looked like. It was an interesting conversation, on a topic I must admit I have never considered. It did raise my curiosity, however, and I have undertaken some research since.
If you ask your phone, “Hey Siri, what do you look like?” you will receive a multitude of responses, including, “To tell you the truth, I am rather abstract-looking” to “In the cloud, nobody cares what you look like.” Asking Alexa the same question, I had the response, “I look like a lot of ones and zeros.”
We regularly talk to the children and educate them about safety online, including the notion of anonymity. On the one hand we encourage them not to give away personal information but we also encourage them to reflect on the possibility that who they think they are communicating with online may not necessarily be the reality.
The ability to communicate digitally with one another and in groups appears to be developing at such a pace. The advantages of the software are clear, particularly the ability to collaborate with a number of others on one document or communicate almost as if all members of the party are sitting at a table together, albeit not in person.
From a very young age children learn through exploration and practice. I remember watching my own children drop their plastic cutlery from their high chairs only to watch the reaction of me, and then repeat. Children are naturally inquisitive and want to test new experiences.
The ability to communicate digitally in groups is an exciting prospect for children. When they are first introduced to such facilities they will naturally want to explore. It is inherent in children. It is a phase that they need to run through. At times they will make mistakes but as we are always saying, failure is part of the learning process. We know that, despite the very clear directives and guidance on acceptable use of group emails, for example, some children will push the boundaries or make mistakes. It is actually part of the process.
If staff are alerted to inappropriate use of digital facilities they will act very quickly. Some children recently have not been using group emails responsibly and Claire Thompson, Assistant Head (Upper School) responded very quickly. Once the children are reminded of our expectations and the reasons for them, as well as exploring how others feel when they receive unkind messages, it is amazing how quickly they respond. This may be reinforced by the fact Claire insisted on checking their email accounts once they had had the opportunity to sort them out.
Children do and will make mistakes. We are there to guide, support and educate.