Yesterday, I had the privilege of spending some time with Henry Platten founder of eCadets and GoBubble. Henry is also a father and has a background in the police as an ex sergeant. Henry says that his drive is “to keep kids safe online and give them all the benefits that come from tech without any of the headaches.” With the success of eCadets reaching over 1 million pupils it certainly seems he as achieved just that,so let’s find out more about his projects, how they are used and the positive impacts they have been having in education.
What is eCadets and how does it work?
Well, eCadets is primarily all about kids teaching other kids how to use the internet safely. When a school registers online, once approved, they select mini eCadets (Early years and KS1) and/or eCadets (KS2). They are given online resources and activities to give to their eCadets. An eCadets primary role is to facilitate learning about keeping safe online.Each term, the eCadets are given 3 activities to complete. Henry explains that these activities are related to, “the Computing curriculum, E-safety and our own knowledge and experience.” With these 3 activities one is usually an assembly, another will be a classroom-based activity and the last will be linked to parents such as bringing home something to share with them. The work they complete is marked and assessed by the people at eCadets (not class teachers-bonus!) and this is how schools can get on the league board.
“We are always trying to look at how we can help the whole school community with kids training other kids- the kids can do the teaching.”
What kind of activities could pupils be given?
We looked at an example from a primary KS1 class where kids were asked to help their parents be safe online over the summer, “so things like not sharing their location so the house can get burgled or sharing photos that could be inappropriate for social media, not consciously inappropriate but because of the information they could contain they might not be best to share.” A child from the class had chosen to teach their parent about this by creating a poster with the acronym of safe and they included lots of safety messages and pictures.
Are children given training and support in case a child approaches them with issues they are having online?
“Yes, they are but we are very clear that that is not their primary role, they are there as a facilitator for learning, it’s just if someone happens to say something they know what to do.” Henry explains that eCadets (not mini eCadets as they have a simpler role) are explicitly told from day one that if anyone does disclose anything to them they must tell the designated safeguarding lead, a headteacher or the eCadets lead in their school. He also explains that they wouldn’t want children to feel like ‘a pupil designated safe guarding officer’ more like ‘a friendly ear who can listen if they want to.’ Thanks to the support that eCadets receive on this, there have been cases where they have helped to solve safeguarding issues because they listened and passed it on to the right person to take it further. “From my experience working with schools and in the police kids sometimes just feel they can’t go to a member of staff, a parent or another adult but they will chat to their friends.”
Henry also talked about how the media can ‘demonise’ social media and that some people still create a ‘culture of fear’ when it comes to online safety, but this means kids are afraid to speak up for fear of being in trouble for using social media in the first place.
“70% of under 12s use social media so let’s accept that and show them safe ways to use it and also at the same time give them safe opportunities which is what led to GoBubble.”
What is GoBubble and how did it start?
Henry explained that GoBubble came about because of eCadet requests, they wanted a place where they could build their own pupil communities and connect with pupils in other schools. However, to be able to do this independently without the support of a teacher wouldn’t be possible completely safely so they decided to build something that was. “GoBubble creates a safe environment where pupils can connect safely with other kids, everyone has been verified so you know they are a child.” He also explained about how they have safety measures in place such as pre-moderated content including a traffic light system but that they’ve become more of a safety net because “they (the kids) start to police themselves and you find the content is actually fine.”
He told me that next week they will be launching teams which will be about project-based learning, so children can not only connect with people around the world but work together on projects. It was astounding to hear that children were making ‘lasting friendships’ through GoBubble and that “There is a genuine interest and desire for the users to learn about different cultures and that’s fantastic. “He gave an example of a school in London and a school in Greece teaching each other how to speak their languages.
In your opinion what have been the some of the most positive impacts from eCadets and GoBubble?
From talking with Henry, the impacts seem endless, on individuals, classes and whole school communities. It was hard for him to narrow this down, but he said one of the stories from eCadets that really stood out for him was a boy with low attainment, low attendance, who was disengaged in learning and with his peers saying, ’he found his voice’ when he took on the role of an eCadet. Henry added, “the transformation for that child going through the eCadets shows an impact that hopefully will stay with that child for the rest of their life.”
For GoBubble, he explained how shocked he was (in a good way) about how positive educators were about the free product and that they were keen to use it in their classrooms. He liked the drive they had and the responses such as “this is what we’ve been waiting for.”
“GoBubble is building in that digital citizenship, a positive ethos of supporting each other and using social media as it should be. “
Henry’s Top Tips for online safety in schools
• Create a pupil leadership group for online safety such as eCadets
• Don’t be discouraged when parents don’t turn up to online safety events, instead find new opportunities such as school plays and sports day to share important messages
• Sign post parents to the right information
• Take the pressure off- if you are doing everything to support pupils during the school day and sign posting parents then you’ve done all you need to do
• “Use the right assessment tools like ReallySchool to keep data protected”
• Look at safe collaborative environments like GoBubble
• Use online resources such as https://www.internetmatters.org/
Further reading and information:
Image source: Depositphotos.com