The rise of e-learning means educators need to upskill on digital risks while inspiring students to reach their ‘digital potential’
On World Teachers’ Day, October 5th, MySociaLife, South Africa’s leading program in schools focusing on online safety, media literacy, and digital potential, has announced the launch of a program to ‘teach the teachers‘ around the latest challenges and opportunities of a life spent increasingly online.
The 75-minute online course uses a web-based ‘log in and learn’ approach to reveal what’s happening regarding social media, apps, trends, cybersecurity, scams, mental health and essential privacy settings. From this foundation, they can approach their students with a greater understanding and deeper interest to find what excites them in the digital space.
Dean McCoubrey, Founder of MySociaLife, which was last week shortlisted for Startup Company of other Year at the GESS Awards in Dubai, explains, “We know the majority of teens and pre-teens are online more, so how are we guiding them to look behind the right doors with that screen time? While social media, apps and games are entertaining, there are also amazing websites, apps and resources to help educate, inspire, and, even make money from. It’s evident that there is a skills gap in our country already. We have to start earlier to mentor students in finding multiple interests in this rapidly evolving world of technology. Some of these students will only enter higher education in the middle of this decade, and then graduate into the workplace in 2030. Jobs will be fiercely contested and relevant skills will be central. It’s a little like retirement, the earlier you start and the better the guidance, the returns will be greater.”
“By teaching the teachers, we can help them guide their students to other ways of using smart devices that may open doors for them, ones which can lead to a love of photography or programming or analytics. If you take the amount of time spent online by GenZ and borrow just 10% of it per day and direct it towards a passion or hobby, you can generate fresh momentum. It can also help with mental health too, given the deeper purpose that students find,” McCoubrey adds.
However, most teachers do not feel equipped to deal with the diverse aspects of a digital social life, and McCoubrey says it can feel like it’s a vast online landscape to understand, while others admit to being overwhelmed during an uncertain and difficult 18 months. “They need training that is concise and relatable, given the pressures,“ he says.
The program seeks to first explain the different dimensions of life online for students between Grades 4 to 6 and also Grades 7 to 11 – latest trends, social apps, gaming, cyberbullying, fake news, privacy and security issues. “Increased screen time can also mean increased risk so you have to know what’s in front of you as a teacher first, so you can navigate the space with these age groups,” he says.
“Having taught this exact module myself in schools for several years and now moving teach it online, I am so delighted to make this accessible, not just to teachers in South Africa, but to other African countries. We have received interest from Namibia, Zimbabwe and Kenya for our program. The simplicity of our learning management system (LMS) means that educators can first download a lesson plan, plus a teacher pack of tips and tools before they watch the six instructional videos. It’s all about simplicity and accessibility.”
The vantage point of listening
MySociaLife approaches the education of digital risk and digital potential using a four-prong approach of teaching students, their teachers, their parents and psychologists, the first on the continent to do so, giving them a unique vantage point of listening to all groups and helping to bridge the technological divide. The approach has seen them shortlisted this month as ‘StartUp Company of the Year’ at the GESS Awards in Dubai, with winners to be announced on November 15th.
Ironically e-learning, with all its benefits, has also increased the need for foundational digital citizenship skills. McCoubrey concludes: “We have seen a real increase in attention from schools this year. They have come to the realisation that e-learning, social media, gaming and smart devices are not going away. They are also more nervous of the reputational damage that can hit their schools if they don’t take a more active role. The only solution is to bring together the adults and the students in a more united approach to the challenges and the opportunities of this evolving space.
From there, we can point students in the direction of their passions, so they can develop skills beyond their peers. You cannot see that path unless someone lights up the way.