Monthly Archives: August 2011

A Heartfelt Appeal from a Caring Principal

We live in such a busy world where many morals and values have taken a back seat and parenting styles are vastly different to when we were children. Obviously we need to move with the times and adapt methods of parenting to the issues of the moment, but the bottom line is that common sense should still prevail and parents should still be parents and not ‘pals’.  This came through very clearly in a recent article from our school newsletter, written by our Senior Primary principal, Gareth Allman. With his permission I have posted it below:

Dear Parents and Pupils

As I am going to pen words of caution once again on this topic, I fear that people might believe that I am not a fan of technology and social media, and that thereby my words might lose credibility. Allow me to say that this is not at all the case – I am a huge, albeit amateurish, user of technology!

The role of Blackberry’s instant messaging platforms in the riots on the streets of London is by now well documented. The disturbing video footage of youths going on the rampage and looting stores is a vivid reality check of how something as simple as a phone can create so much damage. It was brought to my attention last week that many of our pupils are playing a game on their phones called ‘AMS’. This is an acronym for ‘ Ask Me Something’. Whilst it could be innocent, this is sadly not the case, with many questions being posed requesting strong lurid and sensual feedback. Now I know I could be perceived as an old crock and that when I was 12, if we had had cell phones, my questions would have been along the lines of, “Do you have petrol for your scrambler?”, or “How many pellets do you have for your pellet gun?” in advance of a walk in the bush! Yes, our children are growing up in a different environment and that’s not going to change. But this does not mean that we throw our arms up in the air, despair, and wish for the ‘old days’. It is incumbent on us as teachers and parents to be pro-active in the management of our children. I would even go so far as to say many parents need to take back the ownership and rights of parenting.

Children need to be checked on. And whilst they might retort with something along the lines of, “Don’t you trust me?”, this is not the essence of child rearing. In fact, parents might well be able to say that you do trust them. You trust that they will make mistakes! And that it is your responsibility to help them to learn from their mistakes.

Children need to be taught that they need to think before they post something. They need to understand that a social media mistake cannot be erased. They need to understand that a bad post can lead to bad reputations. They need to ask themselves, “Will I be comfortable with my father or grandmother reading this?”. It is way too easy to write something and ‘hide behind a screen’. They need to ask, “Will I be comfortable in asking this to an audience such as my class?”  They need to understand that acceptable behaviour is not only required in public space, but in cyber space too. That Scotland Yard warned last week that those inciting violence on Twitter will be sought out and punished, shows the need for smart cyber space behaviour.

A fortnight ago I wrote about positive discipline. The follow through of that is consequences. Consequences are necessary in that they help modify behaviour. They transfer the need to be responsible from the parent to the child and place the problem squarely on the shoulders of the child. If boundaries have been determined for acceptable use of a phone, and they have been breached, take away the phone. Take back your right as a parent and do not fall into emotional games.

So, what are we as a school doing to educate our pupils in this regard? Besides the pastoral care and on-going incidental interventions, some parents may be aware that we are developing our own Life Orientation curriculum so that it is relevant to the needs of our pupils. One module that has been introduced is around the issues of being  ‘cyber smart’. Mrs Stadler has also published a brochure called ‘Staying in Touch’ which was distributed to pupils and parents in the first term. In addition we are in the process of securing a guest speaker to address the Grade 6’s about being cyber smart.

We are all concerned about Keeping Your Kids Safe. This great South African website has some good ideas for doing so. [Click on the words].

Alternatively, use your phone to scan this QR code:



Having fun with QR codes!

I have just created my first QR code (Quick Response code) with  Here is an explanation of what exactly QR codes are, from the website:

QR Codes are 2 dimensional barcodes that are easily scanned using any modern mobile phone. This QR Code will then be converted (called “dequrified”) into a piece of (interactive) text and/or link.
So simple and it works like a charm on my phone.

These codes have endless potential in the classroom – imagine a scavenger hunt with all the clues in QR code format, spread around the school and the students have to scan each code to find out the next clue!  What fun! Of course, it means allowing them to use cell phones, but there are ways and means of doing that – I’ll do a little more investigation.  In the mean time here is my QR code:

Glimpses from the IT Centre

I had my camera out today, to record what was happening in the IT Centre…

Learning through play:

The Grade 5s are studying the Ancient Egyptian civilisation and so today they are building a pyramid with this stunning BBC History Game called Pyramid Builder. Try it! They’re having a ball, and what they don’t realise is that there is a lot of learning going on because the game requires thought and logical reasoning as well as decision making.

Afrikaans Cycle Test:

The Grade 4s wrote their Afrikaans Cycle test here today – on the computers! They coped very well!

Brushing up on our Geography with a Rugby World Cup Game:

With this quick little game created by a friend (and her co-author) to promote her latest book in the Planet Octavia series: Geogrugby. Do you know where all the World Cup Rugby nations are in the world?

School was never this much fun in my day!

Time to Get “Social Smarts”

I have just received a link to an excellent post on a topic especially close to my heart, and which links very nicely to my earlier post Moral Dilemma or Just Old Fashioned?  Written by Joey Sargent, it is an Open Letter to Teens, Tweens and the People Who Love Them, highlighting the hidden dangers of using social media and the fact that we need to be CAREFUL online!

Please read this post for yourself.  I take no credit for it but I think it is excellent and just reinforces the fact that we need to guide our children in their online behaviour, teach them the facts and show them how to be responsible Cyber Citizens – parents and teachers alike!

EdTechConf eXtended @ Elkanah!

The day has arrived!  We are happy to announce that our school will be hosting the very first EdTechConf eXtended event at the end of September!

All the details are below – simply click on the picture to register. We hope to see many new faces at our conference!

[PLEASE NOTE: If you attended the inaugural EdTechConf in May this year, we kindly suggest that you pass this invitation on to your colleagues. This will aid the EdTechConf team in their efforts to reach out to as many teachers and administrators as possible, and avoid disappointment due to possible content overlap. Thank you!]

Moral dilemma or just old fashioned?

I’m on a bit of a mission at the moment and forgive me if this sounds like a rant, because it’s just how I feel about the topic of underage use of social media services and communication tools such as Facebook, Mxit, WhatsApp and other such services.

I work in a Senior Primary school where most of the children are between 10 and 12 years of age. A large number of these children (I feel a survey coming on, since I do not like to speculate on statistics) are using Facebook regularly and they also use MXit or more recently WhatsApp on their cell phones. (I know of Grade 4 children using WhatsApp). They also access You Tube regularly and a few of them even post videos on You Tube. So what’s my point? ALL these service have age restrictions on them and 99% of our children are too young to be using them! That raises the question then, are these children using these services without their parents’ knowledge or even worse WITH their parents’ knowledge?

Don’t get me wrong – I am an avid user of social media. I love Facebook and cannot live without Twitter. I know that MXit has changed the face of communication in South Africa and that WhatsApp is rapidly following suit. It is not the services that I have a problem with – my problem is that I am a person who works by the book. I believe rules are put in place for a reason and if they are there to protect children, why on earth would we want to break them? I can only think that ignorance is the problem. Our parents just don’t know enough about the ins and outs of services they allow their children to make use of. And what exactly are we teaching our children if we allow them to “bend” the rules by altering their birth dates? If the parents allow them this now, what else are they going to allow in the future? Where do they draw the moral line? Are these parents not bowing to the very peer pressure they are trying to guard their children against??

I’d really appreciate comments on this post. Am I missing the boat somewhere, or am I just old fashioned?

For your interest, I have looked at the terms of service for the following services to see what the age restrictions are: 

Facebook: 13 years old

MXit: 14 years old (with parental permission)  

WhatsApp: 16 years old

You Tube: 13 years old to view, 18 years old to post videos