The virtual landscape has shifted dramatically over the past few weeks, and as a result of that change, teachers have been diving headfirst into online education. Learning anything new comes with new challenges: programs, technology, and discovering ways to stay safe online.
Whether you’re well-versed in virtual learning, or just beginning to navigate new platforms for the first time, here are some tips for keeping yourself and your students safe:
1. Know Your Risks
Students are inherently more tech-savvy. They will be able to pick up new ways of using (or abusing) platforms. It’s your job, as the teacher, to know what risks can be potentially involved in a certain platform (for you and for them).
One way to do this is to research platforms before even integrating them into your curriculum. You can search online forums, blogs, or even YouTube for simple tutorials.
You should also give yourself ample time to experiment with the platforms before showing them to your students. This will ensure you can troubleshoot problems, answer questions, and walk your students through use step-by-step.
2. Teach Students About Online Security
It may sound cliche, but it’s true: knowledge is power. Take time to teach your students about online and internet safety and cybersecurity. This means explaining bullying (more on this later), harassment, and safe practices for identifiable information (name, address, etc.).
3. Implement Proper Security Measures
This may seem obvious, but be sure to use school accounts and addresses when you set up online programs. If you use your personal addresses, you can potentially risk students having access to that information.
Although hacking may not seem practical with your students, knowing that they are well-versed in technology means they could potentially know more about hacking than you think! By using school accounts, you ensure security and safety for yourself (and your classrooms).
Here are other security measures you can do on your own to help you stay safe online:
4. Use Biometrics When Available
Biometrics are security measures that involve body measurements and calculations. This includes fingerprints or facial recognition to ensure no one else has access to your accounts. Especially as you’re the one setting up the online platforms, your security needs to be the utmost priority.
5. Routinely Update Platforms
Consistent updates will be crucial for guaranteeing the security of your systems. Whether you’re doing a manual update in the app or having your students download recent updates on their individual devices, updates will keep your systems running smoothly. (If possible, doing auto-updates will be best!)
6. Maintain a Professional Reputation
Students are highly concerned with their online reputations; rest assured, they’ll be looking into yours, too, especially as everyone navigates to virtual platforms.
As you find ways for your students to say safe online, you’ll also want to be safe about your accounts. Make sure you have challenging passwords and no personal information or public accounts for what you don’t want readily accessible.
If students can access personal accounts, they may feel less safe in your classroom. They may also share this information with parents/guardians, which can affect your credibility – not to mention negatively impact your employment (depending on the severity of the information).
Here are some easy ways to safeguard your online reputation:
7. Educate Your Students on Bullying
Bullying and harassment are serious offenses. Students who are new to online platforms may not realize how this happens, or ways that they may be harming other students.
Take time to educate your students on bullying and what it looks like across varying platforms. Show them examples of (both obvious and subtle) and discuss how to report an offense.
If you’re not familiar with different language surrounding bullying and harassment, check out this graphic. It shares different ways to stay safe and how to talk to your students appropriately:
Conclusion: Ways to Stay Safe Online
As schools shift into virtual classrooms, learning how to stay safe online is the utmost priority (for students, of course, but for teachers, too!)
As a teacher, the first and most important step is to educate yourself. That way you can properly teach and integrate your students with new platforms and answer any questions they (or parents/guardians) may have.
For other thoughts on virtual learning, head over to our Teacher Tips.