Since making Education City, Bug Club, Purple Mash & Sumdog available to use at home we have had numerous questions about access to these resources via iPads and Android Tablets, and about online safety on such devices. There is a shift from laptops towards tablets and I know that many pupils now only have access to tablet devices at home as the ‘family’ laptop or PC is kept for the adults.
Here are the answers I am giving to those questions:
Background- The problem with access to these resources is that most educational software has been Flash-based and this has been phased out by Apple, Google etc. following security flaws. Rather than having a separate piece of software running on a device (Flash) websites are increasingly creating HTML5-based web resources but this will not happen overnight and companies such as Bug Club, Education City etc. are having to re-write large amounts of software at considerable expense.
Education City, Bug Club, Purple Mash & Sumdog – We have been in touch with all of these providers and they’ve all said much the same: We’re working on it! Education City & Purple Mash are gradually rolling out HTML5 versions of their sites and increasing amounts of content will work on tablets over the course of the next year. None of Bug Club works without Flash at the moment but they have a new HTML5 site that is being rolled out to schools over the next few months – when this happens they’ll let us know and ALL content will immediately be tablet-friendly. Sumdog doesn’t currently work on Android devices but there is an iOS app for iPads and iPhones which allows access to some content.
Chromebooks – Although we do not endorse, or presently use, Chromebooks in school they are increasingly being seen as a tablet/laptop alternative, particularly in educational environments. They offer the functionality of a modern laptop for prices starting at under £200 and although they do not run Microsoft software they do come with Google Docs (as used in school) and run all the websites we use at school. If you are thinking about a new laptop or tablet for Christmas you may wish to consider them. You can find out more information about Chromebooks here.
Tablet Safety – There are two types of filter: Black/Whitelisting tools that block all sites unless explicitly approved by an adult; Intelligent filters that scan for web content and block sites if they feel they break given content rules. At school we have the latter system that is managed via Essex County Council. Such systems expensive and certainly not foolproof – you end up going for very strict controls (as we do in school) that block large amounts of harmless sites just in case. Parents white/blacklisting of sites is very restrictive and takes an age to set up as they are usually domain based. For example, allowing bbc.co.uk so your child can visit bbc.co.uk/cbeebies would give them access to the news pages, so you allow bbc.co.uk/cbeebies only but then they can’t access bbc.co.uk/cbbc so you have to add that… I’ve tried both solutions with my children and found them both unmanageable. The best way to stay e-safe is by actively monitoring usage (be nosy!) and by talking openly about internet/app usage with your children. We have a comprehensive e-safety policy and curriculum at school and our devices have strict filtering tools, but we have little control over pupil use of completely open smartphones and tablets outside of school. We have links to a range of e-safety resources on this website which you may find of use.
As soon as we have any more news regarding Education City, Bug Club, Purple Mash & Sumdog we’ll let you know.