'Be Internet Legends is entirely relevant. These are life skills they need.'
Jacob Woolcock, computing teacher for Penpol Primary School in Cornwall, explains how the Be Internet Legends scheme of work is transforming his school’s approach to internet safety education – and making their pupils more confident online explorers.
My school had been looking at different e-safety options and software, but it is hard to find a product that ticks all the boxes. It is a topic that can be both quite serious and not particularly fun for children. Finding a balancing act and making it engaging can be difficult.
I discovered the Be Internet Legends campaign on the Google homepage. I didn’t know much about it but thought it might be quite interesting, so I signed up for the curriculum and assembly. When we saw the colourful Be Internet Legends posters and teaching resources, we thought it was great.
I spent a couple of days looking at the teaching guides, and then thought I should probably check out the Interland game too – not really expecting much – and realised it was incredible. It’s easy and fun for children to access, colour coded with games and music. I realised the kids would love it.
Computing teacher Jacob Woolcock in a Penpol School classroom.
Delivering the Legends Code
I’m Penpol School’s computing teacher and, starting with Years 3 and 4, we have been doing one part of the Legends code each week, from Sharp to Alert, Secure, Kind and Brave. For lower KS2, my original plan was to do two pillars, Alert and Kind, for example, at a time. But we got so into the first pillar – discussing what we should and shouldn’t share, and not be the Oversharer – that it took easily an hour.
'Our head teacher asked how much Be Internet Legends cost. When I told him it was free, he couldn’t believe it'
I was very surprised such a huge, impressive resource was completely free. When I showed our head teacher, he asked how much we were paying for it. When I told him it was free, he couldn’t believe it. It’s all online too, which is a really big thing. We have the Legends poster up in our Mac suite and the children always stop to look.
If in doubt, discuss
Discussing Be Internet Legends, the children were initially quite nervous. As a school, we want to make the internet safe to talk about. I think in general some parents can be a little unsure about helping their child with online safety, so discussions between parents and children aren’t always very open. But by making it an easy conversation, the children feel safer. Our school encourages parents to have this conversation too. A lot of children who have been going home and playing Interland with their family, which we’ve already heard has opened up a whole new dialogue.
The Interland game has formed part of Penpol School's Be Internet Legend work sessions.
'Our school is keeping up with developments in technology by encouraging a positive, healthy attitude to the internet'
Like most schools, we’ve had a few incidents in the past of inappropriate messages or children being bullied online and the traditional response would have been to discourage children from using social media entirely to avoid these messages. However, the approach of banning something is simply unrealistic now we are living in a world where the internet is such a fundamental part of our lives. Our school is adapting and keeping up with developments in technology by encouraging a positive, healthy attitude to the internet.
Rather than a blanket ‘don’t do this, don’t do that’ attitude, we favour a more open and positive approach. I start my e-safety lessons by telling the children that it is not my job to tell them what they can and can’t do online. It’s my job to tell them how to be safe. I think, as a school, we will all be looking at the Be Internet Legends programme to help update our policies and as a guide towards instilling a whole-school, positive, view of e-safety.
Most of our children have devices from Year 3 upwards, so it can be hard to know what they know. We talked about passwords and pin codes and the number of children who had their own tablets and pin codes was amazing. The Be Internet Legends curriculum is entirely relevant. These are life skills they will need.
With any good resource, it’s about adapting it to the children you have. When I have different classes, I know some will get it more than others. Be Internet Legends is not too restrictive and rigid. We use the teacher lesson plans, but we also add some bits ourselves. This gives everything you need and then you can use it the way you think best.
Be Internet Legends has engaged Penpol's KS2 year groups, as well as families at home.
The bad Internauts within the Interland game – the Oversharer, Phisher, Hacker and Cyberbully – take away the scary human element but at the same time, it establishes there are these bad characters from the internet they need to watch out for. I think, by dehumanising it a little bit, it makes it easier for the children to discuss.
'Being Kind is being nice to other people. That’s really important online because if you are kind to other people they will be kind to you'
Luke, Year 4, Penpol School
The Interland game actually forms a smaller part of our lessons, perhaps 10 minutes. For Year 3 and 4, we have selected two activities to do. The Alert section has been great and we have been able to look into all sorts of phishing elements. Discussion is one thing, but then we show them the screenshots from the curriculum on the projector and suddenly they can spot a green padlock or a URL being different. Their eyes light up and they all throw their hands up.