It is hard enough for a teacher to find time to mark and plan their existing subjects. These have the advantage of being familiar and well-studied. When a new subject comes along, a teacher has to address it and start from scratch. Safety online is such a subject.
Webcams, camera phones, messaging apps and social media mean that staying safe online is completely different for children today compared to just 10 years ago. Schools and parents need to deal with it and do so in a way that is not just an exercise in ticking a box.
This app's developers offer a complete package for doing this. A student app that has exercises for students to follow is accompanied by a teacher's app to administer the lessons and monitor the students. Parents can also download an app to be part of the process as well.
The paid-for package is very complete. It includes access to all of the app's features, which appear to be continually growing. Workbooks and posters embed the service's message across the school. Before taking the financial plunge you can download the app to try out a single section of the student's app.
There is a bit of work to be done to get this far as the user needs to log in to the app. To do this, they need to reference an already-created adult's account. Ideally, there would be the option for a guest account, just for appraisal, as this is an offputting and complex process to try the app out that some might abandon part way.
Once the app is accessed properly, the player can choose the section called Gooseberry Street. This is the game where the main experience happens and which demonstrates the gamification of the learning that is a big part of the app's appeal.
It is very attractive. The graphics are certainly equal to some popular games. Sound and music are of similarly high quality. The game takes the form of a simple platform-style game as a character, called Taff, is led through the level collecting stars and items. It isn't the gaming experience most children will be used to but it is a decent way to enliven the learning.
Along the way, Taff meets other characters to interact with. They offer common requests that a child might encounter online. The player must then choose an appropriate response. It also prompts children to turn to a workbook at this point so, in the full package, it is going to be a little more fleshed out.
There are some glitches with this interaction as the app stands at the time of review. The final parting advice after each interaction is identical each time. From examining the useful overview at the end of the level, it becomes clear that this is not meant to be the case. There are a few noticeable grammar errors and awkward sentences used in different parts of the app. A little more proofreading would be useful as the errors stand out next to the polish of the rest of the app.
The situations that arise could also be usefully rephrased so that the correct response is not so often in the negative. For example, many are requests for extending an online interaction into the real world. Instead of the question usually being along the lines of "should you go?", they could read "should you mention this to your parents?" instead. This would help prevent children from slipping into an automatic response without thinking.
The app and its accompanying resources have every appearance of being under continuous refinement and development, so it is likely that it will continue to improve and the issues mentioned above will disappear. There is a list of topics currently covered and soon to be covered on the large and informative website for the app.
This app has an aim that is relevant to today's society. It raises issues that need to be thought about and it does it in an interesting way, for children and teachers. Teachers' time is stretched thin and this topic is too important to be covered badly. Schools should consider this app to let teachers effectively discuss with children how to stay safe online.