According to its own introduction, Teachtoday.eu "is specifically designed to help teachers manage the challenges, both inside and outside the classroom, presented by online technologies such as Facebook, YouTube, mobile internet services and services such as Twitter".
Available in English, French, German, Czech, Italian and Spanish, it does so by providing guides to the range of social networking and communications tools and highlighting possbile problems they might pose for teachers. These include the latest downloadable guidance documents from Becta and the DCSF and a series of case studies which clearly demonstrate how easy it is for a teacher to become the victim of malicious comments, videos or fake profiles posted by students and shared virally over the internet or by mobile technologies such as the Bluetooth facility on mobile telephones.
Kathryn James, senior assistant secretary of the NAHT is heartened by the initiative and strongly supports the teaching union's role in Teachtoday. "It is really encouraging to see the Internet and Mobile industry working with education professionals to provide such a useful resource for dealing with some of issues that are now arising through the use of new technology by children,” she said.
By pointing to cases where teachers have inadvertently got themselves into trouble with their use of this new breed of communications technologies,Teachtoday shows it is not afraid to balance out the argument of misuse. It doesn't just focus, like the media, on teachers being bullied online by students.
Take for example the teacher who, during the school day and in class time, provided regular updates about school activities on Twitter or the newly qualified teacher who posted inappropriate holiday pictures of herself on Facebook. By providing clear step-by-step advice on how to deal with such situations the website helps teachers make sense of it all while at the same time offering sensible support to assist them and pupils to take advantage of the opportunities of the internet but avoid the risks.
Teachtoday.eu also deals with "a wide range of issues affecting children including cyber bullying, privacy, health concerns such as self harm and sexual grooming".
“Understanding new technology can be a real challenge for teachers”, said Jeff Smith, headteacher of Anson Primary School. “Not only do we have to have to advise our pupils but it’s important for us to understand how to manage our own online identity. I think that it is an invaluable resource for our school and it helps us overcome our fears of the potential risks of technology and empowers us to use it in a safe, secure manner.”
Working closely with European Schoolnet, a network of 28 ministries of education across Europe, and in consultation with ordinary teachers, the site's developers have also created a range of lesson plans and materials that teachers should find useful. The site's language is rather formal and dry and the jargon buster might just be basic links to Wikipedia definitions but Teachdtoday does the job its sets out to do - helping teachers to know at least as much as their pupils - and is a useful starting point for discussions on e-safety.