CyberSymposium Round Up

Monday 14th November 2016

CyberSymposium Round Up by Aoife Madeley

On the 9th of November, over 100 students from Queen Anne’s School and UTC Reading united for a CyberSymposium discussing ethics, morality and privacy in cyberspace with all these topics being encompassed by the provoking question: ‘Just because we can should we?’.

After gathering in the hall, meeting our groups and mobbing the biscuit table, it was time to begin working on the commandment allocated to each group. In total there were 10 commandments based on computer ethics, ranging from: ‘Thou shalt not use a computer to steal’ to ‘Thou shalt think about the social consequences of the program you are writing or the system you are designing’, all designed to challenge as computer knowledge emitted from UTC merged with the ethical expertise from Queen Anne’s in order to produce a well-rounded view of each commandment which would eventually be presented to everyone in the hall at the end of the day.

At regular intervals throughout the bustling day, a sense of calm washed over the room as silence was introduced along with a guest speaker discussing their own role in the workings of technology and the surrounding ethical issues. Professor Marina Jirotka and Dr Helena Webb from Oxford University spoke about modern technology and its role in daily life combined with the ever growing importance of being involved in the computer world as it begins to consume everyday regimes. We were also joined by Mark Evans, Chief Security Architect for UK Public Sector Practice within Enterprise Security Services from Hewlett Packard, who discussed the relevance of computing in the 21st century, providing inspiration to all 10 groups in the hall as he explored the moral and immoral associations with modern technology and how this relates to his job.  In addition to this, Anthony Parker who is Chair of the Berkshire Branch British Computing Society who generously awarded advice on every commandment, beneficial as a fresh opinion was injected into the thoughts of the groups, often throwing us off on a tangent as we ventured into new ideas and debates surrounding the controversial commandment.

As the day passed, we became increasingly aware of the alarming importance of technology today. There are many blurred lines of the cyber world, which is an alarming truth. Unlike the rest of the world, it has not been constructed with a solid set of rules in mind therefore meaning people can essentially do what they want to in the online world, which differs greatly from reality as a multitude of people adopt a stronger and sometimes harmful persona. The internet and all the strings attached to it can make or break someone. But there are no rules to dictate the outcome of someone’s time spent on the internet, we seemed to conclude that a great deal of responsibility comes into play in cyber space.

To round off the day, each group gave a presentation, voicing their opinions on their chosen commandment which broadened our minds as people were thrown into the light of new and wavering opinions. Many of us left feeling confused at how no-one truly has control of the monster like shadow of the internet, but its power shone through as when the symposium drew to a close, we immediately attended to our phones for the latest social media happenings and gossip…


BrainCanDo Perspective from Dr. Fancourt

The symposium today was great. When I first arrived in the morning there was a real buzz in the room as each table began work on the discussion questions. It was brilliant to see the pupils themselves getting up on stage to deliver the presentations of their discussions. Well done on all the hard work and organisation – it was all worth it in the end!

‘Through our BrainCanDo programme at Queen Anne’s we understand the changes taking place in the brain throughout adolescence. We know that rapid development of emotional centres in the brain alongside a protracted course of development in the connectivity between frontal regions of the brain can leave our adolescents vulnerable to increased impulsivity and risk-taking behaviours in adolescence. This is why it is so vitally important that we educate our adolescent pupils about the importance of remaining safe online and protecting their digital selves and the digital profiles of others. The drive for immediate gratification and a tendency to minimise consequences and take risks during adolescence can lead to regrettable actions and behaviours. Through educating our pupils about the long-lasting impact of their behaviour in cyberspace, we can encourage them to stop and think about the consequences of their actions online.’

This symposium brought together leading experts and provided an open forum through which pupils were freed to engage with the ethical dilemmas of cyberspace. The format of the day was geared to tap into the inherent drive for sociability that we see during adolescence, as students were placed in groups and given specific issues concerning morality, ethics and digital awareness to discuss in both online and face-to-face discussion contexts. These abstract concepts were translated and made accessible to the pupils through considering each one in turn in relation to the 10 commandments. A collaborative space was created in which pupils were given the opportunity to get to grips with the complexities of some of the issues surrounding cyberethics through active discussion with one another and engagement with leading experts.’


Attendee Thoughts & Comments

‘Thank you Mr Boyes for putting your time and effort into making the symposium such a great day. I really enjoyed it and learnt a lot from the UTC students. We are all so lucky to have you as an incredible teacher who cares about us so much to create brilliant days like Wednesday was.’

Many thanks,
Madeleine (U5)

‘I just wanted to say a massive thank you for the symposium on Wednesday. I haven’t done anything like it before but I really enjoyed the day and it was nice to be able to interact with different people and learn to work together to create the project. I’m still in contact with many of my group because we managed to get on throughout the day and I feel as though I’ve known them for ages!’

Thank you again,
Ciara (L5)

‘Today was amazing I have met some interesting students at Queen Anne’s. Cyber-symposium debate had revived how we all as computer users should conduct ourselves when using a computer.’

Thank you
Jamoi (UTC)

‘Dear Dan, Thomas and Nikki

Many thanks once again for inviting us to the symposium today. Marina and I really enjoyed the opportunity to talk to the students and were very impressed with the quality of their presentations. I think I mentioned that as part of the Digital Wildfire project we have produced some teaching materials on social media e-safety for KS3 and KS4/5.

These are available for free download by clicking here and here

The K3 3 materials focus on keeping safe on social media and the KS 4/5 ones use scenarios similar to the one we presented today to encourage students to debate themes of digital citizenship. Here in the Department we are always very keen to encourage prospective students to think about coming to Oxford. We have a very active outreach team that runs various taster events and open days – including a very popular annual Women in Computer Science Day . If you would like to know more or sign up to get further information about these kind of events, I’d be more than happy to put you in touch with the team here.’

Best wishes,
Helena (Oxford University)



To view more photos from the CyberSymposium, please click here


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