Q&A: Katja Schipperheijn on the social media learning site sCool


A co-founder of The LearnScape has developed a website to help young children navigate the perils of social media

A kid-friendly platform

Katja Schipperheijn, co-founder of educational technology company The LearnScape, has developed sCool, a digital platform that teaches children between the ages of 5 and 12 how to use social media

Where did you get the idea for such a platform?
My own daughters asked me if they could sign up for Facebook, but I had to say ‘no’ because they were younger than 13 and registering would have been illegal. I also felt they were not ready to deal with the dangers associated with Facebook, like privacy issue, for example. Since I work on social platforms in a professional capacity, my children challenged me to come up with a platform adapted to their needs.

What do children learn on the sCool platform?
In short, it develops children’s media literacy. They learn, among other things, how to post messages, embed videos, make a Skype call and adjust their security and privacy settings. The platform also includes a “digital schoolbag”, a file in which they can store homework that they can open later in class to check together with a teacher. I also integrated the BoekenWiki tool to make it easier to write book reviews, as well as several educational games.

Are children in the first year of primary school not too young for this?
Young children can do more than you would think; they learn how to work with digital media very quickly. What they lack, however, is the critical judgment to safely use media. In my opinion, media literacy should be part of the obligatory competences that primary school pupils need to have acquired to graduate – as is already the case for secondary school students. I’m glad that Flemish MP Katia Segers has already called for this and that education minister Hilde Crevits has reacted to the proposal positively.

Are teachers ready to help pupils?
Teachers should receive better training in social media during their education. Some teachers are not even on Facebook and so are largely unable to help pupils in acquiring the necessary skills to stay safe online, even though teaching children social skills is part of their job. The sCool platform includes a forum for teachers to exchange knowledge. I am also co-operating with teachers’ organisations, and I will organise info sessions on sCool.