Over the past decade or so, mixed reactions have been given with regards to teaching website Sparklebox, with some teachers well and truly against it, and some that offer a more positive view.
For those who are unaware, the owner of Sparklebox, Daniel Kinge (formerly Samuel Kinge but changed his name by deed poll) is a convicted sex offender and former teacher. He was convicted for downloading images of children being abused from the internet.
When the story broke out, several grids across the country blocked the website, including The South West Grid for Learning, amid reports that a blog containing such images was ongoing and some of those pictures appeared on the Sparklebox site and that there was a presence of interactive technology on Sparklebox, which, given the convictions of Mr Kinge, means that he has possible access to contact with children. This is, of course, unacceptable and as pointed out by an e-safety official from the SWGfL, such people should not be allowed to have access to children via the internet.
Mr Kinge had a ban on use of the internet overturned in 2005 on grounds of no internet would prevent him having almost any kind of job (make of that what you wish). However, he was issued with a Sexual Offenders Protection Order spanning 15 years from that point, which means he is not allowed to use any form of computer which is not monitored by the police. It has also been claimed by a spokesman from West Murcia Police that a family member had taken over Sparklebox.
In 2010, Mr Kinge was sent to prison for a year following charges by West Murcia Police. As a result of this, a spokesperson for the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceops) said ‘Ceops feels that schools can resume use of this website in line with their normal risk assessment and management processes and in consultation with local authorities’.
Despite this, there is still debate over whether Sparklebox should be used or not. Here is where I stand.
Let’s forget about the owner for a moment, and look at the resources themselves. First thing to think about is that the resources offered on the site are free, and clearly popular as it’s very difficult to go into a classroom and not find something that has had some connection to Sparklebox. Clearly the resources are fantastic otherwise they wouldn’t be used. The fact that these resources are free as well means that all teachers have access to a vast array of useful resources for their classroom. Is this not a good thing?
OK so the resources were made by a convicted sex offender, but bare in mind he was a teacher, so these resources was designed by a teacher, for teachers and parents. The original owner is still under the watchful eye of the police and the site is no longer being run by him, and the blog that was happening at the time has been closed down, so claims I’ve seen dotting around twitter and facebook every time someone suggests using Sparklebox that we’re funding a sex offender to me doesn’t add up.
Would I use Sparklebox? If the resources would benefit the children I teach in some way and they are free, yes I would. I mean come on, the resources are really nice, why deny yourself access to such thing, especially given that similar sites which offer great resources either incur subscription costs or charge for each resource individually. I mean I’m not against paying these costs if it was worth it, in fact i recently spent a fair bit of money on one site which had some amazing resources on it so I’ve got myself a little box of tricks including interactive display games, a visual timetable, some maths and literacy activity cards and some motivational posters, but if there are free and useful resources about, grab them. As a student you always love it when you get free stuff, why not as a teacher?