As Edtech software developers, we often look at student
privacy from the perspective of our users–school districts, teachers, and state
boards of education. However, it’s important to remember that every piece of
data isn’t just a record or potential liability; it’s the information of a
student that needs to be protected at all costs.
While most students are unaware of what’s at stake, parents
are increasingly becoming concerned about student privacy issues and demanding
solutions. Today we share the perspective of one such parent. Nick
Reese is a father of four in Bend, Oregon, and was kind enough to
share his thoughts on student privacy. Take it away, Nick:
As a parent in his late 30s, I straddle technology that didn’t
exist for my parents when I was in school and will be commonplace by the time
my kids are parents themselves. I’m far more comfortable with technology that
my parents will ever be; my dad refuses to learn how to program phone numbers
into his cell phone, instead continuing to carry a laminated card with
important phone numbers in his wallet. And yet, I’m not digital native; my
first exposure to the Internet was at university just as the dot-com boom was
gaining steam. These days I feel more and more like my father every time I read
about things like Tinder, Snapchat, Vines, Oculus Rift, Uber, smartwatches or
the next new great thing: thanks, but I’ll stick to what I’m used to.
My kids, on the other hand, are full-on digital native. My
fourth and third graders were issued iPads at school and put together Keynote
presentations for fun. My first
grader makes videos of himself playing video games and puts them on YouTube. My
preschooler can’t read but works my iPhone like Steve Jobs, but with a greater
affinity for goldfish crackers.
Of course, it’s not just me. Almost every industry is
experiencing this same shift. Getting medical care, buying stocks, shopping for
groceries, booking a flight, even renting a movie–everything has changed. Some
industries are embracing or even leading the shift, while other industries are
a bit more like me: supportive, but not leading the way.
The world of education is very much in this second bucket. For
every innovation like iPads in the schools or using social media to engage
parents there are still methods of doing business my parents would recognize,
like endless permission slips, printed newsletters and paper forms.
Unfortunately, the way schools handle digital privacy and security is still the
product of the old way of thinking. In an era where even security-minded
retailers and government agencies find themselves in the news for data breaches
while software companies keep concocting new ways to package and sell user
information, the way schools handle data privacy is almost laughable if it
wasn’t so frightening.
Paper forms with sensitive information and signatures get
transported by six-year-olds in backpacks to be stored… somewhere? While textbooks
are vetted by boards of education, I have no idea what level of vetting each
app gets, who is doing the vetting, what these apps are and what info they are
collecting. I know there are laws about this, but who is enforcing them? Who
pays when my kid’s social security number winds up all over the Internet? How
much do for-profit companies know about my kids, and what do they plan on doing
with that information?
These should be simple questions I shouldn’t have to jump
through hoops to get answered, or even have to ask. Luckily, companies like Education
Framework and others are making it easier to help schools solve
these problems while bringing parents into the loop. While I’m sure this is one
of those growing pains of technology adoption that will be solved by the time
my youngest child graduates, parents now shouldn’t have to let their kids be
the test subjects. Parents, schools, software developers, teachers, industry
groups and lawmakers need to get together now and make education a leader in
privacy and data protection, not a follower.
At Education Framework, we believe now is the time to make a
commitment to protecting student data. Learn
more about how our tools make ensuring student privacy simple and sign up for a free demonstration today.