School and district leaders know they need to protect student data, but effectively
adopting and implementing a student privacy plan that includes parent,
educator, administrator and policymaker input and approval, is a lot easier
said than done. Efforts like this require dedicated time, commitment, clearly defined roles, a concrete understanding of what student data privacy actually is, and if you're lucky, tools to help you get the job done right.
While there are a myriad of checklists, to-dos and best practice recommendations available to help educators and administrators up their game, there is still much uncertainty surrounding this issue. But it's no surprise considering that there is, ironically, no set definition for student data privacy. And despite it being a relatively self-explanatory term, it is still complex and more-often-than-not, fraught with confusion.
To put it simply, student data privacy is the idea of safely, securely and privately
introducing online technologies into the classroom - in the form of apps,
websites, surveys, assessments, etc. - without risk of compromising personally
identifiable student information (PII). But it also so much more than that.
Student data is protected under federal law (COPPA, FERPA, PPRA) and requires thorough knowledge and
understanding of data collection, data use, data retention, data deletion and data integrity for all online technologies used in a school or district. It means reading endless privacy policies to know precisely who has access
to student data, for what purposes and for how long. And it demands ongoing
maintenance and monitoring to ensure there haven’t been any changes to the
privacy policies that could compromise PII.
Knowledge is Power
Protecting student data
privacy starts with knowing precisely what technologies are being used in the
classroom. Conducting a comprehensive audit of the technologies currently in
use is a necessary first step towards establishing a baseline understanding
and gaining a big picture view of the technology usage in a school or district.
Once there is an
understanding of what technology is being used in the classroom, the next step
is to conduct a thorough privacy assessment for each and every online
technology to ensure student data privacy is indeed private and protected.
For many, this step can be quite daunting, especially when considering the
sheer volume of online technologies available to schools today. But with the
right tools, this process can be relatively straight-forward,
simple and streamlined.
Inc. tackles student data privacy with the goal of protecting student PII while providing a great resource for industry leaders to connect with
parents and their communities.
Rise of Student Data Privacy
data privacy has been a rapidly growing administrative pain point over the past
few years. The massive push for 1:1 and other digital learning initiatives are
major factors in this, but the equally explosive growth of new learning
technologies created by third party vendors has changed the way we view student
privacy. No longer can we assume that student privacy is safe,
secure and protected, especially when it can be accessed by so many different
entities, at different capacities, for different periods of time. Because of this, it is imperative that education leaders establish
user controls that determine precisely who has access to what student data, for what
purposes and for how long.
Besides the exponential growth of technology in schools, it's worth noting that there are a few
contributing factors that have led to the rise of student data privacy as an immediate
and necessary need, all of which are tied to the increased usage of digital
media and online technologies:
1. Parents are technologically savvy. Parents
are technology users themselves, so naturally they’re becoming better acquainted
with security and privacy issues, especially when it comes to online
technologies and services they use every day.
Many parents, especially
those that are actively involved in their child’s online usage at home, want to
know precisely what technologies they are using in school. More importantly, they need reassurance that they’re child’s privacy is being considered and respected.
Parents want a
window into their child’s technology usage in school. Providing a way to communicate this information in a clear and concise manner helps connect the dots and
bring parents into the loop, engaging them in the privacy conversation. This approach goes a long way towards building trust, as it conveys that their point-of-view is valued.
2. Technology forces
transparency. One of the most unique ways the Internet has affected our
society is the quick transmission of information. Education leaders have never
been more powerful or in a better position to make informed decisions than they are today.
With the right tools and approach, educators and administrators can
discover safe learning technologies for students,
measure growth, use actionable data to make classroom, school or
district-wide improvements, and communicate with parents and communities in a way for all to understand.
Student data privacy is about
accurately and authentically conveying what technologies are being used so that stakeholders, community leaders, and parents can easily understand the health, safety and
vitality of a school or districts' student privacy efforts. It is also about providing reassurance that students, schools and
districts are safe from risk.
Transparency engages all interested parties and allows everyone to work together towards a greater good. Automated student privacy protection is one way for school and district leaders to adopt transparency measures and gain greater control of student privacy efforts, without heavily increasing the administrative workload. Utilizing tools that do much of the work for you - in an open and transparent way - are helpful in saving time and ensuring student privacy is, in fact, protected.
3. The right tools make
things a whole lot easier. Knowledge is one of the most powerful benefits
of the Internet age. Twenty-five years ago, when there was no Internet, student
privacy was hardly a consideration. When technology usage started to go
mainstream, particularly in schools across the country and around the globe, we
simply couldn’t fathom where we’d be today. But with all this technological
growth and opportunity has come an overwhelming need to increase privacy
Educational development is no longer only about
exploring and discovering the best learning solutions for students, but
it’s also about finding technologies that are safe for use in the classroom.
Automated solutions are the best way
to capitalize on this theory, which is why Education Framework Inc. exists. We
help position school and district leaders as experts in managing student data privacy by providing services that produce information at the ready. With over 1100 (and counting) online technologies assessed to date, we’re able to help
educators, administrators and IT leaders make quick, yet safe and informed
technology decisions for the classroom. All while minimizing the risk of exposing student information.
Food for Thought
While there are plenty of
factors that have led to student privacy’s rising value, these macro elements
are the key reasons why protecting student data privacy is more relevant and important than
Educators, administrators and IT leaders who establish themselves as pioneers in this space are positioning themselves to be helpful resources for their communities and models for other education leaders to follow. More importantly, those that take the necessary steps to ensure privacy is protected will be education leaders that parents will appreciate and trust.