Privacy & Security Opinion

Educator’s Guide Takes the Mystery Out of Student Data Privacy

By Patrick Larkin — May 23, 2016 2 min read
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Guest post by Kerry Gallagher

Now that technology is an imperative in our personal and professional lives, it is also a necessary part of education. More than that, technology is making it possible for more students and teachers across the country to collaborate, create, and get access to high quality resources. At the same time parents and policymakers are increasingly concerned about the student datathose tools create and track. How can a classroom teacher or a building level administrator who knows and loves education technology balance student privacy with powerful student learning?

ConnectSafely and the Future of Privacy Forum have partnered to write The Educator’s Guide to Student Data Privacy. My co-authors, Larry Magid and Kobie Pruitt, and I wanted to create an easily accessible resource that teachers and administrators could use right away. We all came to the table, or rather the online collaborative document, with varied perspectives. Combined, we have experience in classroom education, media, policy, connected technologies, and parenting. And we all believe that no one should be intimidated by the data privacy discussion. This guide, which includes a ten question checklist to help educators as they consider using a new tool with students, will make managing privacy manageable for educators.

Technology Transforms

Thanks to technology tools, teachers and students and parents are able to communicate more often and better than ever before. From simply clarifying assignment expectations to circling-the-wagons when students need every adult in their corner: technology tools keep everyone connected and informed. It doesn’t end there. Our students are researching, reading, listening, and viewing top notch resources created by master teachers and experts in the field. Once they have that information, they are analyzing and creating their own original media rich projects together. Some are so proud of their work that they go a step further and share their work online via a school website, their own blogs, or even on social media.

The Data Balance

All the while concerned parents and policymakers warn that the information those powerful technology tools track, also know as PII (Personally Identifiable Information), should be carefully protected while our learners are still young. All of us deserve some measure of privacy, especially our children. Education technology and student data privacy can coexist in harmony, as long as educators, parents, policymakers, and students continue to share the discussion and work together. My co-author, Kobie Pruitt, said it well:

Schools across the country are rapidly integrating new technologies meant to deliver a quality education to students in more effective and efficient manner. The educator's guide will be a vital new resource for teachers when helping students use educational applications and technology in a safe way that protects their data privacy."

As a teacher who knows firsthand how technology tools have helped my students feel empowered to find the resources they need, collaborate with one another and with me, and create professional quality work I know we are in the midst of a transformational time for education. Teachers want to both inspire and protect their students, and this guide will help them feel confident they are doing both when using technology.

Kerry Gallagher is a Digital Learning Specialist at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, Massachusetts. She is also the Director of K-12 Education for ConnectSafely, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating users of connected technology about safety, privacy and security. She taught middle and high school history in public schools for 13 years and her classes were paperless. Her blog is at kerryhawk02.com and she is on Twitter at @KerryHawk02.

The opinions expressed in Reinventing K-12 Learning are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.