Protecting your kid's data starts with you
To succeed in today's classrooms, students must be more than book smart – they must be digital learners as well. Modern technology such as e-books, online tutorial programs, educational social media options and apps are providing access to personalized learning opportunities which were not available to previous generations of students.
And while this technology is helping children learn and develop in innovative ways, it is also collecting important data about how these students are learning. E-books, for example, have the ability to track which pages a student has read, monitoring a student's progress. Data collected during learning sessions can help teachers evaluate student progress and recognize those students who are facing challenges. This can help to personalize learning for all students.
These technologies can help improve the educational experience for students, but there is the potential that the collected data could be accessed by others. Companies who create some of the apps used in an educational setting are typically able to review the data the apps generate; they may even be able to sell it to marketers.
The thought of student data ending up in the hands of marketers may make parents anxious, but the potential sharing of student data is preventable. When school districts adopt new technology for use in their classrooms, there will be a user agreement that accompanies the technology. As a parent you have a right to be informed about the data being collected about your student and how it is being used.
The first step in monitoring your child's data is to access a full list from the school of the technologies or apps students will be using in the classroom. This list may be posted online as part of the supplies needed list or handed out during the first week of school with the rest of the important school information.
Once you have this list, go online to read the user agreements for those sites. This is where you'll discover how the data collected will be used. Some questions to keep in mind while reviewing the user agreements are:
- What data points are being collected about my child?
- Why do you need that data? How are you going to use the data about my child?
- What are you doing to protect my child's data? What measures are in place to protect the data?
User agreements can often be long and difficult to understand, so look for these terms as you read to help you make a more informed decision:
- Staff responsibilities: Here you will learn what staff's role is in using the data, especially as it applies to privacy.
- User responsibilities: What actions are expected of the user to ensure data is being used correctly and accurately? You'll find that information here.
- Acceptable use: What is defined as acceptable use, both for the technology and the data? This section should outline how that data can be used and by whom.
- Unacceptable use: Don't expect acceptable use to cover everything. There may be a section entitled unacceptable use that will provide insight into what practices are forbidden regarding the technology and the data it attains.
- Differentiating characteristics. This term itself won't be included but you're looking for mentions of gender, age, ethnicity and other terms that may be used to quantify your student.
"The responsibility of safeguarding students' data can be overwhelming to schools and parents alike. Use this opportunity as a 'teachable moment:' together, with your kids, look at the default settings of the apps and sites' your kids like to use, and read the privacy policies," says Darri Stephens, director of digital learning for Common Sense Media. "Ask your kids about their favorite digital tools and gain insight as to how they communicate, collaborate, and create online. At the same time, stress the importance of never relinquishing any private 'Personal Identifying Information,' when setting up personal online accounts. Too often, our kids don't understand that the data they generate by engaging in the digital world is valuable to many companies, third party marketers, and others who would take advantage of it. Kids need our support and guidance in considering the long-lasting consequences of over-sharing in the digital world."
You can learn more about user agreements and the educational benefits of technology by visiting www.k12blueprint.com, which is sponsored by Intel.