Teacher Apps Raise Student Privacy Concerns
Is it possible that unseen breaches in student data privacy could be coming from the multitude of wonderful education apps and solutions teachers are using with students in their classrooms each day? Teachers download teaching and learning apps, on their own, without district, or school leadership approval, daily. It is ironic that educators, who are trying out the best and latest 21st Century tools and solutions with students, may be causing district leaders more nightmares by making it difficult to completely safeguard student data privacy. Today, districts have found themselves in the awkward predicament of reigning in solutions and apps used by their best, and most tech-savvy educators, in order to maintain necessary privacy control.
The education marketplace freemium, or free to start model, which gets more education technology solutions directly into the hands of teachers, isn’t new. The problem is that by dealing directly with teachers it can completely circumvent formal vetting that needs to be done by a school district. This can make it almost impossible for districts to keep track of those resources directly brought into classrooms by teachers. For the most part educators are not experts at the sort of inspection required, of these apps and solutions, to avoid student privacy leaks that are possible through use with students. In most cases the primary concern for teachers is only that an app has education merit.
The idea that possibly student data is insecure, with such things as names, grades, ages, locations, and more, vulnerable, or could be exposed at some point online, usually never enters the thought process—completely—when teachers download a new app. This is what keeps many school leaders, technology directors, and curriculum technology officers awake at night. How can you know what educators are using, if they are downloading apps and solutions on their own?
In districts, today, there are acceptable use policies, as well as procedures in place for appropriately bringing in education and education technology solutions. That said, in most every classroom, where teachers and students are using digital devices, you’ll find at least one, and most likely more, apps that have come directly into class by way of a teacher, or student, rather than through school or district best practices.
School leaders, educators, parents, the education marketplace, schools and districts, and government groups, are all working, together, to safeguard student data privacy. At the same time, every effort is being made to continue to encourage educators using digital tools, and students learning with this century’s solutions. It must be remembered that all this should be seen as a matter of student safety and security, and not an effort to move digital learning backwards. While there may be pushback, we are looking at the development of a more organized, and complete selection process for apps and solutions in schools, as well as an all-inclusive record keeping for digital and online classroom resources.
Know more about student data privacy:
Read about Promethean’s Student Privacy Commitment
Editor’s Note: Companies like Balefire Labs, already use researched-based criteria to help schools and districts choose appropriate education apps.