Teachers Matter When it Comes to Protecting Privacy

Yet another post about privacy. I can only imagine that some will see the title and skip it. Privacy has dominated the K12 technology conversation the past couple of years. What more can be said? Actually, there’s a lot more to say. We’re just getting started. For now, I’d like to focus on one specific, but very important aspect; the role of the classroom teacher.

For the most part, privacy conversations the past couple of years have been dominated by policymakers, association leaders, education technology leaders and privacy advocates. That’s ok, because we are still early in the conversation, as most of it has centered on compliance with federal laws such as COPPA and FERPA, and a growing number of state laws. But these laws don’t begin to cover the wide range of practices that should be taking place in a school to ensure student privacy. Those practices start with the classroom teacher, both in what they do and in what they teach students.

At the ISTE conference I had the opportunity to participate in a panel session on privacy and I was actually the only panelist who did not have classroom teaching experience (1st term French for college freshman excepted – YIKES!), but that was a good thing. I can’t recall any particularly great gems of wisdom that were shared, but it was good to have teachers in the discussion. And kudos to ISTE for creating the session, as well as the ISTE EdTek Whitepaper Building and Keeping a Positive Digital Identity: A Practical Approach for Educators, Students and Parents (http://bit.ly/1EcWRnz).

I’ve heard many people talk about the importance of teacher modeling good practices for students, as well as teaching students appropriate behaviors when it comes to building their digital identity, or digital footprint as I often refer to it. But the role of the teacher goes far beyond that. Teachers create, maintain and share sensitive data frequently. It’s also common for them to make decisions about apps, website and online services that students will use. Those digital learning tools often collect vast amounts of data. Knowing how to make decisions about these tools requires more than just knowledge about instruction and curriculum.  Sadly though, the vast majority of teachers have no substantive professional development about privacy and security of student data. But then that should not surprise anyone, as professional development is typically the first thing de-funded when budgets are cut.

Another example of getting teachers into the conversation comes from CoSN. Before we even received funding for the Trusted Learning Environment Seal program (www.cosn.org/privacy), we had targeted ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) as one of our three lead partners. We wanted to ensure that teachers as a stakeholder group would have a voice from the start. We also asked every school that is participating in the development of the program to in some way include educators in their working groups. In fact, we have five areas of practice that we are developing and two are Professional Development and Classroom Practices.

As I have said, there is much work yet to be done when it comes to fully understanding what every school needs to be doing to ensure the privacy and security of student data, so we have plenty of time to involve teachers in the conversation. For now, if you are a teacher or teacher leader, take it upon yourself to learn about the privacy issue and to consider what you can do to make a difference beyond compliance to the laws. If you are a school system leader, technology or otherwise, make involving teachers a priority.

Bob Moore has enjoyed a career of 26 years in education technology. His work has included more than two decades as a CIO in K12 schools and several years as lead strategist for a multi-billion dollar global ed-tech business, as well many years of active leadership in organizations such as CoSN. In 2012 Bob founded RJM Strategies LLC and works with schools and ed-tech business clients as a strategist, advisor and subject matter expert. His life’s work is grounded in his tenacious commitment to vision, innovation, integrity and practicality. Follow Bob on Twitter @BobMEdTech. See Bob's Profile and Connect on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/bob-moore-675ba4

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