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U.S. School Districts Seek to Balance Student Privacy, Tech Access

U.S. School Districts Seek to Balance Student Privacy, Tech Access

School districts across the country are working to set policies and guidelines for educators using digital-learning tools in the classroom.

Some districts have experienced data breaches from software they purchased from education vendors, and in response, the U.S. Department of Education and the Consortium for School Networking have created resources to help school leaders manage technology in their classrooms, according to an article in the New York Times.

To help school administrators evaluate digital education services, the Department of Education recently issued best-practice recommendations for contracts. Last year, the Consortium for School Networking, an association for district technology professionals, introduced a free tool kit with data security questions for schools to ask their online service providers. And on Tuesday, a coalition of several dozen educational groups issued a set of principles for responsible use of student data.

According to experts, teachers "are not typically equipped to vet the data-handling practices of free educational apps that may collect details as diverse as students’ names, birth dates, profile photos, voice recordings, homework assignments, quiz scores or grades," the article said.

When it comes to privacy and security, it’s a little unfair to put the burden on the teacher,” said Bob Moore, a former school district technology director, in the article.

[Teachers] may also not know whether the apps have been rigorously studied to establish their effectiveness. If you have a math app that focuses on dividing and multiplying fractions you should have some evidence that shows how it actually improves student learning around that particular objective.

Lenny J. Schad, chief technology information officer at the Houston Independent School District said that "teachers were using so many different apps, sometimes trying them for no more than a week or even a day, that it was impractical, if not impossible, for districts to track their use. The teachers have the ability to reach out on a much bigger scale than anything that we could manage."

In the article, Moore said that "district officials and technology companies might eventually need to develop national standards for the classroom adoption of learning apps."

“There needs to be a better system,” Moore said, “than each school district doing their own vetting.”

Read the full story and comment below.

Article by Kassondra Granata, Education World Contributor

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