Data access is easier than ever, but is that a good thing?

Getting a handle on student data privacy vs. data access

Tactical student data privacy questions like “What can I do right now?” should be asked by all CIOs, teachers, administrators, and policymakers in this changing landscape of data access, student privacy, and interoperability. In a recent edWebinar, Dr. Larry Fruth, executive director and CEO of the Access 4 Learning (A4L) Community, and Jena Draper, founder and general manager at CatchOn, discussed the challenges school districts face with data access and student privacy. Dr. Fruth suggests that school districts hit the ground running by adding privacy components and security before it becomes a “What should I do right now?” situation. Draper says that school districts need to look at data access from all angles, from the outer layer of the infrastructure to the rogue apps used in classrooms, to create sound data access and student data privacy plans.

The data balancing act

Open access to data has the potential to violate student data privacy regulations, but closed access to data has the potential to lock everything down. The “sweet spot” of data access is critical in the environment where data is no longer used in a silo but used in data conversations around graduation rates, college readiness, and career pathways.

The challenge, as highlighted by Fruth, is how much data should be accessible to the stakeholders. If they have access to too much data, it will feel overwhelming, and if they don’t have enough access, they don’t feel empowered to do what they need to do. For student interoperability frameworks, Fruth explains that the goal is to create a simple data exchange across all the different applications in a digital ecosystem. The reality of interoperability is that data exchange can seem to be simple but is complex. However, no matter how involved and complicated the data management issues are, it needs to be managed, moved, and secured as school districts go through daily operations.

Student data privacy: It’s what you don’t know

“The tools school districts should be most concerned about are the ones they don’t even know are being used,” said Draper. She pointed out that there are 3,500 edtech apps available for classroom use, but there are many more tools and apps that teachers and students are finding on their own. These “rogue” apps are collecting student data and have the potential to be harmful to students and schools.

School leaders should monitor data access in their district by communicating with teachers about the list of district-approved apps and educating them on the district’s, state’s, or region’s privacy policies and regulation. By understanding which tools and apps have access to student data, districts can build a safe student data privacy practice that is in line with their technology strategy.

According to Draper, since 2013, there have been over 500 student data privacy bills proposed in the United States, and this number is expected to double in 2019. States are increasing their legislation and organizations such as CoSN and SETDA are doing work around helping districts “get their teeth around” creating sound student data policies. Access to student data is a hot topic in New York, Florida, and Louisiana, where legislators have created laws that specifically identify what school districts need to understand about what information is going out and what apps have access to their data.

About the Presenters

Dr. Larry Fruth II is currently the executive director and CEO of the Access 4 Learning (A4L) Community. A4L is an independent non-profit membership organization comprised of over 3,200 software vendors and educational institutions whose mission is to support the identification, management, movement, and usage of learning information within the education sector. Dr. Fruth has over 30 years of experience in teaching and learning as a classroom teacher/professor, curriculum and professional development designer, and state and federal policymaker.

Jena Draper is the founder and general manager at CatchOn, a company designed to support teaching and learning through the smarter use of data and technology. In 2016, she created CatchOn to help districts meet and adapt to changing instructional needs and trends through the use of real-time data and cutting-edge technology. Jena is passionate about improving how students learn with technology.

About the Host

Monica Cougan joined ENA in 2012, where she currently serves as the product marketing manager. Bringing over 30 years of experience in technology integration, She oversees ENA’s partner program and product marketing initiatives. Cougan’s prior work with education and the integration of technology in schools and districts helps guide ENA’s work with education partners offering outstanding programs to schools. She has extensive experience in building collaborative network opportunities specifically video conferencing and collaborative technologies.

Join the Community

Leadership and Innovation is a free professional learning community on edWeb.net that serves as an online forum for collaboration on leadership and innovation in schools to meet the needs of the next generation.

This edWeb broadcast was sponsored by Education Networks of America (ENA) and CatchOn. The recording of the edWebinar can be viewed by anyone here.

[Editor’s note: This piece is original content produced by edWeb.net. View more edWeb.net events here.]

About the Author:

Eileen Belastock, CETL is the director of academic technology for Mount Greylock Regional School District in Williamstown, Mass. You can follow her on Twitter @EileenBelastock.

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