Finding the Balance

Photo by Yannic Läderach on Unsplash

Back in March, returning from one week break, we heard some talks about a possible school closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It seemed unreal that such a thing would really happen. However, more meetings and trainings were planned, as new online tools were added to our existing edtech pool, being a 1:1 school. As the dreaded virus started to spread through Europe, on March 9th at 4 pm, our entire community found out that the school was now closed for at least a couple of weeks. As a Middle and High School Teacher-Librarian, I still haven’t gone back on campus. And for this school year that ends on June 24th, I won’t, not in a significant way.
Of course, the school is closed but the learning continues and never stopped. It required plenty of adjustments and a lot (too much) time in front of the laptop. Finding the right balance between work, personal life, fitness, and mental health while dealing with the news hasn’t been easy for a lot of people. Our school director recently quoted this and I have been thinking about its obvious, but hidden, truth.

“You are not working from home; you are at your home
during a crisis trying to work.”

Posted in a Tweet by Mark Richardson

This applies to teachers and students. These past couple of months, and the ones ahead, are very unique and demand that each and everyone find its own equilibrium.

Now, finding a balance also applies to specific areas, and, in the digital environment, we must balance contributing authentically and maintaining privacy.
The term privacy is defined in the Educator Toolkit for Teacher and Student Privacy as “the ability to protect one’s own personal information and control with whom and how the information is shared”.
Not everyone realizes that huge amounts of personal information about teachers and their students are collected on a daily basis. This is the downside to the growth of education technology in classrooms. The information obtained is usually sent to vendors and other third parties, who often appear to have unclear motives.
It is up to the school, its administration, and its teachers, to make sure that a given technology tool or application is safe and secure for students to use.

Common Sense Media initiated a 3 years survey to evaluate the privacy policy of approximately a hundred of the most popular edtech applications and services, looking at two aspects: its transparency and its quality, analyzing how student information is collected, used and disclosed. Published in 2018, the State of Edtech Privacy Report was alarming: inconsistent privacy and security practices, lack of transparency with unclear, or missing or contradictory explanations. Only 10% of the apps or services met their minimum criteria for transparency and quality in their policies!

Educators need to choose companies that have responsible practices, and/or put pressure on the ones who are not transparent, and advocate for student privacy legislation and enforcement.

Photo by Dan Nelson on Unsplash

In Europe, things finally moved in the right direction a few years ago with the implementation of GDPR , which stands for General Data Protection Regulation. It is a data privacy law set out by the European Union, and finally enforced from May 25th, 2018. The passing of GDPR has directly impacted data privacy and security standards while also indirectly encouraging organizations to develop and improve their cybersecurity measures, limiting the risks of any potential data breach.
Our school started to review its practices, from how the families’ files were kept and for how long, to the library online subscriptions… and many more domains not always questioned before. All staff members and teachers attended training sessions, and several of them served on specific committees. A Data Protection Officer (DPO) was hired, and communications sent to parents. A Privacy Notice was written and published on our website. Conversations with companies took place, and sometimes these discussions were difficult, especially with some non-European businesses who were not willing to clarify or modify their policies and be transparent. We had to cancel some online tools used in class for this reason.

The ISTE Educators Standard 3d states that “Educators model and promote management of personal data and digital identity and protect student data privacy.” This should be everyone’s concern.

One Reply to “Finding the Balance”

  1. Hi Christel!

    Unfortunately, Distance Learning is a new reality for the majority of schools around the world. As educators, we have learned a lot.

    The quote “You are not working from home; you are at your home during a crisis trying to work.” that your director wrote really echoed my thinking. Online teaching is pretty challenging, especially if you are teaching the ES students. Students should be self-directed and active participants during online learning. But I found that the youngest ones are still dependent on their parents. Online students learn much of the material on their own, and so they have plenty of questions. And teachers have more work as well, they get a lot of repetitive questions and need to write individual emails to answer and clarify.

    The time that we invest in answering email questions is teaching time, and we make a personal connection, something even silly student questions can turn into fruitful conversation.

    I found it is interesting that your school opened a new position – Data Protection Officer.
    You wrote that staff and faculty had the training sessions and served on specific committees.
    I wonder, do you think it was helpful for the staff and faculty? Did you see any changes happening in school regarding data privacy in everyday life?

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