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 homePosted in a Tweet by Mark Richardson
during a crisis trying to work.”
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.
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.
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.