Are Your Fav #EdTech Resources Keeping Student Data Safe? Find Out!

Are you an innovative educator who loves using digital media, but is a little concerned about the safety of student data?

Do you wonder if your classroom tech use is CIPA and FERPA compliant?

You are not alone.

This is a hot media topic which often gives us cause for concern. Being concerned is good. Being armed with the facts is better.

This came to my attention recently, because innovative educators (in threads like this one) provided me with articles that made them second-guess their use of certain technology resources.

I did some investigating and here is what I discovered.

The resource: Edmodo

The article: A NY Times article from last year about student data security.

My discoveries:

Edmodo has had SSL encryption in place as an option for users since 2011, and in July 2013, SSL encryption was made the default. Edmodo has also worked with their developer/app partners to have them make their apps SSL encrypted as well.

Tony Porterfield is the parent of a child whose school district rolled out Edmodo district-wide. What he describes in the NY Times article is a hypothetical situation - there have never been any data breaches.

Edmodo appreciates parents and users like Porterfield who bring these issues to their attention as it only makes their services stronger. Members of their senior team met with Porterfield to specifically address his concerns.

In addition, Edmodo does not have advertising on the platform, nor does the company rent or sell student information to third parties for marketing or advertising purposes. Edmodo has a Chief Privacy Officer and a User Trust & Safety Team, whose everyday responsibilities are to continually monitor and improve the safety and security of Edmodo’s services.

This InformationWeek article followed the NY Times article and talks about Edmodo addressing the issue.

The resource: Google Apps for Education and MS Office 365

The article: A Safe.Gov article from January 2014 about data mining.

My discoveries:

The article is a bit misleading in that it implies that scanning email is uncommon. The reality is that every email provider scans email with algorithms to provide services like anti-spam, spell check and prioritizing of emails....all features that users love.

Google used an engine to scan for all of these things and for the advertising that is key to their business, BUT, for education accounts, the advertising data was never used.

To clarify their policy and position Google did two things:

1) Broke the ad scanning piece out of the general scanning engine so there would be no question about scanning for ads... they just don't do it even though the data was never looked at or stored previously.

2) Removed the option for any type of advertising for education (some higher ed institutions were using advertising to target alumni and Google informed them that it wouldn't be an option anymore for Google Education Domains).

All this is clarified at this page which includes links to everything regarding privacy in one place:

On their website Microsoft indicates Office 365 does not and has never used student data for advertising. More specific information is available at the O365 Trust Center

Educators have valid concerns when it comes to using resources with students. Some ways we can best keep our students safe include:

  • discussing these concerns
  • asking questions
  • ensuring teachers have opportunities to be a part of product testing
  • creating online communities for users to connect and communicate
  • requiring companies to provide professional development and support to create expert/super-users who can bring up potential issues.

What has your experience been using tools such as this? Have you found you, your administration, students, and their parents feel they can trust the resources you are using with students or have you had concerns? Will this article help address those concerns?

Lisa Nielsen writes for and speaks to audiences across the globe about learning innovatively and is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on “Passion (not data) Driven Learning,” "Thinking Outside the Ban" to harness the power of technology for learning, and using the power of social media to provide a voice to educators and students. Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities to support learning in real and innovative ways that will prepare students for success. In addition to her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator, Ms. Nielsen’s writing is featured in places such as Huffington Post, Tech & Learning, ISTE Connects, ASCD Wholechild, MindShift, Leading & Learning, The Unplugged Mom, and is the author the book Teaching Generation Text.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.

Lisa Nielsen (@InnovativeEdu) has worked as a public-school educator and administrator since 1997. She is a prolific writer best known for her award-winning blog, The Innovative Educator. Nielsen is the author of several books and her writing has been featured in media outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Tech & Learning.  

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.