Privacy Project: Heads in the Sand?

The Project:

A couple of weeks ago, I kicked off my major project, titled “Privacy Project.” Quick recap of the project: Over the summer, Regina Public Schools collected all of our schools’ mobile devices, namely ipads, wiped them clean of their applications, and took control over what can and cannot be used. Teachers returned to their respective schools to find their ipads with a relatively small selection of board approved applications on their classroom ipads, and locked out of their school apple ids.

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This is the backdrop from which my project has spring. Why? Why was this necessary? What is the purpose of what feels like an incredibly heavy handed directive? Initial conversations among teachers were inevitably laced with some frustration. Our initial staff meeting shed some light: privacy… student data … LAFOIP. In the blink of an eye, many applications teachers took for granted were deemed to be non-compliant with existing privacy legislation.

I want to know why.

What am I up to:

It has been a bit of a slow beginning, as time is being put into a fact finding mission. I’m in the midst of a literature review, of sorts, as I familiarize myself with the legislation (and our response to the legislation) that is at the center of this controversy. I have also started to look at how other provinces and school-boards have interpreted and implemented this legislation. Responses have ranged widely, from strict enforcement (Regina Public Schools?), to complete non-compliance.

I am also beginning to speak with some knowledgeable individuals who are helping me to make sense of the school board’s direction. Currently, I am starting in a measured, back and forth email conversation with Stu Harris, who has graciously agreed to speak with me, and has been a very generous support for me over the years as I have been familiarizing myself with assistive technology.

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 Digital Citizenship:

This week, discussion in our own class turned towards digital citizenship. We were asked to tie in our discussion on digital citizenship to our own major learning projects. Truth be told, I believe I lucked out on this one. As I waded through out readings and watched some peers videos, it became easy to articulate the big picture issues that are being impacted by our school board’s response to LAFOIP.

Our World Today

A major emerging understanding of ECI 832, for me, is an understanding that the world of social media is the world we live in. My students are right in the thick of it. This is their life. The idea of building a digital identity is not really an idea, but it’s a real part of my identity …we (and my students’).

Christina Costa and Ricardo Torres emphasize the importance of social media and technologies in stating: “In the current knowledge economy, which is increasingly dependent on digital technologies, there seems to be a tendency to optimize practice with the support of participatory media.”  Ladies and gentlemen, this isn’t a hobby. We’re not talking about ‘Facebooking” our friends and liking what we ate for lunch. Participating in our economy is going to require a certain level of proficiency with digital and social media technologies, as well as management of our digital identity.

Furthermore, in his lecture Digital Identity is not about a Separate Identity at all, Paul Gordon Brown succinctly articulates how immersed our lives have become with technology: “…we are a collection of connections and enmeshed in networks and webs … We are increasingly networked to technology and other devices in more integrated ways.

From our discussions last week, we already know that the skills our children will require to participate in the economy will be very different from those of the past, or those still valued today. Our schools need to be adaptive and reflect those changes, or risk becoming irrelevant to preparing our children for their adult lives.

Heads in the Sand:

As I previously mentioned, an emerging big idea for myself over ECI832 (and ECI 831 through the Fall) is a realization of the world we are living in, and headed towards. In not being involved with social media, and its use, I truly believe that I am, to a certain extent, being derelict in my duties as a teacher. By not role modeling responsible use, as I can, and talking about digital identity and citizenship, I am failing to prepare my students to participate in what will be their economy.

Keeping in mind that this is not at all an exhaustive review of how Regina Public Schools has implemented its response to concerns stemming over student privacy, I do want to zone in on what is emerging as a major concern, for me. Given my shiny, months old realization that I do indeed have a role to play in developing my students understanding and proficiency with social media and managing their digital identities, I wonder at the hurdles being placed in our way.

Are we going backwards? Are we sticking our heads in the sand?

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By perhaps overly restricting what technology kids can use in our schools, and what apps they can use to support, augment and demonstrate learning, are we sticking our heads in the sand and ignoring the reality of the world around us? Are we doing our students a disservice and, perhaps, will we be sending our kids into the workforce without the skills to meaningfully participate?

Or…

Do the ends justify the means? Costa and Torres, while pointing out the advantages of having an established online presence, also point out that “not everyone who participates in these environments share in our good faith. It is important to protect our privacy, too, as not to increase our vulnerability.” My peers Jana and Katie also discuss, at the 3:30 mark of their vlog, the real concerns that are coupled with the advantages of having an established online presence.

This discussion, and it’s accompanying implications and concerns, are not minor ones… We’re talking about our students’ future livelihoods, as well as our responsibility to keep our students safe.

You know what? The fact that my concerns have moved so drastically, from annoyance at being told what I can put on school ipads, towards an actual concern over the well-being of my students development (actually knowing that this big deal, long term has implications for my students’ development) is a sign of my growth over the past six months.

I will have much more on this in the coming weeks! Thanks for reading!

 

5 Comments

on “Privacy Project: Heads in the Sand?
5 Comments on “Privacy Project: Heads in the Sand?
  1. I like that you have started to come full circle in realizing that Regina Public Schools isn’t too ‘crazy’ for their over zealousness towards controlling what teachers download. In my opinion teachers often become habitually defensive when being ‘told what to do’… when actually there are bigger implications beyond just one classroom – the privacy of hundreds of students across the division is a big deal. I’ve had a number of discussions with staff about the time it takes for someone to go through the pages of privacy agreements before approval takes place. I think this is a slow process (feels painfully slow), but I also think this is only the beginning of many changes and ‘rules’ staff and students will have to abide by. Great project, I look forward to hearing about your journey!

  2. It is important to be aware of our students well-being on the internet. I have heard many complaints about the new privacy policies, but it is better for us as teachers to adapt and use safer practices for our students.

    I am so interested in your Privacy Project and cannot wait to see what comes of your research!

  3. Thanks for the comments guys! My understanding of the topic has certainly evolved beyond a knee-jerk reaction against being told what to do. (as fun as those knee-jerks can be sometimes)

    That said, I’m not sure I can say I’ve come full circle either. Instinctively, I also hedge on the side of safety and security. Student safety, my own safety… is paramount. I definitely have a clearer perception of the rationale, and emotionally agree with it.BUT why are the responses between school-boards, and across provinces, so varied? Is a school-board, and there are many, who are not interpreting the legislation so strictly, actually putting their students safety at risk?

    What is it that we are taking issue with in the privacy agreements that are indeed at the core of individual app evaluations, as you point out Stacey. Why would that same agreement, with Google for example, be a problem for us and not for another school board?

    The data that Google is collecting, can it actually be used to identify students?
    Does the data they collect validate a blanket ban? Is our response proportional?

    Lots of questions. 🙂

  4. It’s a worthy exploration, and of course, I am not sure there are answers for all of the questions. At the core, our data is a currency that we exchange for a service. Some people feel that the exchange is worthwhile – others say it isn’t. And of course, who are “we” (individual teachers, parents, school districts) to sell our students’ data for these services. Of course, agreements in schools are geared about making sure we abide by legal parameters in our jurisdiction and we are lured by language that speaks about anonymity and aggregate data – but are we ever really sure of any of this?

    Tough questions – glad you taking it on.

  5. Joe, I am glad you are taking on this topic. It is certainly timely and I hear concerns about the new iPad rules in our system on a frequent basis. Even though there has been many restrictions imposed this year, it is comforting to know that the school division is trying to abide by the privacy policy and is making sure students and teachers are protected. I look forward to reading more!

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