Educators Discuss Keeping Student Data Safe

There’s perhaps no other edtech topic discussed more these days than student data privacy. Because keeping your students’ data safe is important to everyone here at Gaggle, we decided that our next webcast should focus on what school leaders and edtech companies can do to protect student data.

Last week’s webcast, “Keeping Student Data Safe: Who’s Responsible got underway with a presentation from Tom Ryan, CEO of eLearn Institute, a nonprofit consultancy he co-founded following a more than 30-year career in education. Dr. Ryan believes the move to student data privacy is due, in part, to the “Internet of Things,” the interconnection of uniquely identifiable computing-like devices over the Internet. “Every part of our organization has some connection with technology,” he said. “The issue around security and privacy is not new. It’s something that we’ve dealt with since we first started schools.”

Backed by a study from the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), Dr. Ryan pointed out that IT priorities, such as assessment readiness, wireless access and mobile learning, led 57% of school IT leaders to indicate that privacy and security are more important to them than a year ago. Dr. Ryan highlighted findings in another study from the Center for Digital Education that revealed only 27% of educators are “very confident” that their current security protocols and technologies protect student data.

While there’s plenty of activity at the state and federal levels around student data privacy, Dr. Ryan thinks sitting on the sidelines might not be the best move. “We can’t wait for legislation,” he said. “We need to be proactive about what is going on with student data.”

Dr. Ryan wrapped up his presentation talking about current student data privacy initiatives, including the student data privacy pledge created by the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF) and the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA). He also introduced CoSN’s new Trusted Learning Environment Seal, an initiative designed to allow school leaders to communicate their privacy efforts to parents, communities and other stakeholders. CoSN already has partnered with three leading associations and 28 U.S. school systems to establish criteria for other schools to follow.

One school district that is taking an active approach to protecting student data is the Mountain Brook School System in suburban Birmingham, Alabama. During the webcast, Mountain Brook’s technology director, Donna Williamson, discussed her district’s initiatives around protecting student data, including its Data Governance Policy that assures the district’s data is accurate, accessible, consistent and protected.

“We wanted to make sure that our parents knew that we’re a learning environment that could be trusted,” she said. “We honor their right and choice regarding their students’ data.”

Gaggle’s CTO, Aaron Hughes, also joined the webcast to review our initiatives around student data, including being one of the first 13 companies to participate in the FPF and SIIA pledge. In addition to a clear and transparent Student Data Privacy Notice, Gaggle also successfully completed a Service Organization Control 2 (SOC 2) Type 1 report after undergoing a thorough third-party audit, which included a rigorous evaluation of all of our relevant processes, procedures and controls for data security, availability and privacy.

“We realized that we could differentiate ourselves from competitors and further demonstrate our commitment to student data privacy,” said Aaron. “We wanted to take that next step.”

You can watch the “Keeping Student Data Safe: Who’s Responsible? webcast on-demand by scrolling to the section “Archived Webcasts (2015).”