- The transition to remote learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in many schools adopting an array of free online resources that may still need to be vetted in order to avoid data security and privacy risks, Mashpee Public Schools Instructional Technology Director Suzy Brooks writes for eSchool News.
- Brooks uses data to measure the effectiveness of her district’s ed tech resources and identify what’s worth purchasing. She suggests starting the process by taking inventory of the products currently used and conducting security and safety checks on them. One tool Brooks uses is CatchOn, which utilizes data analytics to assess the efficacy and safety of ed tech.
- Additionally, Brooks collaborates with staff to determine which products are already well-accepted, as well as to ensure the tools adhere to the district’s priorities and to monitor products so she knows what is or isn’t working. Brooks ultimately cautions to beware of free tools, since they may not be secure.
The rapid transition to distance learning due to the pandemic forced many schools and districts to hastily adopt solutions without necessarily having the time to fully vet them for data privacy and security concerns. In a report from the Center for Democracy and Technology, half of teachers surveyed said they received no substantial training to protect data privacy, and only 40% of parents said data privacy had been discussed.
When educators and students use devices to access learning from home, the risk for a data breach is also higher due to the lack of protections otherwise available on a school's network. Many schools also lack chief privacy officers, whose job it is to enact privacy policies and protect student and staff data. According to the FBI, schools are an “opportunistic target,” which adds to the concern hackers will take advantage of weaker security and launch ransomware attacks.
Districts also need to watch for inadvertent copyright violations. The amount of available online content alone can create potential pitfalls, as can the continued use of programs after free licenses expire. To avoid these issues, districts can work to ensure staff and educators are trained on licensing and fair use rules. Students can also benefit from these lessons when it comes to attributing and citing sources in their own work.