Back to school night is a great opportunity to engage with your child's teachers to learn more about their academic and classroom goals for the year. It's also an opportunity for parents to ask questions about the technology their child will use in class this year, and how the data that is gathered about their child will be protected.
Increasing amounts of student and family data is being collected and stored online by schools today. Doing so provides many advantages to educators in terms of being able to efficiently gather and access information that enables them to better know students, communicate with them and track their progress. At the same time, high-profile data breaches are seemingly in the news every day and serve as a reminder that parents need to be active participants in conversations about information protection. Teachers and principals may not have all of the answers to your questions at their fingertips. But by raising some of these important questions about data privacy, you will let them know that it's an issue that is a priority for you and should be for school administrators and teachers as well.
Below is a list of questions you can ask your child's teacher or principal on Back to School night:
1) Who is gathering data on my child? Is there a list of the education technology providers and their security and retention policies that is available to parents?
Everything from attendance records to discipline records to family financial information is now frequently tracked online and stored in the cloud. Knowing which companies are accumulating this data can help parents hold these companies accountable when it comes to protecting children's privacy. It's also important to know not only what kinds of data is being collected, but how the data is secured and what happens to that data once it is no longer needed for educational purposes.
2) Which web sites and apps will be used in the classroom or recommended for use at home and what are their privacy policies? How do they use and share students' personal information?
Parents have the right to know who is gathering data about their child. Schools should know what kind of technology a teacher will be using and help ensure the data being collected is used for its intended purpose.
3) What information is being collected? What policies does the school or district have in place to ensure my student's personal information is being used solely for educational purposes?
With sensitive information such as student health data and dietary information being collected at school and stored in the cloud, it's difficult to keep track of what kinds of information is being gathered about your child. Protections for this data vary widely from district to district. Be sure to ask what your child's school is doing to make sure no information about your child falls into the wrong hands.