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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

FERPA & Student Data Privacy - Let the privacy tidal wave begin

Recently, I had an educator ask me if students collaborating together on an assignment, through a collaborative technology such as Google Docs, could be a violation of the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act, which most of us know as FERPA. Their concern was that as students work together, one student’s parent would be able to see the work done by the student their child was collaborating with on the assignment. This has never occurred to me as a concern, but it certainly begged investigation. After reviewing many websites, I did not find anything that would suggest a homework assignment in progress would at all be considered an educational record (and therefore protected by FERPA), as it is not part of a child’s permanent record at that point, nor is it in possession of the school at that point. In fact I did not find anything definitive that would suggest student work is FERPA protected at all. Graded work MAY be, as an individual grade itself might be part of the student record. But from the United States Supreme Court “Owasso Independent School District v. Falvo,” it is clear that an ungraded assignment is not an educational record, and therefore not subject to FERPA. 

The above is my interpretation and not a legal opinion, but it demonstrates how delicate the topic of student privacy is becoming. Increasingly, student data and privacy are being looked at with a laser focus by places like the State of California, President Obama, and organizations like Common Sense Media and CoSN. Expect to hear many more discussions and questions about what student data is shareable to further a student’s education and what data must be protected by schools and third parties.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

My New Year's Wish List for Ed Tech

It's been another fast-paced year in educational technology, with nothing more certain than change.
Yet as much as there is innovation and exciting new products and ideas, there is a lot that I keep hoping will change, ideally at a rate faster than the speed of smell. So here is my Ed-Tech New Year wish list in no particular order of urgency:

  • Transparent pricing: We are in education and cost IS important; if we have to use Chinese water torture to get a price for your product or service or to figure some outlandish set of options and upgrades, we may shop somewhere else.
  • Fair contracts: Contracts need to take into account that we get funded by fickle entities. Stop writing auto-renewing contracts with no outs, or worse yet, multi-year auto renewals.
  • Learning content standards: Digital content is exploding everywhere, yet much of it is locked in proprietary content prison cells, inaccessible from our learning management systems. Let's all get behind a common standard, like "Learning Tools Interoperability" or LTI for short.
  • Easy log in: If your company cannot support LTI, at least bless us with some sort of common authentication or single sign-on. We can't bear to have teachers or administrators waste one more second administering accounts or wasting time logging in to a web site.
  • Old web technology: It's far past the time to layout web pages in tables, run Flash animations, and use Java to validate forms. Join this century and leverage HTML 5 and responsive web design, so all of our devices can access your 1999 web site.
  • A common wireless video standard that actually works: Students and teachers all have different devices and all have great things to share with the class, but in most cases, most of their devices cannot share their content to a TV or projector over the same standard. There is money to be made by someone solving this!
Ed Tech - change is for certain