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EdTech Update





BFTP: School libraries - a student right

Here's a little riff on ALA President Barbara Stripling's Declaration for the Right to Libraries...

Declaration for Student Rights to School Libraries

Thomas Jefferson wrote, “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.” An educated citizenry is the product of effective schooling that is available to every child. School libraries are essential to an effective school. Therefore if all students have the right to a high quality education, all students have the right to access to well-staffed, well-stocked, and up-to-date physical and virtual school libraries.

School libraries honor the individual learner.  

By providing access to materials on a wide range of topics, with a wide range of reading levels, and in a wide range of media formats, libraries allow the personalization of education, meeting the needs of every learner. 

School libraries enable 24/7 learning.

By providing access to a curated collection of online materials, as well as Internet access in as unrestricted an environment as possible, libraries make it possible for learning to continue outside the classroom and school and into the home.

School libraries encourage the love of reading and learning.

By providing novels, non-fiction, magazines, games, videos, and other materials of high interest for practice reading and recreational use, libraries help students recognize that reading and learning can be a joyful experience, making the exploration of topics of personal interest a voluntary, lifelong enterprise.

School libraries teach valuable whole-life skills.

By providing access to professional information experts (librarians) who teach information seeking, evaluation, and communication skills, libraries develop students’ critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity abilities necessary for vocational, academic, and personal success. 

School libraries are spaces where all learners are welcome.

By providing a physical environment in which students feels welcome, comfortable, and safe, libraries insure that every student has a place where he or she is valued. 

School libraries give all students a voice.

By providing access to the tools needed to create, communicate, and share original information through a range of media, students learn to participate in online conversations with both peers and with the world.

School libraries close the digital divide.

By providing access to technology beyond the school day, libraries give students whose families cannot afford home computers or Internet connectivity access to educational technology before and after school and at home.

School libraries encourage collaboration, teamwork, and face-to-face interaction in the school.

By providing a physical space for social learning, students learn and practice how to work in groups effectively.

School libraries protect student and staff intellectual freedom.

By providing Internet access that is as free from filtering as allowed by law, libraries insure that students and staff information flow is not censored, allowing access to a diverse ideas and opinions.

School libraries honor the education of the whole child.

By supporting an educational philosophy that values higher order thinking skills, creativity, authentic assessments, attention to personal dispositions, and individualization, libraries look beyond the low-level skills measured by standardized test scores and work to create graduates who capable of full engagement with society and the world. 

AASL, I happily ceed the right to this concept to you. 

Check out the very nice graphic of this done by LibraryGirl, Jennifer LaGuarde!

Original post July 4, 2013

Head for the edge column Jan/Feb 2014


10 things teachers can do to protect student data

Welcome back, teachers!

Each year an increasing amount of information about your students is being communicated and stored - especially in electronic formats. You as a professional have an ethical obligation to know the laws and best practices around data privacy as it pertains to education.

Yes, I know you also have a new curriculum, five preps, two extra curricular coaching responsibilities, and a family you like to see now and again. I'll try to keep this short and practical. Here we go...

  1. Always lock your computer screen when it's not being used. A simple keyboard command will lock most computers (Windows-L on a Windows PC.) If you have problems remembering to do this, set your computer to go into sleep mode after 5 minutes of inactivity and require a password to wake it up. Oh, papers with student info on your desk can be easily viewed as well.
  2. Protect your passwords and change them now and again. I am not a huge fan of extraordinarily long or complex passwords or changing a password every two weeks, but passwords do need to changed now and again (once a semester, anyway) and passwords ought to be a combination of numbers and letters. Does anyone really need to be reminded not to write passwords on sticky notes placed on your monitor? Get and learn a password keeper program if you'd like.
  3. Be wary of educational products that create student accounts. Be very careful when using new online products that want information so they can create individual accounts for students. Your district should have a list of programs that have been vetted by the technology department for acceptable data privacy practices (COPPA compliance, at least.) Yes, explore new programs that will aid your students - just do it carefully.
  4. Store student data in the cloud. Cloud-based applications and data storage programs have a good track record for being secure. Please use GSuite or other online storage environments your district may provide. Cloud-based student information systems and learning management programs are pretty secure. Please don't keep student data on the hard drive of your laptop and leave your laptop where it could be stolen. Or on a flash or other type of portable drive. 
  5. Don't post printouts with  private data in your classroom and be cautious about what you put online. Guess what - kids know each other's student ID numbers so if you associate test scores or overdue books or grades with ID numbers instead of names, you are not really honoring student privacy. This regardless of whether the data is on a webpage or a paper printout.
  6. Be cautious when posting photos of your students to the web or social media. Most districts have parents who have requested that student information, including photos, not be share in the public media. You need to know which kids' faces in your class can't grace your website, newsletter, or Facebook page.
  7. Only use trusted wifi connections when working with student data. I don't check my bank account from any "free" wifi services in coffee shops, airports, hotels, etc. And you shouldn't be doing school work that involves student data using those networks either. Please use our secure network here at school rather than the public wifi as well.
  8. Understand the concept of spear phishing and double-check odd data requests. Get any strange requests from a colleague or administrator asking for data? Please double-check that these are legitimate. Spoofing the email address of an authority to send emails requesting data aka spear phishing is a too common practice that has caught a lot of people. Don't be a sucker (pun intended).
  9. Know your district and state's data privacy laws and policies. You don't have to read the laws (FERPA, COPPA, PPRA plus state laws and district board policies) but you better know the gist of them. Do you know what is considered PII - Personally Identifiable Information - in your district?
  10. Help your students understand what they can do to protect their own privacy. Sharing passwords is a common practice among younger students (and probably a few older ones). Every teacher should be addressing Digital Citizenship in her/his classes and protection of and respect for the privacy of others is a critical part of these instructional efforts.

A good resource to learn more about how you as a teacher can help safeguard your students' personal data is ConnectSafely's The Educator's Guide to Student Data Privacy. Put it at the top of your professional reading list.





Informing parents - how much info is good for kids?


Our school is in the process of reviewing Internet filters. Since the last time I engaged in this process, the feature set offered by many filters has increased dramatically. If you think all your filter does is keep users from getting to bad websites, you might be surprised.

Today's filters, besides blocking, can also monitor and track individual user's Internet access. If so configured, the program will alert an "authority" if it detects someone spending too much time looking for information about suicide or firearms or radical organizations - places that might indicate some form of adult intervention is needed to prevent a young person harming her/himself or others. I understand the intent, but I also wonder about the accuracy and privacy implications.

Impacting an even larger percentage of our students is the ability of a filter to analyze, summarize, and report Internet use by students. A weekly report can be sent to parents that tells the most often used search terms, most often used websites, and the amount of time spent online. All stuff a "good" parent* to should know and be able to use to help guide their children.

Getting realtime information about one's children from data kept by the school has been around for what, 15 years? Most student information systems have a "parent view" portal that allows parents to see attendance, grades, assignment completion, etc. (We enabled it in my previous district in 2005.) Access to test scores, bus location, hot lunch purchases and other data are increasing as well. At the time, I saw both the advantages and the abuses in real time monitoring of student performance by parents. (Parent portals - are we encouraging helicopter parenting?) Parent access to student data has become such a common expectation now that I doubt any district could seriously discuss turning it off. 

My primary concern about filter reporting is that students will figure out how to bypass the filter (they are very, very good at that) or simply limit their use of the school Internet to school uses. (Which is, I suppose, what many educators would like to see happen.) For our students who may not have a second, less monitored, means of accessing the Internet, a new inequity will be created. Exploring interests about which one wishes to be remain private (sexual identity, careers, religions, diets, etc) will be much more difficult for these kids.

I find it somewhat ironic that we as adults tend to make a very big deal about our personal data privacy yet we do not honor it for our youth. Yes, we need to guide and we need to restrict or monitor when needed. But we also need to give kids some independence and the chance to make some choices on their own. Mistakes will be made, for sure, but often it is the mistakes from which we learn the most.

* I've been asking myself what the definition of a "good" parent might be. Who writes that definition? On what is it based? Do any parents who have children who productive members of society qualify as "good" parents? Can you be a "good" parent but still have children who make mistakes or may not live up to societal expectations of success? 

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