3 Steps Schools Must Take To Protect Student Data

Taking these first three steps will put you in a better position to protect student data.

Educational technology has undoubtedly expanded learning opportunities for K-12 students. The integration of mobile devices in the classroom has granted students access to an abundance of web-based learning tools meant to not only engage students in learning, but also provide them with an individualized learning experience that enables them to learn at their own pace.

Web-based, personalized learning tools can also collect student data, allowing educators to access information that provides insight on how students are learning, helping them develop a greater understanding of the challenges students may be facing in certain areas of study.

While personalized learning tools have great potential to improve students’ educational experiences, the challenge of protecting the data collected by these learning tools is one that schools must understand, address and overcome.

“When you’re using different [web-based] applications, that data is being transmitted across the internet. There are the security concerns of transmitting that data securely as well as how it is being stored at these various vendors’ facilities,” says Aaron Hughes, CTO of Gaggle, a provider of safe online learning products, solutions and services for the K-12 market.

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With student data now being stored online, schools must learn new ways to protect students’ privacy, and it starts with educating each and every member of a district about web threats and online security.

1. Get Educated About Online Security
Before adopting web-based learning tools, schools need to have a strong understanding of what web-based threats are out there, and what protecting student data actually entails.

“Schools need to start getting general education about online security and hacking, and the reasons why it’s important to protect your data. Online security classes should also be given to students as we are now living in an increasingly connected world which is full of sophisticated ways to hack your data,” said a representative of NordVPN, a virtual private network service provider, in an email response.

With so many web-based learning tools being utilized by students, online security education should be provided to more than just a tech manager or IT administrator; all members of a school’s staff as well as its students should have a general understanding of how to be responsible on the web in order to help prevent sensitive data from being stolen.

“[Teaching students] what good digital citizenship means such as not sharing passwords, how to pick strong passwords, what’s appropriate to be done in [web-based] applications and really educating students [is important],” says Hughes.

Teachers should also be educated on what tools are available to monitor students’ online activity while in the classroom. Software such as SMART Sync classroom management software and Epson’s iProjection app allow teachers to monitor students’ screens to ensure they are engaged in the correct content and not surfing unsafe sites.

In addition to classroom management tools, there are many comprehensive online resources available to schools to help them better understand online security and how to protect student data.
“The Department of Education has a Privacy Technical Assistance Center that’s designed to give districts an understanding of what [data privacy] problems are and how they can mitigate those problems,” says Hughes. “Small districts or small schools might not have dedicated IT resources, but there are a lot resources available online that will help give [educators] an understanding of how to follow best practices.”

Before any school implements technology or allows students to use technology that involves collecting student data, every stakeholder in the district should have a strong understanding of the risks involved in using these web-based tools, as well as how they can protect students from having their private data stolen or compromised.

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