Our ed camp discussions focused around the security and privacy of online learning and some of the challenges facing both students and educators. While teachers are encouraged to use technology in their everyday teaching practice, there are some real challenges with upholding the security and privacy for all students. As we discussed, there are often not many alternate options to support families who are reluctant to embrace certain platforms.

It seems that there are many assumptions made around using technology for education these days. Technology should improve and enhance student learning, not replace what is currently being used. As I discovered through this podcast, Google for Education is finding its place in education, however growing concerns around privacy and security appear to be at the forefront of this conversation.

The general worries around technology and security, (establishing informed consent) so that students can use platforms such as Google for Education, lead to misunderstandings around information sharing. While Google for Education appears to be the current trend, this idea that technology bridges the divide among people, by creating greater access, it can actually have the reverse effects when it comes to concerns with privacy and security. Parents have to provide consent for their students use, however as one parent noted, there is often nothing to replace tech options, so if you choose to opt out you are willingly putting your student at a disadvantage.

While in our group discussions it did not appear to be a huge concern, it is still a consideration. While the number of students not allowed to use these platforms are few, it begs the question of what we use in exchange? In addition to general concerns that parents have around information sharing and privacy, these online platforms also lend themselves to greater concerns around online etiquette that needs to be taught prior to using any of these platforms. Our discussions led us into talking about the potential for online cyber bullying and the need for online etiquette to be pre-taught as well as the appropriate measures needed to monitor online platforms.

One example provided for group discussion, that came up was the Whats App, which allows students to participate in group chats, while their teachers can also be included to monitor the discussions and ensure that conversations are about the content and respectful.

Google for education premises their products as offering students with an opportunity to collaborate, communicate, explore their creativity as well as gain critical thinking skills. Ed-Tech should enhance student learning or provide something that is not already in place. Using Ed- Tech in the classroom is incredibly valuable, especially when we can offer students exposure to tools that will be relevant to them later on in the work force. Using technology and  collaborating in a meaningful way, prepares our students for the future and real world applications they may require in their careers.

The podcast went on to address the worries that parents have about their children spending too much time on screens. Google for education would argue that its more about the quality of how the time is spent online. For example, students may be encouraged to read more news online, or collaborate and communicate through various forms of social media or social gaming. Their thoughts are that students may in fact become better communicators because of technology.  While I have seen some improvements in many of students have opportunities to practice their reading in ways that are perhaps more engaging (through online books), I personally am not buying the communication piece. While students do have opportunities to engage socially in online gaming, I do not feel this is adequately equipping them for real life experiences and everyday social interactions. It may in fact be hindering their ability to have face-to-face conversations.  General access to technology is so broad, its really hard to manage both at school and home, and further determine if communication and collaboration are happening in meaningful ways online.

Having said this, the power of collaboration is a wonderful thing, especially if it is used to make meaningful connections. The Podcast drew upon a wonderful example of a teacher that used her connections to communicate with a teacher in South Korea. She was able to do an impromptu lesson via video conferencing / Skyping and was able to share experiences and communicate with one another from the other side of the globe.

There are lots of ed-tech options out there that allow us to connect with others and make information more accessible, however we have to be aware of how that information will be protected. FOIPPA (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act) is in place to protect the privacy and security of personal information, and its important for educators to explore social platforms that are supported by these laws especially when considering where this information will go, long after we are done using it.

It is difficult to know what might happen to data in the future? Information can accumulate over time through schools (especially if you are using a platform for reporting and information sharing such as Fresh Grade).

As we discussed in our group chat it is vital to use a social/ educational platform that does not infringe on FOIPPA and even better to find a platform that is local, as to ensure that vital information is stored in Canada and not in the U.S.

The experts argue that while you should know about how your child’s information is going to be used, collected and disclosed, most people get hung up in the rhetoric of privacy and security.  They argue that it is a level of “misinformed hysteria” of individuals information being shared. While some may argue that student personal information is going to be meaningless to others (the FBI for example), others feel very unsettled knowing that their information is floating around .

Either way, as long as parents are given the appropriate information and education to make informed decisions for their students, the rest is really preference and comfort level. As educators who are encouraged to use technology to its fullest, support needs to be provided around alternate options for students, who may choose to not participate and have their information shared.  On the flip side these platforms provide today’s teachers with dynamic opportunities to teach and make learning more engaging and collaborative through a shared network.