How Well Does Your State Protect Student Privacy?

The Parent Coalition for Student Privacy released a comprehensive report card on each state’s privacy laws. It is an amazing tool for parents, teachers, legislators, and privacy advocates.  The full press release is posted below. You will want to be sure to use the downloadable comparison matrix and share the report cards with your schools and legislators.

Why Student Privacy is Important

Thanks to the federal student  privacy law FERPA being weakened in 2011, student’s personal data can be shared outside of school walls, without parents knowledge or consent. The data can be shared and analyzed by government agencies, nonprofits, businesses, researchers, and edtech companies who can further share with third parties, (or even sell student data), or used for advertising to students.  Online “Personalized Learning”,  computer “edtech” programs that collect millions of points of data, and use hidden algorithms to profile children are not regulated by federal law and are exempted from state laws.   Recently, the FBI issued a warning about the dangers of edtech data collection. With multiple data breaches, and cyber hacks into school databases,   education performs dead last in terms of cyber security. Over the last few years, parents across the country have gone to schools, state and local boards, state legislators, and asked for transparency and more control of their children’s data.  In every state, parents have received pushback, often from the BigTech lobbyists who send representatives to weaken bills and fight privacy legislation. Silicon Valley spends millions to lobby and shape “tech favorable” privacy policies at the federal level. Google led the multimillion-dollar tech industry lobbying blitz in 2018.

Besides the millions of data points collected by edtech, astonishing amounts of student data are stored in local and state databases, often called SLDS, or P20 databases.  With the recent passage of Federal law HR4174, making data held in federal and state databases linkable, (shareable) and interoperable, it is more important than ever to minimize what student data, especially sensitive medical, mental health, disability data, goes into these databases.  FERPA is a 45 year old law that needs updating. We need a strong data privacy law that ensures opt-in consent, provides enforceable penalties,  data minimization, and private right of action to parents. This 2015 Answer Sheet  article in the Washington Post, explains the issue and need for student privacy legislation:

“During a February 2015 congressional hearing on “How Emerging Technology Affects Student Privacy,” Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin asked the panel to “provide a summary of all the information collected by the time a student reaches graduate school.” Joel Reidenberg, director of the Center on Law & Information Policy at Fordham Law School, responded:

“Just think George Orwell, and take it to the nth degree. We’re in an environment of surveillance, essentially. It will be an extraordinarily rich data set of your life.”

Most student data is gathered at school via multiple routes; either through children’s online usage or information provided by parents, teachers or other school staff. A student’s education record generally includes demographic information, including race, ethnicity, and income level; discipline records, grades and test scores, disabilities and Individual Education Plans (IEPs), mental health and medical history, counseling records and much more. [Emphasis added]

Under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), medical and counseling records that are included in your child’s education records are unprotected by HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act passed by Congress in 1996). Thus, very sensitive mental and physical health information can be shared outside of the school without parent consent.

the federal government has mandated that every state collect personal student information in the form of longitudinal databases, called Student Longitudinal Data Systems or SLDS, in which the personal information for each child is compiled and tracked from birth or preschool onwards, including medical information, survey data, and ….

Every SLDS has a data dictionary filled with hundreds of common data elements, so that students can be tracked from birth or pre-school through college and beyond, and their data more easily shared with vendors, other governmental agencies, across states, and with organizations or individuals engaged in education-related “research” or evaluation — all without parental knowledge or consent.

Every SLDS uses the same code to define the data, aligned with the federal CEDS, or Common Education Data Standards, a collaborative effort run by the US Department of Education, “to develop voluntary, common data standards for a key set of education data elements to streamline the exchange, comparison, and understanding of data within and across P-20W institutions and sectors.”… You can check out the CEDS database yourself, including data points recently added, or enter the various terms like “disability,” “homeless” or “income” in the search bar.”

The US needs to do more to protect students from identity theft, invisible digital profiling, trafficking and selling of their personal data. Children should not be subjected to compulsory surveillance, forced to forego privacy, as a condition of attending public schools.  Parents, not corporations, not the government, need to know what data is collected and should have the Right to NO when it comes to sharing or processing their children’s data.

Here is the press release from the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and the Network for Public Education:

New Report Card Grades Each State On How Well it Protects Student Privacy

In the first of its kind, the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy and the Network for Public Education have released a report card that grades all fifty states on how well their laws protect student privacy.  

The State Student Privacy Report Card analyses 99 laws passed in 39 states plus DC between 2013 and 2018, and awards points in each of the following five categories, aligned with the core principles put forward by PCSP: Transparency; Parental and Student Rights; Limitations on Commercial Use of Data; Data Security Requirements; and Oversight, Enforcement, and Penalties for Violations.

Two more categories were added to the evaluation: Parties Covered and Regulated and Other, a catch-all for provisions that did not fit into any of the above categories, such as prohibiting school employees from receiving compensation for recommending the use of specific technology products and services in their schools.

No state earned an “A” overall, as no state sufficiently protects student privacy to the degree necessary in each of these areas. Colorado earned the highest average grade of “B.” Three states – New York, Tennessee and New Hampshire– received the second highest average grade of “B-“.  Eleven states received the lowest grades of “F” because they have no laws protecting student privacy: Alabama, Alaska, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, Vermont and Wisconsin.

The report tracks specific versions of state laws over time.  For example, many of the state privacy laws enacted since 2013 were modeled after the California’s 2014 law known as the Student Online Personal Information Protection Act (SOPIPA). While California barred all school vendors from selling student data, eight states subsequently passed laws that allowed the College Board and the ACT to do so.  Laws with specific loopholes to allow these companies to sell student data were enacted in Arizona, Colorado, District of Columbia, Nebraska, North Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia –presumably because of lobbying efforts.

The issue of data security is also critical.  The primary federal student privacy law known as FERPA requires no specific protections against data breaches and hacking, nor does it require families be notified when inadvertent disclosures occur.  In recent years, the number of data breaches from schools and vendors have skyrocketed, and some districts have even been targeted by hackers with attempted blackmail and extortion. A recent report rated the education industry last in terms of cybersecurity compared to all other major industries.  As a result, this fall the FBI put out an advisory, warning of the risks represented by the rapid growth of education tech tools and their collection of sensitive student data,  saying that this could “result in social engineering, bullying, tracking, identity theft, or other means for targeting children.”

“The inBloom debacle in 2013 exposed the longstanding culture of fast and loose student data sharing among government agencies, schools and companies,” said Rachael Stickland, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, parent of two public school children in Colorado and the primary author of the report. “Consequently, parents across the nation began urging their state legislators to address the problem, resulting in a complex web of state privacy laws that are difficult to untangle and understand. Our hope is to bring attention to state laws that make a reasonable effort to protect student privacy and identify those that need improvement. Parents and advocacy groups can use our findings to advocate for even stronger measures to protect their children.”

NPE Executive Director Carol Burris noted, “This report card provides not only critical information regarding the existing laws, but also serves a blueprint for parents to use for lobbying for better protections for their children.”

As Leonie Haimson, co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, pointed out, “FERPA was passed over forty-five years ago and has been weakened by regulation over time to allow for the sharing of personal student data by schools and vendors without parent knowledge or consent.  State legislators have stepped up to the plate to try to fill in some of its many gaps and to require more transparency, security protections, enforcement, and the ability of parents and students to control their own data. Yet none of these laws are robust enough in each of these areas.  Congress must strengthen and update FERPA, but meanwhile, this report card can serve as a guide to parents and advocates as to which state laws should be strengthened and in which specific ways.”

An interactive map that shows the grades of each state, both overall and in each of the categories is posted here. The report is posted here; here is a technical appendix with a more detailed account of how each law was evaluated.   There is also a downloadable matrix with links to all of the state laws, as well as specifying how many points were awarded in every category.

Access ​​to Devices at School Increases, But Do Parents Have a Veto?

Photo Credit: Lexie Flickinger (CC-By-2.0)

A survey of school district technology leaders conducted by the Consortium for School Networking showed school district connectivity and student access to devices have increased.

They note that confidence in a school district’s wi-fi network has increased:

Districts’ confidence in their wireless networks to support one device (or more)per student is increasing. A large majority (69%) of respondents report they are “very confident” in their network’s ability to support one or more devices per student as compared to the prior year’s 58%. 

They also note broadband access has increased:

Ninety-two percent (92%) of districts are meeting the FCC short-term goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students for all their schools. Even more impressive, this year over a third (35%) of districts achieved the FCC long-term goal (1 Gbps per 1,000 students) for all schools – up nearly 100% from last year. 

Student access to devices has increased. Almost one-half of respondents say that their students have access to at least one device. While almost a quarter of respondents say their students have access to two devices and that number is expected to jump to 38 percent in three years.

The survey also noted two primary concerns.

The first was the “homework gap” that education tech can bring. Fewer than 10 percent of schools reported that every student had access to non-shared devices at home. This makes it difficult for students to complete homework online.

The second concern was about cybersecurity. “The majority of districts (52%) say breach detection is their highest cybersecurity service concern. Despite concerns about a myriad of network security threats, only 12% of districts have a dedicated network security person to manage the challenges,” the report reads.

With cybersecurity concerns come student data privacy concerns and schools have failed in that regard. The education sector stinks at cybersecurity. Online school data is not safe even student health data. The ed tech companies that schools partner with are busy collecting data.

So data privacy concerns are just a given.

The absence of concern about students’ screen time I found to be striking.

Schools and educrats are so invested in whether or not they can provide the connectivity needed for the growing market of education tech that they are not asking whether they should.

Have they wrestled with what expanded screen time is doing to kids? It’s not like there has not been any research as Lisa Hudson noted back in 2016:

It’s actually fairly easy to locate studies that report excessive media use can lead to increased reports of mental health issues (children twice as likely to report mental ill-health), decreased sensitivity to emotional cuesschool difficulties (heavy media users report lower grades), eating disorders (strong correlation between  increased use of internet and discontentment with weight, and body shame), sleep difficulties (greater risk of sleep disturbances, stress), structural and functional changes in brain regions, and obesity (obesity associated with frequent television/video use).  What is surprisingly limited are studies or research concluding that excessive exposure to digital media is beneficial for kids.

According to a Pew Research study, 92% of teens reported going online daily and 24% of those reported being online “constantly.”  Today’s children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices.  This number doesn’t include the amount of exposure kids are getting at school, especially with the current tech-to-the-rescue mindset of education reformers, none of which has been shown to be beneficial to student performance.  In fact, more and more research seems to conclude all the tech exposure in school isn’t helping to improve educational outcomes, anyway.  For example, using laptops to take notes resulted in shallower processing.  And in another study, students who used digital devices performed worse in class.

In fact, just last month, 60 Minutes reported on a National Institutes of Health study on the impact of screen time on adolescents’ brains. They noted the premature thinning of the cortex in the MRIs of some kids who use smartphones, tablets, and video games more than seven hours a day. Our cortex is the part of our brain that processes information from our five senses. They are not drawing any conclusions about what this might mean.

They also noted kids who spend more than two hours a day on screens got lower scores on thinking and language tests.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise as lots of screen time has been linked to symptoms of ADHD in teens.

Yes, I understand that some parents, as noted in the study first mentioned, demand devices for their students.

Students often get too much screen time outside of school. Since that is the case why would schools want to add to that? Also, what about the parents who are actively trying to limit the amount of time their child is front of a screen? Are schools listening to those parents? Or are they forging ahead?

As we dive deeper into education tech in schools are those schools giving parents who are concerned about the negative consequences of too much screen time the ability to opt their student out?

Do they get a veto when the school wants to thrust a device in front of their child?

Ending Distractions Is Not Worth Letting Schools Play Big Brother

Photo credit: Nick Youngson (CC BY-SA 3.0)

With the onset of using laptops and computers in the classroom along with students bring smartphones to school kids being distracted is a real problem. 

A new start-up, NetRef, provides a solution. Using the school’s network teachers can restrict what a student can access online (this, of course, wouldn’t work with phones that are using a wireless network instead of the school’s wi-fi to go online, but teachers can also restrict whether or not phones can be out).

Robyn Shuls at Forbes interviewed Joseph Heinzen, the President and Founder of Zoozil, who works closely with NetRef. He said something that jumped out at me.

Shulman: What else does the software do?

Heinzen: The second component to NetRef is providing edtech usage reports. Because we have taken a network-based approach, NetRef works with student-owned as well as school-owned devices. This capability allows schools and districts to see aggregated usage data for edtech software for every student on each device.

Shulman: Where is the data stored?

Heinzen: The data stays on-site in their network and gives administrators a clear picture of what tools have been adopted and are increasing academic achievement.

Heizen states that it provides edtech usage reports, but it goes beyond that. The NetRef features page states that the software, “shows real-time Internet activity by student, classroom and school. Usage reports are accessible to educators based on their access level.”

Also, they state, “NetRef allows teachers to immediately identify which students are connected to the network and adhering to the Acceptable Use Policy.”

That is not just edtech usage. There are some data privacy concerns here. At the bottom of their features page, they cite FERPA, COPPA, CIPA, PPRA, etc. Unfortunately, none of those laws prevent the government, in the form of your local school, of playing Big Brother. 

How about offering software that does not track internet usage? 

Better yet, let’s limit screen time in the classroom altogether. 

Intel and Its Data Privacy Sham

Lately, talk about data privacy is taking center stage in Washington. And, recently, technology giant Intel has joined in the public discourse by creating a draft bill for a federal data privacy law.

As a mother that has followed the big tech firms over the past few years and their gold-rush for my children’s education data, I am completely skeptical of this proposed law. And, there is ample evidence that what Intel wants is data interoperability, not data privacy.

Evidence:  Intel’s partnership with UNESCO, Microsoft, Cisco and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE)

In 2011, Intel partnered with the United Nation’s education division UNESCO—along with Microsoft, Cisco and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). These groups have been behind standards for data interoperability since their inception and have worked tirelessly to ensure that neither teachers nor children could escape the long arm of big data. They developed UNESCO’s “ICT Competency Framework for Teachers” which is used to train teachers, worldwide, how to implement technology for teaching and learning. 

What’s so bad about using technology for teaching and learning? Well. For me, it’s about who controls what is taught and learned. Interoperable data systems serve two purposes:

  1. to enrich technology companies and their “education” partners
  2. to eliminate local curriculum and assessment control

With the help of these groups and their partners under Race to the Top reforms, most of the major assessment and curriculum companies have adopted common data standards so that systems can interoperate (share) children’s and teacher’s private learning information across platforms. This was made possible through the Every Student Succeeds Act (see here). So, while Intel’s data privacy law may look benevolent, it likely carves out loopholes that it and its “education” partners can benefit from while gutting the privacy rights of children and teachers.

Important facts that unveil the goals of these groups…

UNESCO:

UNESCO is one of the largest data overlords in the world, operating the Global Education Monitoring Report to coerce nations and states into adopting UNESCO’s Education 2030 Framework for Action. The Education 2030 Framework uses nations’ and states’ education accountability laws to control what children are taught and tested. US states were coerced into this Framework when they adopted Race to the Top reforms, after which UNESCO’s ICT Competency Framework was embedded in US Education law through the Every Student Succeeds Act. The technology Framework ensures that US states and schools comply with international requirements for “innovative assessments” (computer-adaptive assessments) and that schools hand over children’s private learning data—in real time. 

Of UNESCO’s ICT Competency Framework for Teachers, Microsoft wrote:

“…it is not enough for teachers to have ICT competencies to be able to teach them to their students. Teachers need to be able to help students become collaborative, problem solving creative learners through using ICT so they will be effective global citizens.”

Microsoft:

Microsoft has been a UNESCO partner since 2004 and shares their political goals. What they are telling parents is that a child will not be an “effective global citizen” unless the data shows that they are “competent.” A child will be deemed “competent” when they use technology to advocate for UNESCO’s political goals.

Intel:

Intel’s Vice President of Government and Education, John Galvin, co-chairs a work group at UNESCO’s Broadband Commission with UNESCO’s Director-General, Irina Bokova (*see important note below).

John Galvin wrote the foreword to UNESCO’s Digital Skills Framework (again, this Framework is embedded in the Every Student Succeeds Act). In the foreword, Galvin wrote,

“I am honoured to serve with my fellow Broadband Commissioners on our shared commitment to support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. I look forward to increasing our collaboration to enable individuals everywhere to develop the twenty-first century skills required to thrive within our fast-changing broadband society.”

I don’t share in any UNESCO commitments. In fact, I find their education commitments to be an affront to my personal liberty. But, Intel supports UNESCO and its data-for-control Framework, not the privacy rights of teachers, children and their families. And, Intel also supports UNESCO’s definition for “twenty-first century skills.” Of these skills, UNESCO says  “The world faces global challenges, which require global solutions. … Education must fully assume its central role in helping people to forge more just, peaceful, tolerant and inclusive societies.”

What UNESCO defines as “global challenges”, I don’t. And I don’t think my children’s educations should be geared to helping UNESCO with their political goals. UNESCO likes to talk about “tolerance” and “inclusion, yet consistently attacks people of religious faith.

*(For parents fighting Comprehensive Sexuality Education, it is important to really think through the fact that Intel’s John Galvin works arm-in-arm with UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova to require that teachers use technology for teaching and learning. Bokova is a staunch supporter of Comprehensive Sexuality Education, see here and here.  With the help of the International Society for Technology in Education (details below) UNESCO can ensure that Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) will, eventually, be taught in all subjects through online learning. The “ICT Competency Framework for Teachers” sets the stage for CSE to be taught across most academic subjects, see: here.)

International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE):

ISTE sets international standards for teaching and learning. ISTE is headed by the Obama administration’s former Director of Education Technology Richard Culatta (more about him below). This is not by coincidence. ISTEcreated international education technology standards for teachers and students. These standards are effectively being used to control what teachers teach and what children learn—aligning teaching and learning to UNESCO’s political goals.

The ISTE standards are taking Common Core standards and making them international. (This explains why US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has joined with the UN and the G20 education agenda). Common Core standards were designed to end local control over teaching and learning.

Consider this:

States typically revise their education standards every 7-8 years. Common Core was adopted in most states in 2010. It’s now 2018. Schools are now being shifted into the ISTE technology standards for teaching and learning without parents even being aware. National education standards really did mark the end of local standards, curriculum and assessment control. This gives new meaning to Secretary DeVos’ claim that “Common Core is dead.” 

Of their ISTE Standards for Students (see pages 6-7), ISTE says, “At their core, the ISTE Standards are about pedagogy, not tools.”  ISTE quotes UNESCO on global citizenship and then says, “technology provides a forceful means to enable students to connect with others and empower them to collaboratively and individually tackle authentic problems.” 

Again, those “authentic” problems are political goals defined by UNESCO. 

More about ISTE’s Richard Culatta:

Richard Culatta was a key player—if not, THE key player—behind the data interoperability and computer-adaptive curriculum and assessment reforms enshrined in the Every Student Succeeds Act. He knew that Common Core standards were setting the stage to control what a child learns. In fact, in his 2013 TedX talk, he bragged that personalized learning systems can track 100,000 pieces of personal behavioral information on every child, every day.

Think about this. If your child’s behaviors can be tracked, their political and moral values can easily be reshaped through computer-adaptive curriculum.

Richard Culatta moved from the US Department of Education to head up the technology reforms in Rhode Island (where ESSA’s data-based reforms were spearheaded) and then magically ended up as the CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). (Things that make you say, “hmmm?”)

ISTE and IMS Global:

IMS Global is the interoperable data guru of the data reforms in Race to the Top—now, enshrined in the Every Student Succeeds Act. In 2015, ISTE and IMS Global unveiled their white paper about building a “standards-based ecosystem for technology adoption and integration” in the classroom. The paper is called, “A New Paradigm for Decision-Making: A district leaders guide to standard-based technology adoption and integration.”

IMS Global is very open about their role in using Race to the Top and Common Core standards to push school districts into digital teaching and learning and data interoperability. Interoperable data systems mark the end of local curriculum and assessment control. See here and here.

Intel’s Lead Data Scientist Kathleen Crowe spoke at IMS Global’s 2016 quarterly meeting about Intel’s role in moving children into computer-adaptive learning. How can Intel’s lead data scientist speak at IMS Global without turning their backs on children and data privacy? They can’t.

Let’s not kid ourselves about Intel’s data “privacy” goals. Intel is all about data interoperability to help UNESCO indoctrinate children.

Years ago, I met a Microsoft engineer that said he was concerned when he realized that his 3rd grade daughter was using computer-adaptive curriculum at school. He said that there was absolutely no role for computer-adaptive curriculum or assessments in K-12 because, by their very nature, they are designed for behavioral assessment, not academic assessment. He was astonished that so many parents and schools have embraced it. And, he remarked that there was an obvious agenda behind it being pushed into schools.

Do you agree? Find out if your child’s teacher sees your child’s online curriculum or assessments, or if the teacher simply uses a data-dashboard to assign curriculum and assessments. That’s how UNESCO and ISTE—and the State Education Technology Directors Association (see here)—are training young teachers. Intel’s proposed federal “privacy” law facilitates UNESCO’s education vision

Technocratic Corporatocracy Hijacks Public Schools for Profit

Photo Credit: Lexie Flickinger (CC-By-2.0)

Making People Transparent for Profit Through Nontransparent Algorithms

Imagine if everything about you was on a giant billboard and you could see who was buying information about you and making lists. That is exactly what is happening without your knowledge or consent each time you use the Internet. Everything a user does online is tracked and monetized — Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, apps — they all collect your data. A provider of computer-run education programs has admitted that they share the data they gather with 18 “partners.” Invisible analytics, profiling, sharing or selling of data collected without consent or knowledge makes every Internet user vulnerable to manipulation and control, ending personal privacy and sovereignty. 

The process works like this: new data are collected covertly through apps; the collected data is transferred to data brokers who access the new data and combine it with existing data about an individual using nontransparent algorithms. The algorithms create a very detailed profile of individual users; vendors are sold access to the profiles and target individuals based on profile analyses. Google is by far the most used third party analytics tracker and makes 90% of its revenue tracking user searches. In attached bibliography includes multiple examples of how the tech industry not only sells data, but sells data collection programs and devices to measure behaviors and infer emotions and thoughts. 

The documentary, The Creepy Line, explains how tech giants use algorithms to shape behavior and shape thoughts. Google used algorithms to influence voter behavior in the 2016 presidential election In a recently leaked video of a Google company meeting conducted shortly after that election, one employee asked if Google is willing to “invest in grassroots, hyper-local efforts to bring tools and services and understanding of Google products and knowledge so that people can “make informed decisions that are best for themselves.” Google CEO Sundar Pichai responded that Google will ensure its “educational products” reach “segments of the population [they] are not [currently] fully reaching.” Apparently, Google will ensure that Google Chromebooks and the Google manipulated search engine will be standard “education” materials in American schools so that students can make Google informed decisions.

Tracking and “Educating” Children

Schools funded with tax dollars allow the tech industry to collect billions of student data points about every aspect of every student using school issued personal devices by mandating students complete assignments using online tools and apps for classwork and homework on these devices. The data are used to build comprehensive profiles on each student. Every state has a database and students’ personal data can be shared with researchers and companies. Google launched a public relations campaign, Be Internet Awesome, that includes a curriculum and online game for Chromebooks, to promote itself as a “good” company; but a critical analysis of Be Internet Awesome concluded,

. . ., the program’s conceptualization of Internet safety omits key considerations. Specifically, it does not acknowledge the role of companies in keeping data and personal information secure. Instead, its focus on user-centered strategies obscures the degree to which users are often powerless when it comes to controlling how their personal data is used. [It] generally presents Google as impartial and trustworthy, 
which is especially problematic given that the target audience is impressionable youth. 

Transporting human beings without their consent for exploitation is human trafficking. Transporting human beings’ private data without their knowledge or consent is human data trafficking. Transporting children’s private data by collecting it in compulsory schools without parent knowledge or consent to exploit them in the data market is nothing less than institutional child data trafficking.

Failure of Government

Existing federal laws are inadequate for protecting student data privacy. FERPA generally does not apply to online data collection and FERPA was changed by executive rule in 2011, removing parental consent for data collection. FERPA now allows companies (such as Google) to be declared a “school official,” giving them access to student data on par with professionals who have a “need to know” to provide appropriate services to students. HIPPA does not apply to student records. COPPA does not generally apply to schools, and COPPA is rarely enforced even when complaints have been filed, and we know thousands of Android apps are improperly tracking children. There is no federal law regulating companies’ use of online student data.

The FBI recently issued a warning about privacy and security risks of educational technology and the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance that schools should not force parents to consent to third party terms of service. Yet, parents are told they cannot attend the school if they don’t allow their child to have a fill in the blank edtech app or program (e.g., Naviance, or NWEA, or Google Gsuite account). EdTech people say education is the most datamineable industry by far and we know now that students’ social-emotional data is the new goldmine despite the pseudo-science propping up social-emotional learning. The West Virginia teachers strike in Spring 2018 was in part sparked because, among other reasons, teachers were being forced to download Go365, a wellness and rewards app which would track their steps and other health data. Teachers were required to upload a variety of personal health information into the app and saw the program as an invasion of personal privacy

Google’s money wields an enormous amount of influence on U.S. education policy. Under the Obama Administration Google’s lobbyists had essentially unrestricted visits to the White House . A shocking number of White House officials now work for Google or vice versa. The U.S. Department of Education was heavily populated with former employees of organizations associated with Bill Gates, also advocating for computer-administered education. We know tech firms including Google have recently been lobbying the White House for a new federal privacy law on their own terms; Google even provided their own framework for a favorable privacy bill that does not include opt-in consent. It is time for Congress and states to kick the fox out of the henhouse — reject corporatocracy and restore our Constitutional democracy.

Responsibility of Government

U.S. citizens are protected from the government’s invasion of privacy and from property theft. They must also be protected from corporations’ invasion of privacy and theft of their electronically created property. Sovereign citizens cannot be coerced into giving their data or penalized/denied public education services for not consenting to sharing their data. Given that the infrastructure has already been built, Congress must adopt strong privacy laws at least as stringent as the European Union’s global data standards established in its General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The FTC should be given rule-making authority and resources to investigate and directly prosecute violations; but by no means should Congress abdicate its responsibility to protect the general welfare of the Americans and allow Silicon Valley to dictate to Congress or the FTC.

Parents Resisting Ed Tech

Photo Credit: Lexie Flickinger (CC-By-2.0)

The Daily Herald, a newspaper in Utah, published an article this week featuring parents who are resisting education tech in their schools. Here’s an excerpt about one parent, Amy Mullins, who is one of several parents featured who has struggled to limit her kids’ screen time.

“I have some children that self-regulate really well, and some who do not who would get sucked in for eight hours without even batting eye,” she said.
It was hard to place limits on technology in her own home, let alone monitor what her children were doing with technology in the classroom.

Google products like Chromebooks and Google Classroom are commonly used in schools, as are the use of phone apps and the digitalization of learning materials. But it’s not just the use of the technology that’s concerning to parents. They also have worries around if the use of tech in the classroom is creating an addiction or dependency to screens and what is being done to protect the data apps that schools collect on their students.

When she has tried to opt her students out of using technology in the classroom, she said she has faced resistance from both the school and society from people who don’t understand why she’s resistant, or make automatic assumptions about who she is.

“I needed to, as a parent, to be able to opt out of that and not be labeled Amish or afraid of technology,” Mullins said.

Take time to read the rest

What have you done to limit your child’s/children’s screen time at home and at school? What are you experiencing in your child’s school? Leave a comment below with your experiences and advice.

So Pass Out Devices Because Students Might Email More?

The Hechinger Report published an article last week about a survey of students about the use of school-assigned mobile devices (laptops, Chromebooks, tablets, etc.):

High schoolers assigned a laptop or a Chromebook were more likely to take notes in class, do internet research, create documents to share, collaborate with their peers on projects, check their grades and get reminders about tests or homework due dates. Among high school students assigned these devices, 60 percent said they had emailed their teachers with questions. That’s compared to 42 percent among students without an assigned device.

In focus groups, students explained that emailing their teachers was somewhat of an anxiety release, said Julie Evans, Speak Up’s CEO and the author of a brief about the findings.

“It isn’t as if they need the teacher to respond to them in that moment,” Evans said. “It’s more that they want to share the problem with someone.” And when they go to class the next day, they can arrive knowing their teacher is already aware of the problem.

Most high schoolers have a way to send an email from home, whether it’s from a smartphone or a family computer. But students with assigned devices from their schools are more likely to actually draft those emails and hit send.

Evans said sending those emails indicates students are independent learners who have the benefit of a school support system. She connected it to the portion of students who get electronic reminders about tests and homework due dates. Among high schoolers with assigned laptops or Chromebooks, 53 percent get those electronic reminders, compared with 39 percent of students who don’t have school-assigned devices, the survey found.

I don’t doubt any of these findings, but, unfortunately, this does not address any of the drawbacks of education tech like the growing number of kids with ADHD symptoms, a reduction in exam performance, how it negatively impacts how students read, and the data education tech companies are collecting on students

In other words, it’s hopelessly one-sided. Which is fine for an opinion piece, but not for a news article. 

Parents and schools need to decide whether a student emailing their teachers more is worth the cost. 

Questions Parents Should Ask About Digital Curriculum

Photo Credit: Lexie Flickinger (CC-By-2.0)

Allison McDowell, a parent that writes at Wrench in the Gears, permitted me to publish the questions she developed in 2016 for parents to ask their children’s schools about the digital curriculum they use.

The questions are general and do not highlight specific programs so you should be able to utilize these in your community.

  1. Does the program require aggregating PII (personally identifiable information) from students to function properly? And even if it doesn’t REQUIRE it, does the program collect PII?
  2. Does the program supplement face-to-face human instruction or function as a substitute for it? How many minutes per day of face-to-face human instruction is being sacrificed or substituted? Will it lead to increased class sizes?
  3. Does the program encourage active student-to-student engagement and face-to-face discussion? How does it accomplish this? Or does it create an environment where kids are often working in isolation with their devices? How much of the time are students working alone with their devices?
  4. What are the associated costs with respect to your district’s budget (not just the program fees, but the devices required to operate it) and how will participation in the program affect other areas of the student experience? For example, given the austerity budgets many districts are experiencing, implementing a 1:1 device program to support digital curriculum could impact a school’s ability to offer art instruction, employ a school librarian, or provide a full range of extracurricular activities.
  5. How much screen time is involved, per day? per week? Consider the health impacts of machine-mediated teaching, especially on elementary school-age children.
  6. Does the program offer “training” or “education?” There is a difference.
  7. Will participating in the program expand student awareness of the larger world and allow them to engage with it on their own terms, or is it a way to channel students into a particular workforce sector?
  8. Does the program monitor, tutor, or assess behavior and social-emotional aspects of learning?
  9. Assuming the program is used during the school day, what is this program replacing? What aspect(s) of instruction formerly offered will be eliminated if this program is implemented?
  10. How does adopting a blended/hybrid learning program, which has been developed by outside interests, impact local control and autonomy within your school and district? What percentage of instructional time being turned over to outsourced online education results in your neighborhood school no longer fully being YOUR school? 10 percent? 25 percent? 40 percent?

HT: Seattle Education

The Impact of Reading Digitally

Photo Credit: Lexie Flickinger (CC-By-2.0)

I loved reading on my iPad (before it went kaput) and I enjoy reading on my Kindle. I’ve made the switch to digital because, frankly, I don’t have much more room to store books. I appreciate the convenience of being able to have a library at my fingertips without the issues of storage (and to have to carry them around).

My book reading habit was set at an early age. I don’t skip around a book. I sit down and read from start to finish. Articles I tend to skim initially and then go back to read in-depth primarily because of the glut of information I attempt to consume on a daily basis.

How about young readers? How will the digital age impact their reading habits? Holly Korbey writing at MindShift asked how digital text is changing how kids read and reports that it is making an impact:

According to San Jose State University researcher Ziming Lu, this is typical “screen-based reading behavior,” with more time spent browsing, scanning and skimming than in-depth reading. As reading experiences move online, experts have been exploring how reading from a screen may be changing our brains. Reading expert Maryanne Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid, has voiced concerns that digital reading will negatively affect the brain’s ability to read deeply for sophisticated understanding, something that Nicholas Carr also explored in his book, The Shallows. Teachers are trying to steer students toward digital reading strategies that practice deep reading, and nine out of ten parents say that having their children read paper books is important to them.


But since digital reading is still in its infancy, for many adults it’s hard to know exactly what the issues are—what’s happening to a young brain when reading online? Should kids be reading more paper books, and why? Do other digital activities, like video games and social media apps, affect kids’ ability to reach deep understanding when reading longer content, like books? And how do today’s kids learn to toggle between paper and the screen?


The digital revolution and all of our personal devices have produced a sort of reading paradox: because of the time spent with digital tech, kids are reading more now, in literal words, than ever. Yet the relationship between reading and digital tech is complicated.

I encourage you to read her whole piece.

As schools push toward increasing the education tech that students use this is something that they will have to consider.