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Privacy Schmivacy, Part 1

The thing about is that it’s all fun and games until somebody loses their privacy.

I’ve been using digital technologies since the early 1980s: used it with my students during my classroom teaching career and used it with staff and colleagues throughout my career as an administrator. I’m that guy that thinks modern education CAN’T happen without digital, networked technologies.

I believe that learning should take place whenever a learner wants to learn-–not just between 8:00am and 3:00pm; and there’s nothing like technology that can facilitate that. I believe that learning is a social experience; and there’s nothing like technology that can facilitate that too (I’ll get into this in another post). At it’s core, education is about people. But I contend that technologies are extensions of people–not just tools. Just like a blacksmith views his hammer; just like a violinist view her violin–these technologies become a part of us.

I guess what I’m saying is that, before I go all doom and gloom on you here in a second, I want you to know that I am 110% pro-tech when it comes to everything about life. But because of this, I’m very careful about what I choose to make an extension of myself.

And I suppose the point of this post is that–I don’t think most educators do. I hope I’m wrong.

So here’s what I want to say. There are some amazing technologies available for educators to use to create 21st Century learning experiences for students. But educators have a responsibility to look deeper into the use of such technologies–beyond what their functionality is and beyond what outcomes they might yield for their students.

Let me give you an example. Educreations. Now if you don’t know what it is, it’s an iPad app that is used by thousands of teachers and students across the globe. Basically, it allows you to record your voice and iPad screen (simultaneously) to create dynamic video lessons or reports that an audience can access any time, as needed. You post your videos to Educreations and share them with anyone–via email, Facebook, Twitter, Edmodo, YouTube, etc. You can store them too in Google Drive or in Dropbox.

It’s simple so it appeals to teachers. Parents love it too because they can see exactly how teachers explain a concept so they can build on that and help their kids with homework. When kids use it to present work, teachers can replay the videos to pinpoint misconceptions or celebrate their student’s successes. In short, it’s a great way to flip the teaching process and provide students with a way to show what they know. What teacher WOULDN’T want to use it, right?

Well. Here’s the thing. If you actually read the terms of use for the application,

you’ll see that Educreations claims broad rights to reuse user data.

The act of uploading or creating data within the site gives Educreations and its subsidiaries, affiliates, successors a perpetual and transferable license to reuse and access both student and teacher data.

If you get even deeper into it, you’ll see how the rights claimed by Educreations to use and share data widely with affiliates appear to contradict other parts of their policies where they state “Personal information and children’s personal information collected through the site may be shared with companies and organizations…that have agreed not to disclose it to others”. So, POSSIBLY, this means that personally identifiable information is treated differently than other submissions uploaded to the site. But we don’t know what their affiliates agreements express. What if THEY include contradictions too?

THEN, going even deeper will reveal that Educreations may collect personal information from students including name, email address, photo, date of birth, school name, audio recordings, videos, photos, online activity, persistent identifiers, and some of the information the student provides to Facebook, Google, or Dropbox if the student links their Educreations account to those third parties.

What I’m saying is that their privacy policy stinks. Great product. But we, as moral agents of the State, have a responsibility to vet the privacy policies of these companies.

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