Illuminating the Darkness one nightlight at a time!

In Network Narratives, our class discussions and work is being culminated into a Field Guide at the end of the semester. This is a guide to navigating our way through the darkness and into the light of this digital age we are in, and continuing to learn about.

My passion for the work I plan to contribute may grow and evolve, but at this stage, my primary concern is preparing my students for the world they are inheriting. I want them to be safe and learn to protect themselves. But in the ever increasing digital world, a world that is literally all they've ever known, how do I bring them into the light?

The article, "Be True to Your School: Protecting Student Privacy in the Digital Age" , the Journal of High Technology Law explores just that. The article discusses the use of technology in the classroom. There's no doubt about the benefits of technology, or the importance of it. Students are typing essays rather than writing them in cursive. Parent communication is immediate, and leaves no room for students to misplace letters sent home. Student report cards are readily available throughout the entire year, with a snapshot of their grades taken at the end of each marking period to be archived, eliminating the need for students to run home and snag their report card from the mailbox, later claiming to their parents that "it must have gotten lost in the mail". 

But the concern lies in protecting students privacy. In a world where laws are beginning to be passed to attempt and protect our privacy, the wording is still ambiguous. According to the article, "Of these laws, five bills were passed that focused specifically on governing the behavior of service providers to prevent them from selling student data and using it for targeted advertising."  The fear is that in protecting students privacy, we will become fearful of the technology and stop using it for educational purposes. 

The article gives the example of a Math teacher who wants her students to download an app that allows them to practice a certain math strategy. However, by downloading the app, it may be collecting information on the students and selling that information to third parties. The text states, "in order to avoid this problem, and to encourage the use of technology that could have very real benefits for students and test scores, school districts should implement a process by which these new technologies are reviewed and researched. This process would allow well-meaning teachers to ensure that the technologies that they bring into the classroom are not only benefiting their students’ academic abilities, but also ensuring that their private data is being shared only with those who need it." That sounds nicely packaged. Maybe I'm naive or missing something, but what would be an example of this process that would review the apps? Would it be an algorithm, like the ones we discuss in class? Would it work for all apps? What about if I don't have them download an app but just have them access a website? Do the higher ups in education know about this? How much money does it cost? 

It's easy to say teachers and educators need to do something. I agree. But what do we need to do and how?


  1. It can be difficult to know for sure about the flow of user information. I doubt there is a single algorithm or method for evaluating all apps; it relies on the companies that are selling them to be very transparent about what information is collected, if any.

    Maybe with some awareness it can be made part of policy / decision making. Quite often the convenience of tools is a strong allure.


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