This week’s content was dense and gave me a lot to ponder, digest and reflect upon. It was the kind of information that your mind keeps coming back to throughout the weeks when something happens because it reminds you that you have newly-acquired references. It was the kind of information that leaves you with more questions than answers. And though I may feel more informed in the areas of privacy and big data than ever before, that is not necessarily a good feeling.

Photo Credit- Me

On Authenticity

Okay, it’s time for some hard truths. Here it goes:

  • I’m online more than not during my awake hours.
  • I sometimes fall asleep when I’m on my laptop, iPad or phone.
  • It’s difficult for me to disconnect, even when I know I should.
  • I’m a social media junkie; I especially love Twitter.
  • I justify my screen time because a lot of it is ‘work-related.’
  • I often feel guilty about how much time I spend online.
  • I try to model appropriate online behavior and regularly engage students in dialogue about technology use.
  • I believe technology is rewiring our brains (in good and bad ways), and that this is part of the evolution of our species.
  • I’m in awe of the possibilities that technology and access to it present for the current and future generations.
  • I don’t think we can avoid the collection of our data if we are active in online spaces.
  • I enjoy teaching kids the social and technical skills they will need to contribute and interact with others in online communities, but I’m also glad to not be raising my own children in today’s digital world.
  • I don’t think social media easily lends itself to authenticity; that requires more effort.

There, I said it… This week’s journey into the idea of authenticity online (and a reflection of my own) was uncomfortable but necessary for me. It made me question my use of social media, the ways I bring authentic learning experiences into the classroom, and whether I truly understand what my students consider authentic. There’s a tendency as adults to assume we know and understand more than kids because we’re older and have vast life experiences, but the farther into this experience I get, the more I’m valuing students as experts in their own right.

The Big Business of Big Data

Private Eyes- Hall & Oates (one of my all-time favorite karaoke songs)

Of the articles shared this week, the Educator Toolkit and New Your Times piece were the ones that were the most hard-hitting for me because they brought to light some of my negligence and naiveté as a technology educator. And as mentioned above, it left me with far more questions than when I began this COETAIL journey.

  • How could I have not considered the implications of not properly vetting sites and resources before adding them the toolbox?
  • Why would I have not considered my students as being vulnerable to big data collection online?
  • What more can I be doing to actively protect my own and my students’ privacy, especially as a school and technology leader?
  • Would knowing about this change the way the colleagues, students, and parents I work with interact with technology?

After a brief panic attack and serious thoughts of a career change, I calmed myself down and started the process of auditing my own and my schools’ practices as they relate to privacy. Now, I’m not saying it’s the gold standard by any stretch, but I was relieved to find both the school and I are headed in the right direction.

From a school-wide perspective, ISSP has some protections in place with Acceptable Use Policies (Staff and Students), Photo Release form, and Safeguarding expectations. As a member of a larger schools group, our IT department invests in strong security for the server and network as well as performing regular updates to firmware and firewalls to protect data being stored. Unfortunately, the policies are sort of vague and leave a lot of room for interpretation of what is ‘acceptable’ for social media and online resource use. In some ways, I think it’s great to have the flexibility to use your professional discretion with technology, but after having explored this week’s resources, I’m wondering how informed people in the school are about the risks and realities of these online tools. I mean, really, if I’m the head of educational technology and the school’s ‘expert’ on all things digital and I didn’t know about it, how likely is it that the average classroom teacher knows what they need to do to protect themselves and their students? My guess- not likely.

From a personal perspective, it’s been a harder pill to swallow in some ways. Just because I am active in today’s participatory culture doesn’t mean my students want or accept to be part of that too. While all parents in my class have signed a waiver agreeing to the use of photos/videos of their child, I haven’t asked students outright for their permission and that is troublesome. I could be using emojis to block their faces, but I don’t. Is that unethical? Could I be doing more to protect the identities and privacy of the students in my class? These are the questions I’m now asking myself moving forward, and ones that I will be asking the rest of the leadership team as we review our policies. On the flip side, I feel like I do a lot of things that are right for the students, colleagues, and parents in my community. I am intentional my the use of technology in the teaching and learning process and use the SAMR model as my gauge.

So, Now What?

Here we are at the end of another week, another post, and another list of considerations moving forward. So, where do we go from here? Well, given the wealth of information and resources provided this week, I really have no choice but to hold myself to a higher standard and use this information to influence the policies at my school. Likewise, I feel obligated to share what I know with students, parents, and educators within my professional reach. These topics will come up in my monthly technology newsletters and in morning meeting sharing with students. I will be bringing this forward to the academic leadership and curriculum teams meetings I attend. I intend to add this to the information I’m preparing for my replacement as a parent coffee topic next year. I plan to put a printed copy of the Educator Toolkit in the faculty lounge for browsing. And finally, I found the rubric provided by Common Sense particularly helpful for helping me make more informed choices about the technology that we’re adopting, so I’ll share that resource as well. Here’s to a more informed end-of-year ahead. Until next time…