I love edtech. I love finding awesome tools that engage students and get them thinking critically and collaborating. I love learning from colleagues how to use a tool in new, creative ways. And I love reviewing privacy policies -- not!
I get feedback all the time from educators about how empowering it is to have Common Sense's edtech reviews and ratings at their fingertips to help make that just-in-time decision. However, there's one area that comes up a lot in my conversations where educators reveal they feel much less confident. It's the issue of privacy. This weighs heavily on the minds of teachers, tech coaches, and administrators. Researching privacy policies and understanding terms and conditions are critical to keeping students safe, but many administrators and teachers alike don't feel qualified or don't have the time required to wade through dense legal documents. Having a basic understanding of the "rules of the privacy road" is essential in today's digital classroom. But when it comes to the heavy lifting, like doing a close read of the legalese, we're here to help.
With that in mind, I wanted to share with you what's coming in the new year to help you take on the issue of privacy. Since 2014, we've been working with a group of school districts around the country to develop a standard for evaluating edtech, specifically around safety, compliance, privacy, and data security. To date we've completed 300-plus evaluations of popular edtech apps. Starting in January 2018, we will begin surfacing summary information from these existing privacy evaluations alongside our educational ratings. This privacy information will be shown using a three-tier color-coded system as follows:
- Use Responsibly (Blue)
- Use with Caution (Orange)
- Not Recommended (Red)
You can learn more about the specifics of what each tier means on our Privacy Blog.
We want educators to be privacy aware, not privacy scared. In that spirit, we encourage you to check out our existing privacy evaluations and look at how your favorite apps stack up. Be sure to contact your district tech department or app publisher directly if you have questions about how an application addresses student data privacy. So far, approximately 60 percent of the apps we've evaluated have made changes to their policies or products following our initial evaluation. Our goal is to work with software developers to simplify and standardize policies and practices, in turn empowering educators to make highly informed decisions about the digital tools they use with their students.
Image courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.