Sep 07 2017

Is Your Adaptive Learning Tool Safe?

New research recommends schools put data protection best practices in place when using new ed tech.

More and more, today’s personalized learning initiatives in K–12 are being driven by data. These adaptive learning initiatives, which use data sets and complex algorithms to more finely tune instruction, have become so popular that school districts report spending $41 million on them in the past two years.

With these tools using so much data, protecting it is top of mind for school administrators. New research from University of Colorado’s National Education Policy Center (NEPC) calls for better regulations regarding the algorithms used in personalized learning and collection and storage of student data, Education Week reports.

“Decision makers should not rely on industry self-regulation to protect children’s privacy and the quality of their education,” reads the report.

Best Practices for Protecting Student Data

The first step in protecting student data is ensuring compliance with privacy regulations. While schools can disclose student data to third parties, they can only do so when it will help with education and when the parents have been notified how the data will be used.

When choosing a third-party vendor or new tech tool, administrators can evaluate its privacy factors by checking the Student Privacy Pledge or Common Sense Media’s Privacy Evaluations.

After making sure the education tool is legitimate, tech like Windows Information Protection (WIP) can let educators and administrators restrict which apps and tools can access school data and how that data can be used.

“As a transparent protection for district files, WIP provides a seamless end-user experience on any Microsoft Windows 10-based device, unlike third-party products that require users to switch modes when working with sensitive data,” writes tech consultant Russell Smith on EdTech.

While WIP is protecting student data, it’s also accessible for those who need it and IT administrators can “enlighten” apps with which data can be shared.

When using adaptive learning tools specifically, NEPC suggests that algorithms that power education software need to be open to examination by educators and researchers, so they can see exactly how data is being used. If algorithms are disclosed, NEPC says school districts can make sure that student data is being used to help students and not to make a profit.

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