Leveraging Data and the Cloud While Protecting Student Data Privacy
Leveraging Data and the Cloud While Protecting Student Data Privacy
Thomas C. Murray, Director of Innovation for Future Ready Schools®, Alliance for Excellent Education (@thomascmurray)
Linnette Attai, Project Director for the Privacy Initiative and Trusted Learning Environment (TLE) Program, Consortium of School Networking (CoSN), and President, PlayWell, LLC (@PlayWell_LLC)
Rachel Johnson, Director of Enterprise Solutions, Loudoun County Public Schools (VA)
Vince Scheivert, Assistant Superintendent of Digital Innovation, Loudoun County Public Schools (VA), and Future Ready Technology Strand Advisor, @vscheivert
On June 18, 2019 Future Ready Schools® held a webinar to developments in technology. Few things in education change as quickly as the technology that supports it. As districts continue to move toward the effective use of technology in the classroom, school leaders grapple with economies of scale; as well as how to maximize use of the cloud, data governance, and instructional opportunities, while minimizing risk.
In this webinar, Vince Scheivert, Rachel Johnson, and Linnette Attai discussed how school districts have used data and the cloud to innovate and optimize learning, while also providing data privacy for all. They also addressed:
- How districts are using data visualization and predictive analytics to support learning;
- How to implement next-generation safety and security tools to ensure a sustainable and robust system; and
- Best practices for protecting student data privacy in the cloud.
Additional Resources for Data Privacy:
- https://www.studentprivacymatters.org/ Download the parent guide to privacy.
- https://sdpc.a4l.org/ See the registry of applications, and the contract language for vendors for data privacy agreements
- https://trustedlearning.org/resources/ – Take the self-assessment and see where you can focus your time and energies to improve.
- https://www.cosn.org/ProtectingPrivacy – Download the Protecting Privacy Toolkit for guidance on the laws, vetting technologies, understanding privacy policies and more!
- https://www.cosn.org/cybersecurity – For tools you need to assess your security profile and get into action around improvements.
- https://ferpasherpa.org/ – Privacy resources for education agencies, educators, parents and students
- https://studentprivacy.ed.gov/ – Protecting Student Privacy from the US Department of Education – the source for guidance on the laws, with great training videos and related resources.
- https://www.lcps.org/cms/lib/VA01000195/Centricity/domain/13712/2018%2019%20updates/VSPA-DPA-2019_SDPC%20Model_3-25-19rev41019.pdf – Data Privacy Agreement
- https://nces.ed.gov/forum/ – National Forum on Education Statistics
- Cosn – https://www.cosn.org/
- Future of Privacy Forum – https://fpf.org/
- Data Quality Campaign – https://dataqualitycampaign.org/
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Future Ready Schools® is a project of the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed), a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all students, particularly those underperforming and those traditionally underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship. www.FutureReady.org
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Tom Murray: Hello, and welcome to today’s Future Ready webinar. I’m Tom Murray, the director of innovation for Future Ready schools, a project of the Alliance for Excellent Education, located in Washington, DC. Future Ready Schools is a collaboration between the Alliance and a vast coalition of over 60 other national and regional organizations. The goal of Future Ready Schools is to maximize digital learning opportunities, and to help school districts move quickly towards student-centered learning.
The effort provides districts with the resources and support to ensure that local technology and digital learning plans align with instructional best practices, are implemented by highly trained teachers, and maximized learner-centered experiences for all students, particularly those from traditionally underserved communities.
The hashtag for today’s webinar, as always, is #FutureReady. Thank you for making an investment and for joining us today. We’d also like to give a special thank you to Amazon web services, one of our Future Ready partners, for making today’s webinar possible.
I’m gonna be your host on this webinar on leveraging data and the Cloud while protecting student data privacy. With me today, I am super excited to have incredible, incredible leaders. First is Lninette Attai, the project director for the Privacy Initiative and Trust Learning Environment program, which is part of Coasten, one of our incredible partners for Future Ready.
Rachel Johnson, she is the director of Enterprise Solutions in Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia, and her colleague, Vince Scheivert, the assistant superintendent of digital innovation in Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia. And also, one of our Future Ready advisors for the technology strand.
What an honor it is to have the three of you with us today. Thank you for investing the time, thank you for being here. Just gonna ask you to take each just a moment to introduce yourselves. Linette, let’s start with you.
Linnette Attai: Thanks so much, Tom, it’s a pleasure to be here. I’m Linette Attai, as Tom mentioned. I run Coasten’s privacy initiative and their trusted learning environment program. I’m also president of Playwell, LLC, which is a compliance consulting firm, and I’ve been working in data privacy compliance for over 25 years now, helping organizations of all shapes and sizes navigate their privacy responsibilities. I act as a virtual chief privacy officer and data protection officer to some of my clients, and I’m the author of the book, Student Data Privacy: Building a School Compliance Program and Protecting Student Data Privacy Classroom Fundamentals. Glad to be here.
Tom Murray: Awesome, thanks for being here. Rachel, go ahead, over to you.
Rachel Johnson: Thank you. As you said, my name is Rachel Johnson. I am the director for Enterprise Solutions here at Loudoun County Public Schools. Loudoun County Public Schools is a suburb just outside of Washington, DC, and we have about 93 campuses and 83,000 students, and 14,000 employees, and I have the privilege of working in the Department of Digital Innovation.
I have three teams, the data science and digital solutions team, which is a pretty exciting new restructuring for us. I have the enterprise support and analytics team, and I also have the student records team.
Tom Murray: And Vince, over to you.
Vince Scheivert: Hi, everybody, I am Vince Scheivert, I am the assistant superintendent for digital innovation, and Rachel is one of the fantastic colleagues we have here in Loudoun. As Rachel stated, we are just outside of Washington, DC, and a little fun fact is we are the home of the data center. One of the things that Loudoun generally touts is that 70 percent of all internet traffic will pass through our data centers on a daily basis.
Tom, back to you.
Tom Murray: Vince, that means if my internet’s running slow, I can call you up and you can pull some strings. That’s what I’m hearing, huh?
Vince Scheivert: I can go plug the lawnmower in, Tom, and hook it up.
Tom Murray: What an important topic that we have today, as we really start to dive into data and the use of the Cloud. As a former tech director myself, I can remember years ago, we would just buy server after server after server, and we started to really look at this, and so much has changed in the last three years, five years, and continues to change.
So, we’re gonna dive into really an exciting topic, but also a topic where, and having Linnette on here, as well, we’re gonna take a look at the privacy side, because the reality is, as the technology continues to change, opportunities, and hearing some of the things you’re doing in Loudoun continue to evolve that’s really exciting for students, yet at the same time, student data privacy is a non-negotiable, and we have to make sure that we are doing things well.
So, Rachel, I actually want to start with you, and just hearing about the new groups that you’re doing, I’m guessing there’s some districts and teams that we’re saying, “First of all, what a massive district.” But the second, how exciting it is for the groups that you’re running.
So, tell us about Loudoun and some of the things you’re working on around some of the large data projects that you do have. What are some of the goals of this work, why are you doing some of that work, and how is it gonna benefit students and parents?
Rachel Johnson: I would say that we have three major data initiatives happening right now. And these initiatives are sort of in their infancy. I’m sure that Vince might say that we’re past the emerging phase, but I do feel like we’re very new at this, and I just want to be honest about it. I don’t want to present myself as an expert.
But I do have a year of this under my belt, about a year and a half with one of the other initiatives, but these projects that we’re working on, the first one is data analytics and visualization. And we’re using QLIK as our BI platform for that effort. I would say we have three goals. The first one is to provide accurate and timely data in a consistent platform to district leadership teams.
We also have a goal to support inquiry-based data analytics, using natural language, and that’s really the best way that I can phrase it is anybody who’s looking for information shouldn’t have to know SQL or any other query language. They shouldn’t have to be presented with a data warehouse that they can then go fish in. It needs to be more directed, more inquiry-based, and really, we want to leverage technologies that allow you as an individual to say, “Find me all of the students that meet X criteria,” and the analytics engine will do that for you.
Another goal that we have for our data analytics and visualization project is to support the implementation of our data governance framework. So, we tackled this. We comingled implementing a data governance framework with implementing a data analytics and visualization platform. And that’s been kind of a unique approach where we decided not to implement data governance without the tool, and I can talk a little about that later on.
We also have a data integration project that’s happening, and we are focused on integrating data through SSO, rostering and Edfi standards, so I’m hopeful that a grant that we recently submitted will be filled so we can expand on that work. And our last project is of course related to data privacy, and our goal in Loudoun is to maintain our TLE seal status and to demonstrate transparency to our families regarding data collection, moving beyond FERPA, which is really the floor for student data privacy, and ensure that again, we’re moving beyond the floor there.
And we’re doing quite a bit of work in this arena with Access for Learning with Cosen, Commonsense Media, Future Privacy Forum, and the National Center for Education Statistics.
Tom Murray: Let’s dive into – I want to ask you just a deeper question that. You obviously have so many different things going on. As a larger district, you have more personnel. I’m sure there’s districts watching here today that their district office has three people, and they’re saying, “What’s half of what she just said?”
Talk about the why a little bit. I’m guessing a lot of this has evolved. You said, and thank you for your transparency, and hey, we’re getting started with some of this stuff. I think back to three years ago or five years ago, I’m guessing with some of the things you’re doing today just were not possible.
So, we’ll focus on the why. Why are you investing the time, the resources, the people into some of the things like analytics that you just shared, and why might other districts be interested in doing that?
Rachel Johnson: I’d say the key driver of the why is around data quality and data accuracy, and what we found, and I’ve been in this district long enough to have gone through various life cycles of maturity and system implementations, and what’s worked and what hasn’t worked.
And about 10 or 12 years ago, we – it’s actually longer than that. It’s probably closer to 14 years ago – we invested a lot of money in an IBM data warehouse. It was an OBIE engine, and it was loaded every quarter with tons of information, so extract, transform, load from multiple different systems.
Quarterly isn’t enough. You can’t get information every three months and make effective decisions on it. The other reason that initiative really failed to launch was the end user really had to be very savvy in query language in order to join tables and figure out how to make the information meaningful and actionable.
And now, in the interim, we disbanded that data warehouse back in 2012, so it’s been more than a hot minute in Loudoun that we’ve gone without a framework and a structure. What we found is that people were finding their own solutions. They were using Google Analytics. They were using different tools, different technologies to create data walls. They were spending an inordinate amount of time outside of instruction, trying to pull all these data elements together to get a picture of the whole child, of the student’s experience.
And it just became unwieldy and unmanageable, and quite frankly, unsustainable, and we want teachers and building leaders to get to meeting students’ needs in a timely effective face to face manner. We don’t want them to be burdened with, “Go into a system and find all of the things that will then tell you what you probably already need to know for that child.”
Vince Scheivert: Just to jump in there right quick, a part that I’d just like to be able to highlight with what Rachel said, is we don’t want our teachers to have to be data gurus to be able to find out really important information about kids. We don’t expect principals to be masters of statistics, but we do expect them to be able to have that type of high powered information that’ll allow them to make a decision that’s in the best interest of a kid or the best interest of a class.
And for the first time, it’s kind of easy compared to what it was in the past. With the evolution of technology and capabilities, we’re now at a point to where it’s like project-based learning or portfolio-based education. We now have the ability to do it when we do it digital. Back in the ’70s, it may not have worked.
Tom Murray: Really well said. I think in my own humble opinion, I think for so long, we’ve almost over collected, and then fully under-utilized the data that we have had. We’ve preached to teachers, “You gotta differentiate and use the data that you have,” but it’s in 47 different spots, nothing talks to each other, and it’s almost impossible to access.
We’re saying use your standardized test, and six months from now, you’ll actually get the results, and they won’t be in the same grade level, and we’re asking them to do something different. What you’re talking about is fundamentally different, being able to teach it and use data in that real time for teaching and learning, and I love how you phrased that, Vince, really to allow teachers to do what they need to do, as opposed to spend time on the backend that if we can automate or create, save them time, ’cause obviously, we all know time is limited.
Vince, sticking with you as a longtime CIO, I know we go back to your time in Albemarle there. Now, it’s just superintendent in Loudoun. What insights do you have for making this kind of shift really into the Cloud for CIOs? I’ll give you a shout as a former CIO of the year for Coasten, who is also on this webinar there, as well.
But I can think back again, being a tech director, four, five, six years ago, started to do it, a little anxiety there, and now it really seems almost that way to go. What advice do you have for CIOs that can benefit districts?
Vince Scheivert: Awesome question. I think really, you gotta do, I’ll call it assistance check. You need to figure out what you really need to have on print. What is absolutely critical that you need to be able to physically touch, and then why maintain anything beyond that? At this point, to where data capabilities are cheap in the Cloud, or cheaper than they’ve been, and we know our friends at Amazon and Microsoft and Google, for that matter, are trying to make things more affordable for educational groups to be able to move into the Cloud space.
The issue, what we really found, and the reason we started to be able to make that big migration was really around security, it was around uptime, and it was around maintenance. And inside a security, we have the idea or the premise that we’re actually more secure now that we’re in the Cloud. We know we now have redundant capabilities that is regionally diverse.
So, not only is our information here in the East Coast area, can’t really tell you where, and then also in the Midwest. So, if there was ever a catastrophe or capability, then we would have the ability to quickly recover.
Around maintenance, we have aged data centers that we had inside of Loudoun. Now that we have a 15, 20 year old data center, and we have a cooler breaking, we have air conditioning going, and we have fires in our buildings, by not having that data center here, having to maintain that equipment, the amount of capital reduction that we have is amazing, and we’re tickled pink that we just made a big initiative, and specifically with Rachel’s team to where we moved the entire student information system over 100 servers into the Cloud, so now we don’t have to worry about the fire that we had in the data center last year, or the flood that happened in the building, because the way it is set up in our data center, it’s completely protected.
But then the other thing is really the uptime. And we know learning is 24/7, so we’ve actually even started to not only migrate our servers, but migrate our work stations for kids. So, we started to deploy nearly – we’re in the process of deploying about 80,000 Chromebooks to kids, but we know that 80,000 Chromebooks isn’t going to get kids everything that they need to be able to do.
So, we’ve started to bring up virtual workstations that the kids have the ability to access through the Chromebooks, and give them the ability to connect to that high-powered computer, to be able to CAD or GIS, or even some higher end computer science stuff that we don’t want necessarily kids tinkering with while they’re in our local environment.
Those are ways that we’ve been trying to leverage the Cloud in making that move.
Tom Murray: One of the things that’s so interesting about that space, and technology is really one of these areas that seems to continue to get better and better, and quite often – not always – but quite often, cheaper and cheaper and a way to do it. And it’s funny, you’re talking about the security side. I remember being a tech director and we were going on this site visit.
And the original tech director we were going to visit was actually making – this is about six years ago now – making the argument that no, he was gonna keep everything in his server room to make sure it was 100 percent secure, and I kid you not, we entered this backdoor into this former bathroom with every door unlocked, box fans hanging from the ceiling, extension cords running through the room, and I’m thinking to myself, “This is what we’re building towards? This is what we’re shooting for?”
And you now look, it’s some of the most, look at our country, things like the FBI or the CIA, all of those systems are in the Cloud. And so, you look at online banking and so many of these facets, but it’s so important that we do it right, because there is no room for error here.
In Future Ready Schools, one of our gears is that data and privacy gear, and Linnette, we’re so fortunate to have you on. Actually, Rachel referenced TLE, and I’m gonna actually give you a shout, ’cause I know that you help run that, if you could share that in just a moment.
But when we take a look at student data privacy, I think one of the things that districts struggle with, from my experience and through Future Ready Schools, and working with so many district leaders is quite often in a district, we’ve got one or two people that are trying to oversee all the privacy stuff for everybody. Quite often, they don’t have some sort of an attorney background, and I did not as a tech director in that regard. So, they’re trying to make these decisions.
And we think federally, things related to digital, we’ve got FERPA, we’ve got SIPA, we’ve got COPO, we’ve got PPRA. The digital laws that relate to the digital use of things in school, but then every state is different. Linnette, and every local board policy has things around in these different areas.
So, Linnette, turning over to you first, if we could talk about, as all these changes continue, they’re moving so fast, how can school and district leaders really keep track of the privacy requirements with so many things that they’re responsible for?
Linnette Attai: It’s overwhelming, especially for any district, large or small, there’s just a real alphabet soup of regulation to deal with and policies coming out every day. Every district is different. There’s no way to leverage what someone else is doing really well, because you all have your unique incompetencies.
But I really like the way Rachel talked about the work she’s doing, because to me, what I heard was we’re thinking about the child first. We’re trying to figure out how do we support and serve the whole student? And so, when it comes to all these privacy regulations, it’s critically important to get really good at the fundamentals, because the truth of the matter is that what we’re trying to do is support the student, the technology is changing, but the privacy fundamentals are not changing.
So, if you have consideration for the Human First technology, consideration for the technology is last when it comes to data governance. What information are we trying to collect, why are we trying to collect it, who’s gonna help us, how sensitive is it? Therefore, how do we want to protect it, who might we share it with? Getting really good ________ on those fundamentals will help you move the data wherever you need to in smart and sensible ways with rules already attached to it.
The truth of the matter is that clearly, we are in a revolutionary privacy environment right now. The laws are changing, not just in education, but across the board for all of us around privacy. But the foundations of privacy laws have not changed in some 40, 50 years, and they’re not changing. No matter what these new laws are they come back to the basics, transparency, data minimization, specific use purposes, do you have permission, are you maintaining the quality and integrity of the data, are you maintaining the security, are you auditing your practices?
Those things do not change, so no matter how small or large you are, really getting good at those basics, and understanding what data you have and what rules you want to have in place around it, how sensitive is this piece of data, therefore, where might you store it, who might you share it with, who would have access to it?
Getting that down allows you to move through, no matter what technology is coming next.
Tom Murray: Well said. Actually, Rachel referred to the TLE, the Trusted Learning Environment, and that’s something that you and Coasten, one of our great Future Ready partners, you oversee that. Can you talk about that, and how does that help a district in the sense of how can that help them make sure that they are doing everything that you just referred to?
Linnette Attai: Sure. The trusted learning environment program is a privacy framework for districts, so if you’re looking for what is my governance program supposed to look like, the trusted learning environment program is really set up to help districts understand, measure, and improve their data protection practices. It’s based around five practice areas, leadership, business practices, data security, professional development, and classroom practices.
So, it’s a holistic look at data governance across the organization. It has very specific requirements to hit across each of those five practices, and it’s a seal program, where essentially districts will come in, they will apply for the TLE program, showing us how they have met the requirements of each of the 25 practice items, providing evidence of how they have accomplished each of the requirements.
Those applications are assessed by me and at least one school CTO, so a CTO peer is involved. We calibrate and then districts such as Loudoun are either awarded a TLE seal, which really helps to change the conversation in the community. It shows parents and legislators and others in the community that we’ve met requirements against specific, defined, publicly available thresholds.
And for those, whether a district earns the seal or not, each application, we send back feedback. We show them how we scored, we give you some guidance for how to improve, and we give you a benchmarking report that shows you how each of your scores compare to the aggregate scores of all of the TLE seal recipients, so you can really see quite clearly, visually, where do you need to focus some of your limited resources?
And I should mention, the program is developed actually in partnership with ASA, ASBO, and ASED, and it was developed by School Systems. Over 28 school system leaders who came to the table and helped us develop this program and really identified these 25 requirements as the fundamentals to achieve.
Hats off to Loudoun and the other TLE seal recipients who have gone through this. It’s not easy, but it really gives you a way to quantify and bring all your stakeholders together in improving your data privacy practices.
Tom Murray: A shout out to _______ team there, as well as some of our other partners, data – the Future of Privacy forum, and some others, Future Ready, that just do incredible work in this area. Data quality campaign being another, just great tools and resources all around. Linnette, thank you for sharing that in that regard.
When I think back, I testified in front of Congress in this area about 3 1/2 years ago now, and when I look back at that, this was after the time that Home Depot was breached, and Target was breached, and here’s these $1 billion companies that spend tens of millions of dollars on security and those kinds of things.
Moving to the Cloud a number of years ago, even back then was a little bit more – it causes a little bit more anxiety, Linnette, than it really does today, where it seems like districts are just doing it faster than we could have envisioned a number of years ago, as Vince was mentioning, from the financial side to the securities side to the redundancy side.
But let’s talk about the privacy side in the Cloud there, Linnette, if we could keep building on what you’re saying. When we’re assessing privacy requirements for Cloud-based solutions and other types of technologies, where should school and district leaders start?
Linnette Attai: Start with the data. What data do you have, how sensitive is it, put it into buckets. Least sensitive to most sensitive, and then decide, what am I gonna do with the data that’s in the least sensitive bucket. If someone asked me for a copy of that data, would I be comfortable sharing it publicly?
And what sort of security protections do I have to have around that data? What sort of access control do I have to have around that data, then move on. Your medium sensitive bucket, your high sensitive bucket, your Fort Knox. I need to have stronger protections around that data. It’s really basic stuff.
I need to have stronger protections around the high sensitive data than I do vs. the low sensitive data, less access around the highly sensitive data, and so on, and so forth. And then you can decide, “Where am I going to share this?” But honestly, moving to the Cloud, I think you described it perfectly, the choice between standing up on premises, your servers, your system vs. moving to the Cloud, I think you illustrated it perfectly.
We have this perception that when we’re holding onto it, we’re protecting it. And that’s not necessarily always the case. The question comes down to, are we best equipped to protect it well. And when you look at – I think it’s great to mention, there are a lot of big companies that have data breaches, and so, we often tend to think, “If they can’t do it, how do I possibly have a chance? This must be really hard. It must take a lot of terribly expensive equipment.”
The truth is that if you dig into those breaches that happen, what we read in the papers oftentimes it was behavior and it was fundamentals. It wasn’t some big, fancy piece of technology. It wasn’t the Cloud failing. It wasn’t an expensive piece of equipment that someone didn’t have. It comes down to the basics. They didn’t have proper access controls, they didn’t patch properly or regularly those fundamentals. I’ll repeat it, those fundamentals, that’s what serves you well.
And that’s what makes it manageable or potentially manageable for small, underresourced schools, as well as big and low resourced districts.
Tom Murray: I do want to remind our viewers that the hashtag for today’s webinar, as always is #FutureReady. Rachel, I want to jump back over to you if I could. So, from a data governance and a student privacy perspective, what are some of the major challenges districts are facing with promoting innovation and ed tech type resources?
We’re investing so much, what are some of the challenges that they’re really facing?
iE: I think the biggest challenge from my perspective is freeware, freemium, any kind of resource that a teacher can come across that they think is super cool, and they want to sign their kids up, and create accounts, and then we get into data sprawl, we’re getting into clickwrap terms and conditions, we’re getting into all of the things that probably keep Vince up at night.
That’s a challenge. There’s all of these free resources that don’t actually cost you anything in terms of money, but they’re going to cost you in the end, in terms of exposure. And our job is really to minimize risk and minimize exposure, wherever possible. I think when staff attend ed tech conferences, there’s always, four times a year, when people come back and they say, “I found this really cool thing, and it can do all of these different things, and I want to implement it.”
It’s not necessarily a barrier to implementation, but – okay, it is a barrier to implementation, I’m just gonna keep it real. People come back to me these conferences and these events, and they want to do these things, and we actually have a fairly robust process in place that we call onboard to onboard these new technology resources.
It used to take a long time. That was the barrier to implementation. It was not a timely process. We worked in serial. Person A would vet it, and then it would go to person B. All of these different steps. So, this year, we implemented a parallel process where the ed tech office looks at it, the principal at the school looks at it, my team looks at it, the information security team looks at it, procurement looks at it, the integrations team looks at it, our assisted technology team looks at the resource.
And collectively, we make a determination using a checklist. Is this something we want to implement? And once we decide to implement it, we try to do that at the district level and absorb that account management and that integration piece at the district level so that we’re assuming responsibility for that, limiting what I call the student data sprawl.
I had a few teachers tell me, “You and your team, you really put the no in innovation.” We try not to, but the reality is, is that you might be super enamored with a product that you found that might not be in the best interest of your students, or you really have discovered that rare unicorn that will replace four or five other applications that we’re using. We still need to look at it from multiple perspectives.
I’d also say that ensuring our vendors are partners is super important from a data governance and a student data privacy perspective. There are districts who, as we’ve said, there’s one person wearing 17 hats, and that tech director is also maybe a CTE teacher, and maybe they’re doing something in the business office. Who knows?
Unfortunately, what I’ve seen in the past is many vendors don’t want to be your partner, they don’t want to meet you where you need to be met. They don’t want to work with you on the terms and conditions. And quite frankly, I would encourage districts to walk away from that relationship.
If the vendor can’t work with you to ensure that student data and potentially employee data are kept protected and that they’re doing all of the things that they need to do, just walk away. One of the great things that I like about the AWS cloud team is that they’ll conduct a security assessment on their own environment, and then publish the findings for all of the customers.
That’s great for us, because it shows us that our cloud providers really do want to be our partners, and they want to be transparent with their information. And if there are any gaps in our controls, those are identified by them, and then we can remediate as needed.
Tom Murray: Yeah, and I think back to, again, as I worked with many tech directors in my role as a tech director, it was the complete opposite of that. We were all trying to – for often, we were trying to manage our own environments, run our own tests, and I can remember a year saying, “We don’t have the budget money to run our own tests or to have somebody try to get in.”
And to hear there’s AWS saying, “We’re running it on ourselves, and here’s what we found” solves that problem. And so, certainly a shout out to that type of mindset on their end and that partnership, I couldn’t agree. And as a former tech director, I used to say about our offices here, we can be the greatest road block in the world or we can be the greatest support innovation.
And I love how you phrase that, because it goes back to what you were saying earlier around we’re there for learning and we’re there for students, and that’s first. However, we’re also there to make sure that we abide by the law, and do what we need to do. Because bottom line with this conversation is it comes down to trust, and we shatter trust one time in our community, we could be doing so many great things from teaching and learning, but if trust is gone, we’ve got nothing.
And so, it is that balance with it, but I also like how you talked about the efficiency end, and working with so many teachers, it is that gripe normally of teachers, and again, a lot of times, they don’t understand the backend. But they’ll submit something and it’s eight months later when they’re hearing back, “Sorry, we can’t do that,” and they’re like, “That’s back for September.”
And that efficiency piece is so key, and as a large district as you are, it’s more of a challenge. And so, to hear how you’ve really worked through that as a process to be efficient, and the other piece that I would recommend for tech directors watching that, one of the rule of thumbs for my team and my staff was if we’re gonna say no, and there’s good reason to say no to certain things, it was our job to turn around and say, “Number one, what are you trying to accomplish, what are you trying to do?” But then number two, here’s two or three ways you can do that in a safe and secure environment.
And I think sometimes tech directors can get a bad wrap, per se, or tech departments and offices, but if all we do is “No, no, no.” People will start just trying to subvert the system and get around the system, but if they realize you’re part of the team, and you’re really trying to help, and you’re showing, “Well, try this, or try that,” it shows that your heart’s with the learner, you’re not just trying to no yourself into a really easy job.
And so, when we think about these different pieces – Vince, I wanna jump back over to you if we could. How can folks in your position really help non-technical administrators understand their role in data privacy and security so that this just isn’t seen as that’s just a tech problem to work through?
Vince Scheivert: That’s awesome, because that is continuously what we deal with. The concept of the idea that data is somehow or another technology’s responsibility to safeguard is a complete misnomer of what safety and security is all about. If we think about who is in charge of a student’s safety and security on an ongoing, daily basis, it is that building principal. It is the building principal, number one.
Now, whether it’s their physical safety, their mental safety, their data safety, all of those elements, the primary person that is really, truly in charge of that really comes down to that building level administrator, the person closest to the student, and then moves back.
So, I think one of the things that we talk about is really awareness. Are they aware, are building principals truly aware of the value of data? It said that a student’s identity is worth anywhere from $2,000.00 to $4,000.00 on the dark web. Well, if you add up your number of kids that you have in your school, all of a sudden, you’re in charge of keeping a whole bunch of gold bricks really, really safe and secure.
So, when we start to think about it in the physical world of what the digital world costs and evaluates, people start to have a different concept of how important it is. And the idea, I think instructional folks, specifically, kinda are suffering from that CSI TV mentality that somehow or another, hackers are these super-secret, coming in by stealthy means. They’re not – they’re knocking on the front door, they’re sending you an e-mail, saying, “Hey, would you provide me your username and password, and thank you please.”
And we’ll have a certain percentage of people that say, “Sure, here it is.” Going back to what we’re talking about earlier, we give away data. Data doesn’t necessarily get breached. We don’t have armed guards storming our data centers and taking over the data. We’re actually giving it away. We’re leaving it on laptops, or we’re leaving it out places.
So, awareness is the number one thing. Do they understand, do principals know? Do teachers know how important it is, the information that they have access to and wield, and how can we make sure that they don’t give it away? I think those are the big things.
And then, we also have, again, we have our Future Ready framework to be able to help and support them. We also have Coasten to be able to help with our technology leaders in and around security procedures and different capabilities, but for instructional folks, it’s really a huge piece of awareness.
Tom Murray: So, Vince, you’re saying as a teacher, I shouldn’t be giving my username and password to the substitute that I have tomorrow? Is that what you’re telling me? When we think about it, you’re exactly right. It’s often things like that, or it’s the phishing e-mail. I heard a story the other day from a principal where it was actually Russian hackers paid a child for their username and password to be able to get into the system.
And so, these things are certainly happening across the board. we have to be safe about it, but also, how do we maximize the instructional side and the resources that our teachers and our kids do need. I do want to remind our viewers one last time that the hashtag for today’s webinar is #FutureReady.
Linnette, I’m gonna jump back over to you if I could. Given the innovative ways in which technology and data are really being used to support individualized and adaptive learning, what can I tell our parents and other community members to reassure them about privacy and security?
I’ll refer back to one of the things Rachel first said, was just this notion of transparency, and on a Future Ready end, the more we collect data, the more we do with data, the more we really need to be transparent with what we do. Linnette, how can they do that?
Linnette Attai: It, again, comes down to just being honest with your community. Go back to the fundamentals. What are you doing with data? Remember that the classroom today does not look like the classroom that many of these parents grew up in. School has become, which was once this completely familiar environment, has become completely unfamiliar to parents.
And with that comes a lot of fear. And so the antidote to fear is knowledge. Bring your parents in, explain to them the basics. Why are you collecting data about their child? Make it personal, too. What is it about their child? How will your collection of data help their child learn and grow? How will your use of technology help their child learn and grow?
How are you protecting the data? What are the steps you’re taking to ensure that it remains protected. These are things that are unknown to parents. We sometimes take them for granted, but think about this as a completely new environment, where the parent is just dropping their child off, into a world it’s no longer familiar to them.
What can you do to make it a little more familiar, feel a little safer, a little bit more comfortable? And make sure, also, your teachers are able to tell this story to parents. We forget we have a lot of expectations around teachers to behave in certain ways. Vince, I think, put it quite well. Describe some scenarios that are quite common.
But we also need to be mindful that the things that are obvious to us, as folks who work in and around technology and data are not always obvious to everyone else, and so we need to really educate our teachers. They are the first line, they’re the face of the school for your parents.
So, how can they – are they prepared to be able to talk to parents about why the school is collecting data, what you’re using data for, how it serves their students, how you’re using technology, how you’re ensuring the technology you bring in is safe and appropriate and properly protecting their students’ privacy?
A lot of the time, we’re not necessarily giving teachers that information to be able to have that talk track, and it’s very important. It’s about us – we’re up here, thinking, “Oh, it’s technology, and we’re doing all these things, and we’re aggregating the data, and we’re getting all these analytics out of it.” That’s mysterious to parents, and they’re reading all sorts of things about screentime, and technology, and distraction.
We need to really bridge the gap by giving them the tools to allow them to see, what are you doing, why are you doing it, and how is it beneficial to their child?
Tom Murray: I want to wrap up with one question, because I’m cognizant of time, and then I’m actually gonna really wrap up with a rapid fire resource, and give it your best resources around data privacy, organizations, we’ve given Coasten a big shout, and some of our other partners.
But just for really practical pieces, but before we get to the resource round robin shouts for school and district leaders, in knowing that tech departments continue to evolve as the technology and the laws do, what advice do you have for those that are either hesitant, or those that are really just getting started to take some of those next steps?
You heard today from Loudoun. Obviously, you guys are really ahead of the game in so many different ways in leveraging the Cloud in so many incredible ways for the teaching and learning side. But many districts aren’t there yet, and that’s okay, and part of Future Ready’s role is how do we support them from where they’re at to help them keep moving forward?
Linnette, I’m gonna start with you again. What advice do you have for a district – maybe it’s a tech director, maybe it’s a superintendent watching this, some principal saying, “We’re a small district. We’re not sure where to start.” What would you say to them, what advice do you have to get them moving forward?
Linnette Attai: Start small. Start where you are and start small. Start by identifying what your gaps are, or just identify a goal for next year. What is the one thing that you want to get better at next year? Don’t try to tackle this all at once. It will be overwhelming, you will get mowed down by it, but small accomplishments build big momentum, so decide, what is the one thing that you want to get better at?
Maybe you want to implement complex passwords, maybe you want to take a better look at how you might better leverage your data, whatever it is, start there, and then plan. What are the three steps you need to take next week in order to just put that in motion and just keep going?
Don’t look at the whole picture. It’s too much. This is a process. It’s something that everyone gets better at over time, and incremental change is the way to go.
Tom Murray: Great. Rachel, over to you, what advice do you have?
Rachel Johnson: I agree with everything that Linnette said, and I’m going to suggest find peer groups, identify four school districts that you would consider peer in terms of size, but make sure that they’re regionally distinct. We get so caught up in what is our neighboring district doing, and what are the guys doing that are just to our south. You really gotta get out of your own bubble and get perspective.
So, we looked at Jim Corn in Baltimore, we’ve established some relationships with Nashville City Public Schools, with Denver Public Schools, and with Houston ISD, because we consider these to be peers in terms of size, in terms of complexity, common initiatives, and we partner with them, and we learn with them, and we share information, and we engage in monthly support calls, where we just say, “What’s going on? Were you able to implement X, Y, or Z, or what road blocks did you run into?”
The fact that we’re able to establish those partnerships with our peer groups and other school districts throughout the country, I think, is really important.
Tom Murray: And last but not least, Vince, back over to you. What advice do you have?
Vince Scheivert: You’re gonna be infinitely better just by trying, so you cannot do anything but do better kids by just taking small bites and not overcomplicating the process. Common sense will go a long way, and if you don’t have any, borrow some. But really, what you have the ability to do is just take small bites at the apple and you’ll eventually get all the way around, and it’s okay to go slow.
Tom Murray: Awesome. Such incredible advice from three incredible leaders. And so, thank you for sharing that. I want to wrap up just one last minute here. Rapid fire, give me the best tools, resources, things that if I’m a tech director or a principal, I’m picking up my pencil, my paper, I got my computer ready to go, my notes ready to go. Where should they look, and all the things that we’ve been talking about? What are some of the organizations they should check out, nonprofits? I know we’ve listed a bunch of them already. Any other tools, go to resources? What do you have in terms of that?
So, Linnette, we’re gonna go back over to you. Throw them out there, and if you’re watching this, get your pencil and paper or your notes ready on your phone, start writing ’em down. Linnette, what do you have for us?
Linnette Attai: TrustedLearning.org/Resources. Download the self-assessment. It’ll take you about 15 minutes to tick through ______ in your Trusted Learning environment application, figure out where you need to start focusing your energies. Also, Coasten.org/Privacy. Download the toolkit. I’ll give a shout out to Coasten’s cyber security initiative, as well, some great stuff there, as well as future privacy form for ____sherpa and I am gonna stop there. I know I’m gonna leave some for my colleagues here to tout.
Tom Murray: Rachel, what do you have? Throw some our way.
Rachel Johnson: One URL, one resource, and it’s loaded with all kinds of scary stuff.
Tom Murray: Is that FutureReady.org, is that what you’re about to say right there? I’m just teasing. Go ahead, Rachel, what do you got?
Rachel Johnson: StudentPrivacyMatters.org. Look at the toolkit for parents and educators, see if you can answer the questions in that toolkit. They’re gonna freak you out. That’s cool. If you can’t answer them, that’s your work, that’s your starting point, because telling a parent and telling a student, “I don’t know, and I can’t answer that” is not gonna fly.
Tom Murray: And Vince, the ladies have thrown a whole bunch of great stuff out there. What do you have for us?
Vince Scheivert: Man, I really don’t know if there’s too much more to add. I’ll defer to Rachel.
Rachel Johnson: I’ll throw out one more.
Vince Scheivert: There you go, I defer my piece to Rachel.
Rachel Johnson: The National Center for Education Statistics has the forum. The forum has a lot of resources. There are three favorite resources of mine on there. One is the Data Quality course that you can take, and then there’s parts one and parts two of data ethics. Starting out with those courses for your teachers is awesome. You don’t have to create anything, there’s already a pre and post assessment. Work with your human resources teams to get recertification points, because they’re gonna issue a certificate.
It’s a great level entry starting point for all of your staff members to be aware of data quality and of data ethics.
Tom Murray: Yeah, and as I mentioned earlier, Coasten, who has been mentioned many, many times, thank you Linnette, for joining us today. The Future of Privacy Forum, as well as data quality campaign are three of our incredible partners here at Future Ready, because we value this work, we know the importance. You’re about to jump back in, so I’m gonna pause and let you jump back in. I saw it there, Rachel, go ahead.
Rachel Johnson: I am. I do wanna offer up Access for Learning, it’s the student data privacy consortium. SDPC.org, and there’s a bank in there that allows you to see contracts that vendors and school divisions have signed, and the different terms of their data privacy agreements that they’ve agreed to. Go there before you sign any contracts. Make sure that it’s been loaded up in the SDPC acts, the A Frail Team access for learning, those guys are doing great work, as well.
Tom Murray: That is awesome, and if you’ve been still writing here for the last four or five minutes, they just threw incredible things your way. And our mindset here at FutureReady is that collaboration between organizations, between school districts, ’cause when we’re working together like this, we are better for the children that we serve.
To wrap up, I do want to remind our viewers that information on Future Ready Schools can be found at FutureReady.org. We encourage and challenge district superintendents to join the over 3,300 others that have signed the Future Ready pledge. We also encourage our school leaders watching today to join us at one of this year’s free Future Ready institutes, and we had one at Loudoun last year, did we not? On one of these great events, visit FutureReady.org/Institutes.
I also want to encourage our viewers to get involved with our growing strands from district leaders to tech leaders, and again, Vince is one of our advisors for the tech leader strand, to principals, to librarians, and to instructional coaches, we have vastly expanded the reach of Future Ready schools over the past couple of years. Check out our private Facebook groups there, as well, for ongoing activities and things to – and ways to stay connected, as we work alongside each other.
I do want to thank Linnette, Rachel, and Vince, incredible guests today, amazingly brilliant in the work that they are doing, as well as thank you, our viewers, for joining us and investing the time for this Future Ready webinar. Don’t forget to connect with us here at Future Ready on Twitter, @FutureReady, and on Facebook at Facebook.com/FutureReadySchools.
Again, a special thanks to our Future Ready partner, Amazon Web Services for supporting both our tech leader strand, as well as today’s webinar. If you did miss any of today’s conversation, it’s gonna be archived at AllforEd.org/Webinars soon after this webinar.
And on that page, you can also see a list of upcoming webinars. You can also find the Alliance’s Google hangouts on the YouTube channel, as well. For those of you taking part in the Action Committee badging platform, the password for today’s webinar is very fitting. It’s Cloud.
Thank you again for joining us here at Future Ready Schools. Have a fabulous day and we will see you next time.
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