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data and privacy to support digital learning strategies and information from Metiri Group

Data and Privacy: Digital Learning Framework

Back when all of the information a school had on a student was stored in a file cabinet in the school office, we really thought very little about student data and who had access to it. A person just needs to log into Facebook and see the ads for products you searched for online but didn’t buy to know our data now have a life of their own. Ironically, back when data were pretty safe in that file cabinet, we really didn’t have much information. It seems each day we collect more and more data on students. While we may have valid instructional uses for these data, we need to keep in mind the sensitive information contained in these data and the implications in terms of privacy for students and their parents. To help educators consider data and privacy, we’ve broken it down into four elements:

  • Data and data systems
  • Data policies, procedures, and practices
  • Data-informed decision-making
  • Data literate education professionals

Data and Privacy: A careful balance

This component of the framework involves maintaining a careful balance of collecting and providing access to data necessary for making powerful instructional decisions while still protecting those who provide these data. The first element relates to having integrated data systems allowing educators to access student data and analytics anytime, anywhere, preferably through a secure data dashboard. As data have been collected and systems built over time, many schools have struggled with integrating disparate systems such that educators have all the information they need to make instructional decisions without having to compile it from multiple sources. The best decisions are made with the most accurate, complete, up-to-date data, so access to a comprehensive data dashboard is essential to providing the most effective instruction for students. (This article from District Administration gives several examples of districts moving toward integrated systems.)

Data and Privacy: Policies and procedures

Similar to data systems, as data collection became more common and more abundant, many schools and districts found that their policies and procedures were not keeping pace. Districts often rely on state and federal laws for guidance in this area, but these laws are typically too broad to provide specific guidance to inform daily practice in schools and districts. This element includes regularly updated policies and procedures for data collection, analysis, and storage, but also emphasizes helping students and teachers understand how to protect themselves online. Students must be taught good online habits, and teachers must select tools and resources considering both the instructional and privacy implications for students. Both appropriate policies and extensive training for all staff are necessary to ensure all decisions made are consistent with established policies.

Data and Privacy: What and how

The final two elements really go hand-in-hand. It’s difficult to make effective decisions using data if you don’t understand what the data mean or how they can be used (and how they shouldn’t be used). In order to be successful, schools must reinforce a culture of data use, such as by facilitating a school-wide process like data carousels. Schools and districts also must help educators translate the available data into actionable findings that can be used to inform instruction. It’s not okay to assume if teachers have access to a data dashboard that they can use that information effectively. Using data to inform instruction is a skill that needs to be taught and reinforced.

Next week we’ll share some additional strategies for improving your school’s or district’s approach to data and privacy. In the meantime, the Data Quality Campaign has many resources that you can use as a reference. Of course, you can always contact Metiri and we can help you get started!