Fordham Study Outlines Promise and Challenges of School Resources Online

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A study released today by Fordham University, “Privacy and Cloud Computing in Public Schools,” underscores the importance of online educational resources. Remarkable achievements are being made with the assistance of cloud services and applications are helping to modernize classrooms with interactive learning environments. Innovation is occurring right now that can profoundly improve student performance, but the appropriate care must be given to ensure child privacy and safety.

“Schools across the country are taking advantage of cloud-based services that allow teachers and administrators to better serve students and their families,” said ACT Executive Director Morgan Reed. “Homework can be assigned and completed online where it is unlikely to be eaten by the family dog. Parents and teachers can better monitor their students’ progress to help them reach higher academic achievement.

“It used to be that parents learned about their children’s school performance a few times a year through report cards or PTA meetings. Advances in online education now means that student achievement or challenges can be spotted early on, helping to assess where additional work is most needed. Administrators can use anonymized data to measure school performance and quickly identify successful coursework and methods.”

Positive impact on student performance occurs when teachers, parents, and schools remain engaged. The foundation of this new digital classroom is the improved ability to manage student work and assessment online. Yet the promise of these new technologies can be lost if the appropriate care for children’s privacy is not assured.

That is the principal lesson learned from the Fordham report. In its study, researchers discovered that schools may be unaware of third party contractors’ use of student data. In many cases, school contracts with online service providers lacked clear guidance for safeguarding this information as required under federal law.

“The Fordham study highlights the need for schools to require online service providers to meet high standards for safeguarding student information,” continued Reed. “Administrators should also be transparent about this process so that parents are aware of these services and that the appropriate care is given to children’s privacy.

“The Association for Competitive Technology has long held these principles dear. Under the ACT umbrella, we brought in the 1500-member group of parent app makers, Moms With Apps, to launch the Know What’s Inside™ program. Through this initiative, we identify companies that adopt strong privacy standards for children’s education apps, providing a trusted resource for parents with mobile devices.

“What this initiative has demonstrated is the importance of identifying and promoting industry best practices. It will be critical for online education service providers to meet appropriate standards for student data usage and to clearly convey this information to school administrators. Such proactive measures will give parents and schools the continued confidence to embrace these resources that hold such promise for children’s education.”