How schools get their classroom social media privacy rights, right?

Classroom management apps like SeeSaw and Class Dojo are commonplace in our classrooms. The apps are mainstream, supercharging their use are enthusiastic teachers seeking to innovate, claw back time and establish a more meaningful connection between education’s ‘holy trinity’ of a student, teacher and parent.

Educators love these apps, but what do we give away to get in return?

It all depends on how you view the question? It’s a classic pros and cons conundrum of the modern-day classroom which educators should regularly consider to maintain best practise. Privacy, community engagement, classroom management, consent, policy, communication, learning portfolios, efficiency, the company’s values who sell the product, menu design of the app, data storage, law, teacher purpose and more are a must for schools to discuss.

Educators can successfully adopt the use of classroom apps but should steer clear of a flawed adoption process that increases the risk of student privacy.

To do so, schools should ask, ‘Why would this tool be beneficial to our students, teachers and parents?’ This question will unpack the themes and perspectives (listed above) from each group. The conversation should focus on the purpose of adopting a classroom management app and not a specific app in the market. This establishes what a school will value, identify selection criteria and minimise factional decision making for one product over another. 

Schools should build a list of ideal features and criteria for selection. This list must include answers to the following:

  • Data privacy: What is the responsibility of the company and the school?
  • Data storage: Is the data storage here in Australia or overseas?
  • Australian law: What are the varying Acts? What are the Australian Privacy Principles, and how do they apply?
  • Government policy, school policy and guidelines: Review them and identify what action needs to be taken to meet them.
  • Education purpose: Why do we wish to adopt the app? Consider learning, teaching, cost, communication, community engagement, classroom management and celebration.
  • Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT): Complete a SWOT.

Search the market. Schools regularly jump on the ‘copycat carousel’ with ease, ‘the school down the road use it, so we will too’! This approach fails to minimise risk! As an alternative, principals can hand over to the innovators and early adopters on your staff to research the market-leading apps. Have them assess the best two market options for your school with online reviews, talk with fellow educators and have providers complete demonstrations.

Schools should scrutinise the apps based on menu design. Menu design controls how we behave with the app. A menu silently limits our choice and is skewed to maximise time on the app to farm as much data as possible from users. An example is in-built extrinsic reward systems which may not align with an educational value or narrow a teacher’s focus into poor practise that does not benefit students. Flip the questioning of the app and ask, ‘What does the menu not do?’ and ‘What are the implications?’

It is also essential to consider how the app providers ensure the security of your data. Review the terms, conditions and encryption technology they use to maximise privacy. Identify who owns the data and if the data storage location is in Australia or overseas. Data storage on servers in physically in Australia ensures Australian law applies.

Design the boundaries for use that maximise privacy, learning, teaching and community engagement. Permissions and consent are critical. They should explicitly address the educational purpose of the app; monitoring; moderation; duration of the account; the rules of engagement for students, staff and parents; a school contact; and how to withdraw permission to publish with a clear opt-in and opt-out procedure. Schools should also have a risk management procedure in place.

Any discussion of social media risk has the potential to knock innovation on the head and let the fear mongers ran amok. These apps offer educators an exceptional advantage, but blind enthusiasm, fear and naivety should play no part in the decision-making process. 

An honest, transparent process will enable schools to adopt classroom management apps successfully, metaphorically open the classroom windows letting teachers, parents and students come together to celebrate their wins.