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By Corey Noles

Growing Privacy Woes Drive Students to Take An Active Role in School Tech Decisions

Today, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) released a new report based on survey research conducted in Summer 2021 on parent, teacher, and student opinions about education technology (edtech) and student data.

As recent research and news stories regarding invasive student activity monitoring software come to light, the report shows that an increasing number of parents (69%, up 9 percentage points since February) are concerned about student privacy. Additionally, 82% of students say they should have input on how their data and information is used by schools, even though just 26% of students report their school has asked for their views about this. 

“Since the growth of online learning in response to the pandemic, our research consistently shows that edtech is here to stay. In fact, 85% of teachers reported that these tools will play a bigger role in the current school year than before the pandemic,” said CDT’s CEO Alexandra Reeve Givens. “However, our research also shows persistent and growing student privacy concerns, underscoring the need to safeguard student privacy and support the responsible use of education data and technology.” 

The new report, titled “Navigating the New Normal: Ensuring Equitable and Trustworthy EdTech for the Future,” also showcases new ways edtech is being used in schools which raise concerns about equity.

For example, the data reveal that schools are considering using online learning in disciplinary contexts. Some 70% of teachers agree that online learning can enable students to keep up with peers while they are temporarily out of school due to school closures or disciplinary actions like suspension. And 61% of parents expressed that they were very or somewhat concerned about sharing student data with law enforcement. This number increases to 69% when Black parents are asked, reflecting important equity considerations that schools must reconcile.

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“Given the increase in parents’ concerns and their absence in student privacy discussions, this is an important moment for school systems to not only fulfill their legal obligations but orient their student privacy efforts toward keeping students safe and protecting their well-being, which means going beyond the bare minimum,” said Elizabeth Laird, the Director of Equity in Civic Technology at CDT. “To do this, we must ensure that all students are able to receive the benefits of data and technology and that the risks do not disproportionately fall on any particular group of students.”

The report also detailed bright spots, especially regarding teacher training. 66 percent of teachers reported that they had received substantive training on student privacy, compared to 56 percent in 2020, and those teachers who received training were more likely to play an active role in engaging parents and students on these topics.

Additionally, more than 8 out of 10 teachers report that students with disabilities and multilingual learners benefitted the same or more from the use of technology in education than the larger student body.

The Center for Democracy & Technology is a 25-year old 501(c)(3) working to promote civil rights and civil liberties in the digital age. Based in Washington, D.C., and Brussels, Belgium, CDT works inclusively across sectors to find tangible solutions to today’s most pressing technology policy challenges. Our team of experts includes lawyers, technologists, academics, and analysts, bringing diverse perspectives to all of our efforts. To learn more about student privacy, including more in-depth data and additional COVID-19 implications, visit cdt.org/civictech.

Author Bio: Corey Noles is the Managing Editor for Innovation & Tech Today. In more than two decades as a journalist, he has covered crime, MLB, business, healthcare, politics and anything else that could snag a headline.

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Growing Privacy Woes Drive Students to Take An Active Role in School Tech Decisions

November 15, 2021
By Corey Noles

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