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22.2: The importance of careful selection

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    legal scales

    Choosing the right tool also includes choosing software that respects student data privacy and takes sufficient security precautions to put parents and school officials at ease. The test is providing personalized learning, coupled with the right software, which meets student needs. Relevant laws that protect student privacy are also vital in the selection process. This section addresses some of the primary concerns to consider when selecting educational technology.


    We must select tools that adhere to the established legal requirements. According to the US Department of Education, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal privacy law that “protects student data education records from infringement of unauthorized third-parties or users. The law applies to all schools who are eligible to receive funds from the U.S. Department of Education (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA),” 2015).

    Written parental permission is essential to disclose any student educational information, but FERPA does allow school sites to release those records if school officials have a legitimate scholarly interest in the tools (“Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA),” 2015). Such rights are then transferred to the student once they reach the age of 18 or enters a postsecondary institution. The Office of the Chief Privacy Officer (OCPO) is also responsible for implementing another law that strives to safeguard student and parental rights in education called the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA).


    Like school officials, teachers make cognizant choices regarding the privacy and security of the applications they use with students by collaborating with tech advocacy groups like The Common Sense Privacy Evaluation Initiative (“What Is the Privacy Initiative?,” n.d.). Over 100 schools and districts chose to participate in the initiative creating a plan with the intention that pursues not only in assessing educational technology tools, but also work in partnership with K–12 educational software industry to streamline and regulate privacy and security policies (“What Is the Privacy Initiative?,” n.d.).

    Similarly, to the private sector, the federal government is also moving to implement guidelines through an advisory center, Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) managed by the Department of Education. This regulatory agency considers possible actions that a second or even third party may not consider because they figure the FERPA regulations may not apply. For instance, a third-party provider cannot use data from a FERPA-protected source, like a school for any purpose that was not shared initially (“Protecting Student Privacy | U.S. Department of Education,” n.d.). One example is Google’s product Classroom. Significant strides made with the feedback it received from the teachers and administrator of Chicago Public Schools. The third largest school district in the nation, they had privacy and security concerns that they were not willing to concede. The multibillion-dollar company had to adhere to the FERPA laws, if they wanted to continue to do business with the K-12 education sector. The feedback proved to be invaluable in making products that meet the needs of a diverse group of students while protecting the sensitive data provided. (Singer, 2017)

    Because data records are distributed more widely than ever since the local district network is no longer used for software deployment. According to a recent study from Fordham University School of Law, it discovered that 95% of school districts relied on cloud services, but fewer than 25% of contracts specified the purpose for disclosing student data (Duane, n.d.).


    In advertising, puffery is when a commercial claim is exaggerated. The same thing can happen when educational technology companies make over-inflated promises about what is possible through the use of their tools. As an educator, do your due diligence in connecting the software tool with your objectives and not falling for false promises. It may seem like a daunting task, yet it can be exciting at the same time.

    Legal issues, privacy concerns, and potential for puffery are only some of the considerations we need to make when evaluating educational technology. Important questions to ask during the evaluative portion of your decision include:

    1. Do the creators of educational software respect data privacy?
    2. How much information does the company need to allow the product use?
    3. Has your district or other districts have had experience with the product?
    4. What are the reviews available and how were they rated in customer service?
    5. Is the product open to teacher feedback? How likely are the input implemented?

    These questions can assist you as you consider which tool will best fit your needs. The time you invest will protect your students, as well as your own reputation as an educator. This next section provides additional advice for adopting new technology.

    22.2: The importance of careful selection is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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