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Take these steps to keep your kid's information secure on school computers

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Posted: Monday, June 2, 2014 10:00 pm | Updated: 1:40 am, Fri Aug 1, 2014.

(BPT) - A lot has changed since you were in school. Your children don’t listen to the same types of music you enjoyed, and they certainly dress differently despite your protests.

They learn differently as well.

Today’s classrooms are no longer focused on chalkboards and lectures. Digital devices tied to curriculum leveraging big data technology are becoming more central to learning and are key to creating dynamic classrooms that support personalizing learning for every student. This new approach is helping students to learn at their own pace and aids educators to deeply engage with students in their learning process. These new technologies rely upon access to student data to provide more informed instruction and individualized approaches to helping all students succeed.

But with the gathering of more data, schools have more responsibility to ensure a student’s privacy is safeguarded. Many parents are now asking schools about how their kid’s data is being secured. There are Federal laws in place to guide districts on protecting student privacy. These include  FERPA, COPPA, PPRA and even HIPAA regulations that help give districts some guidelines on privacy and security, but many of these regulations were created before the massive adoption of technology in schools and the laws haven’t kept pace with classroom realities. This places the burden of creating more modern plans for minors’ privacy and security on states and districts.

“While these laws are important for schools to understand and comply with, they alone will not ensure the privacy of student data,” says David Hoffman, director of security policy and global privacy for Intel. “It’s up to district officials, teachers and parents to ensure privacy and security are top priorities in school districts.”

As a parent, you know that new technology is the key to furthering your child’s educational development. But how can you be sure your child’s district is protecting student privacy? It’s simple, get involved. You can do so by asking your district these six questions about data security:

* What data are the school district collecting? Understanding what data are being collected makes you more knowledgeable about what your child’s school is doing with the data and allows you to better assess the risk if a breach occurs.

* Are district staff allowed to store student information on personal laptops, smartphones or tablets? These devices may not have the same level of secure protection as a district owned device and they will leave the district grounds, increasing the risk that they could be lost or stolen. If the district is allowing student information to be stored on personal devices, ask to see copies of all applicable policies requiring district staff to secure the information.

* What is the district doing to protect district owned devices? Ask what security measures have been used to encrypt data on district computers and whether there are guidelines regarding where district staff can take and use these district owned devices.

* What is required of the district should a data security breach occur? Should a data breach occur, the faster it is recognized, the better for all students possibly affected.  Ask to see the district’s policies regarding staff’s requirement to report such a breach and how quickly reporting must occur.

* Has the district experienced a data breach in the past? If the answer is yes, then ask what policies the district has changed to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

* Does the district use online service providers to host applications, such as websites, student information system, school cafeteria management, etc? If so, ask what data are being collected and how is it being used? Also, ask if there is a contract to cover responsibility for students’ personal information.

Technology is fast becoming essential to teaching and learning in schools everywhere. Making sure your child’s school is following robust data security protocols by asking the right questions can ensure a successful learning experience for everyone involved. You can learn more by visiting www.k12blueprint.com/privacy and following @IntelK12Edu on Twitter.

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