It was a beautiful classroom on December 1, 2015, with focused, attentive, respectful students. The academic discussion of George Orwell had every student thinking deeply about the Orwellian concepts that swept the nation in 1946 and sold 600,000 copies of his classic work, Animal House. The time went too quickly as the readings and the deconstruction of the book consumed the minutes, and students took careful notes from the lecture. When the bell rang out to end the period a student who did not want to miss the key points of the exciting lecture on the board, pulled out his BYOD smartphone and took a picture of the board notes that time did not allow him to write out on paper.
It was a brilliant example of the great use of electronic devices to enhance education. The digital technology that allowed the excellent student to record the lecture notes from the board is a classic example of how integrating digital technology with traditional teaching methodology is a win win situation for students and teachers. Allowing his digital device to record the lecture notes took a matter of seconds as opposed to manually writing the notes which could have taken precious minutes and being late for his next class.
Allowing students to bring their own electronic devices into the classroom did not spell of the end of American classroom instruction any more than educational television ended reading. Students are learning to integrate digital technology into learning as well as America did when it went from the horse and buggy to the automobile. Those who wished that digital technology would fail should have seen how quickly the student pulled out his device to record the lecture notes and to make to his next class on time. Digital technology and online newspapers are not going to go away. Paper had its day.
It took less than a minute for the student to copy the class lecture notes. It would have taken 30 minutes for him to write everything on paper. In 1975 the present writer asked Professor Michael Murphy if he could tape record his lecture in a college senior level course in political philosophy and theory. Using the available technology to record the course made it possible to listen to the lecture many times to understand the complex theories discussed in the lecture. By studying the lecture tapes over and over it made it possible to remember the theories and to make an A on the examinations and an A in the course.
Technological devices are tools. The device alone does not create good or evil. It is how the technology is used that creates good or evil. Television is the same. When attempts were made to censor television in 1959 it was said that television was an evil influence. Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was not an evil influence. Sesame Street was not an evil influence. To paint all of television with one brush stroke was ludicrous. Painting the most brilliant technology of the 21st century with one brush stroke is also unfair and harmful. Hoping that online newspapers will go out of business to keep print newspapers in business is akin to hoping all automobiles will vanish so that the horse and buggy will make a comeback.
The National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training (NCTET) is a non-partisan organization that is leading the nation in examining and supporting the use of technology to improve education and training in America. Congress is currently considering rewriting the 1975 Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act. NCTET gave an informational briefing to Congressional staff and policymakers on November 16, 2015 in room 2303 of the Rayburn House Office Building entitled “Seizing Opportunity in the Digital Age: Leveraging Professional Development to Protect Student Privacy.”
The program had a panel of distinguished public school educators that included:
Kirk Anderson, Director of Educational Technology, Denver Public Schools, in Denver, Colorado.
Teddy Hartman, Coordinator of Data Privacy, Howard County Public Schools, Howard County, Maryland.
Paige Kowalski, Vice President, Policy and Advocacy, Data Quality Campaign.
Alan Simpson, Vice President, Policy and Communication, I Keep Safe.
The discussion was moderated by Chip Slaven, Counsel to the President and Senior Advocacy Advisor, Alliance for Excellent Education. It was a packed conference. The concern shown for protecting student privacy was based on the recent trouble faced by the nation in the computer security breaches that allowed internet criminals to steal private computer information, hack into the private information of American citizens, and to break into personal online accounts and hack into their social media accounts like Facebook and LinkedIn. byteclay.com will feature highlights from the report on the conference when the document becomes available.
The United States Office of Personnel Management and the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation are two federal agencies working hard to locate cyber criminals and to protect innocent victims from unscrupulous, unethical people, who have no regard for the law or for truth. Beth Cobert the acting director of OPM whose motto is “Recruit, Retain, and Honor a World-Class Workforce to Serve the American People,” wrote to the present journalist and said, “The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) was the target of a malicious cyber intrusion carried out against the U.S. Government, which resulted in the theft of background investigative records.”
Cobert indicated that the writers name, Social Security number, address, date, place of birth, residency, educational and employment history, personal foreign travel history, information about immediate family as well as business and personal acquaintances, and other information used to conduct and adjudicate your background investigation,” are now in the hands of cyber criminals. The federal government is providing identity theft protection and monitoring services by working with law enforcement agencies and national security experts to protect the journalist’s identity.
The questions at the conference were hard questions. It was established that based on computer breaches like the one at OPM and the NSC that there will always be unethical people who will use there IT knowledge to break the law. The response to these security breaches as it relates to student privacy and protecting their information was given critical thought and assessment. Educators were told of the important role that they play in protecting, guarding, and shielding student information from criminal elements in much the same was as dedicated educators would give their lives to shield and protect students from physical harm.
However, the invasion of the writer’s privacy and online information is an indication of how serious the breach of security is and why the conference on Capitol Hill was so important to national security. The information stolen by the cyber thieves allows any criminal to claim to know or have a relationship with the writer that does not exist and is based on stolen information. The same thing can happen to any person who is the victim of online information stolen by illegal means. Stealing passwords, hacking into social media accounts, and taking identity information is a crime. The conference made this fact clear and was a success in making this fact clear. The meeting achieved its purpose.
The purpose of the meeting was threefold:
· Examine the need for educators to receive professional development focused on protecting student data.
· Share best practices and potentially replicable models of school systems providing educators professional development supporting the protections of student privacy.
· Showcase resources from leading non-profit organizations available to school systems to support their efforts to protect student information.