Protecting Privacy in Connected Learning

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Educators and policymakers are increasingly realizing the potential in using student data to make informed decisions. But even with all that potential, balancing technology advances with the need to protect student privacy and data is a major challenge. CoSN's Protecting Privacy in Connected Learning initiative is here to help inform your efforts.
CoSN is grateful to the following sponsors for their support: ClassLink, Ed-Fi Alliance,  ENA/ CatchOnMicrosoft, and for the partnership of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.
Need more information? Download our Student Data Privacy one-pager for a more comprehensive look. 
  • Fundamental Data Governance Policies and Procedures - As school systems build and grow their data protection programs, they need to craft a solid foundation of documented privacy Policies and Procedures to guide and govern employee behavior. Understanding the differences between them, and the policies and procedures that should be part of the foundation of school system data governance work is the first step in creating comprehensive and actionable documentation for your data protection program.

  • Making the Case to Leadership - A presentation template school system technology leaders can use to thoughtfully address the following needs: Why is protecting the privacy of student data important? What does it take? How do we ease the concerns of parents and other community stakeholders? And more. 

The 411 on Facial Recognition Technology

Facial recognition technology is being used in school systems to improve the efficiency of entry, enhance safety practices, and research student engagement. With it, meaningful questions are being raised about privacy as well as the appropriateness and efficacy of the technology.
Before considering the use of facial recognition technology in your school system, consider the following:
  • Define the use case and the ensuing privacy and security implications for the data that will be collected and used 
  • Review your legal requirements carefully before moving forward. Remember that when it comes to student data, certain state student data privacy laws prohibit the collection of biometric information
  • Document a clear privacy and security policy for managing the data inputs and results, as well as an escalation policy for addressing potential security threats  handling any results
  • Consider your goal for using the technology and whether the technology demonstrated effectiveness  in meeting that objective
  • Remember that the technology does require manpower in the form of data entry and review of results, so be sure you have properly assessed your available resources to manage the work before moving forwar

Protecting Privacy Toolkit 

The Protecting Privacy in Connected Learning Toolkit is an in-depth guide to key federal student data privacy laws. It also includes guidance on how key laws operate together, suggested contract terms, explanations of metadata and data de-identification, use of click-wrap agreements, and additional privacy-related resources, including:

  • Navigating Key Federal Student Data Privacy Laws
  • 10 Steps Every District Should Take Today
  • Security Questions for Service Providers
  • Vetting Online Tools
  • School Officials FERPA Exception

Trusted Learning Environment (TLE) Seal and TLE Handbook  

The Trusted Learning Environment (TLE) Seal ensures that school systems are adhering to strong practices to protect the privacy of student data and are communicating these efforts to parents, communities and other stakeholders.  Visit the TLE website to learn how you can apply, and download the TLE Handbook for guidance on how your school system can manage the TLE application.

Learn More about CoSN'S Trusted Learning Environment and why it's important for your school system and it's stakeholders.

Online Privacy Training

This 8-module course is designed for school district leaders who want to understand existing privacy laws, define best and necessary practices around privacy, and communicate effectively with their communities. See more here

CoSN and the National Public Relations Association (NSPRA) teamed to produce two infographics that empower school leaders to discuss the critical issue of student privacy with parents and other community members. The customizable infographics answer key questions such as: What data is collected and why? How does education data support student success and school improvement? How is education data protected?
Download Ready-to-Go Versions



Additional Resources:

10 Principles to Guide the Use and Protection of Student Data

CoSN and the Data Quality Campaign (DQC), along with 32 leading national education organizations, released 10 principles for protecting and guiding the use of the personal information of America’s students. 
To view and learn more about the principles, please visit the website.


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scale logoshaking hands logoThis CoSN resource is related to the following skill areas from CoSN's Framework of Essential Skills of the K-12 CTO