ASCD, CoSN, AASA & ASBO Join Forces to Certify School Data Systems

servers

Reposted from CoSN:

The Trusted Learning Environment (TLE) Seal initiative will allow school system leaders to communicate their privacy efforts to parents, communities and other stakeholders and assure the school system is adhering to best practices and taking steps in the right direction.

“When looking at the evolving digital tools and ongoing related activities in classroom settings, we agree with parents: They need assurances that student data are protected,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “That is why school system technology leaders and our diverse education leadership partners are putting forth this national program that builds a culture of trusted learning in all K-12 school systems.”

Over the next six months, the four national education organizations will collaborate with 28 U.S. school systems to create the seal and establish criteria for schools nationwide to follow. When formed, the TLE Seal will be available for adoption to all K-12 school systems, irrespective of size, location, socio-economic profile or governance form (i.e., public, private or charter).

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Do You Really Need a Unicorn?

unicorn

Reposted from Data Science Central:

The world of data science is splitting into two distinct camps, the start-up app world and the commercial world.  The good news is that almost all the opportunity lies in commercial predictive analytics where you can broadly specialize and still play with all the latest innovations.

In case you’re the only person who hasn’t heard this phrase, data scientists have increasingly been referred to as ‘unicorns’ as in ‘as rare as a unicorn’.  As a data scientist I have taken exception to this since it seems to set an unrealistically high bar and simply isn’t true of the many data scientists I know personally.  (See my earlier article “How to Become a Data Scientist”). 

In February I spent several days at the Strata Conference catching up on all things analytic and big data, and yes there was still a fairly strong theme around the difficulty in finding these unicorns.  One very persuasive speaker actually spoke about how to affect the capture, which in his version was to take fresh Ph.Ds. in math, statistics, OR, or computer science and train them up himself.  Well, I thought, 1.) If the future is limited to data scientists with fresh Ph.Ds. then the supply is indeed vanishingly small, and 2.) What are the rest of us supposed to do for talent? Three things became apparent…

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What K–12 IT Leaders Really Think About the Cloud

thecloud

Reposted from EdTech Focus on K-12:

K–12 IT leaders are seeing some serious benefits from the cloud — particularly in the flexibility, operational agility and cost savings that cloud services can offer. Some services remain more popular in the cloud for K–12 districts than other services do. For example, respondents said that email and storage are the most widely used cloud services, while also being the easiest to transition to. Enterprise planning and internal applications remain low on the list of cloud adoption in schools.

Cloud computing can make lives easier for users, but there are a few persistent barriers to adoption. Thirty-five percent of K–12 IT respondents chose security as the greatest challenge to implementing additional cloud services; trust in available solutions took second place, at 29 percent.

Security risks for cloud solutions remain, but CDW says they are addressable with risk-mitigation practices. The company recommends these four steps to help keep cloud data more secure…

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Privacy Pitfalls as Education Apps Spread Haphazardly

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Reposted from the New York Times:

In the Fairfax County, Va., school district, technology experts have conducted their own security reviews of several hundred digital learning products, and failed a few of the most popular ones. In Houston, one of the largest districts in the country, administrators are testing their own rating system for digital learning products and developing a set of district-approved apps for teachers.

And in Raytown, Mo., Melissa Tebbenkamp, the school district’s director of instructional technology, vets every app that teachers want to try before allowing it to be used with students. Among other things, she checks to make sure those services do not exploit students’ email addresses to push products on them or share students’ details with third parties.

“We have a problem with sites targeting our teachers and not being responsible with our data,” Ms. Tebbenkamp said. For school technology directors around the country, she added, “it is a can of worms.” The new tools are being pushed by a rapidly expanding education technology industry. Some educators, entrepreneurs and philanthropists are particularly enthusiastic about adaptive learning products because they aim to tailor lessons to the individual abilities of each student.

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It’s Time to Stop Using Terms Like “Achievement Gap” & “Student Success”

studentsuccess

Reposted from the Hechinger Report:

The sobering data on men of color in colleges is a reflection of college and university performance – so take the scrutiny off of student achievement. Outcomes for male collegians of color are lagging because postsecondary leaders aren’t held accountable for changing them.

If scholars want to rid themselves of deficit approaches (looking at weaknesses) moving forward, then we must stop using the deficit language in our speech and research. Acceptance of constructs like the achievement gap, drop out, student success and data driven may legitimize you in the academy, but they are complicit in promoting the verbal and statistical rhetoric that avoids the problem of institutional accountability.

The inferred white male referent in the achievement gap construct contributes to the centuries old logic that others should be compared to whites. On its face the idea of student success lets institutional factors of the hook, which have been shown to be at least half of the reason why men of color are pushed out of college. Educators shouldn’t be data driven. We should be community driven and use data to support students. These distinctions aren’t some semantic ruse. If scholars want a revolution in how students are treated in the academy, then we must be willing to question how statistics have been used to facilitate poor outcomes among black and Latino male students.

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Digitizing the Humanities

humanities

Reposted from the New York Times:

In the Republic of Learning humanities scholars often see themselves as second-class citizens. Their plaintive cries are not without cause. When universities trim budgets it is often their departments that take the hit. In the last 10 years, however, there has been one bright spot: the “digital humanities,” a vast enterprise that aims to digitize our cultural heritage, put it online for all to see, and do so with a scholarly punctilio that Google does not.

The digital humanities have captured the imaginations of funders and university administrators. They are being built by a new breed of scholar able to both investigate Cicero’s use of the word “lascivium” and code in Python. If you want to read Cicero’s letter in which lascivium appears, or the lyrics of 140,000 Dutch folk songs, now you can. Texts are living things: Digitization transforms them from caterpillars into butterflies. But the true promise of digitization is not just better websites. Rather, it is the transformation of the humanities into science.

By “science” I mean using numbers to test hypotheses. Numbers are the signature of science; they allow us to describe patterns and relationships with a precision that words do not. The quantification of the humanities is driven by an inexorable logic: Digitization breeds numbers; numbers demand statistics. The new breed of digital humanists is mining and visualizing data with the facility that bioinformaticians analyze genomes and cosmologists classify galaxies. All of them could, if they cared to, understand each others’ results perfectly well.

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How Secure are Your School Data Management Systems?

data security

Reposted from the New York Times:

Protection of student data is gaining attention as schools across the country are increasingly introducing learning sites and apps that may collect information about a student’s every keystroke. The idea is to personalize lessons by amassing and analyzing reams of data about each student’s actions, tailoring academic material to individual learning levels and preferences. “For many younger companies, the focus has been more on building the product out and less on guaranteeing a level of comprehensive privacy and security protection commensurate with the sensitive information associated with education,” said Jonathan Mayer, a lawyer and computer science graduate student at Stanford University. “It seems to be a recurring theme.”

To help schools evaluate companies’ security practices, the Consortium for School Networking, a national association of school district chief technology officers, published a list of security questions last year for schools to ask before they sign purchase agreements with technology vendors. “It is a huge challenge because there hasn’t been the time and attention and investment placed in security that school districts need,” said Keith R. Krueger, the group’s chief executive.

Although a federal privacy law places some limits on how schools, and the vendors to which they outsource school functions, handle students’ official educational records, these experts say the protections do not extend to many of the free learning sites and apps that teachers download and use independently in their classrooms. In an effort to bolster confidence in their products, more than 100 learning companies recently signed on to a voluntary industry pledge on student privacy. The signers agree, among other commitments, to “maintain a comprehensive security program that is reasonably designed to protect the security, privacy, confidentiality and integrity of student personal information against risks — such as unauthorized access or use.”

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