Saturday, March 10, 2018

Giving Up Privacy or NOT in the Digital World

For the last few weeks I've been given opportunities of learning that have made me rethink technology in a number of ways. As an instructional technologist I probably own my responsibility of being vigilant about the tech I put into student hands more than would seem normal. In fact, I might possibly own it in an obsessive way at times but I feel that's part of my responsibility of being a key player and decision maker regarding digital learning at our school.

One of the big things that I've been thinking on is privacy issues. As I've been looking at the abilities of iOT, watching the youtube series from the Common Sense Media "How Tech Has Hooked Kids," and trying to continue to be on the cutting edge of knowing when good tech options are on the horizon some flags have been raised for me personally.

I'm going to be really honest here, I rarely read the Terms and Conditions for apps or websites. I obviously keep in mind the importance of COPPA (the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act) when creating opportunities for our lower school students. Teachers of elementary and middle school students have to be vigilant in how they introduce technology to kids. And the truth of the matter is, we often have to pass on some really good fits because of COPPA. It's a give and take in the digital arena.

But in the last few days I started asking myself what do I do to protect my own privacy? Honestly, when I hear about an app that I think might sound interesting for educational purposes, or students are trying for social reasons, I tend to immediately download the app, make an account and do some research and development...cue yesterday.

A few weeks ago I downloaded an app called Vero- it's self-touted as a social media app with the tagline "Less social media, more social life. Behave online as you do offline." This app isn't regulated via an algorithm like Facebook or Instagram so it lets the user see their friend's posts in a sequential order. I saw some of my educator friends talking about it on other social media and decided I needed to download it and take a look. The truth is, I didn't immediately make an account- it's been sitting there on my phone waiting. So last night, after two days of talking about privacy issues at an iOT Escape Room Workshop I decided to research the app before creating my own account. So I innocently googled "What do we know about the App Vero?" and imagine my surprise when the first hit was Time Magazine and basically the same title- Vero: What to Know About the New App and its CEO.  It's a worthy read and one that has caused me to start looking deeper at the apps I have downloaded on my phone.

So here is my new internal strife...How deep do we need to be digging to protect ourselves and our families? Or our students? How do we know when we are being manipulated? Obviously the recent manipulation by Russian bots in our own country's election should be a warning to us all. WE all are being manipulated and our privacy is at risk. How do I decide what privacy is worthy to give up for the benefit it gives me? Where is my own self imposed line? What privacy have I naively given up in the past by not looking deeply at digital choices? How do I best protect the students and families I serve in this area?

(Cue ominous music) If you watch tv it appears that the DARKWEB is something out there trying to pull us in but the truth of the matter is, there is only one web and the "light" and "dark" sections of it are becoming increasingly harder to differentiate. I for one, tend to look a bit closer at new gadgets, toys, edtech, and apps before putting my trust in the wrong place. And FYI, I'm not going to create VERO account.