Is openness and sharing in schools unfair to our kids?

I am one of those who changed their opinion on this issue.

In the beginning, I voted to agree considering the major privacy issue of sharing school pictures or student information online. Many more people have concerns about privacy and data breaches at various companies and governmental agencies. As adults, let alone kids/ students, we give up our data without even noticing. How many of us read terms of use of the software/ apps we use on a daily basis? The type and amount of information shared by students in their daily educational activities include the following ( according to Posting About Your Kids Online Could Damage Their Futures; as shared by the agree side of the debate)

  • “personally identifiable information (PII);
  • biometric data;
  • academic progress;
  • behavioral, disciplinary, and medical information;
  • Web browsing history;
  • students’ geolocation;
  • IP addresses used by students; and
  • classroom activities.”

Towards the end of the debate, I switched my mind. I agree very much with the ideas of OER and open education and their benefits to our students. They are of the most foundational solution to bring equity in education. I am a huge believer in the importance of open education to our students. Once again, the two groups seemed to find some common ground when it came to the importance of digital citizenship, education and thinking before you post. 

I have blogged before on digital citizenship and the Quebec Government digital competence framework, including critical thinking, which is very important for this case as students need to be taught how to think critically about what they do and what they share online. They have to be aware of the consequences of their actions and of what goes into their digital footprint. I blogged the following photo before as an indication of the seriousness of the problem.

“Digital Identity Mapping” flickr photo by fredcavazza shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license

The US instituted the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) federal law to define family rights and privacy. This is 7a correct step to handle this problem. In that law, students and their parents are inspecting, reviewing, and correcting students’ educational records, and schools can not share such records without the parents’/students’ written approval. Such norms and laws limit the sharing of content while allowing students to build their OER. 


Therefore, educating ourselves and our kids about digital identity and the value it brings to us helps mitigate these concerns. Although it seems the only viable option, having control over our digital identity isn’t always an easy process. Below are some of the recommendations I found online from this resource on how to protect our digital identity

  • Limit sharing your Social Security number—whether in a doctor’s office, at school, or online
  • Use strong and unique passwords on each of your online accounts
  • Make sure you’re on a secure network or using a VPN, a virtual private network, when banking, shopping or making other online transactions
  • Don’t share your login credentials with others
  • Shred documents containing personal information before discarding
  • Secure your home Wi-Fi network with a strong password

While many teachers share the content generated by their students online, the problem is that, according to website, only 10% of teachers use social media professionally and 81% of teachers are concerned about what the incidents they hear in the news that are caused by mistakes of using social media for professional work. 

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