More about Privacy….FOIPA pops many balloons


March 20, 2010 by readlisaread

Recently we had a discussion in my district about Web 2.0 tools in the classroom. Most Middle/Secondary schools block most of the social networking sites, so really we are talking about things like Blogs, Wikis, photo-management, Google Docs. The issue is, according to the Government restrictions in the Freedom of Information/Privacy act, we may not store any student-generated work on “foreign” servers. It’s not just obvious things–like identifiable photos and full names–it’s ANY digital information students have generated. At first thought, this didn’t seem so bad….but as you drill down through the layers, the insidiousness of this law has impact on all levels.

Adult learners are in a different category– they have to waive their rights under this legislation to use most of the learning platforms and course design. No such waiver exists for kids. If they are using, say, Google Docs, we are to assume that their parents have given them permission. We, as educators, however, cannot assign a project that requires the use of that tool.

So, because I am both a Mommy and an educator, I pondered the ramifications. And guess what? At the end of the day, it all comes back to Accountability. “Well, the District can’t take any responsibility for….”. It has nothing to do with “Thou shan’t”, it’s about “We aren’t wearing it if a parent complains, because we TOLD you”.

Proof? When I realized, with a sinking sensation, that the Online editor my Yearbook publisher uses is housed in the U.S. I asked the Prince of IT about that (knowing that I wasn’t the only person in the district who used that sort of a system). He looked alarmed for a sec (knowing that the yearbook info was every picture, name, nick name, sport and cultural event in the school), then said: “Well, as long as the company can GUARANTEE that no information is ever leaked, shared, lost or stolen, there is no problem”.

Oh……I see……so as long as there is Someone Else to take the blame when an Angry Parent shows up at the Superintendent’s door, then we’ve covered all we need to know about FOIPA.

Lock it Down

Lock it Down

photo credit:


  1. Lesley Edwards says:

    We need some strong leadership. The kind that makes good pedagogical decisions not knee-jerk reactions. And it would be great if IT depts. could be relied on, and lauded for the support they provide not bemoaned because of the roadblocks they put up.

    I am very afraid that my own district will follow suit. However, there are some bright lights in the province. Peace River North has switched to Google Apps for education.

    Any chance of rallying parent support for using cloud computing apps? Maybe a grassroots campaign to show them how useful these apps can be? I think we’re going to need allies if we want to have access to the use of these tools.

    Note to self: Get on the agenda for the next PAC meeting to show parents the joys of Google Docs.

  2. readlisaread says:

    Thanks for the comment, and yes, I do feel bad bemoaning my IT department. It just so often seems to come back to optics, not common sense. Peace River North has been a beacon for so many things…I’m not surprised they are ahead of the curve here too! Thanks!

  3. The yearbook example = brilliant!

    You know what else banning the use of tools like this has nothing to do with? Good teaching and learning practice. Never mind that there are many excellent pedagogical reasons for using these tools, those reasons are thrown out the window the minute the privacy beast raises it’s head. Not to say that we can ignore privacy issues, but there certainly are steps that can be taken to mitigate the (hyperbolically overblown) risks and still use these valuable learning tools.

  4. readlisaread says:

    Excellent additions to the conversation– thanks, Clint! The thing that surprises me is that I am still surprised by these edicts. *sigh*

  5. readlisaread says:

    Excellent additions to the conversation– thanks, Clint! The thing that astonishes me is that I am still astonished by these edicts. *sigh*

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