Student Privacy and Cloud Computing in the K-12 Edtech Space: A new report from the Berkman Center

Student Privacy Initiative diagram The Berkman Center for Internet & Society’s Student Policy Initiative has released a new report, Student Privacy and Cloud Computing at the District Level: Next Steps and Key Issues, recommending next steps and priorities in the K-12 educational technology (edtech) space. The report places particular emphasis on two topics: (1) law and policy and (2) norms, values, attitudes, and practices, especially where there are opportunities for collaboration.

Authored by Alicia Solow-Niederman, Leah Plunkett ’07, and HLS Professor of Practice Urs Gasser LL.M. ’03, the report builds and reflects upon a conversation and meeting co-organized by the Student Privacy Initiative and the Consortium for School Networking, in which policymakers and educational technology thought leaders came together to emphasize the view “on the ground” as seen from the district level and to identify specific resources for potential inclusion in a toolkit for diverse stakeholders considering the adoption and impact of cloud technologies in K-12 educational contexts.

The results of this conversation, synthesized in the body of the report, reflect considerable consensus around the main areas in need of attention in the dynamic edtech landscape, as well as how best to approach such work.

A number of organizations and educational entities are already independently developing content and adopting processes around cloud technology in K-12 contexts to both support learning innovations and protect student privacy. Likely next steps—via independent efforts and ongoing collaboration among interested stakeholders—will center on education, communication, and the creation and dissemination of general guidance documents and other similar resources that could support the development of shared good practices.

Empirical data, current school and district policies and practices, legal and policy considerations, and technological developments should inform many of these efforts, say the authors, and some open issues may require additional research, regulation, and / or coordination across parties to resolve. One particularly central process question involves the best mode(s) of multi-stakeholder collaboration and communications.

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society’s Student Privacy Initiative, led by Executive Director Urs Gasser, explores the opportunities and challenges that may arise as educational institutions consider adopting cloud computing technologies. In its work across three overlapping clusters—Privacy Expectations & Attitudes, School Practices & Policies, and Law & Policy—this initiative aims to engage diverse stakeholder groups from government, educational institutions, academia, and business, among others, develop shared good practices that promote positive educational outcomes, harness technological and pedagogical innovations, and protect critical values.