How Can Technology Application Within School Policies Protect Student Privacy and Empower Reports of Abuse?

ISTE Coaching Standard 4.6 Data-Driven Decision Maker reads, “Coaches model and support the use of qualitative and quantitative data to inform their own instruction and professional learning”. Standard 4.6.a, expands upon this, and reads: Facilitate Data Collection and Analysis – Assist educators and leaders in securely collecting and analyzing student data. My focus of study is on educating child protection professionals and educators on how to develop healthy and safe environments for improved student learning for children who have experienced ACEs or Adverse Childhood Experiences. As I reflect on this standard, and the guiding questions for this module, I chose to pose the following question: by examining the influence and use of technology in school policies, how can we create a safe environment that not only protects student privacy but also empowers them to speak up about abuse, leading to timely intervention and support?

To begin answering this question, I first looked to examine how schools approach developing a school-based information and communication technology (ICT) policy plan. Through the use of the AI Tool, Scite, I found a 2008 research article titled, “ICT Integration in the Classroom: Challenging the Potential of a School Policy”. This article highlights the integration of ICT in school policies and classrooms, noting specifically how underdeveloped these plans are as they tend to focus generally on the school’s expectations, goals, content, and actions, rather than focusing more on the content of school-based ICT policy plans and how they are truly practiced and implemented. I found this article insightful because it not only spoke to the creation of these policies but illustrated how influential such policies are to the creation (or failed creation) of a safe environment for students. This article highlights how the creation and implementation of school-based ICT policy plans have been found to have a significant effect on how teachers and school leaders evaluate and use technology in classrooms by using a framework of ICT leadership practices and unfolding three types of ICT policy plans: 1) a vision blueprint; 2) a technical inventory; and 3) a comprehensive ICT policy plan. What the research from this study determined is that there are many different approaches used to create and execute ICT plans, but greater focus needs to be placed on setting direction for these policies that include developing people and making the policy work with student protection as criteria for successful implementation.

Scite also introduced me to a 2014 research article by Kathyrn Moyle, titled, “Technologies, Democracy and Digital Citizenship: Examining Australian Policy Intersection and the Implications for School Leadership”. This article examines the importance of aligning school-based technology policies with educational goals and student well-being. I found this article to be valuable in helping to examine my question further by helping to make the connection between technology policies within educational environments, to the protection and empowerment of students as it relates to both their educational goals and overall well-being.  The research presented in this article centered around the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians and the Australian Curriculum, and the implementation of professional standards as outlined in the Australian Professional Standard for Principals and the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers. Within this article, as it relates to the concept of digital citizenship, digital citizenship was used “to encompass the ability to participate in society online”. The research within this article looks at digital citizenship in this way to be able to reflect that there is a “dialectical relationship between technologies and society, and if society in the 21st century wishes to reproduce democratic relationships, then these have to occur in online worlds as well as in face-to-face contexts”. Moyle goes on to note that “if it is accepted that one of the roles of schools is to educate students so they become citizens that can take their place in the type of society government leaders envisage, and that policies about school education provide a window into what type of society and citizens schools are to produce, then the intersections and alignment between democracy, technologies, digital citizenship, and school leadership should be evident”. In short, the integration and practices of technology in school policies, integrated with school leadership and implementation, are vital in creating the type of real-world society we want our community to consist of, and our youth to grow up safely within.

So what about “empowerment” and how online protection and policies around technology within schools apply to helping students feel supported in disclosing abuse and violence? A final whitepaper that I discovered, titled Using Technology to Combat Bullying in Schools: Exploring an Innovative Solution, addresses just this. Speaking to all of the national campaigns to stop abuse and bullying in schools, and the many concerns that parents have around this, this whitepaper addresses the large number of edtech companies that are creating products to help schools implement technology into their policies to prevent and respond to acts of abuse and violence. One of the companies and products that is highlighted in this whitepaper, is NetSupport. NetSupport has developed “award-winning IT Asset Management and Internet Safety solutions (NetSupport DNA) that help technicians to track, monitor, and manage IT assets across individual schools and entire districts. To speak specifically to how students can leverage this technology to feel safe and report abuse, NetSupport DNA offers a “Report a Concern” feature that allows students to “swiftly and anonymously report any problem that they may have encountered to a staff member that they trust. This includes the contact information for national support resources so students can reach out to these support organizations if they are in immediate need”. With the integration of this kind of technology into school policies and practices, students can feel empowered to speak up about abuse and violence without fear of repercussions.

To answer my question – how can we create a safe environment that not only protects student privacy but also empowers them to speak up about abuse, leading to timely intervention and support– the answer is that we need to examine how we are creating ICT plans that better account for the development of people and focused on student well-being. As we develop these plans and policies, we need to make sure that we are integrating everyone into the conversation so that we can comprehensively model in our educational systems the kind of society that we are hopeful our youth will grow up in, and further develop. And we need to be sure that we are identifying the right technology products to protect children at risk and allow them the empowerment to speak up anonymously, safely, and with immediate support.

References:

Netsmart (2018). Using Technology to Combat Bullying in Schools: Exploring an Innovative Solution. Education World. https://www.educationworld.com/teachers/using-technology-to-combat-bullying-in-schools

Dexter, S., Van Braak, J., and Vanderline, R. (2011) School-based ICT Policy Plans in Primary Education: Elements, Typologies and Underlying Processes. British Journal of Educational Technology. 43(3). https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01191.x

Moyle, K. (2014). Technologies, Democracy and Digital Citizenship: Examining Australian Policy Intersection and the Implications for School Leadership. Education Sciences. 4(1). https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci4010036

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