March 24, 2017

3/23: Student Privacy, Equity, Digital Literacy Newsletter

Student Privacy, Equity,
and Digital Literacy Newsletter

Week Twenty-Two: March 23, 2017

The Youth and Media team at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society and the Data & Society Research Institute are proud to bring you this Student Privacy, Equity, and Digital Literacy newsletter on a bi-weekly basis. If you have suggestions or reflections, please send them our way—thanks for reading!
Student Data Privacy

New Student Privacy Learning Tools from the Youth & Media Team
This week, the Youth & Media team released Privacy & Student Data: Companion Learning Tools, a free and open resource for school and district-level decision-makers to use to “create meaningful learning experiences with core faculty and staff constituencies” around ed tech and student privacy. The Companion Learning Tools present five fictional yet realistic scenarios of ed tech adoption in public elementary, middle, and high schools, along with questions to guide discussion of the opportunities and challenges embodied in each scenario. These questions can also serve as a template for discussions about real-world situations at the intersection of ed tech and student privacy that schools and districts might encounter. The Tools are designed to be used in conjunction with the previously released guide, Privacy and Student Data: An Overview of Federal Laws Impacting Student Information Collected Through Networked Technologies, from the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School. If you have feedback or are interested in exploring how you could use the Tools in your school, district, or other setting, please drop the Youth & Media team a line at We’d love to hear from you!

Data Integration: Research Findings & Federal Guidance
Earlier this month, the Actionable Intelligence for Social Policy Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania released an expert panel report on integrated data systems (IDS) that called for a focus on how to use IDS legally and effectively rather than whether IDS should be used. In Legal Issues for IDS Use: Finding A Way Forward, the experts agree: “The issue is no longer whether we should integrate data, but how to integrate such that legal barriers and concerns can be addressed.” (italics in the original) “Breaking through data silos and categorical boundaries will result in the transformation of raw data into actionable insight by providing a 360-degree view of data and services across sectors [governmental and other],” thus the report encourages policy-makers and other stakeholders to create Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) and Data Use Licenses (DULs) that protect privacy as required by applicable federal and state laws to provide the legal framework for IDS. The report specifically addresses the role of FERPA in shaping IDS design, noting that “researchers often [have] had difficulty accessing records that are protected by FERPA.”

More on the FERPA front: the federal government has also weighed in to help facilitate IDS. A few months ago, the U.S. Department of Education’s Privacy Technology Assistance Center  released guidance on how governmental stakeholders can use IDS for program evaluation and researchand be compliant with FERPA. IDS links administrative records across government agencies to give an aggregate view of social problems and potential policy solutions.  Interoperability and data-sharing can help educators map out specific problems and design specific policies to address the issues. The guidance outlines steps for safeguarding data in IDS, including: “physical security, network mapping, . . . and compliance monitoring.” It also specifies which FERPA exceptions could be used to establish IDS by educational agenciesabsent parental consent from each and every parentand the steps necessary to ensure that the requirements for each exception are fulfilled.   
Happenings. A recent update from the Student Press Law Center: “A new bill could end the protections of the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act for members of education institutions, including students. Assembly Bill 165 would allow schools to demand that students hand over their cellphone to government officials – not just local police, but deans, principals and campus police, too. This would consequently give these officials the right to search through all electronic communications and obtain access to private social media accounts – all without a warrant.” In a recent law review article, Elana Zeide, Associate Research Scholar at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University, argues that the current legal framework for student privacy, which consists of “[b]road education purpose limitations,” actually offers limited privacy protections. In an article for Education Week, Benjamin Herold looks at “new attention for nascent efforts to support cybersecurity education, including in K-12 schools,” and potential privacy pitfalls. In a recent interview, Bill Fitzgerald, Director of the Privacy Evaluation Initiative at Common Sense Media, advocates for greater data interoperability in ed tech because “‘a system that is designed to be interoperable allows us a greater level of control and transparency about what data we’re collecting, which in turn allows us to be more intentional about how we protect it.’” The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is investing in a new “world-class engineering team” to build on its prior advances in personalized learning through enhanced development of the free online Summit Learning platform. Using sound waves from a speaker, researchers from the University of Michigan and University of South Carolina were able to influence or control smartphones and other smart devices by manipulating the accelerometer within the devices-- a finding with significant privacy implications. The U.S. Senate “by a 50 to 49 vote [on March 9], all but sounded the death knell for Obama administration regulations governing how states must carry out school-accountability requirements under federal law.” In Michigan, the State Superintendent “is dropping a plan to give a letter grade to every public school and, barring legislative action, instead will issue a report card showing indicators such as each school's proficiency on the state exam.” Attendees at the upcoming CoSN 2017 conference will be able to enjoy many great sessions on the intersection of ed tech and student privacy, including (but certainly not limited to!) “Student Data Privacy Consortium-- A Common Contract Framework” and “A School Guide to Effectively Communicating Student Data Privacy.” The Century Foundation is soliciting “proposals from public policy analysts aged 30 years and under for a 7,500-to 10,000-word argumentative essay on surveillance, privacy, and civil liberties in the age of Trump;” the winner will receive $5,000 to use for researching and writing up the proposal.

Data & Equity

Schools Advise Students & Families About Data Privacy in Face of Increased Immigration Action
Increased immigration enforcement continues to ignite fears for schoolchildren and their families. The New York Times reports that New York City schools are not collecting citizenship information about students and are also advising students to not fill out the Student Data Questionnaire that is part of the SAT test and asks sensitive information about student citizenship status and family income. The U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has a policy to avoid enforcement actions in “sensitive locations” such as places of worship, schools, and healthcare facilities, yet recent incidents across the U.S. reported in our previous newsletter raise concerns that this practice is not being strictly followed. In response to confusion around what data is collected about students, what “sanctuary” areas and “sensitive locations” mean, PBS provides an FAQ to clarify the legal frames in which schools can protect students. New York City is hosting 100 forums on “immigrant rights, fraud prevention, and city services available to immigrant families” and reiterating that schools will not provide information to immigration officials or allow them onto school grounds unless required by law. In a testament to resilience and hope, a 13-year-old student whose father was arrested by ICE after dropping off her younger sister at school, finished the LA marathon, which she and her father had trained to run together.

Algorithmic School Placement in New York City Excludes Disproportionate Number of Black and Latino Students from Specialized Public High Schools
For eighth grade students and children entering kindergarten in New York City, the beginning of early March is when they learn which school they will attend in September. On “Decision Day,” the New York City Department of Education announces school placement, following families submitting their top choices for high schools and kindergartens. The city uses an algorithm to match students to schools, although the process for how this decision is made remains opaque. An incremental increase (41% from 36%) was seen in number of families who lived in homeless shelters enrolling their 4 and 5 year old children into kindergarten. Yet, according to the New York Times, for the eight specialized schools in New York City,  “only about 10 percent of offers from those schools were extended to black and Latino students, though those students make up about 68 percent of the school system.” Ten of the most sought after public high schools in New York City were found to be more competitive in their admission process than Ivy League colleges.

Happenings. In Endrew F. v. Douglas County Schools, the Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the family, determining that public schools must have higher standards for education of students with disabilities: the “‘education program [for a child with a disability] must be appropriately ambitious in light of his circumstances, just as advancement from grade to grade is appropriately ambitious for most children in the regular classroom.’”  Tele-presence robots enable greater participation for distance learning students at Michigan State, which holds promise for students with disabilities and others who cannot physically attend courses. An analysis of longitudinal administrative data for school students enrolled in North Carolina schools finds that when black students have a black teacher in grades 3-5, they are less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to apply to college. An op-ed piece in the New York Times warns of the consequences for black communities of ignoring five decades of data that corporal punishment of children is harmful and argues for a link between the continued harsh disciplinary practices and adult violence. Funding cuts at state universities in California are linked to significant decreases in black student enrollment: “We have seen a plummeting of Black student enrollment in the CSU, with the Black student population cut in half.” In response to a New York Times report on the high median income of families whose students attend University of Michigan, the school is investing in an $85 million plan to improve diversity among students and staff.

Digital Literacy

“Teach-Outs”: The Digital Descendant of “Teach-Ins”
Modeled after the teach-ins that originated on its campus during the 1960s, the University of Michigan recently announced a new digital “teach-out” series of “facilitated global community learning events [that] will provide a diverse set of learners with information about timely topics, open new opportunities to engage with experts and learners with different perspectives, equip participants to better understand complex issues of the day, and engage learners in developing positive solutions in their communities.” Scheduled teach-out topics include “Democratic to Authoritarian Rule” and “Fake News, Facts, and Alternative Facts.” The first teach-in, back in March 1965, addressed the Vietnam War and “brought together more than 3,000 faculty and students and included lectures, seminars, and informal exchange between experts and participants;” the teach-in concept then “quickly spread to campuses across the nation.” Five years later, another University of Michigan teach-in culminated in the official formation of Earth Day. 

The teach-out model builds on the same sense of urgency and desire for intense and well-informed connection around timely topics that inspired its brick and mortar ancestor. Using online course provider edX, course participants will be asked to spend roughly 3-4 hours/week of work for each teach-out course.  Professor Arun Agrawal at Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment, who will teach the inaugural teach-out session, says: ‘"We look forward to engaging online learners in this teach-out. . . The almost-daily churn of the current political climate makes our just-in-time approach to the learning experience ever more relevant.’" 

Hopefully participants will heed the call for civility in intellectual inquiryeven on contentious topicsrecently issued in an op-ed the New York Times by Professor Allison Stanger. Professor Stranger is, in her own words, the “Middlebury College professor who ended up with whiplash and a concussion for having the audacity to engage with the ideas of Charles Murray, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.” She believes that survival of “our constitutional democracy will depend on whether Americans can relearn how to engage civilly with one another, something that is admittedly hard to do with a bullying president as a role model. But any other way forward would be antithetical to the very ideals of the university and of liberal democracy.”
Happenings. A recent light-hearted moment at the intersection of early childhood and digital literacy has captured international attention: Robert Kelly, a professor in political science at Pusan National University in South Korea, was at the center of a new viral video after his young daughter and infant son interrupted his interview with the BBC; speaking to The Wall Street Journal about the incident, Kelly and his wife explained that their daughter had been watching the interview in another room of their home then “jumped up and down at the sight of her father on the screen. Perhaps recognizing his location, a room at the end of the hallway [of their home], she wandered off to find him”and became part of his live broadcast, with her little brother trailing behind her.  Forbes reported that Netflix is slated to introduce interactive storytelling where the viewer may make personalized decisions about the course of the story; the New York Times later reported that this “Choose Your Own Adventure” programming will be focused on content for kidsand also opined more broadly that we are already challenged by trying to make sense of reality in today’s design your own reality news cycle, which recently included the real-world, Choose-Your-Own-Adventure news media misadventure of the past week . . . ‘POTUS45, Episode 6: The Presidential Wiretap That (A) Was, (B) Wasn’t, (C) Was Because He’s a Russian Agent and Oh, Sister, Is He in Trouble.’” According to McClatchy DC Bureau, the FBI investigation of potential Russian influence on the 2016 U.S. Presidential election is including the potential role of far-right news sites and “bot attacks” that promoted fake or partially fake news that favored President Trump over Secretary Clinton. John Naughton explores the possibility that Snapchat could lead us down a post-literary future in this Guardian piece-- a possibility that would complicate the prospect of digital literacy education. Google’s new Family Link app will give kids under thirteen access to Google services. The app will allow parents to monitor what apps their children have been using on their Android devices and track their location. However, Google stressed that it does not want to give kids the impression that the new app constitutes “spyware,” so kids will be able to find out what exactly their parents are seeing. Trying to teach digital literacy or related skills through an open source initiative? Check out the new legal guide from the Cyberlaw Clinic at Harvard Law School: "Organization & Structure of Open Source Software Development Initiatives: Challenges & Opportunities Concerning Corporate Formation, Nonprofit Status, & Governance for Open Source Projects." 

Deeper Dives: What We’re Listening to . . .
We are delighted to announce another new feature of our newsletter! In addition to providing a curated round-up of relevant news, from time to time, our newsletter writers will also share podcasts and news stories we’ve listened to this year about student data privacy, equity and digital literacy. Amanda Lenhart, Alice Marwick, and Zara Rahman present research findings around online harassment of women, deep dive into the communities who perpetrate harassment, and discuss global efforts to address the technologies that may enable harassment online. Vox in the Weeds podcast speaks with Libby Nelson about data, vouchers, and school choice. A panel hosted by CSPAN discusses news quality, media literacy, and tech platforms’ responses to fake news. The Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society hosts a panel discussion of the social and legal responses to fake news. Jennifer Pan spoke at Data & Society about how the Chinese government fabricates social media posts and how propaganda circulates online. Benjamen Walker interviews Ethan Zuckerman about whether online advertising has contributed to distrust of media. And #tbt: This American Life analyzed the “Poetry of Propagandaall the way back in December 2015.‚Äč