Well-meaning teachers adopting technology in the classroom unwittingly create legal exposure for school districts if student data is put at risk online in unknown ways.

That was the reminder at session at ISTELive21, this year’s incarnation of the ISTE tech show in the U.S.

In a talk called “Alexa and Hand Scans and Student Privacy, Oh My!” Kathy Mansfield, former educational technology coach at Comal Independent School District in Texas shared concerns about the massive amount of student data educators could be unintentionally exposing to the world.

She noted that voice assistants, drones, virtual reality headsets and other technology could be collecting information on students’ voices, moods, blood pressure, heart rates, body movements and more. Sharing student photos on social media, she said, could open them up to facial recognition software that can scrape their images and place them into databases. And some schools have installed contactless devices such as eye, face and hand scanners.

Mansfield gave four suggestions for educators to follow when evaluating new tech:

  1. Understand if a tool is appropriate for classroom use. Some tools and services have age restrictions, and others are approved only for personal or home use.
  2. Engage your IT department before downloading or using a piece of tech in class. “Please know that when you sign a contract or use a program and your district hasn’t approved it, you’re actually signing your district up for that, and you can make them liable,” she said.
  3. Change the terms of the user agreement. Mansfield said most users have only two choices: accept the terms of the user agreement for these tools wholesale or don’t use the technology. However, she said, sometimes schools can band together and work with a provider to adjust the terms of the user agreement to make certain tools safer for children in an educational setting.
  4. Know the law. Mansfield also encouraged educators to get familiar with federal laws, including the Children’s Internet Protection Act, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which protect students’ online data.

Read more about the session in an article in Edtech Magazine here.