Management Software Raises Concerns
April 5, 2016
In early March, Spanish teacher Terri Salsman De Rodriguex directed her students to download the software program Insight, a classroom management service that allows teachers to monitor students’ computer screens, access their Internet browsing history and take over computer controls. While Rodriguex aimed to reduce student online distractions during class, her instructions to download the software on personal student devices made students uncomfortable and required parental consent for privacy and liability purposes.
The administration should have prevented the implementation of this software when it first became aware of it prior to the implementation. Given the school’s priority on cloud learning, the administration should discuss and establish a protocol for teacher and student privacy boundaries regarding personal electronic devices.
The administration first became aware of Rodriguex’s interest in Insight during fall 2015, when teachers throughout the district submitted requests for Innovative Learning grants from the MVLA Foundation. While Rodriguex’s request was denied because it did not fit the Foundation’s requirements for an innovative learning experience, the administration should have been aware from then on that installation of this software on personal student devices requires parental consent for privacy and liability purposes.
It is within the school’s legal rights to install Insight and other similar programs on all school-owned chromebooks and devices. However, many students bring their personal devices instead of checking out a school chromebook. This means that some students in Rodriguex’s classes were told to install Insight on their personal devices, and consequently risked exposing their personal digital information to an outside party for surveillance.
Instead of allowing Rodriguex to pilot a trial version in her classrooms, the administration should have notified Rodriguex and all her students of the requirements for the appropriate use of Insight, prior to allowing Rodriguex to implement the software. It is the utmost responsibility of teachers and administrators to respect student privacy on campus; the administration and staff did not fulfill their responsibilities and must not repeat a similar error that endangers student privacy in the future.
In the future, if students are told to install anything that is unfamiliar and causes them to feel uncomfortable, they should thoughtfully and politely refuse, and instead communicate with the teacher and administration to find an appropriate alternative.
The conditions under which a student can appropriately refuse to follow directions are clearly subjective, especially when a student encounters an unfamiliar situation. However, in this particular case, students rightfully felt uncomfortable about installing Insight. Due to pressure from the teacher and their peers, they eventually followed through. This is a crucial indicator that the school has not fulfilled its duty to its students to educate them on protecting their own digital privacy.
While Rodriguex has since halted use of Insight in her classroom, this incident is extremely important in alerting students that their knowledge of their digital privacy rights is currently too limited to safely guard against future violations. Our school is making great strides in innovative learning, but the administration and staff must also fulfill their responsibilities to educate students on protecting their digital information and property. By establishing a protocol defining student digital privacy rights, the school ensures that an incident like this won’t happen again.