How to Use and Protect Student Data on Your School Wireless Network

Written by Danny Mareco Danny Mareco | March 10, 2015 | Read Time: 3 mins

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The acquisition and use of student data for educational purposes has become commonplace in recent years, and also the subject of considerable debate.  School wireless networks need to be careful that the availability of student data is not jeopardized by limitations to the security of their school’s wireless networks.

Generating appropriate protection of data and student privacy requires transparency in collection, curation, storage and utilization processes.  It assures development of an ongoing, open and productive dialog about the purposes and procedures of student data use.  

Student’s personal data needs to be available for school use, yet resolutely protected from the undue scrutiny of those unconnected to the school.  

The following suggestions can help school administrators, teachers, and parents devise effective strategies for securing the privacy of student data, while simultaneously drawing on that data as a source of more personalized instruction.  

Distinguish between data-privacy and data-security:  

Equating data-privacy with data-security is a common mistake.  It interferes with developing school WiFi systems that provide effective confidentiality of essential student information stored on the network.  While the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) gives parents control of the kind of data that can be digitally collected from their children, schools themselves must have similar concern for student privacy embedded in their networks. 

Data-security provides the safeguards that assure student privacy; network access controls must have the ability to validate the identity of those seeking student data.  Privacy applications identify those eligible to access student data; security ensures information remains safe from hackers and unwanted intrusions. 

Qualify the data's importance:  

Providing a complete accounting of student data in the school's WiFi network helps answer any questions parents or caregivers may have about the information's content and quality.  Parents will want to know the purpose of your data-collection, and why they're being stored on the school's wireless network.  

Explain these details fully so they recognize the data's value for student well-being, both personal and educational.  Involving parents in a dialog signifying strategies for protection of student data specifically addresses their priorities about their children's welfare in the context of the network and its use.  Plans should be proactive, and be able to adapt to the latest threats to data security.

Fully describe data safeguards: 

Provide at least an outline of the basic storage and security components of the school WiFi, and how they will safeguard student data.  This doesn’t need to be complicated, but should be sufficient to provide parents assurance their children's information is protected and will be used ethically.  

Teachers and school administrators will require appropriate training to be fully literate with the system, particularly when accessing student data and safeguarding its use.  Also, make certain your developers and vendors have a clear appreciation of the system, its capabilities and how it works.

All these fundamentals focus on transparency -- making the purpose and application of student data across the school's WiFi network abundantly plain to everyone involved.  Protecting student data effectively is essential to using it as an instructional guide.

Student Data for Teaching 

Student data may be applied in the classroom to help teachers acquire insights about their students and their particular learning style.  This allows teachers to customize their instruction to the needs of each student. Having access to this data and having the ability to add to it as the year goes on helps teachers monitor each students achievements and understanding of the course material.  

Data collected during the year supplements basic student records, enriching the information that can be applied to teaching each student throughout their K-12 career.  Positive outcomes include better satisfied students, enhanced academic achievement and higher test scores.  

At SecurEdge Networks we've helped countless numbers of schools  design and deploy a secure wireless network that is capable of properly supporting student data through current best practices involving mobile device security, content filtering, and network access control to name a few. If you would like a security assessment or would like to discuss your next wireless network refresh simply contact us here!

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