Kristy Sailors, the Houston Independent School District’s director of educational technology, carefully vets ed tech applications before the school system's 29,000-member staff can use them in the classroom, maintaining a resource toolbox full of pre-approved safe educational applications to expedite the process, EdScoop reports.
Sailors developed a safe-app rubric, which includes the requirement that apps meet high encryption and data storage standards, to assess all non-approved apps.
Sailors warns that good app reviews don’t necessarily translate to appropriate content or safe practices, since app developers often pay for positive reviews. When Sailors took control of the district’s use of ed tech applications, she made sure the content was both relevant to education and safe for students.
The ed tech industry can be an exciting world for educators, but it is considered the "Wild West" by many district technology officers. Yet these tools can't be ignored, either. Tech-friendly millennials are now the parents of students entering school — and they not only accept technology, they expect it.
The most concerning security issue is the fact that students’ records are hot sellers on the dark web, and these applications, or the districts' networks themselves, may have weaknesses that allow hackers to break in and steal that data. With schools and districts among the most popular targets for hackers, it's critical for educators and students alike to be briefed on best practices to avoid phishing attempts, as well, given that the end user is often the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain.
When it comes to applications and other tech tools used in the classroom, developing clear adoption guidelines for staff members can make the selection process easier for both the district and teachers. If getting ed tech approved is too cumbersome, teachers may be likely to avoid districts’ vetting systems all together and try something anyway.