digital learning tools were a feature of students’ everyday classroom life. The spread of COVID-19 has forced many Victorian schools to deliver lessons remotely, and schools have been increasingly reliant on these tools. Schools are obliged to consider privacy when selecting digital learning tools. However, in some cases schools are selecting and using digital learning tools without properly considering privacy risks.
This could involve providing more technical support and improving communication with parents and carers on the use of digital learning tools. Addressing privacy risks associated with digital learning tools and improving communication with parents and carers will increase levels of trust in the community. Improving public trust will enhance the effectiveness of digital learning tools by helping parents and carers feel more confident in using these tools.
The report indicates
1. Primary schools choose which apps and web-based learning tools to use in their schools
Apps and web-based tools are used widely in Victorian government primary schools. They are generally used for four main purposes: Teaching and learning; Communicating with parents and carers; Assisting teachers to plan and share resources; and Assessing students against school curriculum. DET is responsible for managing Victorian government schools. DET purchases licences for some tools in bulk and offers them to schools. However, in addition to this, schools are free to choose other tools that suit the needs of the children at their school. Decisions about which apps and tools will be used by each year level is usually decided and approved within a school prior to the start of the school year. Examples of the tools used by primary schools in Victoria are listed in the examination report.
2. Schools have difficulty assessing the privacy risks for all the digital learning tools they use
Making sure children’s personal information is protected is a complex challenge that needs to be addressed. This is especially important as Victorian schools are currently relying on online teaching and digital learning tools during the Covid-19 pandemic. OVIC’s examination revealed that schools are dealing with competing demands, which make it difficult for them to complete a Privacy Impact Assessment (PIA) for every app or tool they consider using. A PIA document is a thorough assessment of the privacy risks posed by a project. DET told OVIC that it sees its role in ensuring schools handle personal information appropriately as key. In the past 12 months DET has revised its PIA template to better assist schools to carry out this risk assessment process and put more resources into privacy support for schools. For guidance on the use of digital learning tools in Victorian government schools, see DET’s Being online at home – tips for parents and carers.
3. Managing privacy risks is a shared responsibility
There are several parties involved in the protection of primary school aged children’s information privacy including DET; schools; and parents and carers. DET assesses the privacy risks of the apps they provide to schools. DET also provides guidance and training to schools about privacy. Schools are responsible for assessing the privacy risk of apps considered for use that are not on DET’s list of provided apps and tools. Schools are also responsible for sending parents and carers information notices and opt out forms where these are required. Parents and carers are responsible for considering the information provided to them by schools and deciding whether to opt out of services where this is an option. Parents and carers also have an important role in educating their children about privacy and protecting themselves online.