Thrown Off Balance by LAFOIP

On Tuesday evening in my ECI 831 class we looked at how to incorporate more social media and open media into our classes. On Wednesday I spent some time looking through some of the readings and thinking about the given discussion topic, thinking about concerns in the digital (social media) age.  I was thinking along similar lines to Marley in making sure that I followed the SAMR model and that it was more than just digital substitution. I found myself also thinking along the lines of Roxanne about all of the unique opportunities that it would bring to the students. Also I finally found something in one of the articles that made me say out loud, “yes I want to do that!”. In John Seely Brown and Richard Adler’s article Minds On Fire, they talked about using blogs as a way to bring in genuine peer review and how it elevated their students work. I have been looking for something exactly like that in my senior science classes. Then on Thursday I was told by my vice-principal that we may have to re-evaluate our google classroom use in light of LAFOIP. She had just come back from a vice-principal meeting and one of the focuses in the meeting was about the ethical storage of student records and identifying data. She talked with me because I am the head of the technology committee in our school and also am the learning leader in charge of student data.  Then after school I went to a learning leader meeting at the board office and while we discussed many trends within the division and goal setting, etc, we also discussed LAFOIP and we were especially cautioned about social media use. So that has caused me to start to ask some different questions than I was before this, and it has derailed many of my thoughts prior to Thursday as I have been trying to sort out what does this all mean?

To start with many of you likely do not know what LAFOIP is. It stands for, “The Local Authority Freedom Of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.” The opening statement within the act states:

An act respecting a right of access to documents of local authorities and a right of privacy with respect to personal information held by local authorities.

From my understanding, and this is based on only about 10 minutes of a meeting and and hour of research so it is not extensive, this act is to protect individual rights and to ensure that the authorities that they deal with are taking their digital security seriously. There is a decent overview of it done by SaskSchoolsPrivacy, an organization that helps school’s understand their legal requirements. They also have a nice summary video.

Basically you should only collect what you need, store it securely, make sure only people who actually need it can even access it, and destroy it once you no longer need it.

So how does all of this apply to social media and to google docs? Doesn’t this just affect how we store student information, and things like report cards? Well not exactly. Anything that is produced by a student or a teacher is a record. That means that we are responsible for how those “records” are stored and accessed and what they contain. While I do not yet understand all of the implications, I was told that we need to make sure that only those who need the record have access to it. Here is where something like google docs comes in. Since I cannot guarantee that google employees, advertisers, etc might somehow have access to the information in the document, and I cannot guarantee where the file is stored, or how to access it in case of a request for information I should be very careful about what I use cloud storage for.  Now my entire high school staff is distributing and collecting assignments via google classroom through google docs and google drive, so this seems like a concerning piece of information. The positive is that I have been advised that for now I can continue to do assignments in this way as long as there is nothing too identifying within the shared documents, their name and grade is okay. A family tree assignment or personal reflection is not okay.  So for now it seems like I can continue to use google classroom. I have been told that I should not be making any comments on the assignments that they hand in which is really annoying. Apparently the comments are specific feedback, like a report card, that would have to be stored securely and I cannot control the google doc record 100% and therefore should not put confidential information there. All of this was verbal layman advise and not legal council so I also do not know if it is 100% correct. It is certainly something that I am going to be looking into as I am one of the people at my school who is responsible for how the school manages and uses social media in the classroom, and I am typically the one who trains others on how to use the technology. I do not want to make a legal mistake.

So to sum it up this week, my main concern regarding social media, and teaching in the digital age is what are the laws? What is my specific responsibility and what is the best practice? Also does anyone actually know if google classroom is legally allowed or not for providing feedback to students in the k-12 system?

Hope to figure out some answer to these before the end of the course. Thanks for reading.

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6 thoughts on “Thrown Off Balance by LAFOIP

  1. Great job summarizing LAFOIP! I am right there with you in terms of possibly having to revamp how we share and store information relating to students and the going ons of the school.
    I completely get protecting the privacy and safety of the students. That’s not the frustrating part. I don’t believe there have been changes to LAFOIP regulations, so why now is this an issue? My school has Chromebooks that can’t print or save documents (to anything but the Google cloud) and require them to be shared by the student for teachers to access them. What do we do now for collecting those reflections and other assignments that are possible LAFOIP infractions?

    The last thing I want to do is break any rules and put students at risk. I also don’t want to put myself at risk by using the tools provided to me that go against the LAFOIP rules. There are a lot of questions out there and the answers are pretty clear. Stop using what we are doing. What methods do we now have to teach with are what is the question.
    Great and timely post Chris. Thanks for summarizing what I have been struggling to articulate!

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    1. Thanks for the comment Ryan. I have a follow up post coming later today with the solution that some other divisions have done. I know it would work for us, but it will likely require board cooperation.

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  2. A large part of the issue with Google Classroom is the fact that it is hosted in the US where the privacy laws are very relaxed compared to Canada. During the Winter 2017 term I was sad that most of my course mates in ECI 834 were able to use Google Classroom as it was supported by their division but not in my own due to the location of the servers.

    From what I understand, if the data is hosted in Canada, then it is more secure based on better laws around privacy.

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    1. I have been looking into this. I know that RBE allows the use of google classroom, they are just cautioning us to be vigilant with guarding marks and specific feedback. They do not want any opportunity for privileged I formation to be seen by the wrong party. I am cautiously optimistic about the situation and the board office.

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    2. One other thing. I forgot to say that I think you are correct, but I know Google has been making updates to their terms so that they meet the requirements in more countries. I suspect the if a PIA was done that practices could be adopted that would satisfy the use of google classroom and also lafoip.

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